Between the Lines (1977 film)

Last updated
Between the Lines
Between the Lines film.jpg
VHS cover [1]
Directed by Joan Micklin Silver
Written byFred Barron
David M. Helpern Jr.
Produced byRaphael D. Silver
Starring John Heard
Lindsay Crouse
Jeff Goldblum
Gwen Welles
Bruno Kirby
Stephen Collins
Joe Morton
Marilu Henner
Richard Cox
Michael J. Pollard
Lane Smith
Raymond J. Barry
Guy Boyd
Charles Levin
CinematographyKenneth Van Sickle
Edited by John Carter
Music by Michael Kamen
Steve Van Zandt
Distributed by Midwest Films
Vestron Video
Release date
  • April 27, 1977 (1977-04-27)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States

Between the Lines is a 1977 ensemble romantic-comedy-drama [2] from Midwest Films. It was directed by Joan Micklin Silver and produced by her husband Raphael D. Silver. [2] The film was nominated for three awards at the 27th Berlin International Film Festival, winning two of them. [1] [3] Micklin Silver won the 1977 Los Angeles Film Critics Association New Generation Award as writer and director of Between the Lines. [4]



The story revolves around a group of people who work at The Back Bay Mainline, an alternative newspaper in Boston, [5] as it is bought out by a major corporation. This involves Harry Lucas (Heard), a disillusioned lead reporter with an on-and-off again girlfriend in Abbie (Crouse), flaky music critic Max (Goldblum), writer/author Michael (Collins) who plans to move to New York, an eager cub reporter in David (Kirby), and Frank, a beleagured editor in chief (Korkes). [6]

A series of loose thread occur throughout the film, such as Laura struggling with her relationship to self-involved Michael, who is using the sale of a forthcoming book to move to New York and take her there. A party celebration only results in Laura going to Harry's house and sleeping before Michael eventually arrives to pick a fight. Laura decides to go along with Michael to New York. David, a youthful reporter who rides a bike to work, tries to hitch a big and potentially dangerous story. Max, Harry, and Abbie try to chase him down from meeting up with a source (they arrive right as he gets a bloody nose). The purchase of the paper by a corporation (specifically a communications empire) had been rumored through the film, but only near the end does it come through that a group headlined by Roy Walsh (Smith) plans to buy and run the paper. One meeting spurs Walsh to ask Frank to fire Harry, citing him as a "moving force in the wrong direction." Lynn the secretary is the first to quit. Harry responds to his firing by walking to Walsh's office and shooting him with a suction cup dart toy pistol.



Fred Barron, who had written for both The Phoenix and The Real Paper , used his and Harper Barnes' [14] alternative newspaper experiences as the basis for his Between the Lines screenplay. The director Silver once had worked for The Village Voice . [15] Doug Kenney, co-founder of the National Lampoon, has a cameo role. Robert Costanzo makes a brief appearance as a hired goon, his second film role.

It was filmed largely on location in Boston, for two weeks, [2] in pawn shops, record stores, bars, porn theatres, strip clubs, and derelict apartments. [16] The rest of the filming was done in New York City. [2] No scenes are set in New York City.

John Heard, Joe Morton, and Marilu Henner make film debuts. [16]

The Real Paper , Boston Phoenix Los Angeles Free Press , SoHo Weekly News , and the Village Voice are thanked in the end credits. [17]

The success of the film led to a unsold 1980 TV sitcom pilot, with Sandy Helberg, Adam Arkin, Gino Conforti, and Kristoffer Tabori, also titled Between the Lines. [18]


"Joan Micklin Silver's second feature, Between the Lines, an episodic romantic comedy about the staff members of the Back Bay Mainline, a prospering "underground" weekly in Boston, is the most likable and encouraging American movie to be release so far this year." — Gary Arnold, Washington Post [19]

The film received positive reviews at the time [20] and is still regarded as an excellent 'snapshot' of the alternative newspaper era. [21] Matthew Monagle of Film School Rejects writes:

What makes Between the Lines such a timely film even decades later is its depiction of the diminishing space offered journalism in a world of corporate takeovers. Pages of copy are cut to make way for more advertisements; writers are asked to choose between walking out and compromising their integrity. The film makes it clear that the Back Bay Mainline, even in its diminished capacity, still has its finger on the pulse of the Boston community in a way no major newspaper could. When that is gone, something vital goes with it...

Those looking for the newspaper industry’s answer to Broadcast News will find a welcome film in Between the Lines. The film has countless moments of insight into the struggle of the American journalist, from the staff’s shabby living conditions — the film offers perhaps the most realistic look at big city apartments ever committed to film — to how well-meaning writers navigate the competing interests of truth and financial trendlines. With an all-star cast and some great comedic bits — enjoy watching Goldblum engage in a battle with a local performance artist at the Back Bay Mainline headquarters — Between the Lines is a late addition to the already impressive canon of essential 1970s cinema. [22]

"There’s not much by way of story in Between the Lines and a great deal of the dialogue feels spontaneous and improvised, which only adds to the film’s authenticity" — [23]

"The most memorable scenes work better as stand-alone episodes than as part of storylines" — [10]

"the rare (and perhaps only) alt-press movie" — Rob Nelson, Film Comment [24] [25]

"a fond but not uncritical portrait of the disaffected staff at a formerly radical, fictional alt-weekly Boston newspaper, from the street-corner hawker all the way up to accounts, editorial and the much-despised incoming corporate boss...Silver’s sympathy for radicalism, and her deft cutting between different pockets of action unfolding in the same space, lent the film an Altmanesque feel" — Ryan Gilbey, The Guardian [26]

"This lively ensemble comedy-drama traces the workplace and bedroom conflicts among the staff of a Boston alt-weekly newspaper as it faces a corporate takeover. Silver provides a nuanced view of the declining counterculture, with an astute take on its marginalization of women who balk at being camp-followers in their boyfriend's career arcs." — The Gene Siskel Film Center [7]

"There's no way for us to modestly skirt this film's effect: This story of an underground paper in Boston facing corporate buy-out was the inspiration for starting the newspaper you hold in your hand." — Margaret Moser, Austin Chronicle [27] [28]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joan Crawford</span> American actress (190?–1977)

Joan Crawford was an American actress. She started her career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies before debuting on Broadway. Crawford was signed to a motion picture contract by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925. Initially frustrated by the size and quality of her parts, Crawford launched a publicity campaign and built an image as a nationally known flapper by the end of the 1920s. By the 1930s, Crawford's fame rivaled MGM colleagues Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. Crawford often played hardworking young women who find romance and financial success. These "rags-to-riches" stories were well received by Depression-era audiences and were popular with women. Crawford became one of Hollywood's most prominent movie stars and one of the highest paid women in the United States, but her films began losing money. By the end of the 1930s, she was labeled "box office poison".

The Boston Strangler is the name given to the murderer of 13 women in Greater Boston during the early 1960s. The crimes were attributed to Albert DeSalvo based on his confession, details revealed in court during a separate case, and DNA evidence linking him to the final victim.

<i>Crossing Delancey</i> 1988 film directed by Joan Micklin Silver

Crossing Delancey is a 1988 American romantic comedy film adapted by Susan Sandler from her play of the same name, and directed by Joan Micklin Silver. It stars Amy Irving and Peter Riegert. The film also features performances from David Hyde-Pierce, Sylvia Miles and Rosemary Harris. Amy Irving was nominated for a Golden Globe for the film, for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">MBTA Commuter Rail</span> Greater Boston commuter rail system

The MBTA Commuter Rail system serves as the commuter rail arm of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA's) transportation coverage of Greater Boston in the United States. Trains run over 394 mi (634 km) of track to 134 stations. It is operated under contract by Keolis, which took over operations on July 1, 2014, from the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR).

<i>Desperately Seeking Susan</i> 1985 film by Susan Seidelman

Desperately Seeking Susan is a 1985 American comedy-drama film directed by Susan Seidelman and starring Rosanna Arquette, Aidan Quinn and Madonna. Set in New York City, the plot involves the interaction between two women – a bored housewife and a bohemian drifter – linked by various messages in the personals section of a newspaper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jill Eikenberry</span> American actress

Jill Susan Eikenberry is an American film, stage, and television actress. She is known for her role as lawyer Ann Kelsey on the NBC drama L.A. Law (1986–94), for which she is a five-time Emmy Award and four-time Golden Globe Award nominee, winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama Series in 1989. She received an Obie Award in 1986 for the Off-Broadway plays Lemon Sky and Life Under Water, and was nominated for a 2011 Drama Desk Award for the Off-Broadway musical The Kid. Her film appearances include Hide in Plain Sight (1980), Arthur (1981) and The Manhattan Project (1986).

Between the Lines may refer to:

Joan Micklin Silver was an American director of films and plays. Born in Omaha, Silver moved to New York City in 1967 where she began writing and directing films. She is best known for Hester Street (1975), her first feature, and Crossing Delancey (1988).

<i>Chilly Scenes of Winter</i> (film) 1979 film by Joan Micklin Silver

Chilly Scenes of Winter is a 1979 American romantic comedy film written and directed by Joan Micklin Silver, and starring John Heard, Mary Beth Hurt, Peter Riegert, Kenneth McMillan, and Gloria Grahame. Based on the 1976 novel of the same name by Ann Beattie, it follows a civil servant worker in Salt Lake City who falls in love with a recently-separated woman who works in his office building.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wesley Morris</span> American journalist

Wesley Morris is an American film critic and podcast host. He is currently critic-at-large for The New York Times, as well as co-host, with Jenna Wortham, of the New York Times podcast Still Processing. Previously, Morris wrote for The Boston Globe, then Grantland. He won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his work with The Globe and the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his New York Times coverage of race relations in the United States, making Morris the only writer to have won the Criticism prize more than once.

The Real Paper was a Boston-area alternative weekly newspaper with a circulation in the tens of thousands. It ran from August 2, 1972, to June 18, 1981, often devoting space to counterculture and alternative politics of the early 1970s. The offices were in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

<i>Hester Street</i> (film) 1975 romantic film directed by Joan Micklin Silver

Hester Street is a 1975 romantic film based on Abraham Cahan's 1896 novella Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto, and was adapted and directed by Joan Micklin Silver. In 2011, Hester Street was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Miss Massachusetts</span> Beauty pageant competition

The Miss Massachusetts competition is a scholarship pageant put on annually by the Miss Massachusetts Scholarship Foundation, Inc. The winner of the pageant receives the title of Miss Massachusetts and represents the state of Massachusetts at the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

A... My Name Is Alice is a musical revue conceived by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd, first produced in 1983. It won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Revue. It consists of some 21 songs by composers such as David Zippel, Doug Katsaros, Winnie Holzman, and Lucy Simon, along with sketches by writers like Anne Meara.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jeff Goldblum</span> American actor and musician

Jeffrey Lynn Goldblum is an American actor and musician. He has starred in some of the highest-grossing films of his era, such as Jurassic Park (1993) and Independence Day (1996), as well as their sequels.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Susan Sandler</span> American writer

Susan Sandler is an American writer and currently a professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She has numerous writing credits but is probably best known for her play Crossing Delancey, which she also adapted into a film with the same name starring Amy Irving and directed by Joan Micklin Silver.

<i>St. Ives</i> (1976 film) 1976 film by J. Lee Thompson

St. Ives is a 1976 American crime thriller film directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring Charles Bronson, John Houseman, Jacqueline Bisset, and Maximilian Schell.

Theater Talk was the weekly interview/discussion television series focusing on the world of the stage. It aired on PBS station, Thirteen WNET in New York City from 1996 to 2018. It was also syndicated from 2008-2018 on public television stations around the country both on TV and online. The guests included actors, writers, composers, directors, critics and others who contributed to the theater in New York, on Broadway and beyond.

<i>Wicked</i> (2024 film) Upcoming film directed by Jon M. Chu

Wicked is an upcoming epic musical fantasy film directed by Jon M. Chu from a screenplay by Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz. It is the first of a two-part film adaptation of their stage musical of the same name, which is in turn based on the 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire and characters from the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum. The film stars Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande, with Jonathan Bailey, Ethan Slater, Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Yeoh in supporting roles. Set in the Land of Oz, the film revolves around Elphaba, a green-skinned woman, and explores the path that leads her to become the Wicked Witch of the West.

<i>Asteroid City</i> Upcoming film by Wes Anderson

Asteroid City is an upcoming American science fiction romantic comedy-drama film directed and co-produced by Wes Anderson with a screenplay by Anderson from a story by Anderson and Roman Coppola. The film follows the transformative events that occur at an annual Junior Stargazer convention in 1955. It features a large ensemble cast that includes Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Steve Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan, and Jeff Goldblum.


  1. 1 2 Heuck, Marc Edward (May 8, 2019). "Joan Micklin Silver's Between the Lines". New Beverly Cinema . Los Angeles. Retrieved 16 April 2023. When it premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in June 1977, Silver won two prizes – the Interfilm Otto Dibelius Film Award, and the Reader Jury of the Berliner Morgenpost Award – and the film was nominated for the Golden Bear, ultimately won by The Ascent from the Soviet Union.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Between the Lines (1977)". AFI Catalog . AFI.
  3. "Between the Lines". Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  4. "Awards for 1977". LAFCA. Archived from the original on 21 March 2023. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  5. "Joan Micklin Silver". Jewish Women's Archive . Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  6. Murthi, Vikram (21 February 2019). "How a 1970s Jeff Goldblum Film Predicted the Current Journalism Crisis". . Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 "Between the Lines". Siskel Film Center. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  8. Seuling, Dennis (31 July 2019). "Between the Lines (Blu-ray Review)". The Digital Bits. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  9. Phillips, Michael. "'Star Wars' ruled, but 'Between the Lines' a film gem from '77 - Near West". Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  10. 1 2 "'Between the Lines': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 22 February 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  11. "Between the Lines". Reeling Reviews. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  12. "Joan Micklin Silver". Cinematheque.
  13. "SLIFF 2019 Interview: Harper Barnes – His Career Inspired the 1977 Film BETWEEN THE LINES". We Are Movie Geeks. 12 November 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  15. 1 2 "Between the Lines". TIFF. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  16. Romney, Jonathan (22 February 2019). "Film of the Week: Between the Lines". Film Comment . Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  17. "Unsold Abc Tv Series Between Lines Pilot". Getty Images . Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  18. Arnold, Gary (18 May 1977). "'Between the Lines': A Most Appealing Comedy". Washington Post . Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  19. Canby, Vincent (28 April 1977). "Film: Good Reading 'Between the Lines'". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  20. "Between the Lines". Rotten Tomatoes.
  21. Monagle, Matthew. "'Between the Lines' Makes Its Case as a Forgotten '70s Classic". Film School Rejects . Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  22. Prokopy, Steve (5 April 2019). "Review: 1977's Between the Lines Features an Impressive Cast in Workplace Drama". Third Coast Review. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  23. "November-December 2007". Film Comment . Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  24. "Between the Lines". Screen Slate. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  25. Gilbey, Ryan (14 January 2021). "Joan Micklin Silver obituary". The Guardian . Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  26. Barbaro, Nick. "We Have a Lot of History Here: The Austin Chronicle and Between the Lines". . Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  27. Moser, Margaret (1996-09-27). "Between the Lines". . Retrieved 15 April 2023.