CANNON MONTH: Grace Quigley (1985)

One of Katharine Hepburn’s last leading roles in a motion picture was in a Cannon movie. Yes, that’s true. It’s in a black comedy in which she has tried suicide twice before hiring Nick Nolte to be the hitman who brings about her demise. Before that, however, they help her friends get past their old age by, well, death.

Directed by Anthony Harvey (They Might Be GiantsThe Lion In Winter), the subject matter of this movie worried Cannon, who asked that the end of the film be reshot — Nolte’s Seymour drowns when he tries to save Hepburn’s Grace when she walks into the ocean — so that it ended on a happier note. They also shortened the name from The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley, because when you realize that name may come off as a bit, oh, Aryan.

The story of how this was made is more interesting than the finished product: A. Martin Zweiback tossed a 25-page treatment over George Cukor’s garden gate in 1972. Strangely, that’s where Hepburn was recuperating from surgery. She found the script, loved it and tried to get it made with Steve McQueen. It took seven years to get it to Columbia and Nick Nolte stepped in, but left, and then came back by 1983, but Columbia now backed out. And that’s where Cannon comes in, with Zweiback slated to direct.

However, Anthony Harvey, who had worked with Hepburn on The Lion in Winter and The Glass Menagerie — and on the TV movie This Can’t Be Love after this film — had been injured in a car accident and his career had suffered. Hepburn promised he could direct her next film and Zweibeck stepped aside as long as he and his wife would be credited as executive producers and allowed to come to the set.

Harvey didn’t want them near his movie and threatened to quit, but the Zweibacks didn’t have any involvement in the movie until they saw the premiere at Cannes where everybody hated the final film.

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