The Stepford Wives is a 1972 novel by Ira Levin. Two movies of the same name have been adapted from the novel; the first starred Katharine Ross and was released in 1975, while a remake starring Nicole Kidman appeared in 2004. Edgar J. Scherick produced the 1975 version (as well as all the sequels) and was posthumously credited as producer in the 2004 remake.
As the story progresses, Joanna becomes convinced that the wives of Stepford are actually look-alike gynoids, manufactured in secret at the men's club. She visits the library and reads up on the pasts of Stepford's husbands and wives, finding out that some of the women were once high achievers, while some of the men were brilliant engineers and scientists, capable of creating such life-like robots.
At the end of the story, Joanna attempts to flee the town of Stepford as well as warn her new friend Ruthanne, mother of the first black family to move into the town. The men find her and try to convince her that she's mistaken. They take her to her former best friend Bobbie Markowitz, telling her that Bobbie will cut herself and bleed, proving herself to be human. Joanna enters the house to hear loud rock and roll music playing upstairs and sees Bobbie taking a large knife, and realizes that the men told Bobbie to kill her and use the music to cover her screams. Joanna argues with herself about whether or not she is simply paranoid. As Bobbie approaches with the knife, her last thoughts are that Bobbie will prove to be human and everything will be okay. The scene shifts to the men standing outside, wondering what's taking so long, and one of them leaves to call her husband and let him know where she is.
In the story's epilogue, Joanna has become another Stepford wife gliding through the local supermarket, while Ruthanne appears poised to become the conspiracy's next victim.
In 1975 the book was adapted into a science fiction thriller directed by Bryan Forbes with a screenplay by William Goldman and starring Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss, Peter Masterson and Tina Louise. The film also marked the screen debut of brat pack actress Mary Stuart Masterson, playing one of Joanna's children. While the script emphasis is on gender conflict and the sterility of suburban living, and the science fiction elements are thus only lightly explored, the movie still makes it much clearer than the book that the women are being replaced by some form of robot. Goldman's treatment of the book differed from that of Forbes with the robots closer to an idealized 'Playboy bunny'; it has been claimed that the look was scrapped when Forbes' actress wife Nanette Newman was cast as one of the town residents.
A made-for-TV sequel was produced in 1980, entitled Revenge of the Stepford Wives. It was critically panned for poor acting and shallow writing. In this film, instead of being androids, the wives undergo a brainwashing procedure and then take pills that keep them hypnotized. As suggested by the title, in the end the wives are broken free of their conditioning and a mob of them kill the mastermind behind the conspiracy.
Yet another made-for-TV sequel/remake was released in 1987 called The Stepford Children, wherein both the wives and the children of the male residents were replaced by drones. It again ends with the members of the conspiracy being killed.
A 1996 version called The Stepford Husbands was made as a third TV movie with the gender-roles reversed, and the men in the town being brainwashed by a crazed female clinic director into being perfect husbands.
A remake of the original The Stepford Wives was released in 2004. It was directed by Frank Oz with a screenplay by Paul Rudnick, and featured Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Roger Bart, Faith Hill, Glenn Close and Jon Lovitz. It was intended to be more comedic than previous versions and featured, among other changes, a Stepford-drone replacement for the male partner of a gay town resident. The film's production suffered much behind-the-scenes turmoil and the entire ending of the film was eventually reshot, creating numerous contradictions and plot holes.
Both the 1975 and 2004 versions of the movie were filmed in Darien, Connecticut, and New Canaan, Connecticut, and also Norwalk, Connecticut. The 1975 version had several locations in the Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield, including the Eberharts' House and the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church. In an early scene with a school bus, many of the children were from the local elementary school.
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