Lonelyhearts, also known as Miss Lonelyhearts, is a 1958 drama film directed by Vincent J. Donehue. It is based on the 1957 Broadway play by Howard Teichmann, which in turn is based on the 1933 novel Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West.
The film stars Montgomery Clift, Robert Ryan, Myrna Loy, Jackie Coogan, Dolores Hart, and Maureen Stapleton in her first film role. Stapleton was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as for a Golden Globe for her performance as Fay Doyle.
The story opens on a small-town street. A man throws a bundle of papers onto the sidewalk from the back of a truck labeled Chronicle. Adam White Montgomery Clift enters a bar - Delehantys - and sits down with Florence Shrike Myrna Loy, the wife of William Shrike Robert Ryan, the Editor-in-Chief of the Chronicle. From their conversation, it is clear the two have been acquainted a while. Adam is hoping to land a writing job with the paper, and has come into the bar fairly often on the chance Shrike would show up. Florence has mentioned Adam to her husband and, this evening, the editor comes into Delehantys.
After they are introduced, Shrike asks Adam how he met Mrs. Shrike. Adam explains that he had tried to see the editor at his office but, because he could not get in to see him, decided he would wait at Delehantys until Shrike came in. This particular bar is "quite the hang-out for newspaper men" and, knowing that the Chronicle is only a few blocks away, Adam decided that, sooner or later, he would run into Shrike. Florence had noticed Adam, they began talking; she had "been good enough to say that she would introduce me to you". Shrike responds to this with a suggestive slight directed at Florence. There is tension between the couple; it is revealed later that Shrike cannot forgive Florence for, in a moment of drunken loneliness, cheating on him. She longs for them to forgive each other.
Shrike tells Adam to write him something, then and there. After initially hesitating, Adam comes up with a headline Editor Meets New Staff Member, a sub-heading, and a story in which he says the editor, in an attempt to test his new reporters mettle, "went so far as to insult his wife". He adds that the "young man.resisted his impulse to hit Mr. Shrike". The story ends with the editor, "touched by the young mans ambition, and amused at his lack of courage, decided to hire him". Shrike instructs Adam to report to the paper the next morning.
Adam tells his girlfriend Justy Delores Hart about the new job; they happily speculate about his future at the paper. The next day, he is astounded to discover he is being assigned the "Miss Lonelyhearts" advice column. Almost immediately, the array of human frailty and despair in the letters he must respond to troubles Adam. One of his colleagues, Ned Gates Jackie Coogan lets Adam know he is angry he did not get the column, that he would tell people they have to cope with life. Adam asks, "What if you cant?". Another co-worker, Frank Goldsmith Mike Kellin, openly mocks and laughs at the readers who seek the columns heartfelt advice.
Justy counsels Adam to not get so emotionally involved with the letter-writers problems. Cynical Shrike insists there is nothing heroic about trying to care about these individuals. After a few weeks, Adam asks Shrike for a new job; the editor harshly rebuffs the request. Later, he hints that he thinks being Miss Lonelyhearts has stirred something deep in the young man. Adam has let Justy believe he is an orphan, but the truth is that his father - whos surname is Lassiter - is alive though imprisoned for the murder of Adams mother and her lover. Without telling his girlfriend, Adam pays a rare visit to his father.
Shrike dares Adam to meet personally with one of the letter writers, to substantiate their story. He selects a letter from Fay Doyle Maureen Stapleton, a married woman whose husband, Pat Frank Maxwell came home from the war crippled and impotent, and invites her to his apartment to discuss her problem. He does not know that, one evening in Delehantys, she had asked Shrike about him and learned that he is the Miss Lonelyhearts columnist. Fay and Adam share an intense moment and are thrown together romantically. She is furious when he tells her he does not want to see her again. Afterwards, in a bar, Adam meets a stranger who happens to be Pat Doyle and who, recognizing Adam as the advice columnist, tells his version of his and Fays troubles.
Greatly disturbed, Adam goes to Delehantys and proceeds to get drunk. Shrike is there and invites him to an office celebration in the back room. Everybody wildly jokes about Miss Lonelyhearts; Adam loses his temper and punches Frank. Awakening in his apartment after not contacting anybody for two days, Adam finds Justy there. He confesses about being with a woman.
Adam decides to leave the newspaper. Justy and he meet for what they assume is the final time and he tells her about his father. Later, Fay telephones Adam, begging him to see her again; her husband walks in on this and the couple have a vicious argument. Pat discovers that his wife and Adam have been together. After she admits that she still wants Adam, Justys father offers her a trust endowment to get their new life underway; she goes off in search of Adam. He has dropped by the Chronicle to apologize to Frank and to say his goodbyes.
As he is talking with Shrike, Justy arrives; they reunite and the editor offers them his best. Pat Doyle turns up, with a gun, intending to kill Miss Lonelyhearts. Adam manages to move Pat to feel favorably toward reconciling with his wife. Shrike and Florence have been in their own struggle throughout and, after Adam and Justy leave, Shrike wraps some small flowers from the office in some tissue to take to her.
2. Background and production
The film was Dore Scharys first film as an independent producer after leaving MGM.
Nathanael Wests 1933 novel, on which this film was based, was adapted for the screen in 1933 as Advice to the Lovelorn starring Lee Tracy. It was made by Twentieth Century Pictures, distributed by United Artists, and directed by Alfred L. Werker from a screenplay by Leonard Praskins. The 1933 film was more of a comedy-drama than this version.
Howard Teichmann adapted the novel into a stage play, entitled Miss Lonelyhearts, which opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre on October 3, 1957. The production, directed by Alan Schneider and designed by Jo Mielziner, ran for only twelve performances.