Lost in Yonkers (film)

Lost in Yonkers is a 1993 American comedy-drama film adaptation of Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, directed by Martha Coolidge. It stars Irene Worth, Mercedes Ruehl, and Richard Dreyfuss. It was the first theatrical feature film to be edited on Avid Media Composer.

Lost in Yonkers
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartha Coolidge
Written byNeil Simon
Based onLost in Yonkers
by Neil Simon
Music byElmer Bernstein
CinematographyJohnny E. Jensen
A. Troy Thomas
Edited bySteven Cohen
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • May 14, 1993 (1993-05-14) (United States)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million[1]
Box office$9 million

Plot synopsis

In 1942 in the Bronx, Evelyn Kurnitz has just died following a lengthy illness. Her husband, Eddie Kurnitz, needs to take a job as a traveling salesman to pay off the medical bills incurred. Eddie decides to ask his stern and forbidding mother, from whom he is slightly estranged, if his two early-teen sons, Jay and Arty (whom their Grandma calls by their full given names, Yakob and Arthur), can live with her and their Aunt Bella Kurnitz in Yonkers. His mother refuses at first but reluctantly agrees after Bella threatens to leave her if the boys aren't allowed to stay.

Despite their Grandmother owning and operating a candy store, Jay and Arty don't like their new living situation. They are afraid of their cold and distant Grandmother and find it difficult to relate to their crazy Aunt Bella, whose slow mental state is manifested by perpetual excitability and a short attention span, which outwardly comes across as a childlike demeanor. Into their collective lives returns one of Eddie and Bella's other siblings, Louie Kurnitz, a henchman for gangsters. He is hiding out from Hollywood Harry, who wants what Louie stole and which he is hiding in a small black bag.

Jay and Arty's mission becomes how to make money fast so they can help their father and move back in together, which may entail stealing the $15,000 their Grandma has hidden somewhere. Bella's mission is to find a way to tell the family that she wants to get married to Johnny, her equally slow movie theater usher boyfriend; the two could also use $5,000 of Grandma's hidden money to open their dream restaurant. Louie's objective is merely to survive the next couple of days.


Broadway play

After eleven previews, the Broadway production, directed by Gene Saks, opened on February 21, 1991, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where it ran for 780 performances. The original cast included Jamie Marsh, Irene Worth, Mercedes Ruehl, and Kevin Spacey.


The film holds a score of 71% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 17 reviews.[2]

Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and wrote, "All of the performances are good, but one of them, by Mercedes Ruehl, casts a glow over the entire film."[3] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "A wonderful play about a classically unhappy household that has been turned into a typical, mechanical Neil Simon joke machine. Simon's stage words rarely transfer well to the more realistic arena of film, and this is no exception. Another liability is that Richard Dreyfuss hams his way through a role that was played with dignity and poignancy on stage by Kevin Spacey."[4] Janet Maslin of The New York Times described the film as "sometimes more picturesque than powerful. But it conveys all the warmth and color of the original material."[5] Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote, "Story of a domineering old woman's tyranny over two generations of offspring is adroitly structured and contains strong human elements, but what proved so affecting onstage seems a bit pat and calculated when viewed in closeup."[6] Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "essentially deep-dish Neil Simon, which is, after all, not so very deep. But neither is the play negligible; it has a felt, melancholy undertow, and Ruehl and Worth, who both won Tonys for their performances on Broadway, bring out its full, racking sadness."[7] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, "In the film version, with Ruehl and Worth repeating their Tony-winning roles, Simon intensifies the barrage of belly laughs and bathos. Director Martha Coolidge, whose Rambling Rose was a model of graceful literary adaptation, seems at a loss with the crass material."[8]


  1. http://catalog.afi.com/Catalog/moviedetails/59616
  2. "Lost in Yonkers". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  3. Roger Ebert (May 14, 1993). "Lost In Yonkers". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  4. Siskel, Gene (May 14, 1993). "Siskel's Flicks Picks". Chicago Tribune. Section 7, page D.
  5. Maslin, Janet (May 14, 1993). "Simon's Serious Comedy Of Contemporary Nostalgia". The New York Times. C10.
  6. McCarthy, Todd (May 10, 1993). "Reviews: Lost in Yonkers". Variety. 236.
  7. Rainer, Peter (May 14, 1993). "Neil Simon Gets Serious in 'Lost in Yonkers'". Los Angeles Times. F8.
  8. Travers, Peter (May 27, 1993). "Lost in Tonkers". Rolling Stone (657): 58.
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