Films

Last tango at Radio City

THE PROMISE Directed by Gilbert Cates

Richard Corliss April 23 1979
Films

Last tango at Radio City

THE PROMISE Directed by Gilbert Cates

Richard Corliss April 23 1979

Last tango at Radio City

THE PROMISE Directed by Gilbert Cates

Five reasons to see The Promise:

1. This love story about a handsome young architect (Stephen Collins) and a beautiful young artist (Kathleen Quinlan) has more plot than any narrative since Great Expectations.

Quinlan, Collins: made to be broken

In just the first 25 minutes, Quinlan falls in love with Collins, is told by his snooty mother that they can’t marry, elopes with him anyway, is horribly disfigured in a car accident, makes a pact with his mother never to see him again if Mom will pay for plastic surgery and endures a painful operation to save her life. Even more impressive is the fact that these events aren’t synopsized from a Barbara Cartland novel, but were dreamed up by producers Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller, who in the ’60s ran Greenwich Village’s chic Bitter End nightclub. Now there's a metaphor for the ’70s.

2. Kathleen Quinlan, who was so lovely and moving in I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, will be a major star someday. She has the classic features of a young Elizabeth Taylor and the budding talent of a young Katharine Hepburn. When Quinlan makes it big, you’ll want to tell your friends, “Sure she’s great now, but did you see her in that klinker she did back in 1979?”

3. Of all the recent wallows in the romantic fiction of doomed or disabled heroines, The Promise is the only one that will not elicit a single tear, even from those of us who carry onionscented hankies to every woman’s movie. And that’s a promise.

4. Sooner or later, The Promise will turn up on a trivia quiz, as the answer to the question: “What was the last movie to play the Radio City Music Hall?”

5. When, at year’s end, critics vote The Promise the Drippiest Movie of 1979, you may want to know first-hand what all the pouting was about.

Richard Corliss