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The Dead is a 1987 feature film directed by John Huston, starring his daughter Anjelica Huston. The Dead was the last film that Huston directed, and it was released posthumously. It was adapted from the short story "The Dead" by James Joyce, which was included in his short works collection Dubliners.

The Dead
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Huston
Produced byChris Sievernich
Wieland Schulz-Keil
Written byTony Huston
Based on"The Dead"
by James Joyce
Music byAlex North
CinematographyFred Murphy
Edited byRoberto Silvi
Distributed byVestron Pictures
Release date
  • 18 December 1987 (1987-12-18)
Running time
83 min
Budget$3.5 million[1]
Box office$4,370,078[2]

The film takes place in Dublin in 1904 at an Epiphany party held by two sisters and their niece. The story focuses attention on the academic Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) and his discovery of his wife Gretta's (Anjelica Huston) memory of a deceased lover.

The Dead was nominated for two Academy Awards—for Best Adapted Screenplay and for Best Costume Design.


Film adaptationEdit

This film adaptation by John Huston's son Tony Huston can be considered a close adaptation of Joyce's short story, with some alterations made to the dialogue to aid the narrative for cinema audiences.

The most significant change to the story was the inclusion of a new character, a Mr. Grace, who recites an eighth-century Middle Irish poem, "Donal Óg".[3][4] The effect of this is to act as catalyst for the "Distant Music" that provokes the memories Gretta and Gabriel discuss at the end of the film.



Chris Sievernich and Weiland Schulz-Keil had raised money for Under the Volcano and would do likewise for The Dead. Screen rights to the story were purchased from the Joyce estate for $60,000. Shooting began 19 January 1987.[1]

According to Pauline Kael, "Huston directed the movie, at eighty, from a wheelchair, jumping up to look through the camera, with oxygen tubes trailing from his nose to a portable generator; most of the time, he had to watch the actors on a video monitor outside the set and use a microphone to speak to the crew. Yet he went into dramatic areas that he'd never gone into before - funny, warm family scenes that might be thought completely out of his range. Huston never before blended his actors so intuitively, so musically."[5] According to Anjelica Huston, her father remained a filmmaking virtuoso despite his ill health: "He was so sick, but he could literally do it with his eyes closed. He knew when we were going to get a take way long before the camera rolled. I mean the timing was so precise that he could tell everything, exactly how it was going to go."[6] The pressures of filming and watching her father's health deteriorate had an adverse effect on Anjelica Huston's own health: she developed Epstein-Barr syndrome during production.[6]


The Dead was initially released on DVD by Lionsgate on November 3, 2009. However, the DVD had nearly ten minutes of the film missing.[7] When word of this was posted on various websites, Lionsgate eventually released a complete version.



  • 1987 Tokyo International Film Festival - Special Achievement Award, John Huston
  • 1988 National Society of Film Critics Awards (USA) - Best Film
  • 1988 Independent Spirit Award for Best Director - John Huston
  • 1988 Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female - Anjelica Huston
  • 1989 Bodil Awards (Danish Film Critics) for Best Non-European Film
  • 1989 Fotogramas de Plata (Spain) for Best Foreign Film
  • 1989 London Critics Circle Film Awards for Director of the Year - John Huston



  1. ^ a b Segaloff, Nat (2013), Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media, pp. 137–141
  2. ^ The Dead at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "Donal Óg" Archived 2009-01-03 at the Wayback Machine, tr. Augusta, Lady Gregory
  4. ^ Nick Laird, ”I think he died for me” The Guardian, December 2, 2006
  5. ^ Kael, Pauline (1990), Hooked, London: Boyars, pp. 402–406, ISBN 0-7145-2903-6
  6. ^ a b Susan King (2019-05-17). "Anjelica Huston's magical movie life, from 'Prizzi's Honor' to 'John Wick'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  7. ^ Becker, Tom (November 2, 2009). "DVD Verdict Review: The Dead". DVDVerdict. Archived from the original on November 5, 2009. Retrieved November 3, 2009.

External linksEdit