Torch Song Trilogy (movie)
Torch Song Trilogy is a collection of three plays by Harvey Fierstein, running in New York City from June 10, 1982, to May 19, 1985 at the Little Theatre (now the Helen Hayes Theatre on West 44th Street). In 1988, it was made into a film starring Anne Bancroft, Matthew Broderick, Harvey Fierstein and Brian Kerwin.
The combined play runs at roughly four hours in length, so New Line Cinema insisted that Fierstein restrict the film to a two-hour maximum. Despite the copious excisions, the film is also made in three distinct acts: "The International Stud", "Fugue in a Nursery" and "Widows and Children First!". The dates given below are the dates from the film; the plays were set two or three years more recently, but New Line Cinema couldn't understand how a gay film in the mid-1980s could not mention AIDS, so Fierstein moved the film to before the AIDS crisis.
Each of the three acts tells a separate part of the life story of Arnold Beckoff, a torch song-singing Jewish drag queen in New York City who starts the story with a soliloquy explaining his cynical disillusionment with love.
- The International Stud, set in 1971, Arnold meets Ed and they fall in love. Ed, however, is uncomfortable with his bisexuality; he leaves Arnold for a girlfriend, whom he subsequently marries.
- Fugue in a Nursery starts at Christmas 1973, when Arnold meets the love of his life, Alan, a model. They settle down together, later spending a weekend with Ed and his wife, where their relationship is tested but endures. Eventually, they arrange to adopt a child together. At the end of the act, however, Alan is killed in a homophobic attack.
- Widows and Children First! is set in the spring of 1980. Arnold's mother comes to visit from Florida and, after disapproving of Arnold's homosexuality and adoption of a gay teenage son (David), as well as Arnold's use of a family burial plot for Alan, they have a series of arguments where Arnold demands that she accept him for who he is. The following morning, though, on her way to leaving back for Florida, they have a conversation where, for the first time, they seem to understand each other.
Awards and nominations
- In 1983, author and star Harvey Fierstein won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play, and Torch Song Trilogy won the Tony Award for Best Play.
- At the 1989 Deauville Film Festival, director Paul Bogart won the Audience Award and was also nominated for the Critics' Award.
- At the 1989 Independent Spirit Awards, producer Howard Gottfried was nominated for Best Feature and Harvey Fierstein was nominated for Best Male Lead.
- While Matthew Broderick played Arnold's lover Alan in the movie version, he originated the role of David, the adopted son when Torch Song began off-Broadway. He left to film the movie Max Dugan Returns before the show moved to Broadway's Little Theatre. Mr. Broderick returned to the Broadway stage with a leading role in Neil Simons Brighton Beach Memoirs Mr. Broderick won a Tony Award for that role, the same year that Torch Song Trilogy won for "Best Play" and "Best Actor" (to Mr. Fierstein.)
- This play brought a relative unknown Broadway Actress, Estelle Getty, to the critics attention. She played Arnold's disapproving mother in Widows and Children First!. Her performance in this role soon led to her casting as Bea Arthur's critical yet loving Sicilian mother in The Golden Girls.
- The farm scene was filmed at the Knuth Farm in Denville, New Jersey.
- Matthew Broderick was asked to perform the role of Alan, but he felt it was too soon after his auto accident in Ireland. He didn't reply to the producers in time, so Tate Donovan was cast instead. The second day of rehearsals, Broderick called Harvey Fierstein on set and agreed to do the role. Tate Donovan hasn't spoken to Harvey Fierstein since. (Said in the DVD commentary)
- Writer Harvey Fierstein wanted to create a role to highlight the work of Charles Pierce so he added scenes to the role of Bertha Venation in honor to him.
- Paul Joynt, who appeared as one of Alan's loud mouth friends, played the role of Alan in the original Broadway cast of "Torch Song Trilogy".
- The person living next door to the doorway used for the sequence at the end of the movie where the actors are performing in front of Arnold's doorway did not give permission to film outside his home. When the director would shout, "Action," the resident would either put his radio or television really loud, or open his door, thus ruining the shot. The crew got really fed-up with his antics so they nailed his door shut, which caused a law suit to be filed against New Line.
- The idea for the Stud Bar came from an actual bar in New York that was known for its infamous "back room" called The International Bar. Patrons though, when speaking of the bar, would insert the word "stud" after the word "international" and the name stuck after many years.