Friday, February 6, 2009

The Prime of Frank Perry: MIA on DVD

Husband and wife team Frank and Eleanor Perry achieved tremendous success with their first feature film, the independently-produced David and Lisa.  Frank was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and Eleanor for Best Adapted Screenplay.  In 1962, this was unprecedented territory for an independent production.  The Perrys would hit a rough patch in 1966 when they were removed from their first Hollywood production, The Swimmer, by producer Sam Spiegel and star Burt Lancaster.  However, after the release of The Swimmer in 1968, Frank would go on to the most fruitful period of his career beginning with Last Summer in 1969 and culminating with Rancho Deluxe in 1975.  The Perrys ended their marriage and creative collaboration after Diary of a Mad Housewife.  Of the films in the 1969-1975 period, only Rancho Deluxe is available on DVD. Frank Perry worked on several television projects following Rancho Deluxe before having his biggest commercial hit, Mommie Dearest.  

Bilge Ebiri has written an insightful essay on the works of Frank and Eleanor Perry over at Moving Image Source.

Recently, there was a wonderful suggestion over at the Home Theater Forum for an Eclipse box set of Frank Perry's work.  The problem with this idea, which was mentioned in a reply to that post, is that Perry's films were produced at many different studios making licensing all of the films for one collection cost prohibitive. However, since Diary of a Mad Housewife and Play It As It Lays are both Universal's, the studio could package a Perry double feature, as Sony has done recently with two Michael Powell films.

The following newspaper ads are preceded by original distributor information.  DVD distribution rights, if they are determined, are in parentheses:

Ladybug Ladybug, 1963, Frank Perry Films, distributed by United Artists 

Truman Capote's Trilogy, 1969, Allied Artists [Warner Home Video]

Last Summer, 1969, Allied Artists [Warner Home Video]

Diary of a Mad Housewife, 1970, Universal [Universal]

"Doc", 1971, United Artists [MGM]

Play It As It Lays, 1972, Universal [Universal]

Man on a Swing, 1974, Paramount [Paramount]


Keith said...

I actually don't think I've ever seen any of their films before. Nice to learn more about them.

Ned Merrill said...


Thanks for reading. Hopefully, Frank and Eleanor Perry will have their day--on DVD--soon.

randomcha said...

Excellent. Check out my review of "Diary of a Mad Housewife," which is screening (in 35mm!) here in Chicago on Thursday:

Ned Merrill said...

Thanks for the link, Rob. I used to program films for Doc Films, one of which was Perry's THE SWIMMER. I did have some contact with the programmer of this series and strongly endorsed his choice of this film. Unfortunately, I've moved away from Chi and won't be able to make this rare screening.


>)I'd love to get Doc. Great blog.Thanks

The Chri said...

Awesome blog - I really enjoy reading it! The Swimmer and (especially) Last Summer are two of the best films of the 1960's. I had completely forgot that they were both directed by Frank Perry! You've also turned my attention to Ladybug Ladybug which I will have to track down - unless it gets a DVD release... Last Summer is certainly way, WAY overdue.

Dean Treadway said...

I love Frank Perry's works...even things like MONSIGNOR (flawed, I know) and MOMMIE DEAREST. Of course, DAVID AND LISA, LAST SUNMMER and THE SWIMMER are big favorites, but i was surprised how much I liked LADYBUG LADYBUG, too! DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE has a great performance in it, but i don't remember being swayed by the film though; Frank Langella is a weakness in it.

Ned Merrill said...

Still haven't seen LADYBUG LADYBUG or MOMMIE DEAREST. I find MONSIGNOR pretty hard to take seriously much as I admire Perry and Christopher Reeve. This one is good for unintentional laughs such as when Reeve has to kiss Robert Prosky's ring. Prosky is a highlight in this mess as is John Williams' lush score, which is available in a limited quantities via Intrada.