The Prince of Tides

The Prince of Tides

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Barbra Streisand[1]
Produced by Barbra Streisand
Andrew S. Karsch
Screenplay by Pat Conroy
Becky Johnston
Based on The Prince of Tides
by Pat Conroy
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Stephen Goldblatt
Edited by Don Zimmerman
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • December 25, 1991 (1991-12-25)
Running time
132 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million
Box office $110 million

The Prince of Tides is a 1991 American romantic drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Pat Conroy; the film stars Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte. It tells the story of the narrator's struggle to overcome the psychological damage inflicted by his dysfunctional childhood in South Carolina. Streisand directed and produced the film in addition to starring in it. Conroy and Becky Johnston adapted the screenplay.[2]

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, but lost the award to The Silence of the Lambs.


Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte), a teacher and football coach from South Carolina, is asked by his mother, Lila, to travel to New York to help his twin sister's psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein (Barbra Streisand), after his sister Savannah's (Melinda Dillon) latest suicide attempt. Tom hates New York and reluctantly accepts, but largely to take the opportunity to be alone and away from a life that does not satisfy him. During his initial meetings with Lowenstein, Tom is reluctant to disclose many details of their dysfunctional family's secrets. In flashbacks, Tom relates incidents from his childhood to Lowenstein in hopes of discovering how to save Savannah's life. The Wingo parents were an abusive father and an overly proud, status-hungry mother. The father was a shrimp boat operator and, despite being successful at that profession, spent all of his money on frivolous business pursuits, leaving the family in poverty.

Tom is also torn with his own problems, but hides behind what he calls "the Southern way"; i.e., laughing about everything. For example, his wife Sallie is having an affair and her lover wants to marry her. Tom and Lowenstein begin having feelings for each other. After Tom discovers that she is married to Herbert Woodruff, a famous concert violinist, Lowenstein introduces Tom to her son Bernard (Jason Gould), who is being groomed to become a musician as well but who secretly wants to play football. Tom starts coaching Bernard along with attending sessions with Lowenstein to help his sister. Tom discovers that Savannah has been in such a dissociated state that she even had a different identity, Renata Halpern. As Halpern, she wrote books to disguise the Savannah side of her troubled life. Tom confronts Lowenstein over not revealing this information before and they argue, during which she throws a dictionary at him. To apologize, she asks him to dinner and their relationship becomes closer.

Tom has a fateful meeting with his mother and stepfather, bringing up painful memories. Tom reveals that, when he was 13 years old, three escaped convicts invaded his home and raped him, along with his mother and sister. His older brother, Luke, killed two of the aggressors with a shotgun, while his mother stabbed the third with a kitchen knife. They buried the bodies beneath the house and never spoke of it again. Tom suffers a mental breakdown, having now let loose a key piece of Savannah's troubled life. After a session of football, Herbert orders Bernard to return to his music lessons and prepare to leave for Tanglewood. Tom is invited to a dinner at Lowenstein's home, along with poets and intellectuals. Herbert is overtly rude and reveals that Tom's sister is in therapy with his wife. Infuriated, Lowenstein voices her suspicions about her husband's affairs. Tom takes Herbert's "million dollar" violin and threatens to throw it off the balcony unless Herbert apologizes.

Tom spends a romantic weekend with Lowenstein at her country house. Savannah recovers and is about to be released from the hospital when Tom realizes that he wants to be closer to his wife and children, despite having fallen in love with someone else. He returns home, but his last thoughts are of Lowenstein.



Critical reception

Pat Conroy, author of the novel "The Prince of Tides", gave Streisand a copy of his novel with the inscription: "To Barbra Streisand: The Queen of are many things, Barbra, but you're also a great of the greatest to come into my life. I honor the great teachers and they live in my work and they dance invisibly in the margins of my prose. You've honored me by taking care of it with such great seriousness and love. Great thanks, and I'll never forget that you gave 'The Prince of Tides' back to me as a gift. Pat Conroy."[3]

Roger Ebert gave the film three and 1/2 stars of four stars, praising Streisand's directing "By directing one good film, you prove that you had a movie inside of you. By directing two, you prove you are a real director", "an assured and very serious love story that allows neither humor nor romance to get in the way of its deeper and darker subject.", "Streisand shows herself as a director who likes emotional stories - but doesn't simplify them, and pays attention to the human quirks and strangeness of her characters".[4]

Variety (magazine) called it "A deeply moving exploration of the tangled emotions of a dysfunctional Southern family, this lovingly crafted (though unevenly scripted) film of Pat Conroy’s novel centers on Nick Nolte’s performance of a lifetime. Bringing her usual strengths of character to her role as Nolte’s psychiatrist/lover, Barbra Streisand marks every frame with the intensity and care of a filmmaker committed to heartfelt, unashamed emotional involvement with her characters".[5]

Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader commented, "The results may seem overripe and dated in spots, but (Streisand) coaxes a fine performance out of Nolte, and the other actors (herself included) acquit themselves honorably".[6]

Box office

The Prince of Tides was a critical and box office success, opening at number four with a grossing of $10,035,412 behind Hook, Beauty and the Beast, and Father of the Bride, and remained in the top 10 for seven weeks.[7] Eventually the final gross was $74,787,599.[8] $36,100,000 in rentals accumulated, and gave the film a final gross of $110 million. It's among the top 20 highest-grossing films of the year at the box office.


Although the film, its cast, and its crew received many nominations for Academy Awards, Best Director was not among these, while Best Picture was. At the following year's Oscar ceremonies, host Billy Crystal sang, to the tune of "Don't Rain on My Parade," "did this film direct itself? "[9] The following year, when A Few Good Men joined Prince of Tides and the previous year's Awakenings in being nominated for the latter award, but not the former, Columbia Pictures president Mark Canton issued a statement, "This is unfortunately the third year in a row that Columbia has had a film nominated for Best Picture that seemingly directed itself."[10]


Differences from novel

While the film was a box office hit and raised Streisand's reputation as a director, its numerous changes from the original novel upset some Conroy purists.[13] Conroy and Johnston eliminated most of the novel's flashback scenes. They describe Tom Wingo's relationship with his siblings in great detail. In the novel, these flashbacks form the main plot and take up more of the novel than the romance between Streisand's character, Dr. Lowenstein, and Tom Wingo. The removal of the flashbacks makes the relationship between Wingo and Lowenstein the central story in the film, whereas in the novel, it is not.[14][15] Another character in the novel - the second Wingo brother, Luke, who appears only in flashbacks onscreen - is vitally important to the novel, and his death is a major plot point. In fact, the title of the book derives from a poem written by Savannah about Luke and his struggle against the government after the seizure of Colleton. In the film, "The Prince of Tides" is the title of a book of poetry written by Savannah and dedicated to Tom. Luke only appears intermittently, and only as a child, and his death is only vaguely described.


Streisand initially hired English composer John Barry to write a score for the film, but Barry eventually left due to creative differences. In a 7 March 1996 Cinemusic conference interview, Barry explained his exodus from the film, stating, "I was asked by Barbra Streisand to do The Prince of Tides I live in New York, she lives in Los Angeles and I went and met with her, and she showed me some footage, and she said, 'Why aren't you moving to Los Angeles?' and I said, 'Absolutely not.' And she said, 'Well, I like to know what's going on' Barbra's an extreme case, by the way and I said, 'Even if I did move to Los Angeles, I have no desire to meet with you once I know what I'm going to do. I can't work with someone over my shoulder, absolutely no way.'"[16] Barry later retitled his theme for The Prince of Tides "Moviola" and it was released on his 1992 movie theme album of the same name.[17] The theme also appeared in Barry's 1995 score for the 3D IMAX film Across the Sea of Time, retitled "Flight Over New York".

The final film score was composed by James Newton Howard and released 12 November 1991.[17] It was well received by critics[18] and garnered Howard his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score, though it lost to Alan Menken's music for Beauty and the Beast. The soundtrack contains two songs by Streisand, although they did not appear in the film (one of those songs, "Places That Belong To You", was at one point intended for the film's end credits, but replaced with new music by Howard in the released version). The film also includes songs and music that do not appear on any soundtracks.

  1. Main Title
  2. Teddy Bears
  3. To New York
  4. The Bloodstain
  5. The Fishmarket
  6. The New York Willies
  7. The Village Walk
  8. Lila's Theme
  9. Home Movies
  10. Daddy's Home
  11. The Hallway (Love Theme)
  12. They Love You Dad
  13. So Cruel
  14. Savannah Awakes
  15. Love Montage
  16. Tom Comes Home
  17. The Outdoors
  18. Tom's Breakdown
  19. The Street
  20. For All We Know (Instrumental)
  21. The Reunion
  22. End Credits
  23. For All We Know (Vocal by Barbra Streisand)
  24. Places That Belong to You (Vocal by Barbra Streisand)
Music that appeared in the film


  1. "The Queen Of Tides Barbra Streisand's Latest Movie: Saving The World Through Therapy". Morning Call. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  2. Turan, Kenneth (1991-12-25). "A Mainstream `Prince of Tides". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  3. "SONGWRITERS FRIENDS". The Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  4. "The Prince of Tides :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  5. "Review: 'The Prince of Tides'". Variet. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  6. "The Prince of Tides Reviews". Chicago Reader. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  7. Fox, David J. (1991-12-30). "Movies: 'Hook' leads with an estimated $23 million for the five-day Christmas period. 'Father of the Bride' and 'Prince of Tides' pull in about $15 million each.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-22.
  8. "The Prince of Tides (1991) - Weekend Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo".
  9. Hal Lipper. "Oscars make moves beyond mainstream," St. Petersburg Times, April 1, 1992.
  10. Wire reports. "Film notes," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 20, 1993, page 2D
  11. Fox, David J. (1992-02-20). "Academy Awards Nominations'Bugsy' and 'The Beast'Nominations for Best Picture . . .Beatty Film Up for 10 Oscars; 'Beauty' Scores a FirstNominees: Disney film becomes the first animated feature tapped for best picture. 'Boyz N the Hood's' John Singleton enters the record books twice, and a mother-daughter duo is nominated.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  12. Weinraub, Bernard (1992-02-20). "Bugsy a Big Winner In Oscar Nominations Rife With Surprise". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  13. Fox, David J. (1992-02-20). "RACADEMY AWARDS NOMINATIONS : Analysts See Merging of Art, Box-Office Appeal". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  14. Maslin, Janet (1991-12-25). "Review/Film; 'Prince of Tides' Sidesteps Book's Pitfalls". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  15. "Prince Of Tides' Deserves Flow Of Oscar Nominations". Morning Call. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  16. Hoshowsky, Robert. "John Barry; The Gstaad Memorandum". Industry Central, 7 March 1996. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  17. 1 2 "The Prince of Tides: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1991)". Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  18. Clemmensen, Christian (6 February 2012). "The Prince of Tides: (James Newton Howard)". Retrieved 30 May 2012.
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