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.
|Diary of a Mad Housewife|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Perry|
|Produced by||Frank Perry|
|Screenplay by||Eleanor Perry|
|Based on||Diary of a Mad Housewife by Sue Kaufman|
The Alice Cooper Band
|Edited by||Sidney Katz|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$6.1 million (rentals)|
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.
- Carrie Snodgress as Bettina "Tina" Balser
- Richard Benjamin as Jonathan Balser
- Frank Langella as George Prager
- Lorraine Cullen as Sylvie Balser
- Frannie Michel as Liz Balser
- Lee Addoms as Mrs. Prinz
- Peter Dohanos as Samuel Keefer
- Katherine Meskill as Charlotte Rady
- Leonard Eliott as M. Henri
- Margo as Valma
- Hilda Haynes as Lottie
- The Alice Cooper Band as Themselves
- Lester Rawlins as Dr. Linstrom (uncredited)
- Peter Boyle as Man in group therapy (uncredited)
The film was critically acclaimed: it maintains a 77% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 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."
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?"
The film was released on a bootleg DVD on October 15, 2014; VHS copies of Housewife have become rare, with sealed copies routinely fetching over $100 on websites like Amazon.com and eBay. 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
- "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976, pg 46.
- Greenspun, Robert (August 11, 1970). "'Diary of a Mad Housewife' Bows: Perrys Present View of Emotional Crisis". The New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
- "Diary of a Mad Housewife". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
- "Groucho talks about dirty entertainment (Grouch Marx interview on The Dick Cavett Show from May 25, 1971)". YouTube. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
- "Diary of a Mad Housewife – VHS". Amazon.com. Retrieved April 6, 2014.