Julia (1977 film)

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File:Julia (1977 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster by Richard Amsel
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Produced by Richard Roth
Screenplay by Alvin Sargent
Based on Pentimento
1973 story Julia 
by Lillian Hellman
Starring Jane Fonda
Vanessa Redgrave
Jason Robards
Hal Holbrook
Rosemary Murphy
Maximilian Schell
Music by Georges Delerue
Cinematography Douglas Slocombe
Edited by Walter Murch
Marcel Durham
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • October 2, 1977 (1977-10-02)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7.84 million[1]
Box office $20,714,400[2]

Julia is a 1977 drama film directed by Fred Zinnemann, from a screenplay by Alvin Sargent. It is based on Lillian Hellman's book Pentimento, a chapter of which purports to tell the story of her relationship with an alleged lifelong friend, "Julia," who fought against the Nazis in the years prior to World War II. The film in DeLuxe Color was produced by Richard Roth, with Julien Derode as executive producer and Tom Pevsner as associate producer.

Julia was received positively from the critics and was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Fred Zinnemann and Best Actress for Jane Fonda. It ended up winning three awards, Best Supporting Actor for Jason Robards, Best Supporting Actress for Vanessa Redgrave, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Alvin Sargent's script. Julia was the first film to win both supporting actor categories since The Last Picture Show six years earlier in 1971, and would be followed by Hannah and Her Sisters nine years later in 1986.


The young Lillian and her friend Julia, daughter of a wealthy family being brought up by her grandparents in the U.S., enjoy a childhood together and an extremely close relationship in late adolescence. Later, while medical student/physician Julia (Vanessa Redgrave) attends Oxford and the University of Vienna and studies with such luminaries as Sigmund Freud, Lillian (Jane Fonda), a struggling writer, suffers through revisions of her play with her mentor and sometime lover, famed author Dashiell Hammett (Jason Robards) at a beachhouse.

Later, during the Nazi era, Lillian has become a celebrated playwright, and is invited to a writers' conference in Russia. Julia, having taken on the battle against Nazism, enlists Lillian en route to smuggle money into Nazi Germany to assist the anti-Nazi cause. It is a dangerous mission especially for a Jewish intellectual on her way to Russia.

Lillian departs for Russia via Berlin and the movements of her person, and placement of her possessions (a hat and a box of candy), are carefully guided by compatriots of Julia through border crossings and inspections. In Berlin, Lillian is told to go to a cafe where she finds Julia. They are able to speak only briefly. Julia tells her that the money she has brought will save 500 to 1,000 people. Lillian also learns that Julia has a daughter, Lily, who is living with a baker in Alsace. Julia advises Lillian not to return through Germany.

Shortly after her safe return to the United States, Lillian is informed that Julia has been killed. The details of her death are shrouded in secrecy. Lillian unsuccessfully looks for Julia's daughter in Alsace. She also discovers that Julia's family wants nothing to do with the child, if she exists. They even pretend not to remember Lillian clearly wanting to excise from their memory a daughter who refused to conform at a time when nonconformity could prevent the murder of many innocent people.


Production and Veracity Controversy

The film was shot on location in England and France. Although Lillian Hellman claimed the story was based on true events that occurred early in her life, the filmmakers later came to believe that most of it was fictionalized. Director Fred Zinnemann would later comment, "Lillian Hellman in her own mind owned half the Spanish Civil War, while Hemingway owned the other half. She would portray herself in situations that were not true. An extremely talented, brilliant writer, but she was a phony character, I'm sorry to say. My relations with her were very guarded and ended in pure hatred."[3]

In 1983, New York psychiatrist Muriel Gardiner became involved in the libel suit between Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman, when she claimed that she was the character called Julia in Hellman's memoirs, Pentimento (1973), and in the movie Julia based on a chapter of that book. Hellman, who never met Gardiner, claimed that "Julia" was somebody else.[4]

Gardiner wrote that, while she never met Hellman, she had often heard about her from her friend Wolf Schwabacher, who was Hellman's lawyer. In Gardiner's account, Schwabacher had visited Gardiner in Vienna and, after Muriel Gardiner and Joseph Buttinger moved into their house at Brookdale Farm in Pennington, New Jersey in 1940, the house was divided in two with the Gardiner-Buttingers living in one half and Wolf and Ethel Schwabacher in the other for more than ten years.[5]

Many people believe that Hellmann based her story on Gardiner's life. Gardiner's editor cited the unlikelihood that there were two millionaire American women who were medical students in Vienna in the late 1930s.[4]

Julia features the first film performances of Meryl Streep and Lisa Pelikan.


The film earned $13,050,000 in North American rentals.[6]


Academy Awards:

Academy Award nominations:

After Redgrave was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, the Jewish Defense League objected to her nomination because she had narrated and helped fund a documentary entitled "The Palestinian," which supported a Palestinian state. They also picketed the Oscar ceremony.

Accepting her Academy Award, Redgrave said:

It also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film.


  1. Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p258
  2. "Julia (1977) (1977)". Box Office Mojo. 1977-10-02. Retrieved 2013-01-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. ''Fred Zinnemann: interviews'', University Press of Mississippi (2005) p156. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-01-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 McDowell, Edwin (April 29, 1983). "New Memoir Stirs 'Julia' Controversy". New York Times. Retrieved December 16, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Muriel Gardiner, Code Name "Mary": Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground (Yale University Press, 1983), xv-xvi
  6. Solomon p 234
  7. Marcel Durham is listed as an editor for the film in some credit listings for Julia, including the credits database of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS). However, he is not listed as a nominee for the Academy Award in the AMPAS awards database; see "Academy Awards Database - 50th (1977)". Retrieved 2014-02-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Preceded by
The Last Picture Show
Academy Award winner for
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
Succeeded by
Hannah and Her Sisters