The Day of the Locust (1975)

Donald Sutherland, Karen Black, Burgess Meredith, William Atherton,
An art director in the 1930s falls in love and attempts to make a young woman an actress despite Hollywood who wants nothing to do with her because of her problems with an estranged man and her alcoholic father.
  • 6.9 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Nathanael West, Waldo Salt, Writer:
  • John Schlesinger, Director:
  • Jerome Hellman, Producer:

All subtitles:

10/10 / 10


I've sat here in front of this blank for several minutes now.

I cannot find another word to describe this movie. The building tensionsare handled so deftly, the ending, which must rank among the most harrowingscenes in all art, comes both as a surprise and as no surprise.

William Atherton, Karen Black, Donald Sutherland, Burgess Meredith, RichardDysart - all incomparably perfect in every way in these roles.

Schlesinger is a master, the Barry score is cleverly arranged and the Hallphotography and Clark editing, especially in the final sequence is justabout the most prodigiously horrendous and horrific in allcinema.

I'm still shaking.

/ 10

Many critics consider The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West to be thebestnovel ever written about Hollywood. The screen version directed by JohnSchlesinger and written by Waldo Salt is one of the most faithfuladaptations of a book to film ever made. Initially overlooked upon it'srelease in 1974 (to mixed reviews), it has since developed a huge cultfollowing and is now considered to be a forgotten masterpiece of 70'scinema.

It tells the story of Todd Hackett who comes to Hollywood in the 1930's(butit might as well take place in the present) hoping for a career in setdesign, he soon finds that the road to success in the film industry is adifficult one and his journey takes a downward spiral as he falls in withthe users and abusers of Hollywood, the desperate, disillusioned soulswho,consumed by boredom and their own emptiness, search out any abnormality intheir insatiable lust for excitement - drugs, perversion, crime.

Aside from top-notch direction, the film contains gorgeous (Oscarnominated)cinematography by Conrad Hall, a haunting score by John Barry, authenticperiod costume and art design, and outstanding performances from theentirecast. Notably: William Atherton as Todd, Karen Black (her finest role) asFaye Greener, a selfish, wannabe actress and extra, Burgess Meredith (alsoOscar nominated) as her alcoholic father and former vaudeville star, andanalmost unrecognizable Donald Sutherland as the sensitive, sociallyretardedmisfit who is torn apart by those around him and triggers thefilms much talked about finale.

One thing is for certain, anyone who has seen the last 20 minutes of thisdisturbing film will never forget it. A must-see for film students, artdirectors, and anyone interested in the "golden" years ofHollywood.

Related reading:

Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger

Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion

Less than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis

9/10 / 10

The Day of the Locust takes place in one of the most bizarre settingsto have ever existed in the real world. Hollywood in the 1930s was aplace of grand illusions, with an incredible power to change people'slives for the better, or for the worse. The relics of that time are,for the most part, the films that were churned out on sound stages,generally very wholesome and carefree. The reality of what went onoffstage is largely a mystery, although it is safe to assume it wasn'tall glamor and good times. The Day of the Locust is dark historicalfiction, and is utterly fascinating. It is a journey throughHollywood's golden age, guided by someone who comes to Hollywood atypical dream seeker, who finds himself helpless under the pressure ofthe industry and the misleading tactics of those who rule the screen.The characters that come in and out of his life are caricatures of theaspiring actresses, child stars, and crew members that help makeHollywood truly troubled and deeply strange.

8/10 / 10

It took over 35 years and the collapse of the big studio system beforeanyone in Hollywood, in this case Paramount, brought Nathanael West'snovel The Day Of The Locust to the big screen. That climax at aHollywood premiere is certainly not something the studios would want toshow the public as a typical event.

The book is based on West's experiences while writing B pictures inHollywood during the Thirties and some of the characters he knew. Hismain protagonist is William Atherton, an aspiring artist who is makinga living doing set designs. That's one competitive business and he'sgot to go over his immediate supervisor John Hillerman's head to gethis work noticed by producer Richard Dysart. Like the rest of West'scharacters, he's sacrificed pride a long time ago. It's his eyes thatwe see the other characters through.

But he's a paragon of virtue compared to starlet Karen Black who willdo anything and anybody to advance her career. Atherton would love toget something going with her, but he's mindful of how amoral she'sbecome. Her only real attachment is to her father, an ex-vaudevillianand now door to door salesman, Burgess Meredith. Even trying to do hisshtick with sales doesn't gain him clients.

But the saddest one in the lot and the fellow with the best performanceis Donald Sutherland who is an outsider to the film people, abusinessman named Homer Simpson who Black uses and abuses. Sutherland'sperformance is not too different from the hapless cartoon character.Imagine the cartoon Homer Simpson dealing with real life heartbreak andyou've got Sutherland's character. The line between tragedy and comedycan be a very thin one.

Geraldine Page has a brief role as an Aimee Semple McPherson likeevangelist, shamelessly bilking the Depression's downtrodden. She'sgreat in the part as is Jackie Earle Haley, a really rotten child starof whom I'd love to know who West's model was.

The Day Of The Locust was directed by John Schlesinger who got an Oscarfor The Midnight Cowboy. Like that film, The Day Of The Locust dealswith some fringe people just trying to get by. Burgess Meredith got anOscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and the film also got anomination for Costume Design.

Before Newton Minow referred to television as a vast wasteland. I thinkthat's what Nathanael West had in mind in writing about his experiencesin the movie capital. I'd recommend seeing the film to see how wellSchlesinger put West's vision across.

/ 10

I finished watching this movie half an hour ago and I am still trembling,myheart still pounding. I am a great admirer of John Schlesinger and he hasbeen one of my favorite directors since I saw Midnight Cowboy. But thisjustbeats it all. It is the most horrifying movie I have ever seen. I amnormally not a sympathizer with human characters in movies, but the endmademe CRINGE. Donald Sutherland was perfect for his role and Karen Black mademe feel such hate for her. There is nothing I would change in this movie.Itis perfect, and beautiful, and hit with such force that I would probablynever see it again, but I will remember every detail.