Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby Information

Rosemary's Baby is a 1968 American psychological horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the bestselling 1967 novel Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. The cast includes Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Ralph Bellamy, Maurice Evans, Sidney Blackmer and Charles Grodin (in his first film appearance). It was produced by William Castle.

Farrow plays a pregnant woman who fears that her husband may have made a pact with their eccentric neighbors, believing he may have promised them the child to be used as a human sacrifice in their occult rituals in exchange for success in his acting career.

The film was an enormous commercial success, earning over $33 million in the US on a modest budget of $3.2 million. It was met with near universal acclaim from film critics and earned numerous nominations and awards. The American Film Institute ranked the film 9th in their 100 Years...100 Thrills list. The official tagline of the film is "Pray for Rosemary's Baby."


Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), a bright but somewhat naive young housewife, and Guy (John Cassavetes), her husband and a struggling actor, move into the Bramford, an antiquated New York City apartment building. Their neighbors, Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer), are an elderly and slightly eccentric couple who tend to be meddlesome but appear to be harmless.

While doing the laundry, Rosemary meets a young woman, Terry Gionoffrio (Victoria Vetri), who has been taken in and helped by the Castevets after living on the street. As Rosemary admires a pendant necklace the Castevets gave to Terry, she remarks on the strange smell which seems to be coming from the pendant; Terry tells her it is from some kind of root. Returning home one night, Guy and Rosemary see a commotion and police on the street outside the Bramford; Terry has thrown herself to her death from the window of the Castevets' seventh-floor apartment. Minnie and Roman arrive and are shocked by what has happened. Rosemary tries to console them by telling them how highly Terry had spoken of them when they'd met in the laundry room.

Shortly after Terry's death, Minnie invites the Woodhouses to dinner; they reluctantly accept. Guy forms a bond with the Castevets, though Rosemary remains reluctant to become too friendly with them. Minnie gives Terry's pendant to Rosemary, telling her it is a good luck charm and the odd smell is from a plant called "tanas root". Later, Guy lands a role in a play when the actor who was originally cast suddenly and inexplicably goes blind. Soon afterward, Guy suggests that he and Rosemary have the child they had planned.

On the night they plan to conceive, Minnie brings them individual cups of chocolate mousse. Rosemary finds hers has a chalky undertaste and surreptitiously throws it away after a few mouthfuls. Shortly afterwards, she has a dizzy spell and passes out. Rosemary experiences what she perceives to be a strange dream in which she is raped by a demonic presence in front of Guy, the Castevets, and other Bramford tenants. When she wakes, she finds scratches on her body. Guy tells her that he had sex with her while she was unconscious because he did not want to pass up the moment for her to conceive.

A few weeks later, Rosemary learns that she is pregnant and is due on June 28, 1966. She plans to receive obstetric care from Dr. Hill (Charles Grodin), who is recommended to her by her friend Elise (Emmaline Henry). However, the Castevets insist she see their good friend, the famed obstetrician Dr. Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), who says that Minnie will make Rosemary a daily drink which is more healthy than the usual vitamin pills.

For the first three months of her pregnancy, Rosemary suffers severe abdominal pains, loses weight, becomes unusually pale, and craves raw meat and chicken liver. Dr. Sapirstein insists the pain will subside soon, and assures her she has nothing to worry about. When her old friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) sees Rosemary's gaunt appearance and hears that she is consuming the mysterious tanas root on a daily basis in Minnie's health drink, he is disturbed enough to do some research. On the day Hutch plans to share his findings with Rosemary, he mysteriously falls into a coma a few hours before their meeting. At the Castevets' New Year's Eve party, Roman raises a toast to 1966, "the Year One". When Rosemary can't bear her abdominal pains another minute, they suddenly disappear.

Three months after he fell into a coma, Hutch dies. After briefly regaining consciousness before his death, he has instructed the doctor to give a book about witchcraft to Rosemary. Grace Cardiff, one of Hutch's friends, decides to have the book delivered to Rosemary at his funeral along with the cryptic message: "The name is an anagram". Later, she sees that Hutch has marked photographs and passages in the book. Using the clue given to her by Grace's message, Rosemary deduces that Roman Castevet is really Steven Marcato, the son of a former resident of the Bramford who was accused of being a Satanist, dying as a martyr to the cause. Rosemary suspects her neighbors are part of a cult with sinister designs for her baby, and that Guy is cooperating with them in exchange for their help in advancing his career. She deduces that Dr. Sapirstein is also part of the conspiracy.

Rosemary becomes increasingly disturbed and shares her fears and suspicions with Dr. Hill, who, assuming she is delusional, calls Dr. Sapirstein and Guy. They tell her that if she co-operates, neither she nor the baby will be harmed. The two men bring Rosemary home, at which point she briefly escapes them by spilling the contents of her purse, then hijacking the elevator as they gather the contents from the floor. They pursue her to the apartment, where Rosemary locks the door. A few moments later, they enter the bedroom, having somehow gained access. Rosemary goes into labor and is sedated by Dr. Sapirstein. When she awakens, she is told the baby died; however, she hears an infant's cries somewhere in the building, and suspects he is still alive.

In the hall closet, Rosemary discovers a secret door leading into the Castevet apartment, where the coven meets, and finds the congregation gathered around her newborn son. Seeing the disturbing appearance of her baby's eyes and demanding to know what had caused the deformity, Rosemary is then told that Guy is not the baby's father and that the baby, named Adrian, is actually the spawn of Satan. This horrifies Rosemary, who spits in Guy's face when he approaches her. Roman urges Rosemary to become a mother to her son, and tells her she does not have to join the coven if she does not want to. She adjusts her son's blankets and gently rocks his cradle with a small smile on her face.


  • Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse
  • John Cassavetes as Guy Woodhouse
  • Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet
  • Sidney Blackmer as Roman Castevet/Steven Marcato
  • Maurice Evans as Hutch
  • Ralph Bellamy as Dr. Abraham Sapirstein
  • Charles Grodin as Dr. Hill
  • Patsy Kelly as Laura-Louise
  • Victoria Vetri (credited as Angela Dorian) as Terry Gionoffrio
  • Emmaline Henry as Elise Dunstan
  • Hanna Landy as Grace Cardiff
  • Tony Curtis as voice of Donald Baumgart
  • Phil Leeds as Dr. Shand
  • Hope Summers as Mrs. Gilmore
  • Elisha Cook, Jr. as Mr. Micklas
  • D'Urville Martin as Diego
  • Marianne Gordon as Rosemary's Girlfriend
  • Wende Wagner as Rosemary's Girlfriend
  • Clay Tanner as the Devil



In Rosemary's Baby: A Retrospective, a featurette on the DVD release of the film, screenwriter/director Roman Polanski, Paramount Pictures executive Robert Evans, and production designer Richard Sylbert reminisce at length about the production. Evans recalled William Castle brought him the galley proofs of the book and asked him to purchase the film rights even before Random House released the publication. The studio head recognized the commercial potential of the project and agreed with the stipulation that Castle, who had a reputation for low-budget horror films, could produce but not direct the film adaptation. He makes a cameo appearance as the man at the phone booth waiting for Mia Farrow to finish her call.

Evans admired Polanski's European films and hoped he could convince him to make his American debut with Rosemary's Baby. He knew the director was a ski buff who was anxious to make a film with the sport as its basis, so he sent him the script for Downhill Racer along with the galleys for Rosemary. Polanski read the latter book non-stop through the night and called Evans the following morning to tell him he thought Rosemary was the more interesting project, and would like the opportunity to write as well as direct it.

The script was modeled very closely on the original novel and incorporated large sections of the novel's dialogue and details. Author Ira Levin claimed that during a scene in which Guy mentions wanting to buy a particular shirt advertised in The New Yorker, Polanski was unable to find the specific issue with the shirt advertised and phoned Levin for help. Levin, who had assumed while writing that any given issue of The New Yorker would contain an ad for men's shirts, admitted that he had made it up.


Polanski envisioned Rosemary as a robust, full-figured, girl-next-door type, and he wanted Tuesday Weld or his own wife Sharon Tate for the role. Since the book had not reached bestseller status yet, Evans was unsure the title alone would guarantee an audience for the film, and he felt a bigger name was needed for the lead. Patty Duke was considered for the lead (she would play the role of the TV movie Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby (1976), in which Ruth Gordon was the only actor to reprise her role from the 1968 movie). With only a supporting role in Guns at Batasi (1964) and the then unreleased A Dandy in Aspic (1968) as her only feature film credits, Mia Farrow had an unproven box office track record, but her role as Allison MacKenzie in the popular television series Peyton Place and her unexpected marriage to Frank Sinatra had made her a household name.

Despite her waif-like appearance (which would ultimately prove beneficial, as Rosemary became more frail as her pregnancy progressed), Polanski agreed to cast her. Her acceptance incensed Sinatra, who had demanded she forgo her career when they wed, and he served her divorce papers via a corporate lawyer in front of the cast and crew midway through filming. In an effort to salvage her relationship, Farrow asked Evans to release her from her contract, but he persuaded her to remain with the project after showing her an hour-long rough cut and assuring her she would receive an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

Robert Redford was the first choice for the role of Guy Woodhouse, but he turned down the offer. Jack Nicholson was considered briefly before Polanski suggested John Cassavetes.

Sylbert was a good friend of Garson Kanin, who was married to Ruth Gordon, and he suggested her for the role of Minnie Castevet. He also suggested that the Dakota, an Upper West Side apartment building known for its show business tenants, be used for the Bramford. Its hallways were not as worn and dark as Polanski wanted, but when the building's owners would not allow interior filming, that became academic and it was used for exterior shots only.

Polanski wanted to cast Hollywood old-timers as the coven members but did not know any by name. He drew sketches of how he envisioned each character, and they were used to fill the roles. In every instance, the actor cast strongly resembled Polanski's drawing. They included Ralph Bellamy, Patsy Kelly, Elisha Cook, Jr., Phil Leeds and Hope Summers.

When Rosemary calls Donald Baumgart, the actor who goes blind and is replaced by Guy, the voice heard is that of actor Tony Curtis. Farrow, who had not been told who would be reading Baumgart's lines, recognized the voice but could not place it. The slight confusion she displays throughout the call was exactly what Polanski hoped to capture by not revealing Curtis' identity in advance.


Sydney Guilaroff designed the wig worn by Mia Farrow in the film's early scenes. It was removed to reveal the Vidal Sassoon hairdo that made headlines when Farrow cut her trademark long hair during filming of Peyton Place.

One of Mia Farrow's more emotionally charged scenes occurs in the midst of a party, when several of Rosemary's female friends lock Guy out of the kitchen as they console her in private. The scene was shot in a single day. That morning, just before the first take was filmed, a private messenger served Farrow with formal divorce papers from Frank Sinatra. As she read the documents, Farrow fell to her knees on the kitchen floor and openly wept in front of the cast and crew. Roman Polanski insisted that the day be canceled and filming be postponed until the next day, when he would start consecutively filming as many scenes as possible that did not contain Rosemary. Farrow openly refused to accept this, insisting that nothing had changed. The day's filming concluded on time and without delay.

When Farrow was reluctant to film a scene that depicted a dazed and preoccupied Rosemary wandering into the middle of a Manhattan street into oncoming traffic, Polanski pointed to her pregnancy padding and reassured her, "no one's going to hit a pregnant woman". The scene was successfully shot with Farrow walking into real traffic and Polanski following, operating the hand-held camera since he was the only one willing to do it.

Critical reception

In her review for The New York Times, Renata Adler said, "The movie"?although it is pleasant"?doesn't seem to work on any of its dark or powerful terms. I think this is because it is almost too extremely plausible. The quality of the young people's lives seems the quality of lives that one knows, even to the point of finding old people next door to avoid and lean on. One gets very annoyed that they don't catch on sooner."

Variety stated, "Several exhilarating milestones are achieved in Rosemary's Baby, an excellent film version of Ira Levin's diabolical chiller novel. Writer-director Roman Polanski has triumphed in his first US-made pic. The film holds attention without explicit violence or gore...Farrow's performance is outstanding."

Today, the film is widely regarded as a classic; the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 98% rating (53 out of 54 reviews), with the site's consensus stating "A frightening tale of satanism and pregnancy that is even more disturbing than it sounds thanks to convincing and committed performances by Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon".

In Popular Culture

Following the film's premiere, a string of other films focusing on Satan worshippers and black magic appeared, including The Brotherhood of Satan, Mark of the Devil, Black Noon, and Blood on Satan's Claw.

The film has been parodied in numerous works since its 1968 release, including Mad Magazine ("Rosemia's Boo-Boo", issue #124, January 1969) and The Realist ("Rosemerica's Baby", No. 93, August 1972).

References to the film can also be found in innumerable other works in various forms of media. The hardcore punk band Rosemary's Babies took the pluralized version of the title as a statement of their horror film influences. Deep Purple's "Why Didn't Rosemary?", a song about a girl who became pregnant because she "didn't take the pill," was loosely based on the plot. It was written by the band after they saw the film earlier that day, and appeared on their 1969 album, Deep Purple.

Audio from the film was sampled in the song "Hands of Death (Burn Baby Burn)" by Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie, featuring the baby's cries. The song "In My Grave" by the NY Ska-Core band Choking Victim also featured samples from the film. Samples from the film also feature heavily throughout SZA's S EP.

Referred to in Season 6 of Mad Men, Episode "The Quality of Mercy".

In the 2013 apocalyptic comedy This Is The End, Jonah Hill, playing a fictional version of himself, is raped by a priapic demon in a scene reminiscent of the rape scene in Rosemary's Baby. The morning after the rape, Hill notices scratches on his forearm.

The name of a book of witchcraft that appeared in the film was used as the title for the film All of them Witches. The same prop inspired the name of an album by Hedvig Mollestad Trio.


In the 1976 television film, Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby, Patty Duke starred as Rosemary Woodhouse and Ruth Gordon reprised her role of Minnie Castevet. It was disliked as a sequel and its reputation deteriorated over the years.

The scene in which Rosemary is raped by Satan was ranked #23 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

Thirty years after he wrote Rosemary's Baby, Ira Levin wrote Son of Rosemary, a sequel which he dedicated to the film's star, Mia Farrow. Reaction to the book was mixed, but it made the best seller lists nationwide.

A remake of Rosemary's Baby was briefly considered in 2008. The intended producers were Michael Bay, Andrew Form, and Brad Fuller. The remake fell through later that same year.


Academy Awards
  • Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Gordon, winner)
  • Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (nominee)
Golden Globe Awards
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture (Gordon, winner)
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama (Farrow, nominee)
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay (nominee)
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (nominee)
Other awards
  • BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Mia Farrow, nominee)
  • Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (nominee)
  • Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Drama (nominee)
  • David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress (Mia Farrow, winner)
  • David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Director (winner)
  • Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay (nominee)
  • French Syndicate of Cinema Critics Award for Best Foreign Film (winner)
  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor (Sidney Blackmer, winner)
  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress (Gordon, winner)
American Film Institute Lists

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - #9
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
    • "This is no dream! This is really happening!"-Nominated

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