The Rose (film)

The Rose is a 1979 American drama film which tells the story of a self-destructive 1960s rock star who struggles to cope with the constant pressures of her career and the demands of her ruthless business manager. The film stars Bette Midler, Alan Bates, Frederic Forrest, Harry Dean Stanton, Barry Primus, and David Keith.[3]

The Rose
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Rydell
Produced byAaron Russo
Marvin Worth
Anthony Ray
Screenplay byBo Goldman
Bill Kerby
Story byBill Kerby
StarringBette Midler
Alan Bates
Frederic Forrest
Harry Dean Stanton
Music byPaul A. Rothchild (Mendelssohn – Piano concerto no 1, 2nd movement, the Rose)
CinematographyVilmos Zsigmond
Edited byRobert L. Wolfe
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 9, 1979 (1979-11-09)
Running time
134 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9.3 million[1]
Box office$29.2 million[2]

The story is loosely based on the life of singer Janis Joplin. Originally titled Pearl, after Joplin's nickname, and the title of her last album, it was fictionalized after her family declined to allow the producers the rights to her story.[4] It was written by Bill Kerby and Bo Goldman from a story by Bill Kerby and directed by Mark Rydell.[3]

The Rose was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Actress in a Leading Role (Bette Midler, in her screen debut), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Frederic Forrest), Best Film Editing and Best Sound.[5]

Midler performed the soundtrack album for the film, and the title track became one of her biggest hit singles.


In late 1969, Mary Rose Foster (Bette Midler) is a famous rock and roll diva known as The Rose. Although a success, she is burnt out and lonely but is kept working by her gruff, greedy manager and promoter Rudge Campbell (Alan Bates). Though loud and brassy, Rose is an insecure alcoholic and former drug user who seems to crave approval in her life. As such, she is determined to return to her hometown, now as a superstar. After being humiliated by a country singing star named Billy Ray (Harry Dean Stanton) whose songs she performs in her show, Rose takes off with a limousine driver named Huston Dyer (Frederic Forrest) and begins a romance with him. Rudge thinks Huston is just another hanger on, but Rose thinks she has finally met her true love. Huston tells her that he is actually an AWOL sergeant from the Army, and she tells him of her past in Florida. They have a rocky relationship and her lifestyle of "Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll", constant touring, and Huston's jealousy over Rose's lesbian lover Sarah lead her to an inevitable breakdown at a tour stop in Memphis. Huston and Rose break up and she returns to her hometown of Jacksonville, Florida with PFC Mal, whom she met in Texas, as a security escort, telling him about her past.

Arriving at the stadium for afternoon rehearsals for her concert, Rose repeats her intention to take a one-year break from performing, leading Rudge to tell her she will be in breach of contract and tells her she's fired (a ploy, his "ace in the hole", to keep her performing). Dyer reappears and they realize that they can now leave and be together. She takes him on a tour of bars and music joints in her town. Their reunion ends when Rudge reaches her on their car phone and convinces her to return for the concert, causing Dyer to give up on her and leave town. Finally, Rose collapses on stage and dies (from an overdose of alcohol, barbiturates and heroin) in the opening minutes of her long-awaited homecoming concert.


Suzy Williams was originally offered the title role, but turned it down for personal reasons, instead suggesting it to Bette Midler.[6]


The film was originally offered to Ken Russell, who chose instead to direct Valentino. Russell has described this decision as the biggest mistake of his career.[7] At one point, Michael Cimino was also slated to direct, but he chose to direct Heaven's Gate instead. Cimino did, however, make uncredited contributions to the script.[8]

The Rose was completed in time for a scheduled release in April 1979; however, 20th Century-Fox elected to postpone release til autumn 1979:(Mark Rydell quote:)"[at] Easter time...the public seems to like frothy films."[9]


The Rose has a 76% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 17 reviews.[10] The film earned North American rentals of $19.1 million.[11]

Awards and honors



The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Home video

The Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-ray and DVD on May 19, 2015.[13]

See also


  1. Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p259
  2. "The Rose". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  3. "The Rose". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  4. Elan, Priya. "Is the Janis Joplin biopic finally going to be filmed? Don't hold your breath", The Guardian, August 7, 2010. WebCitation archive.
  5. "The 52nd Academy Awards (1980) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-07.
  6. "Suzy Williams Official Bio". Laughtears. 2018.
  7. Gray, Sadie. "Ten big things I have learnt from my mistakes - Times Online". The Times. Registration required
  8. Stempel, Tom (2000). "Framework: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film". ISBN 9780815606543. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)pages 228-229
  9. Cedar Rapids Gazetter 1 January 1979 "Show Business Beat" by Marilyn Beck p.7C
  10. "The Rose (1979)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-08-05.
  11. Solomon p 234
  12. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  13. "The Rose (1979)". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
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