Puzzle of a Downfall Child

Puzzle of a Downfall Child is a 1970 American drama film directed by Jerry Schatzberg and starring Faye Dunaway, Barry Morse, Viveca Lindfors, Roy Scheider and Barry Primus.

Puzzle of a Downfall Child
Original film poster
Directed byJerry Schatzberg
Produced byJohn Foreman
Screenplay byAdrian Joyce
Story byJerry Schatzberg
Adrian Joyce
StarringFaye Dunaway
Barry Morse
Viveca Lindfors
Roy Scheider
Barry Primus
Ruth Jackson
John Heffernan
Sydney Walker
Music byMichael Small
CinematographyAdam Holender
Edited byEvan Lottman
Distributed byUniversal Studios
Release date
  • December 16, 1970 (1970-12-16)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States


A beautiful but disturbed young woman lives alone at a beach cottage, reliving her past, a life of delusions and lies.

Lou Andreas Sand is a former fashion model whose life has gone into a downward spiral including drug use and a nervous breakdown. She tells an acquaintance, Aaron Reinhardt, her story for a film he is planning on her, but the details do not ring true.

Lou evidently had a lover who abused her and a penchant for sex with strange men. Along the way, she became engaged to marry Mark, an ad executive, but apparently jilted him on the day of their wedding, leading to her descent into drugs and an attempted suicide.



The film was Schatzberg's first foray into feature film making; at the time he was primarily known as a fashion photographer and had directed a few commercials.[1]

Schatzberg initially worked with French screenwriter Jacques Sigurd, who had written a script involving a woman having an abortion, but the collaboration came to an end due to creative differences. Carole Eastman, whose unused draft for Petulia Schatzberg had enjoyed, was approached to write a new screenplay, and only the title from Sigurd's script was kept on the insistence of Schatzberg.[2] Eastman based the new script on recordings Schatzberg had made of his friend, model Anne St. Marie,[3] while Aaron was in part based on Schatzberg himself.[2] The phrase downfall child came from a friend of Schatzberg's who had recounted a nightmare where she was trying to save a child falling from a building.[1]

The name of Faye Dunaway's character is an allusion to Lou Andreas-Salomé.[1]


The movie was adapted as a two-character play by Elisabeth Bouchaud (in French) and put on at La Reine Blanche (Paris) in 2017.[4]

See also


  1. Jerry Schatzberg, Michel Ciment (2012). Illusion and Reality (Puzzle of a Downfall Child DVD extra). Carlotta Films.
  2. Chew-Bose, Durga (3 December 2010). "Jerry Schatzberg's Enduring Puzzle". Interview. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  3. "The Cinematic Portraits of Jerry Schatzberg". Harvard Film Archive. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  4. Trân, Evelyne (25 May 2017). "PUZZLE d'Elisabeth BOUCHAUD – Adaptation du film Portrait d'une enfant déchue de Jerry Schatzberg" (in French). Retrieved 11 February 2018.

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