The Turning Point (1977 film)

The Turning Point (1977) was written by Arthur Laurents and directed by Herbert Ross. In starring roles were Shirley MacLaine, Anne Bancroft, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leslie Browne, Tom Skerritt, Martha Scott, Anthony Zerbe, Marshall Thompson and James Mitchell.


This film tells the story of two women who were childhood friends and former competitors in the world of ballet.

DeeDee (Shirley MacLaine), left ballet after becoming pregnant with the child of another ballet dancer, Wayne (Tom Skerritt). The two settled down to raise a family and co-run a ballet studio in a Midwestern one-horse town. Emma (Anne Bancroft), an old friend of DeeDee's, stayed in the company and became a prima ballerina. When the company finally comes back to town, the two reunite. The reunion stirs back old memories and present ever-growing wounds.

DeeDee's daughter, Emilia (Leslie Browne) is invited to join the company at Emma's request. Emilia starts an affair with a big-name Russian ballet defector (Mikhail Baryshnikov). Emma's brother Ethan is offered two scholarships in ballet, but is unsure to pursue a career between ballet and baseball. And an old male friend of DeeDee's is getting to know her all over again. Meanwhile, it looks as if Emma's day in the sun is coming to an end.


It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Mikhail Baryshnikov), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Anne Bancroft), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Shirley MacLaine), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Leslie Browne), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound, and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Despite these 11 nominations, the film won no Oscars. Thus, along with The Color Purple, it shares the dubious distinction of receiving the most Oscar nominations without any awards.


  • The title is a pun, referring to that moment in life where everything turns and changes and you must take a new path in life when you come to the cross-roads and the piroutte step in ballet.
  • Shirley MacLaine and Leslie Browne were the only stars in the movie who had ballet training. Anne Bancroft, who plays a renown principal ballerina in the film, used a stunt double and did ballerina poses for her role.
  • Contains Phillip Saunders' only acting credit.
  • The film's ballet company is based on the American Ballet Theatre (which supplied the corps de ballet). Many of the principals and production team were affiliated with ABT in some form: Baryshnikov and Browne were both members of the company at the time of filming; director Ross choreographed for the company in the 1950s; executive producer (and Ross' wife) Nora Kaye was one of its most famous principal dancers; and Mitchell was a frequent guest soloist (and one of Kaye's dancing partners) during the 1950s.
  • Michael, the choreographer/artistic director, is partly based on Jerome Robbins. James Mitchell was the principal male dancer in Robbins' musical "Billion Dollar Baby" (1945) and participated in his American Theatre Laboratory in the late 1960s; later, while performing with American Ballet Theatre, he partnered executive producer Nora Kaye in Robbins' ballet "Facsimile."
  • The rivalry between the main characters, Deedee and Emma, is loosely based on the relationship between Kaye and Browne's mother, Isabel Brown, while the artistic director, Michael, is an amalgam of Jerome Robbins and Oliver Smith (Lawrence 430).
  • Much to writer Arthur Laurents' exasperation, Ross deleted Michael's gay relationship with the company's ballet master, although a brief reference to his sexuality remains in the film (Russo 227).
  • Arthur Laurents had a novel published from his screenplay. It includes the relationship between Michael and the company master.
  • Audrey Hepburn turned down the lead role which went to Anne Bancroft because she wanted to spend time with her family.
  • Gelsey Kirkland was originally slated to play the role of Emilia, but turned it down because she "wanted no part of Hollywood."

Appearances in Pop Culture

In an episode of The Nanny, Fran references the film by saying: "This is like that movie 'The Turning Point', only they were dancers and one was the mother and they were old friends... I should really rent that again."


  • Lawrence, Greg. Dance with Demons: The Life of Jerome Robbins. New York: Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-399-14652-0.
  • Russo, Vito. The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies. New York: Harper, 1987. ISBN 0-06-096132-5.

External links

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