Marking the Hollywood debut of Liza Minnelli and her arrival as a full-fledged star (she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress), THE STERILE CUCKOO (also known as POOKIE) is a story of a freshman romance between the over-the-top eccentric Pookie (Minnelli) and a reserved undergrad entomologist (Wendell Burton), and is set in a placid upstate New York locale which is a perfect location for this unconventional love story. The film displays a masterful blend of humor and emotion, and represents the debut of another assured talent in director Alan J. Pakula (KLUTE, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, SOPHIE'S CHOICE), highlighting what would become his signature talent for eliciting revealing performances from his actors. The story is an engrossing drama which transcends the conventions of "young love" movies to establish itself as an enduring classic.
THE STERILE CUCKOO introduces disparate Pookie (Liza Minnelli) and Jerry (Wendell Burton) who meet on a bus as they travel upstate to begin college. Pookie is an irrepressible jauggernaut who has seemingly come to terms with the independence her family life has forced upon her, and Jerry is a reserved young man, unprepared for the fireball of energy and opinion he's faced with in Pookie. However, just as Jerry has settled into a rather abominable undergraduate life, he is surprised by a visit from Pookie, and what follows is their mutual emotional awakening, often by hilarious turns. The incendiary Pookie as played by Minnelli established a singular modern character--a distinct fusion of playful sexuality and a certain brash vulnerability. The film was considered daring for its nudity and strong language at the time of its release in 1969. THE STERILE CUCKOO is also notable as the directorial debut of Alan J. Pakula (THE PARALLAX VIEW, PRESUMED INNOCENT) who began his film career as a successful producer. He went on to direct other winning romantic comedies such as STARTING OVER with Burt Reynolds and Jill Clayburgh, in addition to a slew of successful conspiracy dramas and suspense thrillers.
Character Study |
Coming Of Age |
Theatrical Release |
Theatrical Release: October 22, 1969.
THE STERILE CUCKOO, which was producer-director-screenwriter Alan J. Pakula's directorial debut, is also known as POOKIE, and is based on a novel by John Nichols.
THE STERILE CUCKOO, for which actress Liza Minnelli received a Best Actress Oscar nomination, is credited as her big-screen debut, but she actually appeared in the British production CHARLIE BUBBLES one year earlier, and as an infant in IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME (1949).
THE STERILE CUCKOO was the big-screen debut of actor Wendell Burton, who later appeared in numerous TV shows, including mini-series EAST OF EDEN (1981), and series MEDICAL STORY (1975) and THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE (1974).
The song "Come Saturday Morning" was made famous by the film and received an Oscar nomination for Best Song.