Gloria (1980 film)

Gloria is a 1980 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by John Cassavetes. It tells the story of a gangster's girlfriend who goes on the run with a young boy who is being hunted by the mob for information he may or may not have. It stars Gena Rowlands, Julie Carmen, Buck Henry, and John Adames.

Gloria 1980 movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Cassavetes
Produced bySam Shaw
Written byJohn Cassavetes
StarringGena Rowlands
Julie Carmen
Buck Henry
John Adames
Music byBill Conti
CinematographyFred Schuler
Edited byGeorge C. Villaseñor
Color processTechnicolor
Columbia Pictures
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • October 1, 1980 (1980-10-01)
Running time
122 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$4.1 million[2]


In the South Bronx, Jeri Dawn is heading home with groceries. Inside the lobby of her apartment building, she passes a man whose dress and appearance are out of place. The woman quickly boards the elevator.

She is met in her apartment by her husband Jack Dawn, an accountant for a New York City mob family. There is a contract on Jack and his family, as he has been acting as an informant for the FBI. Suddenly, the family's neighbor, Gloria Swenson, rings their doorbell, asking to borrow some coffee. Jeri tells Gloria of the impending hit and implores Gloria to protect the children. Gloria, a former mobster's girlfriend, tells Jeri that she doesn't like kids but begrudgingly agrees. The Dawns' daughter Joan refuses to leave and locks herself in the bathroom, so Gloria takes only their young son Phil to her apartment – narrowly missing the hit squad.

After hearing loud shotgun blasts from the Dawns' apartment, a visibly shaken Gloria decides that she and Phil must go into hiding. She quickly packs a bag, grabs her cat, and leaves the building with Phil, just as a police SWAT team are entering with heavy weapons. Meanwhile, a crowd of onlookers and news reporters have gathered in front of the building, and a cameraman captures a picture of Gloria leaving the building with Phil.

Gloria and Phil take a cab into Manhattan, where they hide out in an empty apartment belonging to a friend of hers. While Phil sleeps, Gloria has the TV on and hears a news report say that there was a mob hit in the South Bronx, and that the name of the suspected abductor is Gloria Swenson.

The next morning, Gloria and Phil sneak out of the apartment just as a group of gangsters close in on them. The gangsters are old friends of Gloria's, and confront her on the sidewalk outside, exhorting her to give up Phil and the ledger. In desperation, Gloria empties her revolver at the car of five gangsters, which takes off and flips over. Gloria realizes both her fate and Phil's are now intertwined, and that they will have to leave New York to survive.

Gloria goes to the bank to empty her safe deposit box, and the two settle for the night at a flophouse. She confronts another group of gangsters at a restaurant; she asks for immunity in exchange for the ledger. "Only Mr. Tanzinni can agree to that," says one of the goons, so she takes some of their guns and flees.

The next day, Gloria tells Phil that she plans to send him away to a boarding school. Offended by her intentions, Phil claims he is an independent grown man who can manage alone. Gloria decides to abandon him, and have a drink. She is soon filled with guilt and rushes back to look for him; however, he has been captured by some wise-guys. Gloria rescues him, killing one thug in the process, and fleeing from two other thugs via a taxi and the subway, where several by-standers help her escape from the two mobsters.

The two eventually make it to a hotel room, where Gloria laments the mob's strength and ubiquitous presence, explaining to Phil that she was once the mistress of Tanzinni himself. She meets with Tanzinni, relinquishes the ledger, and then flees, killing one gangster as another shoots down upon her elevator car. Phil waits several hours, then flees to Pittsburgh via rail. At a cemetery, Phil and Gloria reunite.



John Cassavetes did not originally intend to direct his screenplay; he planned merely to sell the story to Columbia Pictures. However, once his wife, Gena Rowlands, was asked to play the title character in the film, she asked Cassavetes to direct it.

Critical receptionEdit

Reviewing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and described it as "tough, sweet and goofy", as well as "fun and engaging but slight". He believed the overly silly nature of the script is redeemed by "Cassavetes' reliance on a tried-and-true plot construction" and the acting performances, particularly that of Rowlands, who he said "propels the action with such appealing nervous energy that we don't have the heart to stop and think how silly everything is".[3]

Rowlands was nominated for the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for best actress, and the film won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, tying with Atlantic City. The Boston Society of Film Critics selected Rowlands for their best actress award. The young boy Gloria was protecting, played by John Adames, tied with Sir Laurence Olivier (in The Jazz Singer) for the Worst Supporting Actor Razzie award of 1980.

In 2003, the American Film Institute nominated Gloria Swenson as a hero from this film for AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains.[4]

Remakes and influencesEdit

The film was remade in 1999 under the same title with a screenplay by Steve Antin. The remake was directed by Sidney Lumet. It starred Sharon Stone and Jean-Luke Figueroa.

Other films inspired by Gloria include Ultraviolet (2006), which uses the premise of a woman on the run with a little boy and transposes the story to a Dystopian futuristic setting,[citation needed] and Erick Zonca's 2008 film Julia, starring Tilda Swinton.[5] Luc Besson's film Léon also was inspired by Gloria, with actor Jean Reno playing the accidental guardian of a young girl (Natalie Portman) whose family was murdered by a corrupt DEA agent (Gary Oldman).[citation needed] A 2009 Brazilian film titled Verônica has a similar plot, changing the main character from a gangster's girlfriend to a teacher, who tries to save a student from criminals who killed his parents and are now chasing after him.[citation needed] In 2013, Paul Schrader was planning his own remake of the film, starring Lindsay Lohan.[6]


  1. ^ "GLORIA (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 1980-07-29. Retrieved 2013-01-02.
  2. ^ "Gloria (1980)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (n.d.). "Gloria". Chicago Sun-Times. The review is believed to have been first published c. October 1980; reprint date at the website is believed to be wrong. Retrieved May 31, 2020 – via
  4. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  5. ^ Cockrell, Eddie (February 9, 2008). "Berlin review of Julia". Variety. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
  6. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (January 10, 2013). "Steven Soderbergh Offered To Edit 'The Canyons', Lindsay Lohan Was Fired & The Saga Of Paul Schrader's Troubled Film". IndieWire.

External linksEdit