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Kramer vs. Kramer is a 1979 film adapted by Robert Benton from the novel by Avery Corman, and directed by Benton. The film tells the story of a married couple's divorce and its impact on everyone involved, including the couple's young son. It received the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1979.Music for the film features New Yorkmarker guitarist Frederic Hand.


Ted and Billy
Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman), a workaholic advertising executive, is just given his agency's biggest new account. After spending the evening drinking with his boss, he returns home to find his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) in the process of leaving him.

Ted is left to raise their son Billy (Justin Henry) by himself. Ted and Billy resent each other as Ted no longer has time to carry his increased workload, and Billy misses the love and attention he received from his mother. After many months of unrest, Ted and Billy begin to cope with the situation and eventually grow to deeply love and care for one another.

Ted befriends his neighbor Margaret (Jane Alexander), who at the beginning had counseled Joanna to leave. Margaret is a fellow single parent and the two become kindred spirits. One day as the two sit in the park watching their children play, Billy falls off the jungle gym and severely cuts his face. Picking him up, Ted sprints several blocks through oncoming traffic to the hospital, where he comforts his son tenderly, representing his increased emotional connection and sense of responsibility for the child since his wife left.

About a year and a half after she walked out, Joanna returns to New York in order to claim Billy, and a custody battle ensues. During the custody hearing, both Ted and Joanna are unprepared for the brutal character assassinations that their lawyers unleash on the other. Eventually, the court awards custody to Joanna, not so much due to the evidence on both sides, but due to the well-known conception that a child belongs with its mother.

On the morning that Billy is to move in with Joanna, she comes to the apartment and tells Ted that, while she loves Billy and wants him with her, she knows that he is already home and his true home is with Ted. She does not take him. As she enters the elevator, she asks her ex-husband "How do I look?" (an unscripted, out of character line by Streep, asking Hoffman how she looked, unaware the camera was already rolling - the director liked the reality of the moment and kept the shot[15212]). The movie ends with the elevator doors closing on the emotional Joanna, right after Ted answers, "You look terrific," as she heads upstairs to talk to Billy.



Kate Jackson was then offered the role played by Meryl Streep but was forced to turn it down. At the time, Jackson was appearing in the TV series Charlie's Angels, and producer Aaron Spelling told her that they were unable to rearrange the shooting schedule to give her time off to do the film.

Cultural impact

Kramer vs. Kramer reflected a cultural shift which occurred during the 1970s and the period of second-wave feminism, when ideas about motherhood and fatherhood were changing. The film was widely praised for the way in which it gave equal weight and importance to both Joanna and Ted's points of view.

The difficulties facing the working single parent are depicted in the film. When Ted is asked by his lawyer to list the "pros and cons" of seeking custody, Ted's "cons" list includes, "work affected, no privacy, no social life, no let up." The film poignantly depicted the dilemmas facing single parents working for an employer insensitive to work-family balance needs.

The film also addresses the predisposition to awarding child custody to the mother.

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards



David di Donatello (Italy)


See also


  1. :: :: Reviews :: Kramer vs. Kramer (xhtml)

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