The Stepford Wives

Though William Goldman (Marathon Man, The Princess Bride...) penned Stepford's initial 1975 screenplay (one which Levin deemed good in its original form), it was materially altered by the film's director, Bryan Forbes: “The final script that reached the screen was mine, and it differed greatly from Goldman's.” (Bryan Forbes, 1998)

Levin was “not crazy about the movie,” telling legendary talk host Larry King in 1991 “...there are a lot of things in the movie that really don't make sense, in terms of the basic premise.”

Lost entirely in the film is the book's examination of an issue sharing space on the national front-burners then (as now) with feminism — race. While it's widely considered that 2017's "Get Out" newly brought race to the suburban horror equation, Levin's novel incorporated it throughout, with the third of its three sections even changing perspective from (white) Joanna Eberhart to (black) Ruthanne Hendry. Levin was in fact incorporating an earlier play idea concerning a black family's move to a white suburb into the novel. You can read more about this in our 2022 feature Building Stepford Wives, on the following pages: Hummingbird Circle, The Lady of the Lane, We Need To Talk About Joanna (see "Off Duty"), and Make Mine a Double (again, "Off Duty").

But it was Forbe's casting of his real-life wife (actor Nanette Newman) to play Stepford wife Carol Van Sant (as documented in Goldman's autobiographical "Adventures in the Screen Trade") that resulted in the film's most significant tonal misstep, and – ironically – perhaps its most enduring piece of visual iconography. As Levin told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel in 1978: “They confused the idea,” adding in a 2003 New York Times piece:

Just as Rosemary's Baby's supremely novel-faithful adaptation made that film an enduring classic, if someone were to faithfully film Stepfordas Levin wrote it – the result would be a truly devastating film.

  • Having somehow landed the gig of writing the introduction to a 1998 British print edition of Levin's novel, Bryan Forbes proclaimed: “[Ira Levin] had no complaints about my treatment of his novel.” Levin had in fact been sounding his public disapproval (when queried) since the film's release.

(Above) Trailer (1975)

(Above) Peter Masterson and Katherine Ross

(Above) Katherine Ross

(Above) Paula Prentiss

(Above) Stepford Producer Edgar Sherick (left) with Paula Prentiss and Ira Levin, 1975 (Washington Post)