A Delicate Balance (movie)  » Movies  »
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  • I love her best when she's playing opposite Spencer Tracy
  • I strongly recommend it if you get a chance to see it
  • Albee stopped allowing adaptations of his plays after a near disastrous experience with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

    • by tfedge
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      “A Delicate Balance” is the story of the self-destruction of an upper class American family. Katharine Hepburn and Paul Scofield play Agnes and Tobias a refined couple worn down by life. Their friends and family add primarily negative angst to their lives. Agnes’ sister Claire (played by Kate Reid) lives with them and drinks to much. Lee Remick play the oft married and oft divorced daughter of Agnes and Tobias who returns home after abandoning her most recent married only to find family friends Harry and Edna staying, uninvited in her old room. The movie is scene after scene of the players airing their fears, revealing their faults, and being generally disagreeable. It’s a familiar Edward Albee story, very reminiscent of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” but much more refined. In a sentence “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a delicate balance on steroids.

      Katharine Hepburn is one of my favorite all-time female actors. I love her best when she’s playing opposite Spencer Tracy. She is charming, bright, and clever; when she wants to be. When she doesn’t want to be that way, she isn’t. Hepburn was her own person, did things her way and got away with it even while acting under the old Hollywood contract system that often forced


      actors to work in roles they didn’t want. I’ve recently started my own miniature Katharine Hepburn film festival at my home lately besides “A Delicate Balance,” my wife and I recently watched for the umpteenth time “Adam’s Rib,” a movie that I always imagined revealed a good deal about the long-term affair between Hepburn and Tracy. “Alice Adams” is on the way. Probably my favorite Hepburn movie is “African Queen” co-starring Humphrey Bogart. The Movie features two of the strongest actors from the 1940s and 1950s excelling in a performance that allows both of them to shine. I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to see Kate Mulgrew’s one woman show about Katherine Hepburn called “Tea in the Afternoon.” I strongly recommend it if you get a chance to see it.

      Paul Scofield is the consummate actor. When he says a line I find it impossible to imagine that any other actor could have done a better job than he did. Scofield isn’t as well-known as he should be since he has tended to limit his movie career to adaptations of plays and books. In 1969 he became only the sixth actor to win the so-called Triple Crown of acting: a Best Actor Oscar for “A Man ...


      • for All Seasons,” a Tony for “A Man for All Seasons,” and an Emmy for “Male of the Species.” I remember him most for the magnificent “A Man for All Seasons” (1966). I remember while growing up that it became a tradition to air this movie on Thanksgiving afternoon opposite the football games so people with no interest in football would have something to watch. I looked forward to it every year. It was one of the first feature films I purchased on VHS in the 1980s.

        “A Delicate Balance” was directed by Tony Richardson who also directed “Widows’ Peak” (check out my Review Stream review at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006890/bio). Richardson is likely remembered by the younger set as the father of Natasha Richardson and as the ex-husband of Vanessa Redgrave, but he had a long, distinguished career as a director. He is best known for the “Tom Jones” (1963) for which he won two Oscars, Best Picture and Best Director. “Tom Jones” was a naughty, but not bawdy adaptation of Henry Fielding’s novel starring Albert Finney and Susannah York. “Tom Jones” was released when innocent movies were coming to an end and nudity in film was virtually non-existent. My favorite movie directed by Richardson is the 1969 “Hamlet” starring Nicol Williamson in

        the title role.

        “A Delicate Balance” is a film version of the Pulitzer prize winning play by Edward Albee. It isn’t really an adaptation, although it is sometime listed as such. It’s really move of a filming of the play using movie techniques. On the DVD version of the movie I watched Albee gives a half-hour interview where he talks about his unwillingness to have his plays adapted but more than happy to participate in the process. Albee stopped allowing adaptations of his plays after a near disastrous experience with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” where Ernest Lehman virtually rewrote Albee’s play and did such a poor job that the director Mike Nichols, and stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton threatened to quit of the origina script wasn’t used. According to Albee the only line written by Lehman was “let’s go to the roadhouse.” Ironically Lehman was nominated for an Oscar.

        I liked “A Delicate Balance,” but didn’t love it. If you are interested in similar movies you must watch the gripping “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” I always love Katharine Hepburn and Paul Scofield so look for their movies in your local video store. I give this movie a good solid B or 86%




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