The Bostonians (film)

The Bostonians is a 1984 British romantic drama film based on Henry James's novel The Bostonians. It was adapted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. The film stars Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Reeve, Madeleine Potter and Jessica Tandy. The movie received respectable reviews and showings at arthouse theaters in New York, London and other cities. Vanessa Redgrave received 1984 Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Actress, and the movie earned other award nominations for its costume design.

The Bostonians
Directed byJames Ivory
Produced byIsmail Merchant
Written byRuth Prawer Jhabvala
Based onThe Bostonians
by Henry James
StarringChristopher Reeve
Vanessa Redgrave
Jessica Tandy
Madeleine Potter
Nancy Marchand
Wesley Addy
Barbara Bryne
Linda Hunt
Charles McCaughan
Nancy New
John Van Ness Philip
Wallace Shawn
Music byRichard Robbins
CinematographyWalter Lassally
Distributed byAlmi Pictures (USA)
Release date
  • 2 August 1984 (1984-08-02) (United States)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$1,009,700[1]


The film is set among the Back Bay uppercrust of the 19th century. Basil Ransom (Christopher Reeve), bored by his opulent lifestyle and his "proper" friends, is fascinated by his cousin, outspoken suffragette Olive Chancellor (Vanessa Redgrave). Basil and Olive's mutual friend is likeable, gregarious Verena Tannant (Madeleine Potter). Soon a triangle develops, albeit an unorthodox one: Basil and Olive both find themselves pursuing Verena, Basil because he is in love with her, and Olive because she wants to exploit Verena's social connections (although some have thought she was also a lesbian, but did not know for certain) and use Verena's gift for public speaking to promote her own political ideology. Lurking in the background is Verena's true love, poor-but-honest attorney Henry Burrage (John Van Ness).[2]



1984 National Society of Film Critics

  • Won: Best Actress - Vanessa Redgrave

1984 Golden Globes

  • Nominated: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama - Vanessa Redgrave

1984 Academy Awards

1984 BAFTA Awards

  • Nominated: Best Costume Design - Jenny Beavan, John Bright

Critical response

Roger Ebert praised the film, giving it 3 out of 4 stars and observing:

...intelligent and subtle and open to the underlying tragedy of a woman who does not know what she wants, a man who does not care what he wants, and a girl who does not need what she wants.[3]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 91% approval rating based on 11 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10.[2]


This film was principally photographed at:


  1. "The Bostonians (1984) - Box Office Mojo".
  2. "The Bostonians (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  3. Roger Ebert (January 1, 1984). "THE BOSTONIANS". Retrieved 26 July 2018.
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