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Opening Night (1977)

PG-13 | | Drama | 17 April 1978 (Sweden)
An actress suffers an emotional uproar in her personal life after a fan dies trying to see her.


John Cassavetes


John Cassavetes

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Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Gena Rowlands ... Myrtle Gordon
John Cassavetes ... Maurice Aarons
Ben Gazzara ... Manny Victor
Joan Blondell ... Sarah Goode
Paul Stewart ... David Samuels
Zohra Lampert ... Dorothy Victor
Laura Johnson ... Nancy Stein
John Tuell ... Gus Simmons
Ray Powers Ray Powers ... Jimmy
John Finnegan ... Bobby
Louise Lewis Louise Lewis ... Kelly (as Louise Fitch)
Fred Draper ... Leo
Katherine Cassavetes Katherine Cassavetes ... Vivian
Lady Rowlands Lady Rowlands ... Melva Drake
Carol Warren Carol Warren ... Carla


A young woman gets killed in an accident trying to meet her favorite actress Myrtle Gordon after a play. Then Myrtle Gordon felt responsible for the killing leading her down to an emotional crisis that interferes with her professional work as an actress. Written by Chemi González <chemi01@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

17 April 1978 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Noche de estreno See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Faces Distribution See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Director John Cassavetes had major problems getting the picture distributed in the USA. When it did get released, the seasons were limited, with the film performing very poorly at the box-office. After Cassavetes had passed away in early 1989, the film was acquired in 1991 by a major American distributor for re-release . See more »


A bus rolls by the New Haven theater with an ad for KBIG FM 104, a Los Angeles station. See more »


Maurice Aarons: You're not a woman to me anymore. You're a professional. You don't care about anything, do you? You don't care about personal relationships, love, sex, affection.
Myrtle Gordon: Okay.
Maurice Aarons: I have a small part. It's unsympathetic. The audience doesn't like me. I can't afford to be in love with you.
Myrtle Gordon: Good night.
Maurice Aarons: Yeah, good night.
See more »


Referenced in All About My Mother (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

Meditations on the original face III
4 January 2016 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

This is the film that nearly broke Cassavetes for good. It played in a single LA theater for a few weeks to empty seats before being shelved, never really opening. People would not have flocked to see it but it must have been dismay that shakes you to your core, to go through all this work and just shelve it at the end. In a few years time it would be playing in MoMA.

Cassavetes' whole project of making films is one of the most fascinating in the medium. We have only tidbits on screen really. The rest is tucked away in the filming process that went into discovering each film. It's in the hours of footage he never used. The four hour versions of Husbands and Woman we'll never see. His struggles to make each one are comparable to Welles, remarkable men both.

The story goes that he was so spent after making Woman that he was never the same again. He had said his piece and in the most pure way possible. Before and after are iterations of the same way of seeing anyway, as is always with makers who have something to impart and don't just show up for work. But he was fervent to keep going: he used the profits from that film to make Chinese Bookie and this out of pocket.

Bookie saw him reflecting on his own place as proprietor of lively improvisations while having to deliver a gangster plot to appease money men. It was not just cynical work. It was a meditative search for a true face from among different masks; suave playboy, entertainer, killer. It continues here, the same business with roles and faces.

As always, actors fumble and fret within the constraints of a story imposed on them. The camera swims as one of them would, as if culled from inside an actor uncertain about his presence, losing and finding again. The whole has that thick, viscous quality I love about him, it demands concentrated staying in that space where nothing is yet decided. This is Cassavetes' room. By this point you'll know whether you like it or not.

This is about an actress asked to go into that room and portray a role: woman pushing forty, childless and unmarried. It's for a play they're preparing for New York out in the sticks. She is all of those things in "real life" so what would make better sense than to portray truthfully?

But this is the whole thing with Cassavetes, why you deserve to have him in your life above all those other filmmakers who mollycoddle you with redemptions. With him truth is something you set out to find by shedding self, it's not handed down by any role and you have to make sure of that. It's what you find after you have stopped tossing the room for it. After words and guises have been peeled back, what is there?

This whole film is about an actress, Rowlands, fighting to shed that self that stands in the way of true expression. The play role expects middle-aged desperation about life, self- pity. Melodrama stuff. But she can't do it, won't. She could tap into those parts of herself but that would be giving into those parts, nurturing them, conceding to be the person the story says you must be.

So she won't do it. People plead with her, cajole, scold or lecture her but nothing does it, she is adamant. It has a few blunt devices along the way: seance and ghost of a younger self. Her refusal to do the sensible thing aggravates. In the all important premiere she finally arrives late and drunk and everyone concedes that it's not going to happen.

All of this ribs on Cassavetes own method of sustained, structured collapse where the point isn't to use actors to convey certainties of drama, it's to use drama to chisel the persons who will live through its effect on them. Whatever that comes to be. It all has to arrive to a point of intense uncertainty. A cessation of thought so that things will be free to mean themselves.

You'll see what he does in the end. It's Cassavetes and Rowlands on a stage in a culmination of a parallel life in which they never married.

It's marvelous. It doesn't really work and you will probably note that he misses. But if you're someone who tries to be the person you truly feel in your heart to be, you will rejoice to see the baring and nothing pretty, sad or redemptive salvaged out of it so we'll applaud. It's the reach that drives it, the transcendent reach for that idea all about masks dropping and having to face yourself bare, and in his reach he is as vast as Tarkovsky.

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