A Child is Waiting

Director: John Cassavetes
Screenwriters: Abby Mann

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


Nobody but Cassavetes, his people, and a few long-gone United Artists executives have ever seen the director’s cut. Plus, of course, Abby Mann, the writer, and Stanley Kramer, the producer, who both sided with the studio in the decision to tone down Cassavetes’s emphasis on the mentally retarded children. The story is about the trials of Judy Garland and Burt Lancaster as they attempt to teach these children. Even in the studio cut, the film is frank and touching—it would be hard for it to be otherwise in a production in which all the children (except the lead) were actually handicapped. But according to Cassavetes, while in his cut the lines were the same, the film played very differently, with lots more screen time for the kids.

When he was shown the studio cut, Cassavetes ran cursing up to the screen banged his head against it, and, still cursing, asked what kind of people would do this kind of thing to this kind of picture. The executives in the screening room met his outburst with silence, but it would be seven years before a studio (Columbia) financed another Cassavetes picture (Husbands); and that was only after the success of directed a script other that his own, and the last time he would consent, in his words, “to be nice.” Still, he’s never disowned the picture. It was sincerely daring in its own time. In a Hollywood grown much more timid, a film like this would be a miracle today.

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

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