Wilder Queries: Our Town Film

Q: Which video or DVD version of Our Town do you recommend?

A: There are actually 4 different versions of Our Town that have been available at one time on VHS or DVD:

The 1940 film version with much of the original cast from the original Broadway production (not very good: Emily lives, settings are realistic).

The 1970’s television adaptation shown on PBS starring Hal Holbrook, Robbie Benson, etc. (so-so: adds some scenery, Holbrook is very good but rest of acting is uneven).

The 1988 production adapted for television (again PBS) by Gregory Mosher and starring Spalding Gray, Eric Stoltz, and Penelope Anne Miller (Miller is the best Emily I’ve ever seen; this is the version I show my students every chance I get; Act 3 is deeply moving due to her performance; this is also the only version that stages the play as Wilder intended: no scenery or props).

The 2003 production adapted for television (for Showtime) starring Paul Newman and familiar character actors (also so-so: again, adds scenery, uneven acting).

Thus, the winner is the 1988 production; I highly recommend that faithful version of Our Town. To find any of these versions I’d check with your local public library.

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