The Iceman Cometh (1973 film)

The Iceman Cometh is a 1973 American drama film directed by John Frankenheimer. The screenplay was written by Thomas Quinn Curtiss, based on Eugene O'Neill's 1939 play of the same name. The film was produced by Ely Landau for the American Film Theatre, which presented thirteen film adaptations of plays in the United States from 1973 to 1975.[3] The film was screened at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, but wasn't entered into the main competition.[4]

The Iceman Cometh
Theatrical release poster (1973)
Directed byJohn Frankenheimer
Produced byEly Landau
Written byEugene O'Neill (play)
Thomas Quinn Curtiss (screenplay)
StarringLee Marvin
Fredric March
Robert Ryan
Jeff Bridges
Bradford Dillman
CinematographyRalph Woolsey
Edited byHarold F. Kress
Distributed byAmerican Film Theatre
Release date
  • October 29, 1973 (1973-10-29)[1]
Running time
239 minutes
CountryUnited States

This was the last film for both Robert Ryan and Fredric March. March developed prostate cancer in 1970, causing him to retire from acting, while Ryan died before the film's release. It was a minute short of four hours in length, and became the first film to have two intermissions.



Frankenheimer later said:

We found the most difficult thing was to cut it. We cut one hour and 20 minutes out of the original, but by the time we'd finished it we'd put back in an hour. It was a marvelous movie - up til now (1974) my best experience. We were like a repertory company; we never wanted it to end. I tried to show Hickey as sane and not the way I've seen him interpreted, as insane. I think you have to live your life without illusions, not with them. Pauline Kael said in her review that you only have to look at photos of O'Neill to see this was a face with no illusions.[5]


Roger Ebert gave the film his highest possible grade of four stars and wrote "The play was clearly too difficult to be done as an ordinary commercial movie, but now it has been preserved, with a series of brilliant performances and a virtuoso directing achievement, in what has to be a definitive film version."[6] Ebert ranked The Iceman Cometh fifth on his year-end list of the best films of 1973.[7] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote in a less enthusiastic review that while watching the film "you get the feeling that you're being taken on a guided tour of one of the greatest American plays ever written, instead of seeing a screen adaptation with a life of its own."[8] Variety declared "The excellence of the cast alone, and the fame of the work and its author make this filmed stage play worth the ticket ... It requires stamina, of course, to sit through four hours, but the experience is very special."[9] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded three-and-a-half stars out of four and stated "The pleasures of this great play are so many and so strong that this frequently ordinary rendering of it on film leaves its power virtually undiminished."[10] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote "'No play is too long that holds the interest of its audience,' Eugene O'Neill once told an interviewer ... Even with editing, John Frankenheimer's filmed version of the play runs four hours plus two intermissions. But O'Neill was right and the film, like the play, holds its commanding grip on the viewer over the whole distance."[11] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote that the play "has been given a straightforward, faithful production in handsome dark-toned color" that "Frankenheimer directed fluently and unobtrusively, without destroying the conventions of the play."[12]

The film holds a score of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 9 reviews.[13]


Production credits

  • Associate producer – Les Landau
  • Supervising producer – Robert A. Goldston
  • Casting – Lynn Stalmaster
  • Production design – Jack Martin Smith
  • Set decoration – Raphael Bretton
  • Costume design – Dorothy Jeakins
  • Production executive – Jonathan Burrows

See also


  1. "The Iceman Cometh - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  2. Kilday, G. (October 21, 1973). "(1923-Current File)". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 157474126.
  3. Benson, Raymond (April 16, 2009). "Remember...The American Film Theater". Cinema Retro. Archived from the original on June 1, 2013.
  4. "Festival de Cannes: The Iceman Cometh". Retrieved May 10, 2009.
  5. Fathering a 'Connection' Offspring Blume, Mary. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 Sep 1974: m20.
  6. Ebert, Roger (December 10, 1973). "The Iceman Cometh". Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  7. Ebert, Roger (2006). Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert. University of Chicago Press. p. 443. ISBN 9780226182018.
  8. Canby, Vincent (November 11, 1973). "The 'Iceman' Cometh Too Close". The New York Times. Section 2, p. 1.
  9. "Film Reviews: The Iceman Cometh". Variety. October 24, 1973. 16.
  10. Siskel, Gene (December 10, 1973). "Iceman Cometh". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 27.
  11. Champlin, Charles (October 29, 1973). "'Iceman' Launches Unique Film Series". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  12. Kael, Pauline (November 5, 1973). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 149.
  13. "The Iceman Cometh". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 28, 2019.

Further reading

  • "The Iceman Cometh". American Film Institute (AFI). 2003. Extensive unsigned notes discuss the long history of this production.
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