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Daily History

June 2 1989 Dead Poets Society released

On June 2nd 1989, the boys’ prep school drama Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams, was released in selected U.S. theatrestheaters.

Set in 1959 at a fictional all-male preparatory school called Welton Academy, the film starred Robin Williams as John Keating, a charismatic English teacher who encourages his students to “seize the day” (“carpe diem” in Latin) and embrace the passion for life expressed by great poets like Walt Whitman. With Keating’s guidance, several students (including characters played by Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles) revive an underground campus organisation known as the Dead Poets Society. When their rebellious behaviour gets the boys in trouble with school and family authority figures (with tragic consequences in one case), Keating is taken to task for his influence on them. Directed by Peter Weir from a screenplay by Tom Schulman, Dead Poets Society featured a soaring score by the multiple Oscar-winning composer Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, A Passage to India).

Though Dead Poets Society was generally well received, some negative reviews stood out: Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film “a collection of pious platitudes masquerading as a courageous stand in favour of something” and said that during the film’s final scene “I was so moved, I wanted to throw up.” Best known for his zany, manic style of comedy, Williams turned in a relatively understated performance that garnered some of the best reviews of his career. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, one of four nominations the film would receive, including Best Director and Best Picture. It won in one category, for Best Original Screenplay.

After winning over fans as the alien Mork from Ork on the hit television comedy Mork and Mindy (1978-1982), Williams had a successful career in stand-up comedy before making his big-screen breakout in Good Morning Vietnam (1987), for which he earned his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. After Dead Poets Society, Williams received two more Academy Award nominations: Best Actor for The Fisher King (1991) and Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting (1997); he won for the latter film. He also scored comedic hits such as Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and The Birdcage (1996).

This Day In History


About Craig Hill

Social Justice Campaigner, Writer, Teacher and Business Consultant. Lived in China and USA. Dealing with disability. My articles have been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and many other international publications. Please consider donating, to support our social justice campaign, by clicking on the "Donations Page" button in the top menu.


6 thoughts on “June 2 1989 Dead Poets Society released

  1. One of Robin Williams’ greatest performances!

    Posted by swabby429 | June 2, 2012, 23:59
  2. It’s one of those forever films … brilliant film. Not a big fan ot Mr. Williams, but in this film he are outstanding.

    Posted by viveka | June 3, 2012, 04:15
  3. I remember when it came out–saw it in the theater. Thanks for posting it, Craig.

    Posted by Naomi Baltuck | June 3, 2012, 08:45
  4. I have this movie on DVD and over the years I have watched it a couple of times. I loved the movie.
    Your blog is great. I am a follower now. Thanks for liking my post. cheers Judy

    Posted by judysp | June 4, 2012, 15:12
  5. remember going to see this. was at a three day conference for Social Workers. Two women whom i’d just met there and I decided to drive into town for something to do one evening. saw the movie theater, decided to go. None of us knew what the movie was about but liked robin williams and the cast. Turns out one of the women her son had commited suicide less than ayear ago….

    Posted by pdlyons | June 6, 2012, 03:53
  6. Robin Williams ranks in my Top 5 for actors since 1965.

    Posted by Russel Ray Photos | June 19, 2012, 11:02

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