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The Dead (1987 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Dead
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Huston
Written byTony Huston
Based on"The Dead"
by James Joyce
Produced byWieland Schulz-Keil
Chris Sievernich
CinematographyFred Murphy
Edited byRoberto Silvi
Music byAlex North
Vestron Pictures
Zenith Entertainment
Liffey Films
Channel 4
Delta Film
Distributed byVestron Pictures
Release date
  • 18 December 1987 (1987-12-18)
Running time
83 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
West Germany
Budget$3.5 million[1] or £2.26 million[2]
Box office$4,370,078[3]

The Dead is a 1987 drama film directed by John Huston, written by his son Tony Huston, and starring his daughter Anjelica Huston. It is an adaptation of the short story of the same name by James Joyce, which was first published in 1914 as the last story in Dubliners. An international co-production between the United Kingdom, the United States, and West Germany,[4][5] the film was Huston's last as director, and it was released several months after his death.

The film takes place in Dublin in 1904 at an Epiphany party hosted by two sisters and their niece. The story focuses on the academic Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) and his discovery of his wife Gretta's (Anjelica Huston) memories of a deceased lover. The ensemble cast also includes Helena Carroll, Cathleen Delany, Dan O'Herlihy, Marie Kean, Donal Donnelly, Seán McClory, Frank Patterson, and Colm Meaney.

At the 60th Academy Awards, Tony Huston was nominated for the award for Best Adapted Screenplay and Dorothy Jeakins was nominated for Best Costume Design for their work on the film. John Huston posthumously won the award for Best Director at the 3rd Independent Spirit Awards, and Anjelica Huston won the award for Best Supporting Female at the same ceremony.

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  • Day of the Dead (1985)



On January 6, 1904, spinster sisters Kate and Julia Morkan and their unmarried niece, Mary Jane, host their annual Epiphany dinner party at their townhouse in Dublin. Horse-drawn carriages arrive with guests on the snowy night. Three of Mary Jane's music students, Miss O'Callaghan, Miss Furlong, and Miss Higgins, enter, accompanied by the young bachelors Joseph Kerrigan and Raymond Bergin, who Miss Furlong formally introduces to Kate and her frail older sister, Julia.

Dan Brown, the only Protestant invited to the party, arrives next, followed by Kate's favorite nephew, Gabriel Conroy, and his wife Gretta. Kate is worried that Freddy Malins will show up drunk, and when he does, Gabriel promptly escorts the man to the restroom to sober him up. After a few more drinks with Mr. Brown, Freddy goes to talk to his mother, who lives in Scotland with her daughter, and Mrs. Malins berates him for failing to meet her for tea earlier.

The guests dance, Mary Jane performs a virtuosic piece on the piano, and a guest named Mr. Grace recites a poem he calls "Broken Vows", which is a lament of lost love, during which Gretta's eyes grow misty. When the dancing restarts, Kate pairs Gabriel with Molly Ivors, an Irish nationalist colleague of his. She chides Gabriel for writing for an English newspaper and not learning Irish, and in response, he declares he is sick of Ireland.

While Gretta is attempting to persuade Gabriel that they should go on a summer trip to the Aran Islands that Molly mentioned, Kate announces that Julia is going to sing "Arrayed for the Bridal", an operatic piece from her "concert days". Despite her warbling voice, Freddy drunkenly gushes over the performance, and Kate complains about the Pope ending her sister's singing career in the church choir when he replaced the women with boys.

When it is time to eat, Molly leaves the party to attend a union meeting. During the sumptuous feast, conversation topics range from opera to morality. Freddy reliably utters the wrong things, but despite his nerves, Gabriel gives a rousing speech praising the wonderful Irish hospitality shown by Kate, Julia and Mary Jane.

As the guests are leaving, Mrs. Malins asks Gabriel to look after Freddy when she returns to Scotland, and Gabriel awakens Mr. Brown and puts him in a carriage with the Malins. When almost everyone is gone, Bartell D’Arcy, a "celebrated tenor" who had not sung anything all evening, sings "The Lass of Aughrim" to Miss O'Callaghan, and Gabriel watches Gretta as she listens transfixed from the stairs. Her pensiveness continues in the carriage on the way to the hotel where she and Gabriel are staying the night, and she dismisses Gabriel's attempts to cheer her.

In their hotel room, Gabriel asks Gretta what she is thinking, and she explains that when she was young and lived with her grandmother in Galway, a boy she knew named Michael Furey used to sing "The Lass of Aughrim". She says she feels responsible for his death at age seventeen as, on the night before she returned to the convent in Dublin where she went to school, Michael left his sick bed and stood outside her window in the cold and rain to say goodbye, and he died a week later. Gretta cries herself to sleep, and Gabriel thinks that he has never felt love like the love Michael must have felt for Gretta and that it is better to die young and passionate than to wither and fade away like Julia, and presumably he will. Looking out the window, he imagines the snow falling all over Ireland, "upon all the living and the dead."



Tony Huston's screenplay was a fairly close adaptation of the original story, with some alterations made to the dialogue to aid the narrative for cinema audiences. The most significant change to the story was the inclusion of a new character, Mr. Grace, who, in the film, recites an English translation of the eighth-century Middle Irish poem "Donal Óg".[6][7]


Weiland Schulz-Keil and Chris Sievernich, the producers of the film, had previously raised the money for Huston's 1984 film Under the Volcano. Screen rights to "The Dead" were purchased from the Joyce estate for $60,000.[1]

Filming began on 19 January 1987.[1] According to Pauline Kael, "Huston directed the movie, at eighty, from a wheelchair, jumping up to look through the camera, with oxygen tubes trailing from his nose to a portable generator; most of the time, he had to watch the actors on a video monitor outside the set and use a microphone to speak to the crew. Yet he went into dramatic areas that he'd never gone into before - funny, warm family scenes that might be thought completely out of his range. Huston never before blended his actors so intuitively, so musically."[8]

Anjelica Huston said her father remained a filmmaking virtuoso despite his ill health: "He was so sick, but he could literally do it with his eyes closed. He knew when we were going to get a take way long before the camera rolled. I mean the timing was so precise that he could tell everything, exactly how it was going to go."[9] The pressures of filming and watching her father's health deteriorate had an adverse effect on her own health, and she developed Epstein-Barr syndrome during production.[9]


The Dead was released on DVD by Lionsgate on November 3, 2009, but the initial pressing was missing nearly ten minutes of footage from early in the film.[10] After word of this was posted on various websites, Lionsgate eventually corrected the mistake and released the full-length version.


The Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa cited The Dead as one of his 100 favorite films.[11]

The Dead received mostly positive critical reviews. The film holds a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 31 reviews.[12]





  1. ^ a b c Segaloff, Nat (2013), Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media, pp. 137–141
  2. ^ "Back to the Future: The Fall and Rise of the British Film Industry in the 1980s - An Information Briefing" (PDF). British Film Institute. 2005. p. 21.
  3. ^ The Dead at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ "The Dead (1987)". BFI. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  5. ^ "The Dead (1987)". AFI|Catalog. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  6. ^ "Donal Óg" Archived 2009-01-03 at the Wayback Machine, tr. Augusta, Lady Gregory
  7. ^ Laird, Nick (December 2, 2006). "'I think he died for me'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.
  8. ^ Kael, Pauline (1990), Hooked, London: Boyars, pp. 402–406, ISBN 0-7145-2903-6
  9. ^ a b King, Susan (May 17, 2019). "Anjelica Huston's magical movie life, from 'Prizzi's Honor' to 'John Wick'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  10. ^ Becker, Tom (November 2, 2009). "DVD Verdict Review: The Dead". DVDVerdict. Archived from the original on November 5, 2009. Retrieved November 3, 2009.
  11. ^ Thomas-Mason, Lee. "From Stanley Kubrick to Martin Scorsese: Akira Kurosawa once named his top 100 favourite films of all time". Far Out Magazine. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  12. ^ "The Dead". Rotten Tomatoes. February 14, 2018. Retrieved August 21, 2023.
  13. ^ "Film Critics' Group Honors the Dead". The New York Times. January 4, 1988. Retrieved May 1, 2023.
  14. ^ a b c d Vol, John (April 11, 1988). "Independent Feature Project Bestows Its Spirit Awards". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2023.
  15. ^ "Bodilprisen 1989". Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved May 1, 2023.
  16. ^ "London Critics Circle Film Awards 1989". Retrieved May 1, 2023.
  17. ^ "1988 | | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences". Retrieved May 1, 2023.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 September 2023, at 22:54
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