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Kramer vs Kramer(1979)

Working from Avery Corman’s original novel, this film is the rare divorce story that refuses to take sides. It didn’t start out that way. Director-screenwriter Robert Benton’s first choice to play Ted Kramer’s (Dustin Hoffman) estranged wife was actress Kate Jackson, but she couldn’t get out of her commitment to TV’s Charlie’s Angels. Benton then promoted Meryl Streep from the small role of Hoffman’s one-night stand to Joanna Kramer. Streep asked for changes in order to give her character stronger reasons for leaving her husband and child, and Benton even let her write her own courtroom speech. That wasn’t the only input he allowed from his actors. The ice-cream scene between Hoffman and actor Justin Henry, who plays his son, was a total improvisation. In addition, Hoffman contributed enough lines and bits of insight based on the painful divorce he was going through at the time that Benton offered him a co-writer credit. Hoffman declined, but went on to win his first Oscar as the workaholic who changes his ways when he suddenly becomes a single parent. The film was the highest-grosser of its year, triggering a trend of character driven divorce movies like Shoot the Moon (1982) and Heartburn (1986). The film was nominated for nine Oscars, winning for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor and Supporting Actress (Streep). (d. Robert Benton, 105m, Digital)

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