Lady in a Cage

Lady in a Cage is a 1964 American psychological thriller film directed by Walter Grauman, written and produced by Luther Davis,[2] and released by Paramount Pictures. It stars Olivia de Havilland, and features James Caan in his first substantial film role.

Lady in a Cage
1964 Theatrical poster
Directed byWalter Grauman
Produced byLuther Davis
Written byLuther Davis
StarringOlivia de Havilland
James Caan
Music byPaul Glass
CinematographyLee Garmes
Edited byLeon Barsha
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • July 8, 1964 (1964-07-08) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,650,000 (US/ Canada)[1]


When an electrical power failure occurs, Mrs. Hilyard (Olivia de Havilland), a wealthy widow recuperating from a broken hip, becomes trapped between floors in the cage-like elevator she has installed in her mansion. With her son Malcolm (William Swan) away for a summer weekend, she relies on the elevator's emergency alarm to attract attention, but the only response comes from an alcoholic derelict, George (Jeff Corey), who enters the home, ignores her pleas and steals some small items.

The wino sells the stolen goods to a fence, then visits his prostitute friend, Sade (Ann Sothern), and tells her of the treasure trove he has stumbled upon. The expensive goods George fences attract the attention of three young hoodlums, Randall (James Caan), Elaine (Jennifer Billingsley) and Essie (Rafael Campos). The trio follows George and Sade back to the Hilyard home, where they conduct an orgy of violence, killing George the wino and locking Sade in a closet.

Randall then pulls himself up to the elevator and taunts Mrs. Hilyard by suggesting that her son Malcolm might be gay. Randall then shows her a letter that Malcolm left on her nightstand that morning, in which Malcolm threatens suicide because of her domineering manner. Shocked by the revelation, Mrs. Hilyard faints. After she regains consciousness, she struggles with Randall, escapes the elevator, and crawls out of the house, begging for help from passersby who fail to notice her. Randall follows and, as he is attempting to drag her back inside, Mrs. Hilyard stabs him in the eyes with a pair of shivs she secretly made from parts of the elevator, but he is dragged inside by his accomplices who soon abandon him and attempt to leave with the stolen goods. As Mrs. Hilyard crawls back outside, the now-blind Randall stumbles into the street and is run over by a passing automobile and killed instantly. Police arrive seconds later in response to the auto accident. Mrs. Hillyard is then, finally, able to report the violence to the police. The surviving intruders are arrested, and an ambulance crew comforts Mrs. Hilyard. Electrical power to her home is restored moments later.



The film is based on an original idea by Luther Davis, when he was working on a play about the effects of a power outage on the inhabitants of a house in oil country in the Midwest. That incident turned into a battle for survival, one in which Davis shifted the action in his story from a house to an elevator "since like so many New Yorkers I have a sense of claustrophobia in these little automatic elevators."[3]

Davis later said he was also inspired by the New York blackout of 17 August 1959. He knew a lady who was trapped in the elevator of a private residence on the city's Upper East Side. She called for help and was heard by two men who raped her.[4]

During his research, Davis learned that all elevators in New York have to be equipped with a phone, which would have ruined the story, so the film is set in an unnamed city.[3]

The film was announced in August 1962 with Ralph Nelson to direct and Robert Webber attached as star. Joan Crawford and Elizabeth Montgomery were being sought for the female lead.[5] Rosalind Russell was offered the part but turned it down.[6] In December 1962 Olivia de Havilland was announced as star.[7] Her fee was $300,000.[8]

By February 1963 experienced TV director Walter Grauman signed to make his feature debut as a director.[9]

Filming took place in February 1963 at Paramount Studios. It took 14 days and de Havilland called the experience "wonderful" praising the talent of James Caan.[10]


  • Bosley Crowther wrote a special column in the New York Times criticising the film, calling it "reprehensible"[11] which led to a press controversy.[12]
  • "The picture should be burned," wrote Hedda Hopper. "Why did Olivia do it?"[13]
  • The film was profitable for Paramount.[14]


  1. "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.
  2. "Lady in a Cage". IMDb. Retrieved 2008-08-22.
  3. By MURRAY SCHUMACH Special to The New,York Times. (1963, Mar 01). 'LADY IN A CAGE'. FILMING IS UNIQUE. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. Davis, L. (1964, Jul 05). 'LADY IN CAGE'---SICK, OR DOES IT REFLECT SICKNESS OF OUR SOCIETY? Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  5. Scheuer, P. K. (1962, Aug 16). Boehm will direct 'electra' himself. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  6. Hopper, H. (1962, Dec 03). Entertainment. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. By, E. A. (1962, Dec 04). SCREENING IS SET FOR 'DR. CALIGARI'. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  8. Hopper, H. (1964, Sep 21). Entertainment. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  9. Scheuer, P. K. (1963, Feb 27). New oil struck by old fox west coast. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  10. Hopper, H. (1963, Mar 25). Mankiewicz races deadline on 'cleo'. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  11. By, B. C. (1964, Jun 21). SOCIALLY HURTFUL. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  12. Davis, L. (1964, Jun 28). Film on violent youth agitates readers. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  13. Hopper, H. (1964, Jun 20). Entertainment. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  14. By, E. A. (1964, Jul 02). Paramount sees the big picture. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

See also

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