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BUtterfield 8

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Daniel Mann
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by John O'Hara (novel)
John Michael Hayes
Charles Schnee
Starring Elizabeth Taylor
Laurence Harvey
Music by Bronislau Kaper
Cinematography Charles Harten
Joseph Ruttenberg
Editing by Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) November 4, 1960 (1960-11-04)
Running time 109 minutes
Country United States
Language English

BUtterfield 8 is a 1935 novel written by John O’Hara in the wake of the success of his critically acclaimed Appointment in Samarra. The popular novel was adapted into a 1960 film directed by Daniel Mann, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Harvey. The screenplay was adapted by John Michael Hayes and Charles Schnee from the 1935 novel by John O'Hara, but the plot of the film bears only a superficial resemblance to the plot of the novel. O'Hara based parts of the novel on the mysterious death of Starr Faithfull in Long Beach, Nassau County, New York in 1931. Faithfull's body was found dead on Long Beach's beach, apparently from drowning. In the novel the heroine is killed by falling under a paddlewheel of a steamboat on which she is a passenger. Also part of the background of Faithfull's life (her relationship with her mother's cousin Mayor Andrew James Peters of Boston) is used in a similar fictional relationship between the heroine and a friend of her uncle's and a school principal from new England.

Contents

Title

The unconventional title of the novel and film (capitalized "B" and "U") derives from the pattern of old telephone exchange names in the United States. Prior to the advent of digital technology, telephone exchanges were named instead of being numbered. BUtterfield 8 (originally simply BUTterfield; the "8" corresponds to "T" on the dial; in 1930 exchanges were changed to two letters and a digit, in order to make more telephone numbers available) was the name of the exchange that provided service to ritzy precincts of Manhattan's Upper East Side. This exchange refers to the characters "B", "U", and "8" of any lettered telephone dial. A modern telephone number would use 2-8-8 rather than BUtterfield 8, though can still interchangeably be used and translated to the exchange name style at any time.

Plot

Unlike the plot of the novel in which the protagonist is a young woman of the upper classes with too much time, too much money, and a careless disregard for morals, the movie casts Elizabeth Taylor as Gloria Wandrous, a promiscuous fashion model who falls in love with Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey), the hard drinking son of a working class family who has married into money. Their tumultuous relationship then engulfs their loved ones and ends in tragedy for Gloria but hints at redemption for Weston.

Synopsis

Gloria Wandrous wakes up in wealthy executive Weston Liggett's apartment and finds Liggett has left her $250. Insulted by the money which she never takes from men, Gloria, whose dress is torn, takes Liggett's wife Emily's mink coat to cover herself and scrawls "No Sale" in lipstick on the mirror, but then orders her telephone exchange, Butterfield 8, to put Liggett through if he should call. Later, Gloria visits her childhood friend, pianist Steve Carpenter, in his Greenwich Village apartment, where he chastises Gloria for wasting her life on one-night stands, but agrees to ask his girlfriend Norma to lend her a dress. After Gloria leaves, Norma jealously gives Steve an ultimatum: He must choose between her and Gloria.

Later that day, while Liggett takes the train to the countryside where his wife Emily is caring for her mother, he speaks with his friend, Bingham Smith, who tells him to end his adulterous relationships and return to Bing's law firm instead of working for Emily's father's chemical business. Later that day, when Gloria lies to her doting mother Annie, claiming to have spent the night at Norma's, neighbor Fanny Thurber insinuates that Gloria spends her nights in less than virtuous circumstances. That evening, Liggett returns home and, finding the lipstick and money, places a call to Gloria, explaining the money was for her dress, which he had torn, and which needed replacing.

Later that night during a date with Gloria, Liggett advises her to ask a high price for her lovemaking talents, prompting Gloria to jam her stiletto heel into his shoe. She explains that she does not take payment for her dates, but prefers to make her living modeling, claiming that she has been hired to advertise the dress she is wearing at three bistros that evening. Drawn by her fierce personality, Liggett follows Gloria to the bistros. After watching Gloria flirt with dozens of men at several clubs, he drives her to Happy's, a run-down motel owned by middle-aged female ex-vaudevillian called Happy. After sleeping together, Liggett and Gloria decide to explore the relationship further.

Days later, Norma finds the mink coat in musician Steve's closet and complains about Gloria. Steve tries to explain that after Gloria's father died, Steve looked after her like a brother, but Norma asserts that she does not want to continue their relationship with Gloria in their lives. While Wes and Gloria disappear together for five days, Emily's mother suggests that her daughter divorce Liggett, but Emily thinks he is frustrated by the life her family has handed him and insists she will wait until he develops a life of his own.

After Liggett and Gloria return to the city, Ligget admits that he is married. Gloria, far from being surprised, thanks Liggett for the respect he showed her during their trip by calling her by her real name instead of "honey" or "dollface." Later that night, when Gloria tells her mother the truth about being a "slut," Annie slaps her. Gloria, grateful that her mother has finally heard the truth, tells her that she is in love with only one man. Gloria visits her psychiatrist Dr. Tredman and insists that her relationship with Liggett has cured her of her need for promiscuity, but Tredman suggests it might not be the complete solution. She then rushes to Liggett's apartment building with the mink coat to return it, but seeing his elegant wife Emily in the entryway, leaves in shame.

Meanwhile, Liggett asks Bing for a job at the law firm and returns home to find Emily has noticed that the mink is gone. Liggett nervously makes excuses and rushes out to search for Gloria at her regular clubs, but finds instead that he is just one in the "fraternity" of Gloria's ex-lovers. Gloria visits Happy, who relates that her own wild and promiscuous life in her youth has brought her nothing but pain and has led her to a depressing dead end. When Gloria finds Liggett at a bistro the following evening, he launches into a series of drunken insults and taunts her, saying "honey, baby, dollface, kid." Gloria then drives Liggett to his apartment building where Emily, spotting them from a window above, watches as her husband throws the coat at Gloria, saying that he would never give the tainted object back to his wife.

Gloria goes to her friend Steve's apartment, and laments that she feels she has earned the mink coat she is wearing, every thread and fur pelt, with all her years of reckless and rampant promiscuity, and she feels that having it makes her a prostitute. She then recounts that when she was 13 years old, Major Hartley, a friend of her widowed mother, had repeatedly raped her while her mother was away for a week. Even though Gloria felt intense shame for having enjoyed the attention, she subsequently made a life out of repeating the incident.

The next day, when a defeated Liggett asks Emily for a divorce, she inquires if he is going to Gloria, reminding him that he left her the previous evening. He explains that he loves Gloria so much that the thought of her deserting him drove him into furious rage. When Norma arrives at Steve's apartment the next morning and finds Gloria asleep on Steve's couch, Steve calmly asks Norma to marry him.

When she gets back home, Gloria tells her mother she is starting a new life in Boston, gives the mink to Fanny and leaves in her sports car. Finding out that Gloria is on the road to Boston, Liggett drives until he spots her car at a café along the highway. Liggett tries to apologize to Gloria by asking her to marry him, but Gloria insists that she is "branded" by his insults. He convinces her to go to Happy's to talk in private, but when Happy greets her sarcastically, Gloria speeds away. Liggett drives after her, trying to catch up to her increasingly fast pace. While turning to see him follow her, Gloria misses the sign for road construction and hurtles over an embankment to her death. When Liggett returns to the city, he tells Emily about Gloria's death and announces that he is leaving to "find his pride" and will someday return to see if it has any value to either of them.

Cast

Production

Parts of this film were filmed on City Island, Bronx. Studio shots were at Chelsea Studios.[1]

Elizabeth Taylor and her then-husband Eddie Fisher hated the film, referring to it as 'Butterball Four'.[2]

Awards

It won the Academy Award for Best Actress (Elizabeth Taylor) and was nominated for Best Cinematography, Color for 1960. It was also nominated for the Best Actress - Drama Golden Globe Award for the same year's releases.

References

  1. ^ New York: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York - Richard Alleman - Broadway (February 1, 2005) ISBN 0767916344
  2. ^ Fisher, Eddie with David Fisher, Been There, Done That, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

External links








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