Roseland


1h 43m 1977

Brief Synopsis

Three stories set in the famed dance hall center on the search for a perfect partner in dancing and life.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Dance
Release Date
1977
Production Company
Merchant/Ivory Productions
Distribution Company
Cinecom International Films; New Yorker Films
Location
New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

In the 1970s, the Roseland ballroom in New York City was a place for senior citizens to get together and relive the "good old days." The episodic stories in this film are accompanied by hit songs from the past such as "Slow Boat to China," "Stranger in Paradise," and "Rockin' Chair."

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Dance
Release Date
1977
Production Company
Merchant/Ivory Productions
Distribution Company
Cinecom International Films; New Yorker Films
Location
New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

Roseland


Roseland (1977), Merchant Ivory's first contemporary film, came into being by pure chance. James Ivory had wanted to direct a film adaptation of his collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's short story How I Became a Holy Mother, but the financiers weren't interested. However, they did like a scene in the script that took place at the Roseland Ballroom in New York. While the team was brainstorming, Don De Natale, who had played the Apache dancer in Merchant Ivory's film The Wild Party (1975), convinced them to go to Roseland, where he worked as a part-time master of ceremonies (which he played in Roseland), and an idea for a film was born.

Jhabvala spent several weeks at the ballroom, observing and speaking with the dancers and from that, she fashioned a screenplay; a three-part story of a group of people who frequent the club - one is obsessed with the past, some are searching for love, and another just needs a dance partner for a contest. The first sequence, "The Waltz" starred Teresa Wright as a widow who still fantasized about her late husband while being courted by Lou Jacobi. Christopher Walken (in what New York Times critic Vincent Canby called his "best role to date") plays a gigolo in the second sequence, entitled "The Hustle". In it, Walken has to please Geraldine Chaplin, Helen Gallagher, and Joan Copeland who are all in love with him. The final sequence, "The Peabody" starred Lilia Skala (who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe Award for her performance) as a Viennese refugee who works as a domestic to fund her trips to Roseland. Her dream is to win the Peabody contest, but her partner, played by David Thomas, is no Fred Astaire. Skala was not the first choice for the role. Said Ivory, "Bette Davis was intrigued enough to agree to talk about it over the phone with us. I made Ismail [Merchant] take her call (or make the call, I can't remember which) while I listened in on the line. He made his pitch, and then she gave her reason why she couldn't, or wouldn't, play the part, while I hovered spellbound by another phone. She wasn't ready for that, she said - which I think meant dying as she spun around on the Roseland floor, a pathetic old woman in a bedraggled gown. To hear her speak was to be taken back to my adolescence - that voice, its familiar rhythms; I could imagine her puffing away on a cigarette. It was as if we were talking to President Roosevelt, so deeply was that voice embedded in my consciousness, as his is."

Called "The World's Greatest Ballroom", Roseland began as a dance hall in 1919, and everyone from Joan Crawford to Fred Astaire danced there to bands like Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, Harry James and Fletcher Henderson. In 1956, the Roseland moved from 1658 Broadway at 51st Street to the current location at West 52nd St. Ivory was allowed to shoot inside the club on Wednesdays only since it was the second most crowded night at the club (Saturday being the top night) and the floor would be full of dancers. Scenes not on the dance floor were shot during the day and the production crew was not allowed to change anything inside the club, not even the pink light bulbs. This lead to a battle with the local Teamsters Union who demanded that Ivory hire a scenic artist and an art director, which Ivory argued made no sense given the restrictions by the club. Nevertheless, the Union began to picket the production until a scenic artist and art director were hired to sit around and do nothing. Then, the Screen Actors Guild thought there were too many shots of the Roseland regulars, who were not in the Guild as extras. Ivory had to sign a contract that he would not have a non-Union extra be shown in a medium-shot or a close up with a SAG actor.

When Roseland was premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 2, 1977, it received good reviews. Vincent Canby, writing for The New York Times, called it a "funny, moving, imaginative new movie [...] Considering that most of the earlier efforts of the Ivory-Jhabvala-Merchant team (Shakespeare-Wallah [1965], The Guru [1969] and Bombay Talkie [1970], among others) have been set in India, the success of Roseland is all the more dramatic. Most remarkable to me is Mrs. Jhabvala's ear for New York speech, such as the genteel mannerisms affected by someone like May (Teresa Wright), a middle-aged widow who bores everyone with stories about her late husband, Ed. [...] The ear is accurate, but the effect of the film is less real than surreal, less slice-of-life than so romantic that Mr. Ivory makes us accept, in the concluding episode, an explosion of outrageously overblown sentiment. Don De Natale, Roseland's real-life master-of-ceremonies, a young man with a patent-leather look and the kind of patter that Pal Joey would have admired, hovers over the show, so persistently cheerful that, finally, he becomes macabre, which is, I suspect, exactly what Mr. Ivory intended."

Producer: Ismail Merchant
Director: James Ivory
Screenplay: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (story and screenplay)
Cinematography: Ernest Vincze
Music: Michael Gibson
Film Editing: Humphrey Dixon, Richard Schmiechen
Cast: Teresa Wright (May, The Waltz), Lou Jacobi (Stan, The Waltz), Don De Natale (Master of Ceremonies, The Waltz), Louise Kirtland (Ruby, The Waltz), Hetty Galen (Red-Haired Lady, The Waltz), Carol Culver (Young May, The Waltz), Danny Shearer (Young Eddie, The Waltz), Geraldine Chaplin (Marilyn, The Hustle), Helen Gallagher (Cleo, The Hustle), Joan Copeland (Pauline, The Hustle).
C-104m.

by Lorraine LoBianco

SOURCES:
Canby, Vincent "Film Festival: 'Roseland' Casts Spell Over Lonely Fox-Trotters" New York Times 2 Oct 77
Long, Robert Emmet James Ivory in Conversation: How Merchant Ivory Makes its Movies
Long, Robert Emmet The Films of Merchant Ivory
http://www.merchantivory.com
http://www.nycgo.com
http://www.roselandballroom.com/
Roseland

Roseland

Roseland (1977), Merchant Ivory's first contemporary film, came into being by pure chance. James Ivory had wanted to direct a film adaptation of his collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's short story How I Became a Holy Mother, but the financiers weren't interested. However, they did like a scene in the script that took place at the Roseland Ballroom in New York. While the team was brainstorming, Don De Natale, who had played the Apache dancer in Merchant Ivory's film The Wild Party (1975), convinced them to go to Roseland, where he worked as a part-time master of ceremonies (which he played in Roseland), and an idea for a film was born. Jhabvala spent several weeks at the ballroom, observing and speaking with the dancers and from that, she fashioned a screenplay; a three-part story of a group of people who frequent the club - one is obsessed with the past, some are searching for love, and another just needs a dance partner for a contest. The first sequence, "The Waltz" starred Teresa Wright as a widow who still fantasized about her late husband while being courted by Lou Jacobi. Christopher Walken (in what New York Times critic Vincent Canby called his "best role to date") plays a gigolo in the second sequence, entitled "The Hustle". In it, Walken has to please Geraldine Chaplin, Helen Gallagher, and Joan Copeland who are all in love with him. The final sequence, "The Peabody" starred Lilia Skala (who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe Award for her performance) as a Viennese refugee who works as a domestic to fund her trips to Roseland. Her dream is to win the Peabody contest, but her partner, played by David Thomas, is no Fred Astaire. Skala was not the first choice for the role. Said Ivory, "Bette Davis was intrigued enough to agree to talk about it over the phone with us. I made Ismail [Merchant] take her call (or make the call, I can't remember which) while I listened in on the line. He made his pitch, and then she gave her reason why she couldn't, or wouldn't, play the part, while I hovered spellbound by another phone. She wasn't ready for that, she said - which I think meant dying as she spun around on the Roseland floor, a pathetic old woman in a bedraggled gown. To hear her speak was to be taken back to my adolescence - that voice, its familiar rhythms; I could imagine her puffing away on a cigarette. It was as if we were talking to President Roosevelt, so deeply was that voice embedded in my consciousness, as his is." Called "The World's Greatest Ballroom", Roseland began as a dance hall in 1919, and everyone from Joan Crawford to Fred Astaire danced there to bands like Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, Harry James and Fletcher Henderson. In 1956, the Roseland moved from 1658 Broadway at 51st Street to the current location at West 52nd St. Ivory was allowed to shoot inside the club on Wednesdays only since it was the second most crowded night at the club (Saturday being the top night) and the floor would be full of dancers. Scenes not on the dance floor were shot during the day and the production crew was not allowed to change anything inside the club, not even the pink light bulbs. This lead to a battle with the local Teamsters Union who demanded that Ivory hire a scenic artist and an art director, which Ivory argued made no sense given the restrictions by the club. Nevertheless, the Union began to picket the production until a scenic artist and art director were hired to sit around and do nothing. Then, the Screen Actors Guild thought there were too many shots of the Roseland regulars, who were not in the Guild as extras. Ivory had to sign a contract that he would not have a non-Union extra be shown in a medium-shot or a close up with a SAG actor. When Roseland was premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 2, 1977, it received good reviews. Vincent Canby, writing for The New York Times, called it a "funny, moving, imaginative new movie [...] Considering that most of the earlier efforts of the Ivory-Jhabvala-Merchant team (Shakespeare-Wallah [1965], The Guru [1969] and Bombay Talkie [1970], among others) have been set in India, the success of Roseland is all the more dramatic. Most remarkable to me is Mrs. Jhabvala's ear for New York speech, such as the genteel mannerisms affected by someone like May (Teresa Wright), a middle-aged widow who bores everyone with stories about her late husband, Ed. [...] The ear is accurate, but the effect of the film is less real than surreal, less slice-of-life than so romantic that Mr. Ivory makes us accept, in the concluding episode, an explosion of outrageously overblown sentiment. Don De Natale, Roseland's real-life master-of-ceremonies, a young man with a patent-leather look and the kind of patter that Pal Joey would have admired, hovers over the show, so persistently cheerful that, finally, he becomes macabre, which is, I suspect, exactly what Mr. Ivory intended." Producer: Ismail Merchant Director: James Ivory Screenplay: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (story and screenplay) Cinematography: Ernest Vincze Music: Michael Gibson Film Editing: Humphrey Dixon, Richard Schmiechen Cast: Teresa Wright (May, The Waltz), Lou Jacobi (Stan, The Waltz), Don De Natale (Master of Ceremonies, The Waltz), Louise Kirtland (Ruby, The Waltz), Hetty Galen (Red-Haired Lady, The Waltz), Carol Culver (Young May, The Waltz), Danny Shearer (Young Eddie, The Waltz), Geraldine Chaplin (Marilyn, The Hustle), Helen Gallagher (Cleo, The Hustle), Joan Copeland (Pauline, The Hustle). C-104m. by Lorraine LoBianco SOURCES: Canby, Vincent "Film Festival: 'Roseland' Casts Spell Over Lonely Fox-Trotters" New York Times 2 Oct 77 Long, Robert Emmet James Ivory in Conversation: How Merchant Ivory Makes its Movies Long, Robert Emmet The Films of Merchant Ivory http://www.merchantivory.com http://www.nycgo.com http://www.roselandballroom.com/

Teresa Wright (1918-2005)


Teresa Wright, a talented, Oscar&-winning leading lady of the '40s, and in later life, a versatile character player, died on March 6 at a New Haven, Connecticut hospital of a heart attack. She was 86.

She was born Muriel Teresa Wright in New York City on October 27, 1918. She showed a keen interest in acting in grade school, and by the time she was 19, she made her Broadway debut in Thorton Wilder's Our Town (1938); the following year she scored a hit as Mary, the weeping ingénue in Life with Father (1939). The word was out that New York had a superb young acting talent on hand, and Samuel Goldwyn soon brought her to Hollywood for William Wyler's adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1941). She scored an Oscar® nomination for her film debut as Regina Giddens' (Bette Davis), honorable daughter, Alexandria.

She maintained her amazing momentum by scoring two Oscar® nominations the following year for her next two films: as Carol Miniver in Wyler's Mrs. Miniver (Best Supporting Actress Category), and as Lou Gehrig's (Gary Cooper) faithful wife Ellie in Pride of the Yankees (Best Actress Category), and won the Oscar for Miniver. Yet for most fans of Wright's work, her finest hour remains her perfectly modulated performance as young Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Wright's performance as the self-effacing, impressionable young niece who gradually realizes that her beloved uncle (Joseph Cotton) may have murdered several widows is effective since Wright's air of observation, subtly turns from idol gazing, to a watchful air of caution as the facts slowly being to unravel. 60 years on, fans of Hitchcock still acclaim Wright's performance as an integral part of the film's classic status.

She proved her talents in comedy with the delightful Casanova Brown (1944), but then saw her schedule slow down due to domesticity. After she married screenwriter Niven Busch in 1942, she gave birth to son, Niven Jr., in 1944, and took two years off to look after her family. She soon returned to film with another Wyler project, the Oscar®-winning, post war drama, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), playing Fredric March's level-headed daughter, Peggy, she again took some time off after giving birth to her daughter, Mary in 1947. On her second attempt to return to the big screen, Wright found her popularity on the wane. Her wholesome image was in sharp contrast of the tougher, more modern women in post-war Hollywood, and her stubborn refusal to pose for any swimsuit or cheesecake photos to alter her image led to her release from Sam Goldwyn's contract.

As a freelance actress, Wright still found some good roles, notably as a young widow in the thriller scripted by her husband, in The Capture; and as a faithful fiancée trying to help Marlin Brandon deal with his amputation in Stanley Kramer's The Men (both 1950). Yet within a few years, she was playing middle-aged mothers in film like The Actress (1953), and The Track of the Cat (1954), even though she was still in her early '30s. By the mid-50s she found work in live television, where she could apply her stage training, in a number of acclaimed shows: Playhouse 90, General Electric Theater, Four Star Playhouse, and The United States Steel Hour.

She took a break from acting when she married her second husband, the playwright Robert Anderson in 1959, (she had divorced her first husband, Busch, in 1952) and was out of the public eye for several decades, save for an isolated theater appearance. When she did return, it was intermittent, but she was always worth watching. In James Ivory's Roseland (1977), a portrait of the New York dancehall; she was poignant as a talkative widow obsessed with her late husband; and as an enigmatic old actress in Somewhere in Time, she nearly stole the picture from leads, Christopher Reeve and Jayne Seymour. She was still active in the '90s, appearing a few hit shows: Murder, She Wrote, Picket Fences; and a final film role in John Grisham's The Rainmaker (1997). She is survived by her son, Niven; daughter, Mary; and two grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

Teresa Wright (1918-2005)

Teresa Wright, a talented, Oscar&-winning leading lady of the '40s, and in later life, a versatile character player, died on March 6 at a New Haven, Connecticut hospital of a heart attack. She was 86. She was born Muriel Teresa Wright in New York City on October 27, 1918. She showed a keen interest in acting in grade school, and by the time she was 19, she made her Broadway debut in Thorton Wilder's Our Town (1938); the following year she scored a hit as Mary, the weeping ingénue in Life with Father (1939). The word was out that New York had a superb young acting talent on hand, and Samuel Goldwyn soon brought her to Hollywood for William Wyler's adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1941). She scored an Oscar® nomination for her film debut as Regina Giddens' (Bette Davis), honorable daughter, Alexandria. She maintained her amazing momentum by scoring two Oscar® nominations the following year for her next two films: as Carol Miniver in Wyler's Mrs. Miniver (Best Supporting Actress Category), and as Lou Gehrig's (Gary Cooper) faithful wife Ellie in Pride of the Yankees (Best Actress Category), and won the Oscar for Miniver. Yet for most fans of Wright's work, her finest hour remains her perfectly modulated performance as young Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Wright's performance as the self-effacing, impressionable young niece who gradually realizes that her beloved uncle (Joseph Cotton) may have murdered several widows is effective since Wright's air of observation, subtly turns from idol gazing, to a watchful air of caution as the facts slowly being to unravel. 60 years on, fans of Hitchcock still acclaim Wright's performance as an integral part of the film's classic status. She proved her talents in comedy with the delightful Casanova Brown (1944), but then saw her schedule slow down due to domesticity. After she married screenwriter Niven Busch in 1942, she gave birth to son, Niven Jr., in 1944, and took two years off to look after her family. She soon returned to film with another Wyler project, the Oscar®-winning, post war drama, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), playing Fredric March's level-headed daughter, Peggy, she again took some time off after giving birth to her daughter, Mary in 1947. On her second attempt to return to the big screen, Wright found her popularity on the wane. Her wholesome image was in sharp contrast of the tougher, more modern women in post-war Hollywood, and her stubborn refusal to pose for any swimsuit or cheesecake photos to alter her image led to her release from Sam Goldwyn's contract. As a freelance actress, Wright still found some good roles, notably as a young widow in the thriller scripted by her husband, in The Capture; and as a faithful fiancée trying to help Marlin Brandon deal with his amputation in Stanley Kramer's The Men (both 1950). Yet within a few years, she was playing middle-aged mothers in film like The Actress (1953), and The Track of the Cat (1954), even though she was still in her early '30s. By the mid-50s she found work in live television, where she could apply her stage training, in a number of acclaimed shows: Playhouse 90, General Electric Theater, Four Star Playhouse, and The United States Steel Hour. She took a break from acting when she married her second husband, the playwright Robert Anderson in 1959, (she had divorced her first husband, Busch, in 1952) and was out of the public eye for several decades, save for an isolated theater appearance. When she did return, it was intermittent, but she was always worth watching. In James Ivory's Roseland (1977), a portrait of the New York dancehall; she was poignant as a talkative widow obsessed with her late husband; and as an enigmatic old actress in Somewhere in Time, she nearly stole the picture from leads, Christopher Reeve and Jayne Seymour. She was still active in the '90s, appearing a few hit shows: Murder, She Wrote, Picket Fences; and a final film role in John Grisham's The Rainmaker (1997). She is survived by her son, Niven; daughter, Mary; and two grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Roseland on DVD


Roseland (1977), one of the earliest Merchant-Ivory pictures, is an anthology film connected by a location, with three separate stories all set in New York's famed Roseland Ballroom. The first, "The Waltz," concerns an elderly widow, played by Teresa Wright, who finds that when she dances with course ladies' man Lou Jacobi, she can see in a mirror a magical reflection of herself as a young woman dancing with her late husband. She becomes obsessed with the mirror and constantly seeks out Jacobi to dance. Jacobi, annoyed by her constant chattering about her husband, eventually tries to bring her mind and heart out of the past and make her realize that she can find happiness in the present. Wright is luminous in this sweet little story, and it's charming to see how gracefully she aged from the beautiful young woman we all remember from Shadow of a Doubt (1943).

The second story, "The Hustle," is the longest of the three. Christopher Walken plays a gigolo who juggles three ladies in his life: a rich older woman (Joan Copeland), an older dance instructor (Helen Gallagher), and a young, pretty divorcee (Geraldine Chaplin). It starts off ponderously but becomes more intriguing as the characters' motivations become deeper and clearer. While the entire cast is good, it's Walken who is of greatest interest here (and in the entire movie). This early role, one year before The Deer Hunter, is unusually mellow and romantic for the actor as well as one of his most subtle.

The third story, "The Peabody," centers on an elderly Viennese woman (Lilia Skala) determined to win a dance competition despite warnings that it would be too physically strenuous. It's a slight and talky story, but as with the others, it becomes absorbing because the characters are richly developed.

Walken and Chaplin notwithstanding, Roseland as a whole is really about the various types of desperation felt by its middle-aged and older characters, and how they try and resolve those feelings on the dancefloor. The simple fact that it is about older people is itself a reason it pulls you in; watching it, you realize how rare such movies are.

Roseland was the third film to come from the team of director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and it shows the developing Merchant-Ivory style of deep character rather than fast plot. At the same time, it's a different kind of film for the trio because of its modern setting. It was shot entirely in and around the actual Roseland Ballroom in New York.

The DVD comes with zero extras, but the transfer is quite beautiful, with the warm colors of the Roseland interiors practically glowing. This makes sense when one realizes the disc is the result of a partnership between Criterion and Merchant-Ivory - put those two companies together and one would expect, at the very least, a gorgeous-looking movie.

For more information about Roseland, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order Roseland, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jeremy Arnold

Roseland on DVD

Roseland (1977), one of the earliest Merchant-Ivory pictures, is an anthology film connected by a location, with three separate stories all set in New York's famed Roseland Ballroom. The first, "The Waltz," concerns an elderly widow, played by Teresa Wright, who finds that when she dances with course ladies' man Lou Jacobi, she can see in a mirror a magical reflection of herself as a young woman dancing with her late husband. She becomes obsessed with the mirror and constantly seeks out Jacobi to dance. Jacobi, annoyed by her constant chattering about her husband, eventually tries to bring her mind and heart out of the past and make her realize that she can find happiness in the present. Wright is luminous in this sweet little story, and it's charming to see how gracefully she aged from the beautiful young woman we all remember from Shadow of a Doubt (1943). The second story, "The Hustle," is the longest of the three. Christopher Walken plays a gigolo who juggles three ladies in his life: a rich older woman (Joan Copeland), an older dance instructor (Helen Gallagher), and a young, pretty divorcee (Geraldine Chaplin). It starts off ponderously but becomes more intriguing as the characters' motivations become deeper and clearer. While the entire cast is good, it's Walken who is of greatest interest here (and in the entire movie). This early role, one year before The Deer Hunter, is unusually mellow and romantic for the actor as well as one of his most subtle. The third story, "The Peabody," centers on an elderly Viennese woman (Lilia Skala) determined to win a dance competition despite warnings that it would be too physically strenuous. It's a slight and talky story, but as with the others, it becomes absorbing because the characters are richly developed. Walken and Chaplin notwithstanding, Roseland as a whole is really about the various types of desperation felt by its middle-aged and older characters, and how they try and resolve those feelings on the dancefloor. The simple fact that it is about older people is itself a reason it pulls you in; watching it, you realize how rare such movies are. Roseland was the third film to come from the team of director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and it shows the developing Merchant-Ivory style of deep character rather than fast plot. At the same time, it's a different kind of film for the trio because of its modern setting. It was shot entirely in and around the actual Roseland Ballroom in New York. The DVD comes with zero extras, but the transfer is quite beautiful, with the warm colors of the Roseland interiors practically glowing. This makes sense when one realizes the disc is the result of a partnership between Criterion and Merchant-Ivory - put those two companies together and one would expect, at the very least, a gorgeous-looking movie. For more information about Roseland, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order Roseland, go to TCM Shopping. by Jeremy Arnold

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1977

Released in United States on Video February 17, 1993

Released in United States 1977

Released in United States June 27, 1990

Shown at New York Film Festival September-October 1977.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1977

Released in United States on Video February 17, 1993

Released in United States 1977 (Shown at New York Film Festival September-October 1977.)

Released in United States June 27, 1990 (Shown as part of the series "The Films of Merchant Ivory" Los Angeles, June 27, 1990.)