Sweet Bird of Youth (1962 film)

Sweet Bird of Youth is a 1962 drama film starring Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Shirley Knight, Madeleine Sherwood, Ed Begley, Rip Torn and Mildred Dunnock. Based on the 1959 play of the same name by Tennessee Williams, it focuses on the relationship between a drifter and a faded movie star. The film was adapted and directed by Richard Brooks.[1][2][3]

Sweet Bird of Youth
Sweet bird moviep.jpg
original movie poster
Directed byRichard Brooks
Written byRichard Brooks
Based onSweet Bird of Youth
1959 play
by Tennessee Williams
Produced byPandro S. Berman
CinematographyMilton Krasner
Edited byHenry Berman
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • March 21, 1962 (1962-03-21)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$7,550,000

The film won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ed Begley), and was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Geraldine Page) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Shirley Knight). The film version was sanitized, with Chance becoming a drifter rather than a gigolo for hire. The ending was also heavily altered from the explicit sexual mutilation scene depicted in the conclusion of the original stage version.


Handsome, young Chance Wayne returns to his hometown of St. Cloud, Mississippi accompanied by a considerably older film star, Alexandra Del Lago. She is needy and depressed, particularly about a film she has just finished making, and speaks of retiring from the acting world forever.

Chance had gone to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune at the behest of St. Cloud's most powerful and influential citizen, "Boss" Finley, either too naive or unwilling to appreciate that Finley merely wants Chance, a waiter from the country club, to keep away from his beautiful daughter, Heavenly.

A political kingpin, Finley enjoys putting Heavenly on display as a model of purity and chastity. His ruthless son, Tom Jr., aids his father's ambitions in any way he can. He, too, is unhappy to have Chance Wayne back in town.

Desperate to have Alexandra further his fantasy of becoming a star, Chance has become her lover. He goes so far as to blackmail her with a tape recording, on which she speaks openly of a dependence on drugs. Alexandra defies him, becoming irate at the realization that Chance's romantic interests in Heavenly are more important to him than her own needs.

Just when Alexandra is at her most vulnerable, a call comes from Hollywood to notify her that the new movie she's just made appears to be a certain success, reviving her career. Meanwhile, Finley's discarded mistress, Miss Lucy, exposes Finley's underhanded tactics to the government authorities. Chance, with nowhere else to turn and still on his own two feet, persuades Heavenly to leave town with him.[4] Able now to face the truth about himself, Chance and Heavenly reconcile and leave town together, leaving her father to face indictment.



The film was written for the screen and directed by Richard Brooks.[1][2][3] The adaptation of the original play by Tennessee Williams went through several drafts, with Brooks unsure how to film the play's controversial ending in which Chance is castrated by Finley's hoods.[5] The castration was cut from the film and replaced by Finley's son clubbing Chance in the face with a cane, followed by Chance and Heavenly escaping together.


The film was a hit, making almost $8,000,000 on a $2,000,000 budget.[6][7]

The film also was one of Roger Ebert's top films of the decade, and held a score of 74% on Rotten Tomatoes based on a total of 19 surveyed critics.

Awards and nominationsEdit

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[8] Best Actress Geraldine Page Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ed Begley Won
Best Supporting Actress Shirley Knight Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[9] Best Foreign Actress Geraldine Page Nominated
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Won
Golden Globe Awards[10] Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Paul Newman Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Geraldine Page Won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Ed Begley Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Shirley Knight Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Male Supporting Performance Ed Begley Nominated

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Variety film review; February 28, 1962, page 6.
  2. ^ a b Harrison's Reports film review; March 10, 1962, page 34.
  3. ^ a b OCLC 317647354
  4. ^ TCM film review of Sweet Bird of Youth. [1].
  5. ^ "Tragic play ending transformed into happier film version in "Sweet Bird of Youth"". sites.utexas.edu.
  6. ^ The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  7. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1962". Variety. 9 Jan 1963. p. 13. Please note these are rentals and not gross figures
  8. ^ "The 35th Academy Awards (1963) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on 2 February 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  9. ^ "BAFTA Film – Foreign Actress in 1963". bafta.org. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  10. ^ "Winners & Nominees 1963 – Golden Globes". goldenglobes.com. Retrieved 10 July 2020.

External linksEdit