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The Hotel New Hampshire

The Hotel New Hampshire film poster
Directed by Tony Richardson
Produced by Neil Hartley
Pieter Kroonenburg
David J. Patterson
Written by Novel:
John Irving
Tony Richardson
Starring Jodie Foster
Beau Bridges
Rob Lowe
Nastassja Kinski
Wilford Brimley
Paul McCrane
Wallace Shawn
Lisa Banes
Seth Green
Music by Jacques Offenbach
conducted by Raymond Leppard
Cinematography David Watkin
Editing by Robert K. Lambert
Studio Woodfall Film Productions
Filmline Productions
The Producers' Circle
Yellowbill Productions Limited
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date(s) March 9, 1984
Running time 109 min.
Country UK / Canada / US
Language English
Budget $7,500,000 (estimated)

The Hotel New Hampshire is a 1984 film based on a 1981 novel of the same name by John Irving. The film was directed by Tony Richardson (who also wrote the screenplay) and stars Jodie Foster, Rob Lowe, Nastassja Kinski and Beau Bridges. The film also features Wilford Brimley, Amanda Plummer, Matthew Modine, and a young Seth Green in a supporting role.

In an introductory foreword that he wrote for a later edition of the novel, author Irving stated that he was thrilled when Richardson informed him that he wanted to adapt the book to the screen. Irving wrote that he was very happy with the adaptation, complaining only that he felt Richardson tried to make the film too faithful to the book, noting the manner in which Richardson would often speed up the action in an attempt to include more material onscreen.


Plot summary

The Hotel New Hampshire is narrated by John Berry (Rob Lowe) and opens in flashback to the time when his parents met and fell in love while working summer jobs at a New England hotel around World War II. They are brought together by Freud, a European refugee who travels with a performing bear.

In the 1950s, Win Berry (Beau Bridges) and his wife (Lisa Banes) have five children, John (Rob Lowe), Franny (Jodie Foster), Frank (Paul McCrane), Lilly (Jennifer Dundas) and Egg (Seth Green). The Berrys decide to open a hotel near the prep school that John, Franny and Frank attend. They call it the Hotel New Hampshire. John loses his virginity to the hotel waitress. Frank comes out to Franny and John; Franny is raped by big-man-on-campus Chipper Dove (Matthew Modine) and his buddies, and is rescued by Junior Jones (Dorsey Wright) and other black members of the school football team; John confesses that he's in love with Franny; the family dog, Sorrow, dies and Frank has him stuffed. Sorrow's reappearance at Christmas causes Berry grandfather Iowa Bob (Wilford Brimley) to suffer a fatal heart attack.

A letter arrives from Austria. It's Freud, inviting the Berrys to move to Vienna and run Freud's gasthaus. The family flies to Europe; tragically, the plane carrying Mrs. Berry and Egg explodes, killing them.

In Vienna, the family moves into the gasthaus and renames it Hotel New Hampshire. An upper floor houses prostitutes and the basement is occupied by radicals of various political stripes. Assisting Freud, who has gone blind, is Susie the Bear (Nastassja Kinski) a young lesbian woman who lives her life almost completely in a bear costume. One of the radicals, Ernst, resembles Chipper Dove (and is also played by Modine) and Franny becomes infatuated with him. Susie, who's quickly fallen in love with Franny, and John try to keep Franny away from him. Susie is initially successful in seducing Franny but soon she ends up with Ernst. Lilly, who's a dwarf, begins writing a novel called Trying to Grow.

One of the radicals, Miss Miscarriage (Plummer), grows very fond of the family and especially of Lilly. She invites John to her flat and sleeps with him, then warns him to get the family out of Vienna. For her trouble, another of the radicals murders her. Back at the hotel, John and the rest of the family are caught up in the radicals' plan to blow up the Vienna State Opera with a car bomb. The blind Freud, to spare the family, volunteers to drive with one of the radicals. As he leaves, the Berrys attack the remaining radicals and Freud detonates the bomb right outside the hotel. Ernst is killed and Win is blinded in the explosion.

Hailed as heroes by the Austrians, the Berry family decides to return home. Lilly's novel is published and the interest in the Berry's story leads to a biopic, written by Lilly and starring Franny as herself. The Berrys are in New York City when John and Susie run into Chipper Dove on the streets. They lure him to their hotel suite and take their revenge upon him, including apparently having Susie sodomize him while she's in her bear costume, until Franny calls it off.

Meanwhile, John's love for Franny has not abated. She finally calls him over to her room and, in hopes of getting him over it once and for all, has sex with him for almost a day.

Franny's Hollywood career is beginning to take off, with Frank acting as her agent and with Junior Jones back in the picture, but Lilly's writing career has stalled. Her second novel is not well received and, depressed and suffering from writer's block, she takes her own life.

As the film draws to a close, John is staying with his father at the latest Hotel New Hampshire, which stands empty. Susie comes to stay with them and she and John become involved. Win heartily approves because, as he puts it, every hotel needs a bear.

"Keep passing the open windows"

This phrase recurs throughout the film as a catchphrase among the Berry family. It is drawn from a story that the Berry parents tell their children, about a street performer called "The King of Mice." Saying "keep passing the open windows" is the family's way of telling each other to persevere. Lilly kills herself by jumping, having failed to pass that open window.

The rock band Queen was asked by producers to compose a song for the movie. Freddie Mercury and his bandmates composed the song "Keep Passing The Open Windows" that ended up on their 1984 album The Works, but didn't make it in the movie.

Many outdoor scenes were shot at the Hotel Tadoussac. Tadoussac is a village of 857 inhabitants (2005) in Quebec, Canada which was once an important seventeenth century French trading post.

DVD release

The Hotel New Hampshire was released on Region 1 DVD on July 10, 2001.

External links

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