Dead, The (1987): John Huston’s Last Picture, Oscar-Nominated Version of James Joyce, Written by Son Tony Huston and Starring Daughter Anjelica Huston

John Huston’s The Dead is the very last picture in a distinguished four-decade career.  It’s a personal film as it stars daughter Anjelica Huston in the lead and is based on an adapted screenplay by Huston’s son, Tony.

For years, James Joyce’s short story was considered unfilmable, until vet director Huston tackled it.  Set for the most part during a Christmas party, this melancholy melodrama centers on Daniel McCann and his wife (Anjelica Huston).

Listening to an old song, Anjelica recalls of an old lover of hers, causing her and her husband to realize how much they don’t know about each other’s past.

Huston, in his sensitive direction, captures the mood and texture of Joyce’s lyrically touching tale, and his is aided by a superlative cast, consisting of many Irish players, including Dan O’Herlihy and Donal Donnelly.

A love letter to Ireland and the Irish, The Dead was one of Huston’s most personal films, due to his citizenship in Ireland and his passion for classic literature.

Huston directed most of the film from a wheelchair, as he needed an oxygen tank to breathe during the last few months of his life.  Huston died nearly four months before the film’s release date.

Anjelica Huston later said: “It was very important for my father to make that film, but he did not think that it was going to be his last film.”

Oscar Nominations: 2

Screenplay (Adapted): Tony Huston

Costume Design: Dorothy Jeakins

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Adapted Screenplay was Bernardo Bertolucci for The Last Emperor, which swept most of the Oscars in 1987, including Best Picture, Director, and Costume Design.