Ross Hunter tackles an age old problem
Major Hollywood film studios are now competing for rights to distribute to movie theaters a film they originally turned down because, according to its producers, the studio chiefs thought the story "does not contain enough sex and violence."
After private screenings of the movie, the studio chiefs apparently realized that sex and violence aren't the only saleable items at movie box offices. What they subsequently saw in the movie, "A Family Upside Down," is an emotional appeal to virtually all segments of the audience, from teen-agers to old people.
"A Family Upside Down" is a love story that co-stars Fred Astaire, 79, and Helen Hayes, 77, for the first time in their long careers. Because of Hollywood's original rejection, the producers geared their movie for TV where it will have its world premiere as a two-hour NBC special Sunday (9, Ch. 3).
In the film, Astaire and Miss Hayes, who are pictured on the TV Showtime cover, portray a couple still deeply in love after years of marriage. Their lives and those of their children (Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Patty Duke Astin) are almost torn apart when the husband, a house painter, suffers a near-fatal heart attack. Reluctant to be dependent on their children, the elderly couple nonetheless is forced to move in with their son and daughter-in-law (Patricia Crowley).
"A Family Upside Down" was produced by former Clevelander Ross Hunter and Jacques Mapes. Hunter, who produced such hit movies as "Airport," "The Chalk Garden" and "Pillow Talk" during a long Hollywood career, says he con- ceived "A Family Upside Down" more than three years ago when he read a series of newspaper features quoting elderly people as being irate at the way they've been portrayed in the movies and on TV.
"What the Hollywood studios failed to realize is that almost every family identifies with our story," says Hunter. "What happens to adult children when one or both of their parents are forced to live with them? Even teen-agers and the grandchildren are asking 'How can we cope with this situation.' " Hunter says the film was produced with special care. To achieve complete realism, the story was filmed entirely on location in Southern California. "Not a single segment was filmed inside a studio," Hunter says. "We filmed inside the cardiac unit of a major hospital, for example, and the Motion Picture Relief Home is the rest home of our story.
What about those major Hollywood studios, meanwhile? Will they get the opportunity to put "A Family Upside Down" into movie theaters? "Not for the next six months or so," says Hunter. "After the original television presentation, we intend to release the film to theaters overseas. After that, we'll negotiate with the Hollywood studios for theatrical distribution in this country.
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