Reuben, Reuben (1983): Robert Ellis Miller’s Intelligent Film, Starring Tom Conti in Oscar-Nominated Performance

Very much in the British tradition of quality, Robert Ellis Miller’s Reuben, Reuben is a modest, intimate  and intelligent film, featuring an Oscar-nominated turn from Tom Conti, better known for his stage work.

The screenplay, by Julius J. Epstein (best known for co-writing “Casablanca) is based on a novel by Peter De Vries, which had first been turned into a stage play.

Tom Conti stars in the titular role, a drunken, womanizing Scottish poet who preys upon the femmes of a New England college town by swooning over them with poetry and then passionately making love to them.

But things change when he meets a young, beautiful student (Kelly McGillis), who has greater impact on him that he would like to admit, forcing him to get a grip on his life—or else.

“Reuben, Reuben” benefited from the date of its release (December), during the Oscar season, and from the fact that Conti was a known quantity, having won the Tony Award for the Broadway production of “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” Ironically, when the play was made into a movie, Richard Dreyfuss was cast in the lead, due to Conti’s “lack of name.”

Oscar Nomination: 2

Actor: Tom Conti

Screenplay (Adapted): Julius C. Epstein

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context

The winner of Best Actor Oscar was Robert Duvall for Tender mercies,” in a contest that also included Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, both for “The Dresser,” and Michael Caine for “Educating Rita.” Note that four of the five nominees were British actors!

The Adapted Screenplay award went to James L. Brooks for “Terms of Endearment,” which swept the most important Oscars in 1983.

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