One of Jean’s more interesting films is undoubtedly Lilith, perhaps because it holds one of her best performances. However, Lilith was not embraced by American critics and the film was largely dismissed when released in 1964. A majority of those who rejected the work cited its “ambiguity” as a minus; Robert Rossen’s direction as too “arty”; and Warren Beatty’s “muddled” performance. Arguably, all three contributed to Lilith’s uniqueness.
The only award the film was recognized for was a Golden Globe nomination for Jean Seberg in the Best Actress Drama category. Although several films have “slipped through” recognition through the years (including Breathless which was not nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar), Lilith holds several past and future Academy Award nominees and winners: co-stars Warren Beatty (Reds), Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire), Peter Fonda (Easy Rider), Gene Hackman (The French Connection), and in a small role, Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck).
In addition, several crew members were also recognized by the Academy for their work: Robert Rossen (All the King’s Men and The Hustler), production designer Richard Sylbert (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), set decorator Gene Callahan (The Hustler), costume designer Ruth Morley (The Miracle Worker), sound Dirck Vorisek (Reds), assistant editor Barry Malkin (The Godfather Part III), cinematographer Eugen Schufftan (The Hustler), and uncredited screenplay writer Robert Alan Arthur (All That Jazz). Many of them received multiple Oscar nominations for their various works.
The film is a well crafted piece and one does not forget the film after watching it. Let it be Jean’s performance, the haunting score by Kenyon Hopkins, the moody cinematography, the film is worth watching. These three aspects surely deserved Academy recognition.
Regardless of the lack of American praise, Lilith remained one of Jean’s favorite films. It’s interesting to note while the film was in production, Jean remarked to Warren Beatty she didn’t feel he would be truly happy until he directed his own film. He did a few years later with Bonnie and Clyde and continued to act, produce and write films as well. GM