is a 1981 American epic film that was co-written, produced, directed by and starred Warren Beatty
. It centers on the life and career of John Reed, the revolutionary communist, journalist, and writer who chronicled the Russian Revolution
in his book Ten Days that Shook the World
. Beatty stars in the lead role alongside Diane Keaton, who plays Reed's wife Louise Bryant, and Jack Nicholson
as Eugene O'Neill. Stephen Sondheim
composed music for the film.
The first half of the film chronicles the early life of Reed and Bryant, their often troubling relationship, and their experiences reporting on the Communist revolution in Russia. The second part of the film takes place shortly after the publication of Ten Days
. Inspired by the idealism of the Revolution, Reed attempts to bring the spirit of Communism to the United States, because he is disillusioned with the policies imposed upon Communist Russia by Grigory Zinoviev and the Bolsheviks.
The most significant aspect of the film is a documentary enhancement – interviews with a number of venerable "witnesses", who may have known Reed, whose recollections of the period help to set the scene, bridge transitions and preserve a touching human perspective of these times. To gain perspective on the lives of Reed and Bryant, Beatty began filming the "witnesses" as early as 1971. Some of them are very well known, others less so. It is also noted, on a side note that this movie was released as as a sympathetic portrait of a well-known American communist (though it does point out Reed's flaws instead of bordering on Historical Hero Upgrade
) in the very same year that Republican Ronald Reagan
The film was released on December 4, 1981 to critical acclaim. Despite its political subject matter and limited promotion (mostly by Beatty himself), the film became the tenth highest grossing picture of 1981, taking in $50,000,000 in the United States.
Beatty won the Academy Award
for Best Director for the film. Reds
was also nominated for Best Picture, but lost to Chariots of Fire
. Beatty and Diane Keaton were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress, but lost to Henry Fonda
and Katharine Hepburn
in On Golden Pond
In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten Top Ten" – the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres – after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Reds was acknowledged as the ninth best film in the epic
- Bad Bad Acting: An example of this with Louise's terrible acting in one of Eugene O'Neill's plays. In general, Diane Keaton, who plays Louise, is the master of this trope.
- Ethical Slut: Louise Bryant becomes one after Reed turns her on to his free love philosophy. For a time, she becomes kind of fundamentalist about it, and Eugene O'Neill makes fun of her about it during their affair. Both she and Jack have trouble remaining true to their slut-ethics over the course of the film, with their jealousy periodically causing one or the other to break off their relationship.
- Intermission: Once considered necessary for films that topped three hours.
- Love Triangle: A messy one between Reed, Bryant, and O'Neill.
- Red October