Diary of a Mad Housewife

Diary of a Mad Housewife is a 1970 American comedy-drama film about a frustrated wife portrayed by Carrie Snodgress. Snodgress was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won a Golden Globe award in the same category. The film was adapted by Eleanor Perry from the 1967 novel by Sue Kaufman and directed by Perry's then-husband, Frank Perry. The film co-stars Richard Benjamin and Frank Langella.[2]

Diary of a Mad Housewife
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Perry
Produced byFrank Perry
Screenplay byEleanor Perry
Based onDiary of a Mad Housewife by Sue Kaufman
StarringRichard Benjamin
Frank Langella
Carrie Snodgress
Lorraine Cullen
Frannie Michel
Katherine Meskill
The Alice Cooper Band
CinematographyGerald Hirschfeld
Edited bySidney Katz
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • August 10, 1970 (1970-08-10)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$6.1 million (rentals)[1]


Tina Balser, an educated, frustrated housewife and mother, is in a loveless marriage with Jonathan, an insufferable, controlling, emotionally abusive, social-climbing lawyer in New York City. He treats her like a servant, undermines her with insults, and belittles her appearance, abilities and the raising of their two girls, who treat their mother with the same rudeness as their father. Searching for relief, she begins a sexually fulfilling affair with a cruel and coarse writer, George Prager, who treats her with similar brusqueness and contempt, which only drives her deeper into despair. She then tries group therapy, but this also proves fruitless when she finds her male psychiatrist, Dr. Linstrom, as well as the other participants, equally shallow and abusive.

At the climax of the film, Jonathan confesses to Tina that his ambitious plans have collapsed. A French vineyard he had invested in is wiped out, and he is now in debt. Because he has been focusing on non-job issues, his work at his law firm has suffered. He also confesses to having an affair. Tina tells Jonathan that she accepts what he's done, and promises to support him, but does not tell him of her own affair with George. Tina reveals her story to her therapy group, who angrily criticize or belittle her. The final shot is of Tina's face, steadfast, as angry voices from the group are heard from off-screen.



The film was critically acclaimed: it maintains a 77% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[3] Roger Ebert gave the movie three out of four stars, saying, "What makes the movie work... is that it's played entirely from the housewife's point of view, and that the housewife is played brilliantly by Carrie Snodgress."[3]

Neil Young wrote the song "A Man Needs a Maid" inspired by Snodgress in Diary of a Mad Housewife: "I was watching a movie with a friend/I fell in love with the actress/she was playing a part I could understand." The song was included on his 1972 album Harvest. Soon after, Young and Snodgress became romantically involved for several years.

Groucho Marx spoke out against the movie in an interview on The Dick Cavett Show on May 25, 1971. He stated that it was an example of dirty entertainment and that he did not like it because the characters were in bed for 80 minutes. He made a joke of this, saying, "Well I'm not interested in that. I don't care what they're doing in the sack, if I'm not doing it, why should I sit in the theater and watch it?"[4]

Home media

The film was released on a bootleg DVD on October 15, 2014;[5] VHS copies of Housewife have become rare, with sealed copies routinely fetching over $100 on websites like Amazon.com and eBay.[6] Universal had made the film available on VHS through their MCA label, and through license to Goodtimes Home Video.

Awards and nominations

  • Best Picture – Musical or Comedy (nominee) – 1970 Golden Globe
  • Best Actor – Musical or Comedy (nominee) – Richard Benjamin – 1970 Golden Globe
  • Best Actress – Musical or Comedy (winner) – Carrie Snodgress – 1970 Golden Globe
  • New Star of the Year – Male (nominee) – Frank Langella – 1970 Golden Globe
  • New Star of the Year – Female (winner) – Carrie Snodgress – 1970 Golden Globe
  • Best Actress (nominee) – Carrie Snodgress – 1970 Academy Award
  • Best Picture (nominee) – 1970 National Board of Review
  • Best Supporting Actor (winner) – Frank Langella – 1970 National Board of Review


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