aka THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION OF GRACE QUIGLEY
(US - 1985)
Directed by Anthony Harvey. Written by A. Martin Zweiback. Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Nick Nolte, Kit Le Fever, Elizabeth Wilson, Chip Zien, Christopher Murney, William Duell, Walter Abel, Frances Pole, Truman Gaige, Paula Trueman, Nicholas Kepros, Harris Laskawy, Denny Dillon. (PG, 87 mins)
On the basis of its strangeness alone, the largely forgotten GRACE QUIGLEY should be better known, even if it's for the wrong reasons. It's not every day that one encounters an offbeat, dark comedy from Cannon about elder suicide that offers the unlikely buddy-movie teaming of Katharine Hepburn and Nick Nolte, with songs by The Pretenders. This was a long-gestating pet project for Hepburn going back to 1972 when, according to legend, screenwriter A. Martin Zweiback (whose credits include 1969's ME, NATALIE, notable as Al Pacino's film debut, and 1980's GORP) tossed a copy of his script over the security gate at director George Cukor's house when Hepburn (star of several Cukor classics, among them 1933's LITTLE WOMEN, 1940's THE PHILADELPHIA STORY and 1949's ADAM'S RIB) happened to be visiting. In its earliest planning stages, GRACE QUIGLEY was set to star Hepburn and Steve McQueen, with Hal Ashby directing, coming off of 1971's acclaimed HAROLD AND MAUDE. The project soon fell apart but was back in pre-production in 1979, minus McQueen but Hepburn managed to get the interest of Nolte, then the Next Big Thing. Again, it never came to be, and it was stuck in development hell until Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus came aboard and were only too eager to work with a Hollywood icon of Hepburn's stature, along with a bonus of Nolte being as bankable as ever following the blockbuster success of 1982's 48 HRS. With some pull that comes with being a living legend and following her Best Actress Oscar for 1981's ON GOLDEN POND, Hepburn got her old friend Anthony Harvey (who guided her to an Oscar for 1968's THE LION IN WINTER) to direct, and production got underway in NYC in the fall of 1983.
ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE, was also crashing and burning. The bad press at Cannes prompted producers Menaham Golan and Yoram Globus to have Harvey recut the film, chopping it down from 102 to 87 minutes. No one was happy with that version either, and GRACE QUIGLEY only managed a limited release in a few major cities in the spring of 1985 before turning up in video stores a short time later. A third version exists, assembled by Zweiback (who was hoping to direct until Hepburn's friendship with Harvey nudged him out of consideration), and retitled THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION OF GRACE QUIGLEY, clocking in at 94 minutes. With some scenes reinstated and others shifted around, the ULTIMATE version played in even fewer cities than the GRACE QUIGLEY cut and is reportedly the best of the three variants, though it's only the universally-panned 87-minute version that's on Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray (because physical media is dead). A comprehensive box set with the three versions of GRACE QUIGLEY would probably overkill with little in the way of a target audience, but it would've been nice for comparison's sake, especially since anyone who's seen it seems to unanimously agree that the Zweiback-supervised cut is the way to go.
|Director Anthony Harvey with
Hepburn and Nolte on the set