Absence Of Malice


1h 56m 1981
Absence Of Malice

Brief Synopsis

An ambitious reporter unwittingly slanders a businessman under federal investigation.

Film Details

Also Known As
Utan ont uppsåt
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Drama
Release Date
1981
Location
Dade County, Florida, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 56m

Synopsis

An ambitious Miami reporter, Megan Carter, tries to stay on top of a breaking story about the mysterious disappearance of a local long-shore labor leader for her newspaper. Meanwhile, Elliot Rosen, the head of a federal task force investigating the same disappearance case, believes that a little pressure on Michael Gallagher, the son of a dead mobster might force his help in solving the mystery. Michael's late, mafia boss father, however, kept him 'clean', and away from the family racketeering, making sure his son ran a legitimate business. Nonetheless, Michael still has unsavory family ties, particularly with his shadowy uncle Luther. And although Michael has no connection with the crime, Elliot and the newspaper editor sucker Megan into printing a story identifying him as a prime suspect. Under the Absence of Malice rule for slander and libel cases, she remains in the clear; meanwhile Michael's life begins to unravel--alongside others who are impacted by the slanderous story. The stakes get even higher as Megan and Michael grow close, within the turmoil of published propaganda, skewered truth and lies.

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Film Details

Also Known As
Utan ont uppsåt
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Drama
Release Date
1981
Location
Dade County, Florida, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 56m

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1981
Paul Newman

Best Original Screenplay

1981

Best Supporting Actress

1981
Melinda Dillon

Articles

Absence of Malice


You can't really blame people who work in the movie industry, especially big-money stars and directors, for mistrusting the media. Unsubstantiated gossip has long been a staple of entertainment coverage. But a lot of principled newspaper reporters took offense at Sydney Pollack's Absence of Malice (1981), and what they considered to be a reverse smear campaign by Pollack, and the film's notoriously press-weary star, Paul Newman. Never mind that first-time screenwriter Kurt Luedtke was inspired by the case of a Washington Post correspondent who won a Pulitzer Prize for what turned out to be a fabricated story (she had to return the prize, of course). It also didn't matter that Luedtke was a former reporter for The Detroit Free Press. This one ruffled a few media feathers.

Newman stars as Michael Gallagher, a Miami-based beer distributor whose deceased father was a powerful mob figure. Gallagher's dad always protected him from the inner workings of the crime world, so he's grown up as a straight arrow, his only connection to the past being his still-crooked Uncle Santos (Luther Adler). Elliot Rosen (Bob Balaban), a scheming federal investigator, wrongly believes that Gallagher knows the story behind the disappearance of an important labor leader and will do anything to nail Gallagher.

One day, while talking to a newspaper reporter named Megan Carter (Sally Field), Rosen leaves his office and just "happens" to place Gallagher's folder on his desk. Carter takes a peek and winds up writing a story that implicates Gallagher in the crime. But Gallagher has an alibi - he was in Atlanta at the time, where he was helping a close friend (Melinda Dillon) arrange an abortion. When Carter tries to fix things by writing a too-blunt retraction of her original story, a tragedy occurs. This leads to a complicated ruse by Gallagher that turns the tables on the reporter and newspaper who besmirched his good name.

In a nutshell, a lot of real-life reporters (and some audience members) weren't buying that a woman in Carter's position would quickly rifle through a file when no one was looking, then write a semi-imagined story based on what she saw. Luedtke's argument was that this particular reporter did just that, but that doesn't mean every reporter on earth would do the same thing. Besides, he said, 'I don't walk out of a "bad cop" movie saying what I have been told is that the police are bad people."

In an interview at the time of the film's release, Newman made it abundantly clear how he feels about the media: "I would say that 90% of what people read about me in the newspapers is untrue. Ninety percent is garbage. (Reporters) are expected to come up with something sensational every night of the week to keep their readers' noses buried in the pages, and, well, you tell me. If nothing's happening, what do you do? Well, in their case, they make it up."

But that barrage came later. First, there was a press conference/luncheon featuring Newman, Field, Pollack, and others at New York City_s Tavern on the Green restaurant. What started out as a glowing ember of discontent among reporters turned into a raging fire by the time Newman and Field were done answering questions. When a reporter from the sensationalist tabloid The New York Post introduced herself to Field, the actress responded, "Wouldn't you rather say you're from someplace else?," despite the fact that the actress recently participated in a perfectly cordial interview with the paper. Then, when Newman was introduced to the Post's Diana Maychick, he bluntly snapped, "I hate your paper."

Newman's trademark blue eyes didn't work their charm this time. In an article in The Village Voice, Arthur Bell, who was at the luncheon, described the overriding vibe: "Over veal and carrots, (Newman) played the guru with all the philosophically correct answers, and his performance didn't sit too well. Are we supposed to write attractive copy about one of the most bankable movie stars in the world when he obviously doesn't like us and is using the press to make him more bankable for his next project?"

The answer to that one was obviously "no," since many writers tore into Newman, and what they considered to be the lopsided screenplay, with a vengeance. Nevertheless, this is an interesting picture that asks increasingly important questions about the consequences of shoddy news reporting. Perhaps the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Lucinda Franks - she got to keep her prize - put it best in The Columbia Journalism Review when she wrote that B>Absence of Malice is unbelievable not because Fields' reporter and her editor are unethical, but because they're so stupid.

You be the judge, but be prepared to back your position up with facts. And try to find a corroborating source.

Directed by: Sydney Pollack
Screenplay: Kurt Luedtke
Producer: Sydney Pollack Cinematography: Owen Roizman
Editing: Sheldon Kahn
Music: Dave Grusin
Production Design: Terence Marsh
Set Decoration: John Franco, Jr.
Costume Design: Bernie Pollack
Principal Cast: Paul Newman (Michael Gallagher), Sally Field (Megan Carter), Bob Balaban (Elliot Rosen), Melinda Dillon (Teresa Perrone), Luther Adler (Santos Malderone), Barry Primus (Bob Waddell), Wilford Brimley (James A. Wells).
C-117m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Paul Tatara
Absence Of Malice

Absence of Malice

You can't really blame people who work in the movie industry, especially big-money stars and directors, for mistrusting the media. Unsubstantiated gossip has long been a staple of entertainment coverage. But a lot of principled newspaper reporters took offense at Sydney Pollack's Absence of Malice (1981), and what they considered to be a reverse smear campaign by Pollack, and the film's notoriously press-weary star, Paul Newman. Never mind that first-time screenwriter Kurt Luedtke was inspired by the case of a Washington Post correspondent who won a Pulitzer Prize for what turned out to be a fabricated story (she had to return the prize, of course). It also didn't matter that Luedtke was a former reporter for The Detroit Free Press. This one ruffled a few media feathers. Newman stars as Michael Gallagher, a Miami-based beer distributor whose deceased father was a powerful mob figure. Gallagher's dad always protected him from the inner workings of the crime world, so he's grown up as a straight arrow, his only connection to the past being his still-crooked Uncle Santos (Luther Adler). Elliot Rosen (Bob Balaban), a scheming federal investigator, wrongly believes that Gallagher knows the story behind the disappearance of an important labor leader and will do anything to nail Gallagher. One day, while talking to a newspaper reporter named Megan Carter (Sally Field), Rosen leaves his office and just "happens" to place Gallagher's folder on his desk. Carter takes a peek and winds up writing a story that implicates Gallagher in the crime. But Gallagher has an alibi - he was in Atlanta at the time, where he was helping a close friend (Melinda Dillon) arrange an abortion. When Carter tries to fix things by writing a too-blunt retraction of her original story, a tragedy occurs. This leads to a complicated ruse by Gallagher that turns the tables on the reporter and newspaper who besmirched his good name. In a nutshell, a lot of real-life reporters (and some audience members) weren't buying that a woman in Carter's position would quickly rifle through a file when no one was looking, then write a semi-imagined story based on what she saw. Luedtke's argument was that this particular reporter did just that, but that doesn't mean every reporter on earth would do the same thing. Besides, he said, 'I don't walk out of a "bad cop" movie saying what I have been told is that the police are bad people." In an interview at the time of the film's release, Newman made it abundantly clear how he feels about the media: "I would say that 90% of what people read about me in the newspapers is untrue. Ninety percent is garbage. (Reporters) are expected to come up with something sensational every night of the week to keep their readers' noses buried in the pages, and, well, you tell me. If nothing's happening, what do you do? Well, in their case, they make it up." But that barrage came later. First, there was a press conference/luncheon featuring Newman, Field, Pollack, and others at New York City_s Tavern on the Green restaurant. What started out as a glowing ember of discontent among reporters turned into a raging fire by the time Newman and Field were done answering questions. When a reporter from the sensationalist tabloid The New York Post introduced herself to Field, the actress responded, "Wouldn't you rather say you're from someplace else?," despite the fact that the actress recently participated in a perfectly cordial interview with the paper. Then, when Newman was introduced to the Post's Diana Maychick, he bluntly snapped, "I hate your paper." Newman's trademark blue eyes didn't work their charm this time. In an article in The Village Voice, Arthur Bell, who was at the luncheon, described the overriding vibe: "Over veal and carrots, (Newman) played the guru with all the philosophically correct answers, and his performance didn't sit too well. Are we supposed to write attractive copy about one of the most bankable movie stars in the world when he obviously doesn't like us and is using the press to make him more bankable for his next project?" The answer to that one was obviously "no," since many writers tore into Newman, and what they considered to be the lopsided screenplay, with a vengeance. Nevertheless, this is an interesting picture that asks increasingly important questions about the consequences of shoddy news reporting. Perhaps the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Lucinda Franks - she got to keep her prize - put it best in The Columbia Journalism Review when she wrote that B>Absence of Malice is unbelievable not because Fields' reporter and her editor are unethical, but because they're so stupid. You be the judge, but be prepared to back your position up with facts. And try to find a corroborating source. Directed by: Sydney Pollack Screenplay: Kurt Luedtke Producer: Sydney Pollack Cinematography: Owen Roizman Editing: Sheldon Kahn Music: Dave Grusin Production Design: Terence Marsh Set Decoration: John Franco, Jr. Costume Design: Bernie Pollack Principal Cast: Paul Newman (Michael Gallagher), Sally Field (Megan Carter), Bob Balaban (Elliot Rosen), Melinda Dillon (Teresa Perrone), Luther Adler (Santos Malderone), Barry Primus (Bob Waddell), Wilford Brimley (James A. Wells). C-117m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Paul Tatara

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Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall November 19, 1981

Released in United States November 1981

Released in United States November 1981

Released in United States Fall November 19, 1981