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The Sandpiper is a 1965 film starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, directed by Vincente Minnelli.


Laura Reynolds (Taylor) is a free-spirited, unwed single mother living with her young son Danny (Morgan Mason) in an isolated California beach house. She makes a modest living as an artist and home-schools her son out of concern that he will be compelled to follow conventional social norms in a regular school. Danny gets into trouble with the law, and a judge orders her to send the boy to an Episcopal boarding school where Dr. Edward Hewitt (Burton) is headmaster, and his wife Claire (Eva Marie Saint) teaches. Danny has trouble fitting in at school due to a lack of social skills, and because his mother's home-schooling taught very advanced subject matter for a boy of his age, while the standard course of instruction at Edward's school leaves him restless and bored. At Claire's suggestion, Edward visits Laura several times to learn more about Danny and his upbringing. Laura's unconventional morals initially horrify Edward, a straight-laced priest, but the two quickly begin a torrid extramarital affair. Meanwhile, Danny flourishes when Edward relaxes some of his school's strict rules and allows the boy to learn more advanced materials. Eventually, Edward confesses the affair to Claire; distraught, she packs her bags and leaves for an indefinite separation. Laura discovers that she has fallen in love with Edward and asks him to live with her. Edward refuses, leaving Laura alone with Danny again.

Production and cast details

The Sandpiper won the 1965 Best Original Song Academy Award for "The Shadow Of Your Smile".

The story specifically takes place in Big Surmarker; the film includes many location shots of Big Sur landmarks, including Pfeiffer Beach, Point Lobos State Reservemarker, Bixby Bridgemarker, the Coast Gallery (where Laura exhibits her artwork), and a pivotal scene shot on a soundstage built to resemble the restaurant Nepenthe. The German singer Nico was an extra in the Nepenthe scene. The film also features an early performance by Charles Bronson as a beatnik sculptor.

The DVD, released in 2006, includes a short film about Big Sur that the filmakers shot at the same time, featuring narration by Burton.

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