Torch Song Trilogy


2h 1988
Torch Song Trilogy

Brief Synopsis

A drag queen's affair with a bisexual throws his life into turmoil.

Film Details

Also Known As
Trilogía de Nueva York
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
1988
Production Company
Completion Bond Company Inc; New Line Cinema; New Line International; Okowita; Pmk*Bnc; Worldvision Enterprises Inc
Distribution Company
ALLIANCE ATLANTIS VIVAFILM/NEW LINE CINEMA (NEW LINE); 21st Century Film Corporation; 21st Century France; Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm; Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm; Cecchi Gori Pictures; Filmax International; Hoyts Distribution; Independent Productions; New Line Cinema; Palace Pictures; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Location
Queens, New York, USA; West Hollywood, California, USA; North Hollywood, California, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Brooklyn, New York, USA; New York City, New York, USA; New Jersey, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h

Synopsis

Urban comedy-drama spanning nine years in the life of a gay man in New York, centering around the loves in his life, his stormy relationship with his mother, and his hopes to adopt a son.

Crew

Harold Arlen

Song ("This Time The Dream'S On Me")

Colleen Atwood

Costume Designer

Gregg Barbanell

Foley Artist

Nancy Berg

Makeup (New York)

Peter Bogart

Assistant Director

Tim Boyle

Music Recording

Helen Butler

Wardrobe Supervisor (New York)

Marie Cantin

Associate Producer

Marie Cantin

Unit Production Manager

Michael Childers

Special Photography

Conrad Chitwood

Construction Foreman

Harry Cohen

Sound Effects Editor (Digital)

Saul Cohen

Electrician

Marcie Dale

Art Direction

Harvey Fierstein

Play As Source Material ("Torch Song Trilogy")

Harvey Fierstein

Screenwriter

Harvey Fierstein

Co-Producer

Ronald K Fierstein

Producer

Ronald K Fierstein

Executive Producer

Martha Fishkin

Property Master Assistant (New York)

Ella Fitzgerald

Song Performer ("This Time The Dream'S On Me")

Brian Geer

Sound Effects Assistant

Lewis Goldstein

Dialogue Editor

Howard Gottfried

Producer

Morey Greenberg

Hairstyles (New York)

Patrick M Griffith

Sound Supervisor (Post-Production)

Peter Haas

Publicist (Pmk)

Ami Hadani

Music Recording

Richard Hoover

Production Designer

Krisen Janusis

Sound Recording Mixer Assistant

Sue Kauffman

Set Decorator Assistant (New York)

Douglas Kenny

2nd Assistant Director (New York)

Larry L Lash

Music Consultant

Andrew Lassman

Property Master (New York)

Todd Liebler

2nd Assistant Camera (New York)

Lauren Lloyd

Casting

Gail Lovin

Casting

Rob Luna

Dialogue Editor Assistant

Dennis Maguire

Assistant Director

Jim Makiej

Apprentice Editor

George Manasse

Production Manager (New York)

Marlene Marta

Set Decorator (New York)

Peter Matz

Additional Music; Music Adaptation

Stephen Mcnutt

Camera Operator (New York)

Johnny Mercer

Song ("This Time The Dream'S On Me")

Elizabeth J Nevin

Production Coordinator (New York)

Robert Nussbaum

Electrician

Terry O'bright

Foley Recording

Michael Paris

Stills

Chuck Parker

Construction Coordinator

Nancy Parker

Foley Artist

David Platt

Boom Operator

David Platt

Boom Operator (New York)

Ken S Polk

Sound Rerecording Mixer

Cole Porter

Song ("Love For Sale")

Scott Ramsey

Rigging Gaffer

Michael Lee Reed

Bestboy Electrician

Gary Rich

Sound Recording Mixer (New York)

Allan K Rosen

Music Editor Supervisor

Drew Ann Rosenberg

2nd Assistant Director (New York)

Scott Salmon

Choreography

Mikael Salomon

Director Of Photography

Mark Selemon

Set Dresser (New York)

Heidi Shulman

Wardrobe Assistant (New York)

Nicholas C Smith

Editor

Rusty Smith

Sound Effects Editor

Evan Stone

2nd Boom Operator (New York)

Eric Swanek

1st Assistant Camera (New York)

Ken Teaney

Sound Rerecording Mixer

Mira S. Tweti

Unit Publicist

Jeff Vaughn

Foley Recording

Michael Warga

Set Decorator

John West

Publicist (Pmk)

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Film Details

Also Known As
Trilogía de Nueva York
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
1988
Production Company
Completion Bond Company Inc; New Line Cinema; New Line International; Okowita; Pmk*Bnc; Worldvision Enterprises Inc
Distribution Company
ALLIANCE ATLANTIS VIVAFILM/NEW LINE CINEMA (NEW LINE); 21st Century Film Corporation; 21st Century France; Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm; Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm; Cecchi Gori Pictures; Filmax International; Hoyts Distribution; Independent Productions; New Line Cinema; Palace Pictures; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Location
Queens, New York, USA; West Hollywood, California, USA; North Hollywood, California, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Brooklyn, New York, USA; New York City, New York, USA; New Jersey, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h

Articles

Torch Song Trilogy


"With a face like this and a voice like this," the protagonist of Torch Song Trilogy says about his future as a drag performer in a gay nightclub, "I'm not worried. I can always drive a cab." The character is played by Harvey Fierstein, and when you see his homely face and hear his gravelly voice - both prominently displayed in every scene - it seems kind of miraculous that he isn't a cab driver but is instead a celebrated actor, standup comedian, and yes, female impersonator. The movie version of Torch Song Trilogy, capably directed by Paul Bogart, never garnered the clamorous fame of the Broadway production that made Fierstein a major figure in American theater, but it captures enough of the play's power to be a compelling experience in its own right.

As the title suggests, Torch Song Trilogy originated as a series of three one-act plays that premiered as separate productions before Fierstein knitted them into a single three-act drama. It opened Off-Broadway in 1981 and moved to Broadway a few months later, earning Fierstein multiple prizes including Tony and Drama Desk Awards for best play and best actor. Since the show was about four hours long, Fierstein made extensive cuts when he transformed his script into a screenplay, condensing the storyline and adjusting the dialogue to convey the essential ideas with maximum efficiency. He also discarded the titles of the original plays: The International Stud, named after a gay bar; Fugue in a Nursery, named after the musical structure of the dialogue; and Widows and Children First!, referring to character Arnold Beckoff's mother and foster son. But traces of the three-part structure linger when the film periodically fades to black, then starts a new episode with an indication of how much time has passed in the interim.

Fierstein plays Arnold, the main character of the semiautobiographical story. He's a small-time drag performer earning a modest living as a torch singer and comic in a New York nightclub. Love enters his life in 1971, when a chance meeting in a gay bar introduces him to Ed Reese (Brian Kerwin), an affable guy who teaches school in Brooklyn and spends his leisure days refurbishing an upstate farmhouse. Arnold and Ed make a good couple, but Ed's bisexuality eventually leads him into a serious relationship with Laurel (Karen Young), and his romance with Arnold reaches a breaking point. They remain keenly interested in each other, though, and Laurel is sophisticated enough to treasure Arnold's friendship despite - or even because of - his love for Ed, which never really goes away.

The next part of the film covers several years in the 1970s. Arnold is now in a committed relationship with Alan Simon (Matthew Broderick), a handsome young model who seems to be his ideal mate, even though Alan isn't entirely faithful, allowing himself to be seduced by Ed during a weekend visit to Ed and Laurel's country home. Settling into a contented middle-class routine, Arnold and Alan decide to become foster parents and move into a new apartment large enough to accommodate the child they hope to adopt. But tragedy strikes when Alan intervenes in a horrific gay-bashing incident, trying to save a victim and losing his own life instead. Arnold is devastated.

Arnold's mom makes a few appearances in the early portions of the film, but she becomes a major character in the last section, set at the start of the 1980s. Ma Beckoff (Anne Bancroft) is a stereotypical Jewish mother living in Florida since her husband's death. She is fraught with ambivalence over Arnold's gay lifestyle, which he has never hidden or downplayed although he hasn't yet found the courage to tell her about David (Eddie Castrodad), the gay 15-year-old who lives with him and will soon be his adopted son. Tensions begin rising as soon as Ma arrives for a visit, peaking when they visit the family's cemetery plot and she realizes that Alan is buried there alongside her late husband. This is far and away the most emotionally powerful part of the film, allowing both Arnold and his mother to make impassioned statements of how and why they view life, love, and death in such different and deeply felt ways. Although much of Torch Song Trilogy is played for laughs, even the funniest bits usually have undercurrents of bitterness and anger, and those qualities come into the foreground in the final scenes, where it becomes clear that Ma is no less gifted than Arnold when it comes to sarcasm, zingers, and flashes of truly savage wit.

In adapting Torch Song Trilogy to the screen, Fierstein has pared down, toned down, and slightly dumbed down the original material. The movie is about half the length of the play, and while the play doesn't have much in the way of onstage sex, there's even less sexual activity in the film, leaving it mostly to the imagination. The portion that's somewhat dumbed down is in the middle, where the play has long dialogue passages arranged in the structure of a musical fugue, labeling the different sections (subject, stretto, and so on) with slides projected on the backdrop. The movie shortens the fugally organized dialogue and dispenses with the labels; this doesn't amount to much of a loss, although it makes the vaguely disparaging assumption that movie audiences would automatically reject a device that theater audiences took in stride.

Fierstein gives a stunning performance in a role that precisely suits his acting talents, and Bancroft is brilliant as Arnold's longsuffering, self-absorbed mother. Broderick is excellent as Alan - interestingly, he played young David in the original stage production - and Young is a standout in the supporting cast. The narrative of Torch Song Trilogy ends in 1980, just before the AIDS epidemic started, so its portrait of gay life in America doesn't include that crisis, although the 1988 movie is dedicated to all the people fighting to defeat it. Fierstein has stayed active in films but has achieved more success in the theater world. After the triumph of Torch Song Trilogy, his script for the Broadway version of La Cage aux Folles won a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination in 1984; his portrayal of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray won multiple prizes in 2003; and subsequent ventures have accrued additional honors. All this notwithstanding, it's likely that Torch Song Trilogy will endure as the signature achievement he was born to create.

Director: Paul Bogart
Producer: Howard Gottfried
Screenplay: Harvey Fierstein, based on his play
Cinematographer: Mikael Salomon
Film Editing: Nicholas C. Smith
Art Direction: Marcie Dale and Okowita
Music: Peter Matz
With: Anne Bancroft (Ma Beckoff), Matthew Broderick (Alan Simon), Harvey Fierstein (Arnold Beckoff), Brian Kerwin (Ed Reese), Karen Young (Laurel), Eddie Castrodad (David), Ken Page (Murray), Charles Pierce (Bertha Venation), Axel Vera (Marina Del Rey)
Color-121m.

by David Sterritt
Torch Song Trilogy

Torch Song Trilogy

"With a face like this and a voice like this," the protagonist of Torch Song Trilogy says about his future as a drag performer in a gay nightclub, "I'm not worried. I can always drive a cab." The character is played by Harvey Fierstein, and when you see his homely face and hear his gravelly voice - both prominently displayed in every scene - it seems kind of miraculous that he isn't a cab driver but is instead a celebrated actor, standup comedian, and yes, female impersonator. The movie version of Torch Song Trilogy, capably directed by Paul Bogart, never garnered the clamorous fame of the Broadway production that made Fierstein a major figure in American theater, but it captures enough of the play's power to be a compelling experience in its own right. As the title suggests, Torch Song Trilogy originated as a series of three one-act plays that premiered as separate productions before Fierstein knitted them into a single three-act drama. It opened Off-Broadway in 1981 and moved to Broadway a few months later, earning Fierstein multiple prizes including Tony and Drama Desk Awards for best play and best actor. Since the show was about four hours long, Fierstein made extensive cuts when he transformed his script into a screenplay, condensing the storyline and adjusting the dialogue to convey the essential ideas with maximum efficiency. He also discarded the titles of the original plays: The International Stud, named after a gay bar; Fugue in a Nursery, named after the musical structure of the dialogue; and Widows and Children First!, referring to character Arnold Beckoff's mother and foster son. But traces of the three-part structure linger when the film periodically fades to black, then starts a new episode with an indication of how much time has passed in the interim. Fierstein plays Arnold, the main character of the semiautobiographical story. He's a small-time drag performer earning a modest living as a torch singer and comic in a New York nightclub. Love enters his life in 1971, when a chance meeting in a gay bar introduces him to Ed Reese (Brian Kerwin), an affable guy who teaches school in Brooklyn and spends his leisure days refurbishing an upstate farmhouse. Arnold and Ed make a good couple, but Ed's bisexuality eventually leads him into a serious relationship with Laurel (Karen Young), and his romance with Arnold reaches a breaking point. They remain keenly interested in each other, though, and Laurel is sophisticated enough to treasure Arnold's friendship despite - or even because of - his love for Ed, which never really goes away. The next part of the film covers several years in the 1970s. Arnold is now in a committed relationship with Alan Simon (Matthew Broderick), a handsome young model who seems to be his ideal mate, even though Alan isn't entirely faithful, allowing himself to be seduced by Ed during a weekend visit to Ed and Laurel's country home. Settling into a contented middle-class routine, Arnold and Alan decide to become foster parents and move into a new apartment large enough to accommodate the child they hope to adopt. But tragedy strikes when Alan intervenes in a horrific gay-bashing incident, trying to save a victim and losing his own life instead. Arnold is devastated. Arnold's mom makes a few appearances in the early portions of the film, but she becomes a major character in the last section, set at the start of the 1980s. Ma Beckoff (Anne Bancroft) is a stereotypical Jewish mother living in Florida since her husband's death. She is fraught with ambivalence over Arnold's gay lifestyle, which he has never hidden or downplayed although he hasn't yet found the courage to tell her about David (Eddie Castrodad), the gay 15-year-old who lives with him and will soon be his adopted son. Tensions begin rising as soon as Ma arrives for a visit, peaking when they visit the family's cemetery plot and she realizes that Alan is buried there alongside her late husband. This is far and away the most emotionally powerful part of the film, allowing both Arnold and his mother to make impassioned statements of how and why they view life, love, and death in such different and deeply felt ways. Although much of Torch Song Trilogy is played for laughs, even the funniest bits usually have undercurrents of bitterness and anger, and those qualities come into the foreground in the final scenes, where it becomes clear that Ma is no less gifted than Arnold when it comes to sarcasm, zingers, and flashes of truly savage wit. In adapting Torch Song Trilogy to the screen, Fierstein has pared down, toned down, and slightly dumbed down the original material. The movie is about half the length of the play, and while the play doesn't have much in the way of onstage sex, there's even less sexual activity in the film, leaving it mostly to the imagination. The portion that's somewhat dumbed down is in the middle, where the play has long dialogue passages arranged in the structure of a musical fugue, labeling the different sections (subject, stretto, and so on) with slides projected on the backdrop. The movie shortens the fugally organized dialogue and dispenses with the labels; this doesn't amount to much of a loss, although it makes the vaguely disparaging assumption that movie audiences would automatically reject a device that theater audiences took in stride. Fierstein gives a stunning performance in a role that precisely suits his acting talents, and Bancroft is brilliant as Arnold's longsuffering, self-absorbed mother. Broderick is excellent as Alan - interestingly, he played young David in the original stage production - and Young is a standout in the supporting cast. The narrative of Torch Song Trilogy ends in 1980, just before the AIDS epidemic started, so its portrait of gay life in America doesn't include that crisis, although the 1988 movie is dedicated to all the people fighting to defeat it. Fierstein has stayed active in films but has achieved more success in the theater world. After the triumph of Torch Song Trilogy, his script for the Broadway version of La Cage aux Folles won a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination in 1984; his portrayal of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray won multiple prizes in 2003; and subsequent ventures have accrued additional honors. All this notwithstanding, it's likely that Torch Song Trilogy will endure as the signature achievement he was born to create. Director: Paul Bogart Producer: Howard Gottfried Screenplay: Harvey Fierstein, based on his play Cinematographer: Mikael Salomon Film Editing: Nicholas C. Smith Art Direction: Marcie Dale and Okowita Music: Peter Matz With: Anne Bancroft (Ma Beckoff), Matthew Broderick (Alan Simon), Harvey Fierstein (Arnold Beckoff), Brian Kerwin (Ed Reese), Karen Young (Laurel), Eddie Castrodad (David), Ken Page (Murray), Charles Pierce (Bertha Venation), Axel Vera (Marina Del Rey) Color-121m. by David Sterritt

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter December 14, 1988

Released in United States on Video June 22, 1989

Re-released in United States on Video March 28, 1995

Released in United States September 1989

Shown at Deauville Film Festival September 1-11, 1989.

Shown at San Sebastian Film Festival September 15-23, 1989.

Formerly distributed by RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video.

Completed shooting July 14, 1988.

Began shooting May 17, 1988.

Released in United States Winter December 14, 1988

Released in United States on Video June 22, 1989

Re-released in United States on Video March 28, 1995

Released in United States September 1989 (Shown at Deauville Film Festival September 1-11, 1989.)

Released in United States September 1989 (Shown at San Sebastian Film Festival September 15-23, 1989.)