The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (film)

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a 1968 American film adaptation of the 1940 novel of the same name by Carson McCullers. It was directed by Robert Ellis Miller.[2] It stars Alan Arkin and introduced Sondra Locke, who both earned Academy Award nominations for their performances. The film updates the novel's small-town Southern setting from the Depression era to the contemporary 1960s. The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated[3]

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Ellis Miller
Produced byThomas C. Ryan
and Marc Merson
Screenplay byThomas C. Ryan
Based onThe Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (novel)
by Carson McCullers
StarringAlan Arkin
Sondra Locke
Music byDave Grusin
CinematographyJames Wong Howe
Edited byJohn F. Burnett
Distributed byWarner Bros.-Seven Arts
Release date
  • 31 July 1968 (1968-07-31)
Running time
123 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.1 million (US/ Canada)[1]


John Singer is a deaf-mute who works as a silver engraver in a southern US town. His only friend is a mentally disabled mute, Spiros Antonapoulos, who continually gets into trouble with the law, since he does not know any better. When Spiros is committed to a mental institution by his cousin, who is his guardian, John offers to become Spiros' guardian, but is told that Spiros will have to go to the institution until this has been arranged. John decides to move to a town near the institution in order to be near his friend. He finds work there and rents a room in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Kelly, who are having financial difficulties as a result of Mr. Kelly's recent hip injury.

Because the Kellys' teenage daughter, Margaret ("Mick"), resents having to give up her room to him, John tries to win her friendship. He also tries to become friends with Jake Blount, a semi-alcoholic drifter, and Dr. Copeland, an embittered segregationist African American physician who is secretly dying of lung cancer. John helps interpret for a deaf-mute patient who is seeing Dr. Copeland. Copeland's deepest disappointment is that his educated daughter, Portia, works as a domestic and is married to a field hand. Meanwhile, Mick has an outdoor teenage party at her house, but is disgusted after some boy guests disrupt it by finding and setting off fireworks.

Following a successful attempt to win Mick's friendship by encouraging her love for classical music, John visits Spiros and, although he takes him out for the day, John is lonelier than ever when he returns home. Meanwhile, Portia and her husband are attacked and he is jailed for defending himself at an incident at a carnival. Portia gets upset at Dr. Copeland for not perjuring himself to help bring out the truth about what happened in the fight. Dr. Copeland and Portia's relationship gets even more strained after her husband has his leg amputated after being placed in irons for trying to escape jail.

John gets them to reconcile after Portia learns from John of Dr. Copeland's illness. Mick wilfully loses her virginity to the sensitive older brother of one of her classmates after she realizes that her father's injury has permanently disabled him and she will have to leave school and work to help support the family. Disturbed by her sexual initiation, she ignores John's request for some company. John goes to visit Spiros and learns that he has been dead for several weeks. After visiting his friend's grave and saying goodbye in sign language, John returns to his room and commits suicide.

Some months afterwards, Mick brings flowers to John's grave and meets Dr. Copeland. As they talk, Mick asks the question, "Why did he do it?"



See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, January 8, 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  2. ^ Adler, Renata. "New York Times: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter". NY Times. Retrieved August 17, 2008.
  3. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  4. ^ Greg, Garrison (May 3, 2017). "Alabama actress Boots Carroll dies; she had role in 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter'". The Birmingham News. Archived from the original on May 3, 2017. Retrieved May 29, 2017.

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