Mrs. Soffel


1h 50m 1984
Mrs. Soffel

Brief Synopsis

A prison warden's wife is seduced into helping a notorious killer escape.

Film Details

Also Known As
Mrs. Soffel: una historia real
MPAA Rating
PG-13
Genre
Romance
Drama
Historical
Prison
Release Date
1984
Location
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Ontario, Canada

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m

Synopsis

In turn-of-the-century Pennsylvania, the wife of prison warden falls in love with a convicted murderer.

Crew

Mark Adler

Original Music

Stuart Aikins

Casting

Allan Amtzis

Casting Assistant

George H Anderson

Sound Effects Editor

Todd Arnow

Auditor

Luciana Arrighi

Production Designer

Michael Barnathan

Assistant

Nicholas Beauman

Editor

George Berrios

Assistant Camera

Marco Bianco

Stunt Player

Todd Boekelheide

Music Supervisor

Russell Boyd

Director Of Photography

Ron Bozman

Unit Director

Ron Bozman

Assistant Director

Daniel R Bradette

Assistant Property Master

Jacques M Bradette

Set Decorator

Ralph Brandifino

Assistant Camera

J Tracy Budd

Property Master

Lynne Carrow

Casting

Dan Conley

Set Decorator

Shay Cunliffe

Costume Designer

Marc Dassas

Location Manager

Darwin Dean

Director Of Photography

Monty Diamond

Unit Production Manager

Dody Dorn

Dialogue Editor

Dennis Drummond

Sound Effects Editor

Nora Dunfee

Consultant

Mark Egerton

Assistant Director

Tony Eldridge

Electrician

Alice Ferrier

Production Coordinator

Henri Fix

Camera

Richard Flower

Assistant Director

Cassie Freckleton

Auditor

Carmi Gallo

Assistant Art Director

Linda Gill

Makeup Artist

Ron Gillham

Key Grip

Rocco Gismondi

Assistant Director

Anthony Gittelson

Assistant Director

Glen Goodchild

Grip

Robin Grathwol

Stunt Player

Patricia Green

Makeup Supervisor

Robert Grieve

Supervising Sound Editor

Jay M Harding

Sound Re-Recording Mixer

Bill Harman

Construction Coordinator

Chris Harris

Assistant Camera

Gail Harvey

Photography

Andris Hausmanis

Assistant Art Director

Chris Helcermanas-benge

Photography

Chris Holmes

Lighting Technician

Penelope Hynam

Script Supervisor

Mark Isham

Music

Dennis E Jones

Associate Producer

Dennis E Jones

Production Manager

Robert Kaiser

Color Timer

Lynda Kemp

Wardrobe

David J Kimball

Sound Re-Recording Mixer

Bruce Lange

Assistant Editor

Paul Leblanc

Hair Stylist

David Lee

Sound Mixer

Michael Macdonald

Unit Manager

Sandy Mccallum

Assistant Camera

Lisa Mcclelland

Production Coordinator

Brenda Mcconnell

Casting Assistant

Peggy Munns

Assistant

David Nicksay

Executive Producer

Peter Norman

Director Of Photography

Ron Nyswaner

Screenplay

Ray O'reilly

Sound Re-Recording Mixer

Richard Parker

Wrangler

Rod Parkhurst

Camera Operator

Andrew G Patterson

Editor

Kevin Pike

Special Effects

Edward Pisoni

Art Director

John Pleffer

Post-Production Coordinator

Janice Polley

Assistant

Glenn H Randall

Unit Director

Glenn H Randall

Stunt Coordinator

Michael Rea

Assistant Editor

Hilton Rosemarin

Set Decorator

Arthur Rowsell

Costumer

Scott Rudin

Producer

Robert Saad

Camera

Edgar J. Scherick

Producer

Steve Seliy

Location Manager

Margery Simkin

Casting

Bruce Smith

Stunt Player

Roy Smith

Art Director

Stuart Stein

Assistant Camera

Nick Sweetman

Transportation Coordinator

Steve Switzer

Boom Operator

Neil Trifunovich

Special Effects

Patty Unger

Costumer

Lt. Ed Urban

Technical Advisor

Victoria Vanderkloot

Stunt Player

Chuck Waters

Stunt Player

Film Details

Also Known As
Mrs. Soffel: una historia real
MPAA Rating
PG-13
Genre
Romance
Drama
Historical
Prison
Release Date
1984
Location
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Ontario, Canada

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m

Articles

Mrs. Soffel


"A Weak Woman's Insane Infatuation" read the headline of a 1902 Pittsburgh newspaper in the midst of a bleak northern winter riddled with scandal. The "weak woman" was Kate Soffel, wife of the Allegheny County Jail's warden, Peter Soffel, and mother to his four children. She was accused of helping two convicted murderers, Ed and Jack Biddle, escape from her husband's prison and then attempting to flee with them to Canada. Ed and Jack Biddle were brothers who received as much attention for their handsome good looks while incarcerated as they did for their violent crimes. As the warden's wife, Mrs. Soffel made it part of her duties to regularly visit all the inmates and offer words of Christian comfort to them from the Bible. It was during these visits that Mrs. Soffel took a special liking to the older Biddle, Ed. The sensation caused by Mrs. Soffel's shocking actions to help the Biddles would shake up the town for years to come.

This fascinating real-life story had almost been forgotten when screenwriter Ron Nyswaner brought the story idea to producers Edgar J. Scherick and Scott Rudin. Nyswaner, a Pennsylvania native, had grown up hearing the local folklore of Mrs. Soffel and the Biddle Boys (as Ed and Jack were known) and felt it would translate vividly onto the big screen. Once the script was completed, Oscar®-winning actress Diane Keaton was set to star in the title role and Gillian Armstrong was named director. Armstrong, who was part of what was called the "Australian New Wave" at the time, had made a splash with her first feature-length Australian film My Brilliant Career (1979). Mrs. Soffel was to be Armstrong's first American feature and first experience working with a big Hollywood budget. One of the few prominent female directors, Armstrong was often attracted to stories that featured extraordinary strong women characters. Diane Keaton, too, was drawn to the same types of roles, shining in films such as Annie Hall (1977), Shoot the Moon (1982) and The Little Drummer Girl (1984). Keaton had been eager to work with Gillian Armstrong ever since they had met a few years earlier in Los Angeles.

Tom Cruise and Kevin Costner were among the many up and coming young actors who tested opposite Diane Keaton for the crucial role of her condemned love interest, Ed Biddle. However, it was Armstrong's fellow Aussie Mel Gibson who was finally chosen. Matthew Modine, who was generating a lot of buzz for his work on Birdy (1984) at the time, was cast as the younger Biddle brother, Jack.

The stunning cinematography by Russell Boyd in Mrs. Soffel was one of the most praised aspects of the film when it was released. Shot largely in Canada and Pittsburgh under some grueling wintry weather conditions, the look is atmospheric, dark and beautiful. Boyd's photography captures the layered details of industrial grime, and the bleak, moody chill of a turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh winter is almost tangible. Director Armstrong was adamant about using shots of the real Allegheny County Jail, where the actual events of the story took place. Having been designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, the jail was a uniquely beautiful building. Filming the jail not only contributed strong visuals to Mrs. Soffel, but also historical authenticity. When Mrs. Soffel was shooting in 1983, the jail was still being used to house prisoners, some of which were even used as background extras. The jail eventually closed in 1995, but it was preserved as a National Historic Landmark and currently houses offices of the Pennsylvania court system.

Despite the first-rate performances of Diane Keaton and Mel Gibson, Mrs. Soffel failed to make an impression on the moviegoing public who barely noticed it. Critics, however, praised it. They singled out the nuanced performances of the actors as well as the outstanding look of the film. David Edelstein of the Village Voice called Mrs. Soffel "the year's richest, most poetic love story - I'd call her (Diane Keaton's) Mrs. Soffel the best performance of the year."

Producer: David Nicksay, Scott Rudin, Edgar J. Scherick
Director: Gillian Armstrong
Screenplay: Ron Nyswaner
Cinematography: Russell Boyd
Film Editing: Nicholas Beauman
Art Direction: Roy Forge Smith
Music: Mark Isham
Cast: Diane Keaton (Kate Soffel), Mel Gibson (Ed Biddle), Matthew Modine (Jack Biddle), Edward Herrmann (Peter Soffel), Trini Alvarado (Irene Soffel), Jennifer Dundas (Margaret Soffel).
C-112m. Letterboxed.

by Andrea Passafiume
Mrs. Soffel

Mrs. Soffel

"A Weak Woman's Insane Infatuation" read the headline of a 1902 Pittsburgh newspaper in the midst of a bleak northern winter riddled with scandal. The "weak woman" was Kate Soffel, wife of the Allegheny County Jail's warden, Peter Soffel, and mother to his four children. She was accused of helping two convicted murderers, Ed and Jack Biddle, escape from her husband's prison and then attempting to flee with them to Canada. Ed and Jack Biddle were brothers who received as much attention for their handsome good looks while incarcerated as they did for their violent crimes. As the warden's wife, Mrs. Soffel made it part of her duties to regularly visit all the inmates and offer words of Christian comfort to them from the Bible. It was during these visits that Mrs. Soffel took a special liking to the older Biddle, Ed. The sensation caused by Mrs. Soffel's shocking actions to help the Biddles would shake up the town for years to come. This fascinating real-life story had almost been forgotten when screenwriter Ron Nyswaner brought the story idea to producers Edgar J. Scherick and Scott Rudin. Nyswaner, a Pennsylvania native, had grown up hearing the local folklore of Mrs. Soffel and the Biddle Boys (as Ed and Jack were known) and felt it would translate vividly onto the big screen. Once the script was completed, Oscar®-winning actress Diane Keaton was set to star in the title role and Gillian Armstrong was named director. Armstrong, who was part of what was called the "Australian New Wave" at the time, had made a splash with her first feature-length Australian film My Brilliant Career (1979). Mrs. Soffel was to be Armstrong's first American feature and first experience working with a big Hollywood budget. One of the few prominent female directors, Armstrong was often attracted to stories that featured extraordinary strong women characters. Diane Keaton, too, was drawn to the same types of roles, shining in films such as Annie Hall (1977), Shoot the Moon (1982) and The Little Drummer Girl (1984). Keaton had been eager to work with Gillian Armstrong ever since they had met a few years earlier in Los Angeles. Tom Cruise and Kevin Costner were among the many up and coming young actors who tested opposite Diane Keaton for the crucial role of her condemned love interest, Ed Biddle. However, it was Armstrong's fellow Aussie Mel Gibson who was finally chosen. Matthew Modine, who was generating a lot of buzz for his work on Birdy (1984) at the time, was cast as the younger Biddle brother, Jack. The stunning cinematography by Russell Boyd in Mrs. Soffel was one of the most praised aspects of the film when it was released. Shot largely in Canada and Pittsburgh under some grueling wintry weather conditions, the look is atmospheric, dark and beautiful. Boyd's photography captures the layered details of industrial grime, and the bleak, moody chill of a turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh winter is almost tangible. Director Armstrong was adamant about using shots of the real Allegheny County Jail, where the actual events of the story took place. Having been designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, the jail was a uniquely beautiful building. Filming the jail not only contributed strong visuals to Mrs. Soffel, but also historical authenticity. When Mrs. Soffel was shooting in 1983, the jail was still being used to house prisoners, some of which were even used as background extras. The jail eventually closed in 1995, but it was preserved as a National Historic Landmark and currently houses offices of the Pennsylvania court system. Despite the first-rate performances of Diane Keaton and Mel Gibson, Mrs. Soffel failed to make an impression on the moviegoing public who barely noticed it. Critics, however, praised it. They singled out the nuanced performances of the actors as well as the outstanding look of the film. David Edelstein of the Village Voice called Mrs. Soffel "the year's richest, most poetic love story - I'd call her (Diane Keaton's) Mrs. Soffel the best performance of the year." Producer: David Nicksay, Scott Rudin, Edgar J. Scherick Director: Gillian Armstrong Screenplay: Ron Nyswaner Cinematography: Russell Boyd Film Editing: Nicholas Beauman Art Direction: Roy Forge Smith Music: Mark Isham Cast: Diane Keaton (Kate Soffel), Mel Gibson (Ed Biddle), Matthew Modine (Jack Biddle), Edward Herrmann (Peter Soffel), Trini Alvarado (Irene Soffel), Jennifer Dundas (Margaret Soffel). C-112m. Letterboxed. by Andrea Passafiume

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States December 1984

Released in United States Winter December 1, 1984

Based on a true story.

Began shooting February 13, 1984.

Completed shooting December 1984.

Released in United States December 1984

Released in United States Winter December 1, 1984