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Myra Breckinridge is a campy American comedy film released in 1970. Based on the 1968 novel of the same name by Gore Vidal, the film was directed by Michael Sarne, with Raquel Welch in the title role. It also starred John Huston as Buck Loner, Mae West as Letitia Van Allen (spelled Leticia in the film), Farrah Fawcett, Roger Herren, and Roger C. Carmel. Tom Selleck made his film debut in a small role as one of Leticia's "studs". Theadora Van Runkle was costume designer for the film, but Edith Head designed Mae West's costumes. Like the novel, the picture was controversial for its sexual explicitness, but unlike the novel, Myra Breckinridge received little to no critical praise and has been cited as one of the worst films ever made.

Background

Myra Breckinridge was one of two films with an X rating to be released by 20th Century Fox in 1970 (the other being Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). In 1978, the studio submitted a cut version running 91 minutes to the MPAA, and the film was re-classified with an R rating. Both versions are available on the DVD, though the uncut print is now unrated.

Reception

Upon its release, the film was a commercial and critical flop. Time magazine made their now infamous comments that "Myra Breckinridge is about as funny as a child molester. It is an insult to intelligence, an affront to sensibility and an abomination to the eye." Since its release, it has achieved something of a cult following. Gore Vidal has disowned the film calling it "an awful joke". In 1993, Vidal wrote that although he had "never seen it, I do know that despite the iconic presences of Raquel Welch and Mae West, the film was so bad that the book stopped selling for a decade."

Cast



The production

Filming of the movie was also filled with controversy, due to Michael Sarne being granted complete control over the project. Sarne quickly went overbudget due to his unorthodox techniques, which included spending up to seven hours at a time by himself, "thinking," leaving the cast to wait around on set for him to return so that filming could commence. Additionally, Sarne spent several days filming tables of food, for a dream sequence which, in addition to being non-essential to the plot, only appears in the film for a few seconds.

There were also reports of conflicts between Raquel Welch and Mae West, who came out of retirement to play the Leticia character. Furthermore, some actors from 1940s and 1950s films that were used as stock footage were upset that footage from their old films were inserted into the movie to punctuate some of the jokes as well as in the film's climactic rape sequence. After the film was previewed in San Franciscomarker, the White Housemarker demanded that footage from the film Heidi, featuring Shirley Temple be removed due to Temple's role as United Statesmarker ambassador. Loretta Young also successfully sued to have footage of herself removed from the film.

Due to the film's adult themes, it has rarely been shown on television, though in recent years, the film has aired on Fox Movie Channel. In 2004, Myra Breckinridge was released on DVD with minor changes—to make the film's ending (that Myron never had his sex change) clearer, the ending sequence was changed to black-and-white format.

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