Opening Night (film)

Opening Night

Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Cassavetes
Produced by Al Ruban
Written by John Cassavetes
Music by Bo Harwood
Cinematography Alan Ruban
Edited by Tom Cornwell
Distributed by Faces Distribution
Release dates
  • December 25, 1977 (1977-12-25)
Running time
144 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English

Opening Night is a 1977 American drama film written and directed by John Cassavetes, and starring Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, Joan Blondell, Paul Stewart, Zohra Lampert, and Cassavetes.


In the film, Broadway actress Myrtle Gordon rehearses for her latest play, about a woman unable to admit that she is aging. When she witnesses the death of an adoring young fan, she begins to confront the personal and professional turmoils she faces in her own life.



In common with earlier films, Cassavetes struggled to get Opening Night distributed in the United States. After a number of preview screenings, it opened on December 25, 1977, at the Fox Wilshire Theater, Los Angeles where it played to almost empty houses, and closed in February having never been commercially shown elsewhere. Screenings in New York City that March were similarly ignored. The film was only picked up by an American distributor in 1991, two years after Cassavetes' death.[2]

In 1978, it was entered into the 28th Berlin International Film Festival, where Gena Rowlands won the Silver Bear for Best Actress.[3]

The film was screened out of competition at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.[4]


Opening Night was critically panned in America on its release. The review in Variety that appeared after a press screening concluded, "One must question whether more than a handful of moviegoers are interested in the effort, whether audiences have not already seen enough of Cassavetes' characters ... He's made these films before and not many seemed interested in them." When it opened in New York, the film was not reviewed at all in most newspapers and magazines.[2]

The film was better received in Europe, and its reputation has improved since its initial release. It currently holds a 95% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states: "Opening Night is as dense and difficult as one would expect from John Cassavetes, but even the director's detractors will be unable to deny the power of Gena Rowlands' performance."[5]

Film critic Dan Schneider wrote, of the film's narrative structure:

"Many critics have taken this film to be a portrait of an alcoholic...But this is wrong, for alcohol isn’t her problem - nor is her chain smoking. They are merely diversions from whatever thing is really compelling her to her own destruction, and much to Cassavetes’ credit, as a storyteller, he never lets us find out exactly what's wrong with Myrtle, and despite her coming through in the end, there's no reason to expect that she has really resolved anything of consequence. This sort of end without resolution links Cassavetes directly with the more daring European directors of the recent past, who were comfortable in not revealing everything to an audience, and forcing their viewers to cogitate, even if it hurts."[6]

In pop culture

The Hold Steady's 2008 album Stay Positive makes various allusions to the film; the closing song "Slapped Actress" is the most explicit. Savages' 2013 album Silence Yourself starts with sampled dialogue from the film.

Pedro Almodóvar repeats the film's accident scene in his film All About My Mother as the center of the dramatic conflict.[7]


  1. "OPENING NIGHT (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. May 9, 1978. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  2. 1 2 Carney, Ray (August 15, 2001), Cassavetes on Cassavetes, London: Faber and Faber (published 2001), pp. 428–434, ISBN 0-571-20157-1
  3. "Berlinale 1978: Prize Winners". Retrieved August 8, 2010.
  4. "Festival de Cannes: Opening Night". Retrieved August 17, 2009.
  5. "Opening Night". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  6. Schneider, Dan (January 20, 2007). "DVD Review of Opening Night". Cosmoetica. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  7. Wilson, Emma (January 15, 2003). Cinema's Missing Children. New York City: Wallflower Press. p. 77. ISBN 1903364507.

Further reading

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