Two for the Seesaw


2h 1962
Two for the Seesaw

Brief Synopsis

A conservative attorney considering a divorce gets involved with an emotionally fragile dancer in New York.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
New York opening: 21 Nov 1962
Production Company
Argyle Enterprises; Mirisch Pictures; Seesaw Pictures; Seven Arts Productions; Talbot Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Two for the Seesaw by William Gibson (New York, 16 Jan 1958).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Omaha lawyer Jerry Ryan arrives in Manhattan after the breakup of his marriage and the loss of his job. He is lonely and decides to go to a Greenwich Village party given by his friend Oscar. There, he meets Gittel Mosca, a dancer from the Bronx, and they begin an affair. Jerry's thoughts, however, are still in Omaha, and he is unable to give of himself. Though he gets a job with a prominent law firm and uses some of his money to set Gittel up with a little dance studio in an empty loft, she senses that he cannot forget his wife and becomes depressed. After attending a party with a friend, she quarrels with Jerry, and has to be taken to the hospital with a hemorrhaging ulcer. When she returns he devotedly takes care of her, but the time inevitably arrives when she examines their relationship and asks Jerry to marry her when he is free of his marital ties. She learns that his divorce has already become final, though he has been afraid to tell her. They realize that the affair must end, and Jerry decides to return to his wife. Gittel is alone in her apartment when Jerry phones to tell her he loves her, and to say goodby.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
New York opening: 21 Nov 1962
Production Company
Argyle Enterprises; Mirisch Pictures; Seesaw Pictures; Seven Arts Productions; Talbot Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Two for the Seesaw by William Gibson (New York, 16 Jan 1958).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Cinematography

1962

Best Song

1962

Articles

Two For the Seesaw - Two for the Seesaw


In 1962 United Artists released Two for the Seesaw, the film version of the successful stage play by William Gibson. In the theatre, the production starred Henry Fonda and Anne Bancroft, but the desired casting choices for the film version were Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. When talks fell through, however, the focus shifted to Shirley MacLaine and Robert Mitchum. MacLaine was an easy sell compared to Mitchum, who initially turned the role down. Hearing MacLaine was involved, however, intrigued the actor - and so did the promise of a share in the receipts profits; the capper, however, was the hiring of Robert Wise as director. Mitchum, having worked together with Wise in the Western Blood on the Moon (1948), declared, "I'm not the kind of guy who thinks he knows it all. I can be talked into things." Wise, fresh from his Oscar-winning success with West Side Story (1961), was eager to get his leads together to gauge whether there was any on-screen chemistry between them - the film's story of two lost souls finding romance in New York City required a palpable connection between the lovers. Wise wasn't disappointed - on the contrary, he was a little overwhelmed.

In her 1995 autobiography My Lucky Stars, MacLaine recalls her first meeting with Mitchum: "It was a case of opposites attracting when he walked into the small office on the Goldwyn lot. I stood up and looked in his face. He shook my hand. 'Don't let me take up too much space,' he said. 'I'm basically a Bulgarian wrestler. I'm not right for this part.' "You're wonderful," I said. "I've admired you for so long, I think you'll be great." Indeed, MacLaine - seventeen years his junior - had grown up watching Mitchum in such flicks as Out of the Past (1947) and was smitten. In her words, "The die was cast. I willingly fell into the role of rescuer, saving him from himself. It gave me something to do . . . unlock the great Mitchum so the world could witness what gold there was underneath." It was the beginning of a three-year love affair; even the famously aloof Mitchum would later write of Shirley: "So much talent it was embarrassing. Quick. Responsive. Open and honest. Best of all, she had a weird sense of humor. What more could anyone ask?"

Even as the budding romance flourished under his nose, Wise appeared oblivious. In the 2001 biography Robert Mitchum by Lee Server, he conceded, "Mitchum and Shirley liked each other very much, that was obvious. They kidded each other and it was pretty spicy kidding, pretty ribald. I had to have a closed set for a while; I was kind of embarrassed over what they were saying to each other. . . Maybe they were having an affair. I don't know. I couldn't tell. But I had a difficult time getting them settled down to do a scene." Mitchum's wife Dorothy, however, was a little more clued in: aware of her husband's propensity to wander into the arms of his costars, she was rattled when the relationship with MacLaine extended past the wrap party. During production, things only intensified; as MacLaine explained, "We never spent any time together away from the set. Then, during a period when I had a few days off, I went to Hawaii to think and be alone. When I returned, Robert said to me, "When I didn't see you, I felt deprived. You are too much with me." From then on things changed.

Despite Mitchum's intense relationship with MacLaine on the set, he did managed to spend some time with other cast members: Malachy McCourt, brother of Angela's Ashes author Frank McCourt, had an uncredited role in the film, but a memorable experience with the actor. In Mitchum's biography, the author noted that "Mitchum invited McCourt to his dressing room one morning and brought forth products from the homeland, bottles of Guinness and Irish whiskey. 'We had a long talk as we sampled these refreshments, and I found him to be a highly intelligent man, very well read. . . I found him to be a very bright man who had become a bit lost in his stardom. A man who thought he ought to be doing something else besides standing before the camera for a living.' McCourt remembers Frank Sinatra popping by to say hello, and getting talked into staying for a stout and whiskey: ¿Sinatra gulped with dismay, drinking at that time in the morning, but he bravely downed a very good portion of both, and then made his farewell. He was still a very thin man, Sinatra, and I'm sure it was hitting him harder than it hit Mitchum or myself. But at that hour of the morning it was a bit much even for me, to be quite honest!"

Two for the Seesaw opened to uneven reviews; while most critics were pleased with MacLaine's performance, Mitchum's notices were not so kind. One review from Newsweek declared, "Mitchum, rigid to begin with, plays the movie as if he were wearing tight shoes." Ironically, some critics bemoaned the lack of onscreen chemistry between the two. However, Two for the Seesaw picked up two Oscar nominations - one for Best Song (by Andre Previn) and one for Best Cinematography (Ted McCord). MacLaine and Mitchum continued their affair all over the world, traveling together to locales such as New Orleans, New York, London, Paris, and even West Africa. The relationship, however, would end after a couple of years, with Mitchum returning to his wife, and MacLaine to her husband, Steve Parker. In her memoirs, however, MacLaine recalled a conversation years later with Used People (1992) costar Marcello Mastroianni: "We laughed about the time he and Faye Dunaway, who believed they were being successfully discreet, ran into Robert Mitchum and me on a London street. We believed we were being successfully discreet. And so the conversation led to the dilemma of falling in love with one's costar. "One must love one's costar," said Marcello. "Otherwise how will the audience believe it?"

Producer: Walter Mirisch
Director: Robert Wise
Screenplay: Isobel Lennart, based on a play by William Gibson
Cinematography: Ted D. McCord
Film Editing: Stuart Gilmore
Art Direction: Boris Leven
Music: Andre Previn
Cast: Robert Mitchum (Jerry Ryan), Shirley MacLaine (Gittel Mosca), Edmon Ryan (Frank Taubman), Elisabeth Fraser (Sophie), Eddie Firestone (Oscar), Billy Gray (Mr. Jacoby).
BW-120m. Letterboxed.

by Eleanor Quin
Two For The Seesaw - Two For The Seesaw

Two For the Seesaw - Two for the Seesaw

In 1962 United Artists released Two for the Seesaw, the film version of the successful stage play by William Gibson. In the theatre, the production starred Henry Fonda and Anne Bancroft, but the desired casting choices for the film version were Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. When talks fell through, however, the focus shifted to Shirley MacLaine and Robert Mitchum. MacLaine was an easy sell compared to Mitchum, who initially turned the role down. Hearing MacLaine was involved, however, intrigued the actor - and so did the promise of a share in the receipts profits; the capper, however, was the hiring of Robert Wise as director. Mitchum, having worked together with Wise in the Western Blood on the Moon (1948), declared, "I'm not the kind of guy who thinks he knows it all. I can be talked into things." Wise, fresh from his Oscar-winning success with West Side Story (1961), was eager to get his leads together to gauge whether there was any on-screen chemistry between them - the film's story of two lost souls finding romance in New York City required a palpable connection between the lovers. Wise wasn't disappointed - on the contrary, he was a little overwhelmed. In her 1995 autobiography My Lucky Stars, MacLaine recalls her first meeting with Mitchum: "It was a case of opposites attracting when he walked into the small office on the Goldwyn lot. I stood up and looked in his face. He shook my hand. 'Don't let me take up too much space,' he said. 'I'm basically a Bulgarian wrestler. I'm not right for this part.' "You're wonderful," I said. "I've admired you for so long, I think you'll be great." Indeed, MacLaine - seventeen years his junior - had grown up watching Mitchum in such flicks as Out of the Past (1947) and was smitten. In her words, "The die was cast. I willingly fell into the role of rescuer, saving him from himself. It gave me something to do . . . unlock the great Mitchum so the world could witness what gold there was underneath." It was the beginning of a three-year love affair; even the famously aloof Mitchum would later write of Shirley: "So much talent it was embarrassing. Quick. Responsive. Open and honest. Best of all, she had a weird sense of humor. What more could anyone ask?" Even as the budding romance flourished under his nose, Wise appeared oblivious. In the 2001 biography Robert Mitchum by Lee Server, he conceded, "Mitchum and Shirley liked each other very much, that was obvious. They kidded each other and it was pretty spicy kidding, pretty ribald. I had to have a closed set for a while; I was kind of embarrassed over what they were saying to each other. . . Maybe they were having an affair. I don't know. I couldn't tell. But I had a difficult time getting them settled down to do a scene." Mitchum's wife Dorothy, however, was a little more clued in: aware of her husband's propensity to wander into the arms of his costars, she was rattled when the relationship with MacLaine extended past the wrap party. During production, things only intensified; as MacLaine explained, "We never spent any time together away from the set. Then, during a period when I had a few days off, I went to Hawaii to think and be alone. When I returned, Robert said to me, "When I didn't see you, I felt deprived. You are too much with me." From then on things changed. Despite Mitchum's intense relationship with MacLaine on the set, he did managed to spend some time with other cast members: Malachy McCourt, brother of Angela's Ashes author Frank McCourt, had an uncredited role in the film, but a memorable experience with the actor. In Mitchum's biography, the author noted that "Mitchum invited McCourt to his dressing room one morning and brought forth products from the homeland, bottles of Guinness and Irish whiskey. 'We had a long talk as we sampled these refreshments, and I found him to be a highly intelligent man, very well read. . . I found him to be a very bright man who had become a bit lost in his stardom. A man who thought he ought to be doing something else besides standing before the camera for a living.' McCourt remembers Frank Sinatra popping by to say hello, and getting talked into staying for a stout and whiskey: ¿Sinatra gulped with dismay, drinking at that time in the morning, but he bravely downed a very good portion of both, and then made his farewell. He was still a very thin man, Sinatra, and I'm sure it was hitting him harder than it hit Mitchum or myself. But at that hour of the morning it was a bit much even for me, to be quite honest!" Two for the Seesaw opened to uneven reviews; while most critics were pleased with MacLaine's performance, Mitchum's notices were not so kind. One review from Newsweek declared, "Mitchum, rigid to begin with, plays the movie as if he were wearing tight shoes." Ironically, some critics bemoaned the lack of onscreen chemistry between the two. However, Two for the Seesaw picked up two Oscar nominations - one for Best Song (by Andre Previn) and one for Best Cinematography (Ted McCord). MacLaine and Mitchum continued their affair all over the world, traveling together to locales such as New Orleans, New York, London, Paris, and even West Africa. The relationship, however, would end after a couple of years, with Mitchum returning to his wife, and MacLaine to her husband, Steve Parker. In her memoirs, however, MacLaine recalled a conversation years later with Used People (1992) costar Marcello Mastroianni: "We laughed about the time he and Faye Dunaway, who believed they were being successfully discreet, ran into Robert Mitchum and me on a London street. We believed we were being successfully discreet. And so the conversation led to the dilemma of falling in love with one's costar. "One must love one's costar," said Marcello. "Otherwise how will the audience believe it?" Producer: Walter Mirisch Director: Robert Wise Screenplay: Isobel Lennart, based on a play by William Gibson Cinematography: Ted D. McCord Film Editing: Stuart Gilmore Art Direction: Boris Leven Music: Andre Previn Cast: Robert Mitchum (Jerry Ryan), Shirley MacLaine (Gittel Mosca), Edmon Ryan (Frank Taubman), Elisabeth Fraser (Sophie), Eddie Firestone (Oscar), Billy Gray (Mr. Jacoby). BW-120m. Letterboxed. by Eleanor Quin

Robert Wise (1914-2005)


Robert Wise, who died at age 91 on September 14, was the noted film editor of Citizen Kane (1941) and other movies before he became a producer and director, and all his works are marked by striking visual rhythms. He is best remembered for two enormously popular musicals, West Side Story (1959) and The Sound of Music (1965), which brought him a total of four Oscars® -- each winning for Best Picture and Best Director. (Wise's directorial award for West Side Story was shared with Jerome Robbins.)

Born on September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Ind., Wise was a child of the Depression who quit college to earn a living in the movie industry. He began as an assistant cutter at RKO, where he worked his way up to the position of film editor and earned an Oscar® nomination for his bravura work with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane. He also edited The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) for Welles, along with several other RKO films.

Wise became a director by default when RKO and producer Val Lewton assigned him to The Curse of the Cat People (1944) after Gunther von Fritsch failed to meet the film's production schedule. Wise turned the film into a first-rate psychological thriller, and enjoyed equal success with another Lewton horror film, The Body Snatcher (1945).

Critical praise also was showered upon Wise's Born to Kill (1947), a crime melodrama; and Blood on the Moon (1948), an unusual psychological Western starring Robert Mitchum. Even more highly regarded was The Set-Up (1949), a no-punches-pulled boxing drama that won the Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Wise moved on from RKO in the early 1950s, directing one of the movies' classic alien invasion films, The Day the Earth Stood Still, for 20th Century Fox.

At MGM he directed Executive Suite (1954), a compelling all-star boardroom drama; Somebody Up There Likes Me, a film bio of boxer Rocky Graziano that established Paul Newman as a major star; and The Haunting (1963), a chilling haunted-hause melodrama. His films for United Artists include Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), a submarine drama with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster; I Want to Live! (1958), a harrowing account of a convicted murderess on Death Row, with Susan Hayward in her Oscar-winning performance; and the crime caper Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).

Wise served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Directors Guild of America. He was awarded the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1966, and the Directors Guild's highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award, in 1988. He remained active as a director through the 1970s. His final film, Rooftops (1989) was a musical with an urban setting that recalled West Side Story.

The films in TCM's salute to Robert Wise are Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), Born to Kill (1947), Blood on the Moon (1948), The Set-Up (1949), Executive Suite (1954), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), B>West Side Story (1959), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and The Haunting (1963).

by Roger Fristoe

Robert Wise (1914-2005)

Robert Wise, who died at age 91 on September 14, was the noted film editor of Citizen Kane (1941) and other movies before he became a producer and director, and all his works are marked by striking visual rhythms. He is best remembered for two enormously popular musicals, West Side Story (1959) and The Sound of Music (1965), which brought him a total of four Oscars® -- each winning for Best Picture and Best Director. (Wise's directorial award for West Side Story was shared with Jerome Robbins.) Born on September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Ind., Wise was a child of the Depression who quit college to earn a living in the movie industry. He began as an assistant cutter at RKO, where he worked his way up to the position of film editor and earned an Oscar® nomination for his bravura work with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane. He also edited The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) for Welles, along with several other RKO films. Wise became a director by default when RKO and producer Val Lewton assigned him to The Curse of the Cat People (1944) after Gunther von Fritsch failed to meet the film's production schedule. Wise turned the film into a first-rate psychological thriller, and enjoyed equal success with another Lewton horror film, The Body Snatcher (1945). Critical praise also was showered upon Wise's Born to Kill (1947), a crime melodrama; and Blood on the Moon (1948), an unusual psychological Western starring Robert Mitchum. Even more highly regarded was The Set-Up (1949), a no-punches-pulled boxing drama that won the Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Wise moved on from RKO in the early 1950s, directing one of the movies' classic alien invasion films, The Day the Earth Stood Still, for 20th Century Fox. At MGM he directed Executive Suite (1954), a compelling all-star boardroom drama; Somebody Up There Likes Me, a film bio of boxer Rocky Graziano that established Paul Newman as a major star; and The Haunting (1963), a chilling haunted-hause melodrama. His films for United Artists include Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), a submarine drama with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster; I Want to Live! (1958), a harrowing account of a convicted murderess on Death Row, with Susan Hayward in her Oscar-winning performance; and the crime caper Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). Wise served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Directors Guild of America. He was awarded the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1966, and the Directors Guild's highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award, in 1988. He remained active as a director through the 1970s. His final film, Rooftops (1989) was a musical with an urban setting that recalled West Side Story. The films in TCM's salute to Robert Wise are Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), Born to Kill (1947), Blood on the Moon (1948), The Set-Up (1949), Executive Suite (1954), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), B>West Side Story (1959), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and The Haunting (1963). by Roger Fristoe

Quotes

Trivia

'Elizabeth Taylor' and 'Paul Newman' were both set to do this film but when Taylor became ill during the early filming of Cleopatra (1963), Newman was able to do Hustler, The (1961) instead.

Notes

Location scenes filmed in New York City.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall November 21, 1962

The 1958 theatrical production starred Henry Fonda and Anne Bancroft.

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor were originally slated for the roles with Delbert Mann set to direct.

Released in United States Fall November 21, 1962