The Group (1966) A Lost Opportunity C

DIRECTOR: Sidney Lumet
BOTTOM LINE: Based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Mary McCarthy about the lives of eight female graduates from Vassar from 1933 to 1940, director Sidney Lumet’s movie is like a microcosm of his career – biting off more than he can chew. The film meanders incessantly, with only Joan Hackett’s Dottie (at the beginning), Elizabeth Hartman’s Priss (in the middle) and Shirley Knight’s Polly (at the end) getting the respect they deserve. The other five actresses and their characters get no respect or insight whatsoever. It’s a lost opportunity. This goes double for Candice Bergen, making her film debut as the film’s token lesbian character, Lakey. Lakey spends most of the movie in Europe, a place where rich lesbians were banished in movies like before there was “California.”
The Group
Clockwise: Joanna Petit, Jessica Walter, Mary Robin Redd, Candice Bergen, Shirley Knight,, Kathleen Widdoes, Joan Hackett, Elizabeth Hartman
At the outbreak of WW2, Lakey returns to the United States with a baroness in tow. However, the Baroness (Lidia Prochnicka) gets no dialogue. Her sole purpose is to be introduced to The Group at the railway station so we can see the shock on their faces; her queerness is not subtle! So, unlike Lauren Bacall and Katherine Kurasch in “Young Man With a Horn” or Sandy Dennis and Anne Heywood in “The Fox” (see my follow-up article: there is no relationship documented here. Probably just as well since, even though Bergen’s natural beauty is striking, she is so tightly coutured in a series of stiff “lesbian outfits” by designer Anna Hill Johnstone that it’s a wonder the poor thing could even breathe. In some of her scenes, I swear she looks like a prototype for the Corleone brothers in “The Godfather,” for which Johnstone would design her landmark costumes six years later.

STREAMING: Amazon Prime Video

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