Reflections in a Golden Eye (film)

Reflections in a Golden Eye is a 1967 American drama film directed by John Huston based on the 1941 novel of the same name by Carson McCullers. It deals with elements of repressed sexuality, both homosexual and heterosexual, as well as voyeurism and murder. The film stars Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. The film was unsuccessful at the box office.[2]

Reflections in a Golden Eye
Directed byJohn Huston
Produced byJohn Huston
Ray Stark
Written byGladys Hill
Chapman Mortimer
Based onReflections in a Golden Eye
by Carson McCullers
StarringMarlon Brando
Elizabeth Taylor
Brian Keith
Julie Harris
Music byToshiro Mayuzumi
CinematographyAldo Tonti
Edited byRussell Lloyd
Distributed byWarner Bros.-Seven Arts
Release date
  • October 13, 1967 (1967-10-13)
Running time
108 min
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,500,000 (US/ Canada)[1]


The film tells of six central characters, their failures, obsessions and darkest desires. Set at a US Army post in the South in the late 1940s, it features Major Weldon Penderton (Brando) and his wife Leonora (Taylor). Other central characters are Lieutenant Colonel Morris Langdon (Brian Keith) and his depressed wife Alison (Julie Harris), the Langdons' houseboy Anacleto (Zorro David), and Private Ellgee Williams (Robert Forster).

Major Penderton assigns Private Williams to clear some foliage at his private officer's quarters instead of his usual duty of maintaining the horses and stables. Penderton's wife, Leonora prepares to go horseback riding with Lt. Col. Langdon. Their affair is revealed, as well as Leonora's strong bond with her horse Firebird. Williams is shown to be sympathetic to all the horses in the stable. One day while riding, Langdon, Leonora and Penderton see Williams riding nude and bareback on one of the military horses. Penderton is critical of this to Leonora but his secret interest in the free-spirited Williams is clear.

Leonora and Penderton have an argument that same night, in which Leonora taunts Penderton and strips naked in front of him. Williams watches them from outside the house, and from then on spies on them. He eventually breaks into the house and watches Leonora sleep at night. (She and Penderton have separate bedrooms.) As he continues this practice, Williams starts to go through Leonora's belongings, especially her lingerie and perfume.

Penderton takes Leonora's horse and rides wildly into the woods, passing the naked Williams at high speed. Penderton falls off, catching his foot in the stirrup, and is dragged for a distance. In a fit of uncontrollable rage, he beats the horse. Williams appears still naked, and takes the horse. As Penderton stands mute in the woods, Williams brings the horse back to the stable to tend its wounds. Penderton returns to the house, locked in his room while the party goes on outside. Upon finding out about her horse, Leonora interrupts her party and in front of the guests repeatedly strikes her husband in the face with her riding crop. Penderton becomes infatuated with Williams and starts to follow him around the camp.

After her newborn infant died, Alison Langdon mutilated herself while deeply depressed. Alison's only bonds now are with her effeminate Filipino houseboy Anacleto and with Capt. Murray Weincheck, a cultured and sensitive soldier who is being harassed out of the army by his superiors. Aware of her husband's adultery, Alison decides to divorce him. However, after witnessing Williams in Leonora's room, she becomes traumatized. When she tries to leave him, Langdon commits her to a sanatorium. Langdon tells Leonora and Penderton that Alison was going insane. Soon, Penderton is informed that Alison died of a heart attack, but she may have committed suicide, possibly assisted by Anacleto who disappears soon after her death.

One night, Penderton looks out his window and sees Williams outside the house. He thinks Williams is coming to see him, but watches the younger man enter his wife Leonora's room. Penderton goes to the room and shoots Williams dead. The film ends with the camera wildly veering back and forth among the dead body, the screaming Leonora, and Penderton. The opening line of the novel and the film is restated: "There is a fort in the South where a few years ago a murder was committed."


Production background

The film was to have starred Montgomery Clift, but he died on July 23, 1966, of a heart attack before production began. The role subsequently went to Brando, after both Richard Burton and Lee Marvin had turned it down.[3] Some of the film was shot in New York City and on Long Island, where Huston was permitted to use the former Mitchel Field, then in use by Nassau Community College. Many of the interiors and some of the exteriors were done in Italy.

The film originally was released in a version in which all scenes were suffused with the color gold, with one object in each scene (such as a rose) normally colored. This was in reference to the houseboy's drawing of a golden peacock, in whose eye the world is a reflection. As that version puzzled audiences, it was withdrawn and a normally colored version released. American film critic Roger Ebert wrote

"Since the film was photographed in full color and the 'fading' was done in post-production, most of the video versions have simply restored the color. That's not what Huston intended, and the thing to do is to use your color adjustment to fade the color to almost but not quite b&w. Does it work? That's for you to decide."[4]


The film received mixed reviews at the time of its release. Variety called it a "pretentious melodrama" but praised Keith's "superb" performance as the "rationalizing and insensitive middle-class hypocrite."[5] Time described it as a "gallery of grotesques", with the poetry of the novel missing from the film. The critic wrote: "All that remains praiseworthy is the film's extraordinary photographic technique."[6]

Roger Ebert observed that the film was released without the usual publicity, despite its stellar cast and director. "Was the movie so wretchedly bad that Warner Bros. decided to keep it a secret? Or could it be, perhaps, that it was too good?" Ebert concludes the latter, praising all aspects of the production, but notes that the audience he saw it with greeted the film's emotional moments with guffaws and nervous laughter.[7]

The film received a score of 53% in Rotten Tomatoes.[8]

Usage of images in Apocalypse Now

Still photographs of Brando in character as Major Penderton were used later by the producers of Apocalypse Now. These photos of a younger Brando were displayed in the service record of the character Colonel Walter E. Kurtz.[9]

See also


  1. "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, January 3, 1968, p. 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  2. "The Greatest Box Office Flops Of The 60's", IMDb.
  3. "Reflections In A Golden Eye: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  4. Roger Ebert, "Black and White in color? Or vice-versa?",, March 28, 2011.
  5. "Review: 'Reflections in a Golden Eye'", Variety, December 31, 2011.
  6. "Cinema: Gallery of Grotesques", Time, October 27, 1967.
  7. Ebert, Roger. "Reflections in a Golden Eye Movie Review (1967) – Roger Ebert".
  9. "Reflections in a Golden Eye". Stylus Magazine. Archived from the original on 24 August 2017. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
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