The Dead (1987 film)

The Dead

Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Huston
Produced by Chris Sievernich
Wieland Schulz-Keil
Written by Tony Huston
Based on "The Dead"
by James Joyce
Music by Alex North
Cinematography Fred Murphy
Edited by Roberto Silvi
Distributed by Vestron Pictures
Release dates
  • 18 December 1987 (1987-12-18)
Running time
83 min
Language English
Budget $3.5 million[1]
Box office $4,370,078

The Dead is a 1987 feature film directed by John Huston, starring his daughter Anjelica Huston. The Dead was the last film that Huston directed, and it was released posthumously.

It was adapted from the short story "The Dead" by James Joyce (from his short works collection Dubliners), and nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Costume Design.

The film takes place in Dublin in 1904 at an Epiphany party held by three sisters. The story focuses attention on the academic Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) and his discovery of his wife Gretta's (Anjelica Huston) memory of a deceased lover.

Film adaptation

This film adaptation by John Huston's son Tony Huston can be considered a close adaptation of Joyce's short 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, a Mr Grace, who recites an eighth-century Middle Irish poem, "Donal Óg".[2][3] The effect of this is to act as catalyst for the "Distant Music" that provokes the memories Gretta and Gabriel discuss at the end of the film.



Chris Sievernich and Weiland Schulz-Keil had raised money for Under the Volcano and would do likewise for The Dead. Screen rights to the story were purchased from the Joyce estate for $60,000. Shooting began 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."[4]


The Dead was initially released on DVD by Lionsgate on November 3, 2009. However, the DVD had nearly ten minutes of the film missing.[5] When word of this was posted on various websites, Lionsgate eventually released a complete version.





  1. 1 2 Segaloff, Nat (2013), Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media, pp. 137–141
  2. "Donal Óg", tr. Augusta, Lady Gregory
  3. Nick Laird, ”I think he died for me” The Guardian, December 2, 2006
  4. Kael, Pauline (1990), Hooked, London: Boyars, pp. 402–406, ISBN 0-7145-2903-6
  5. Becker, Tom (November 2, 2009). "DVD Verdict Review: The Dead". DVDVerdict. Retrieved November 3, 2009.
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