04 April 2008

The Bell Jar - Lawsuit

As Julia Stiles is producing currently a new film version of The Bell Jar, I thought immediately of the libel lawsuit that sprung as a result of the first cinematic adaption. Dr. Jane Anderson, a Boston area psychiatrist, sued for defamation of character over the films portrayal of Joan Gilling as a lesbian. Just be careful, Julia...

The current film status is pre-production.

Below are two lists of articles. The first regards the lawsuit and the second is a selection of reviews of the first adaptation of The Bell Jar. Links to articles in appearing in The New York Times are provided for your reading enjoyment. There are some instances where I was unable to obtain complete citation information. I apologise for this...

Blau, Eleanor. "Film's suicide scenes were 'ethical outrage'." The New York Times. January 31, 1987: 21.

Blau, Eleanor. "'Bell Jar' case ends in accord." The New York Times. January 30, 1987: C-13.

Blau, Eleanor. "'Bell Jar' jury told of suffering." The New York Times. January 29, 1987: C-25.

Blau, Eleanor. "Plaintiff denies 'Bell Jar' film events." The New York Times. January 28, 1987:

Blau, Eleanor. "Plaintif testifies in 'Bell Jar' trial." The New York Times. January 27, 1987: C-13.

Bremner, Charles. "Libel suit settled over Plath film." The Times of London. January 31, 1987.

"Closing accounts on Plath's 'Bell Jar'." Newsweek. February 9, 1987: 58.

Davis, Stephen and Michael Graham. "'Bell Jar' suit aims to decide writers' rights and wrongs." The Times of London. January 18, 1987.

Doherty, William F. "'Bell Jar' plaintiff says movie humiliated her." The Boston Globe. January 27, 1987: 17.

Erlanger, Steven. "Plath case kindles debate in England over impact on two literary reputations." The Boston Globe. January 24, 1987: 14.

Kaufman, Irving R. "The creative process and libel." The New York Times. April 5, 1987: 28.

Kiernan, Laura A. "'Bell Jar' suit settled; defamed psychiatrist to get $150,000." The Washington Post. January 30, 1987: C-3.

Kiernan, Laura A. "Pain and outrage emerge in Boston's 'Bell Jar' suit." The Washington Post. January 28, 1987: D-1.

Lacayo, Richard. "Of Whom the Bell Told." Time. February 9, 1987.

"Laureate is sued." The Times of London. January 19, 1987.

Mitgang, Herbert. "Defense in 'Bell Jar' trial makes opening points." The New York Times. January 22, 1987: C-21.

Mitgang, Herbert. "Plath case: A clash of rights." The New York Times. January 15, 1987: C-22.

Mitgang, Herbert. "Ramifications of literary law suits: The 'Bell Jar' and Salinger cases." The New York Times. February 3, 1987: C-17.

Mitgang, Herbert. "Suit based on portrayal in 'Bell Jar' film begins." The New York Times. January 21, 1987: C-19.

Press, Aric with Mark Starr. "From book to film: A novel case of libel." Newsweek. February 2, 1987: 63.

Quill, Ed. "Psychiatrist says movie defamed her." The Boston Globe. January 15, 1987: 25.

Quill, Ed. "'Bell Jar' Plaintiff gets $150,000 settlement." The Boston Globe. January 30, 1987: 1.

Quill, Ed. "Settlement is said near in 'Bell Jar' movie suit." The Boston Globe. January 29, 1987: 23.

Quill, Ed. "Psychiatrist testifies to 'outrage' over movies." The Boston Globe. January 28, 1987: 19.

Quill, Ed. "'Bell Jar' case lawyer says plaintiff had gay encounter." The Boston Globe. January 22, 1987: 76.

Wald, Matthew L. "Psychiatrist files a libel suit over film of Plath's 'Bell Jar'." The New York Times. January 14, 1987: A-1.

Walker, Iain. "Poetic Justics? The Trails of Ted Hughes." The Advertiser. March 7, 1987.

Wen, Patricia. "Freed from 'Bell Jar' psychiatrist says settlement brings the truth to light." The Boston Globe. February 3, 1987: 1.

Film reviews:
Arnold, Gary. "Youthful neurosis retwisted in 'The Bell Jar'." The Washington Post. March 30, 1979: B-2.

Blowen, Michael. "'Bell Jar' is a travesty." The Boston Globe. 1979.

Kroll, Jack. "A poet's crack-up." Newsweek. March 26, 1979: 77.

Martin, Judith. "This 'Bell Jar' Makes Things Look Smaller." The Washington Post. March 30, 1979: 26.

Maslin, Janet. "Film 'The Bell Jar'." The New York Times. March 21, 1979: C17.

Scott, Jay. "Jarring approach to the 'Bell Jar'." The Globe & Mail. May 19, 1979.

Taylor, Clarke. "'Bell Jar': Hollywood interprets a cult poet." The Los Angeles Times. July 16, 1977: 45.


Jon C. Hopwood said...

One of the things commented on the time was that if this woman hadn't brought up her allegation that it was her who the character in the novel was based on, no one would have known it. Irony of ironies. Maybe Ted Hughes was right to be afraid of what he claimed were Plath's portrayals of real people in her second novel, though he was not right to destroy the manuscript.

Peter K Steinberg said...


Thank you for your comment. I couldn't agree more with you about Anderson self-identifying with the character and essentially outing herself.

The portrayal of real people is an identifying aspect of Plath's writing. This is obviously a bigger can of worms to open, but the novel was a literary work, a piece of art, and shouldn't have been destroyed. I think the novel still exists though. Didn't Hughes said it disappeared (was lost or stolen). He claims to have destroyed a Journal, which is nevertheless, also a shame for whatever insight it may have provided to the creative works Plath was making at the time.


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