Howards End
Howards end poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Ivory
Screenplay byRuth Prawer Jhabvala
Based onHowards End
by E. M. Forster
Produced byIsmail Merchant
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byAndrew Marcus
Music byRichard Robbins
Percy Grainger (opening and end title)
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics (United States)
Palace Pictures (United Kingdom)[2]
Release dates
  • 13 March 1992 (1992-03-13) (United States)
  • 1 May 1992 (1992-05-01) (United Kingdom)
  • 26 August 2016 (2016-08-26) (United States re-release)
Running time
142 minutes[2][3]
  • United Kingdom
  • Japan
  • United States[1]
Budget$8 million[4]
Box office$26.3 million

Howards End is a 1992 period romantic drama film directed by James Ivory, from a screenplay written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the 1910 novel of the same name by E. M. Forster. Marking Merchant Ivory Productions' third adaptation of a Forster novel (following 1985's A Room with a View, and 1987's Maurice), it was the first film to be released by Sony Pictures Classics. The film's narrative explores class relations in turn-of-the-20th-century Britain, through events in the lives of the Schlegel sisters.

Howards End premiered at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or and won the 45th Anniversary Award. The film was theatrically released on March 13, 1992 in the United States and on May 1, in the United Kingdom to critical acclaim and commercial success, grossing $26.3 million on a $8 million budget. At the 65th Academy Awards, the film received a leading nine nominations including for the Best Picture, and won three; Best Actress (for Thompson), Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published and Best Art Direction. At the 46th British Academy Film Awards, it garnered a leading eleven nominations, winning two awards; Best Film, and Best Actress (for Thompson).


This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. Please help improve it by removing unnecessary details and making it more concise. (November 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

In Edwardian Britain, Helen Schlegel becomes engaged to Paul Wilcox during a moment of passion, while she is staying at the country home of the Wilcox family, Howards End. The Schlegels are an intellectual family of Anglo-German bourgeoisie, while the Wilcoxes are conservative and wealthy, led by hard-headed businessman Henry. Helen and Paul quickly decide against the engagement, but Helen has already sent a telegram informing her sister Margaret, which causes an uproar when the sisters' Aunt Juley arrives and causes a scene.

Months later, when the Wilcox family takes a flat across the street from the Schlegels in London, Margaret resumes her acquaintance with Mrs. Ruth Wilcox, whom she had briefly met before. Ruth is descended from English yeoman stock, and it is through her family that the Wilcoxes have come to own Howards End, a house she loves dearly.

Over the course of the next few months, the two women become very good friends, even as Mrs. Wilcox's health declines. Hearing that the lease on the Schlegels' house is due to expire, Ruth on her death bed bequeaths Howards End to Margaret. This causes great consternation to the Wilcoxes, who refuse to believe that Ruth was in her "right mind" or could possibly have intended her home to go to a relative stranger. The Wilcoxes burn the piece of paper on which Ruth's bequest is written, deciding to ignore it completely.

Henry Wilcox, Ruth's widower, begins to develop an attraction to Margaret, and agrees to assist her in finding a new home. Eventually he proposes marriage, which Margaret accepts.

Some time before this, the Schlegels had befriended a self-improving young clerk, Leonard Bast, who lives with a woman of dubious origins named Jacky. Both sisters find Leonard remarkable, appreciating his intellectual curiosity and desire to improve his lot in life. The sisters pass along advice from Henry to the effect that Leonard must leave his post, because the insurance company he works for is supposedly heading for bankruptcy. Leonard takes the advice and quits, but has to settle for a job paying much less, which he eventually loses altogether due to downsizing of its business. Helen is later enraged to learn that Henry's advice was wrong; Leonard's first employer had been perfectly sound but won't reemploy him.

Months later, Henry and Margaret host the wedding of his daughter Evie at his Shropshire estate. Margaret is shocked when Helen arrives with Jacky and Leonard Bast, whom she has found living in poverty. Considering Henry responsible for their plight, Helen demands that he help them. However, Jacky becomes drunk at the reception, and when she sees Henry she recognizes and exposes him as a former lover from years ago. Henry is embarrassed and ashamed to have been revealed as an adulterer in front of Margaret, but she forgives him and agrees to send the Basts away. After the wedding, Helen, upset with Margaret's decision to marry a man she loathes, prepares to leave for Germany, but not before giving in to her attraction for Leonard by having sex with him while out boating.

Fearing that the Basts will be penniless, Helen sends instruction from Germany to her donnish brother, Tibby, to make over £5000 of her own money to Leonard. Leonard returns the cheque uncashed, refusing to accept the money through pride.

Margaret and Henry marry, with the pair arranging to use Howards End as storage for Margaret's and her siblings' belongings. After months of hearing from Helen only through postcards, Margaret grows concerned. When Aunt Juley falls ill, Helen returns to England to visit her, but when she receives word that her aunt has recovered, avoids seeing Margaret or any of her family.

Fearing that Helen is mentally unstable, Margaret lures her to Howards End to collect her belongings, only to turn up herself with Henry and a doctor. However, on first glance she realizes that Helen is heavily pregnant. Helen insists on returning to Germany to raise her baby alone, but asks that she be allowed to stay the night at Howards End before she leaves. When Margaret requests this from Henry, he stubbornly refuses and the couple bicker.

The next day, Leonard, still living unhappily in poverty with Jacky, leaves London and travels to Howards End to visit the Schlegel sisters. When he arrives he finds Helen and Margaret, as well as Henry's brutish eldest son, Charles. Charles quickly realizes that Leonard is the baby's father, and begins assaulting him for "dishonoring" Helen.

In his rage, Charles beats Leonard with the flat of a sword, and Leonard grabs onto a bookcase for support. The bookcase collapses on him, which causes Leonard to have a heart attack and die.

Margaret tells Henry that she is leaving him to help Helen raise her baby, and Henry breaks down, telling her the police inquest will charge Charles with manslaughter.

A year later, Paul, Evie, and Charles's wife, Dolly, gather at Howards End. Henry and Margaret are still together and Helen and her young son live with them. Henry, who is not looking well, tells the others that upon his death, Margaret will inherit Howards End and leave it to her nephew. Margaret wants none of Henry's money, which will be split among his children. Dolly points out the irony of Margaret's inheriting the house, revealing Mrs. Wilcox's dying wish to leave it to Margaret. She overhears this and Henry tells Margaret he did what he thought was right. She says nothing.




Merchant-Ivory encountered difficulty securing funding for Howards End, the budget of which stood at $8 million. This was considerably larger than that of Maurice and A Room with a View, which led to trouble in raising capital in the UK and the United States. Orion Pictures, the film's distributor, was on the verge of bankruptcy and only contributed a small amount to the overall budget.[5] A solution presented itself when Merchant Ivory sought funding through an intermediary in Japan, where the previous Forster adaptations, particularly Maurice, had been very successful. Eventually Japanese companies including the Sumitomo Corporation, Japan Satellite Broadcasting, and the Imagica Corporation provided the bulk of the film's financing. The distribution problem would be solved when the heads of Orion Classics departed the company for Sony Pictures, creating the entirely new division of Sony Pictures Classics. Howards End was the first title distributed by this new division.[6]


Anthony Hopkins accepted the part of Henry Wilcox after reading the script, passed to him by a young woman who was helping edit Slaves of New York and The Silence of the Lambs simultaneously in the same building. Phoebe Nicholls, Joely Richardson, Miranda Richardson, and Tilda Swinton were all considered for the part of Margaret Schlegel before Emma Thompson accepted the role. James Ivory was unaware of Emma Thompson before she was recommended to him by Simon Callow, who made a small cameo as the music lecturer in the concert scene.[7] Jemma Redgrave (Evie Wilcox), who played the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave's character (Ruth Wilcox), is her niece off-screen. Samuel West, who played Leonard Bast, is the son of Prunella Scales, who played Aunt Juley.

According to James Ivory, although Vanessa Redgrave was his preferred choice for the role of Ruth Wilcox, her participation was uncertain until the last moment, because she was committed to other projects and it took some time to negotiate an acceptable salary.[7][8] When she did agree to play the role of Mrs. Wilcox, she mistakenly believed she would be playing Margaret; only when she showed up on set to begin filming her scenes did the person in Hair and Makeup explain that she would be playing the elder Mrs. Wilcox.[7]


The score was composed by Richard Robbins, with elements of the score based on Percy Grainger's works "Bridal Lullaby" and "Mock Morris". The piano pieces were performed by the English concert pianist Martin Jones. Orchestral works were conducted by Harry Rabinowitz and performed by the English Chamber Orchestra.[9]

Also of note is a Tango composed and performed by the Teddy Peiro Tango Quintet,[10] and the music of Francis Poulenc, the Nocture #8. This theme is used while Ruth Wilcox walks at Howards End in the Evening Scene.[11]

Filming locations

Peppard Cottage in Rotherfield Peppard was used as filming location for "Howards End"
Peppard Cottage in Rotherfield Peppard was used as filming location for "Howards End"

Filming locations in London included a house in Victoria Square, which stood in for the Schlegel home, Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly, Simpson's-in-the-Strand restaurant, and St Pancras railway station.[12] Areas around the Admiralty Arch and in front of the Royal Exchange in the City of London were dressed to film traffic scenes of 1910 London. The scene where Margaret and Helen stroll with Henry in the evening was filmed on Chiswick Mall in Chiswick, London. The bank where Leonard encounters Helen is the lobby of the Baltic Exchange, 30 St. Mary Axe, London. Soon after filming the building was bombed and destroyed by the IRA. The Rosewood London on High Holborn, which was then the Pearl Assurance Building, represented the Porphyrion Fire Insurance Company.[12]

The quadrangle of the Founder's Building at Royal Holloway, University of London stood in for the hospital where Margaret visits Mrs. Wilcox. The "Howards End" house in the countryside is Peppard Cottage in Rotherfield Peppard, Oxfordshire. At the time it was owned by an antique silver dealer with whom production designer Luciana Arrighi was acquainted. The bluebell wood where Leonard strolls in his dream, as well as Dolly and Charles' house, were filmed nearby.[13] Henry's country house, Honiton, was actually Brampton Bryan Hall in Herefordshire, near the Welsh border.[14] Bewdley railway station on the historic Severn Valley Railway featured as Hilton station.[15]


Critical reception

The film received massive critical acclaim. On 5 June 2005, Roger Ebert included it on his list of "Great Movies".[16] Leonard Maltin awarded the film 4 stars out of 4, and called the film "Extraordinarily good on every level."[17] Dave Kehr of The Chicago Tribune gave a mixed review while reporting that the film "provides more than enough in the way of production values to keep its primary audience entertained. An audible gasp went up at a recent sneak preview over the film's re-creation of a Christmas-bedecked Harrod's of the turn of the century; the movie, like the store, knows how to put its merchandise on display."[18]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 94% of 65 reviews are positive for the film, and the average rating is 8.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A superbly-mounted adaptation of E.M. Forster's tale of British class tension, with exceptional performances all round, Howards End ranks among the best of Merchant-Ivory's work."[19] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 89 out of 100, based on 10 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[20] American audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B" on a scale of A+ to F.[21]

According to the website Box Office Mojo, the total gross of the film stands at $26.3 million.[22]

In 2016, the film was selected for screening as part of the Cannes Classics section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival,[23] and was released theatrically after restoration on 26 August 2016.[24]

Howards End was placed on more top ten lists than any other film in 1992, edging out The Player and Unforgiven. It was placed on 82 of the 106 film critics polled.[25]

Home media

The Criterion Collection released Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film on 3 November 2009, which have since gone out of print. The release was unfortunately subject to a bronzing issue which would discolor the disc bronze and render it unplayable, due to a pressing issue at the factory, though not every disc was subject to bronzing.[26] Cohen Film Collection released their own special edition Blu-ray on 6 December 2016.[27] Although this edition was labelled as remastered in 4k, it is a 1080p Blu Ray disc. However in 2018, Concord Video released a 4K Ultra HD Region Free edition in Germany.

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
20/20 Awards Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
Best Supporting Actress Helena Bonham Carter Nominated
Vanessa Redgrave Nominated
Best Screenplay – Adapted Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Best Art Direction Ian Whittaker Nominated
Best Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan and John Bright Nominated
Academy Awards[28] Best Picture Ismail Merchant Nominated
Best Director James Ivory Nominated
Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
Best Supporting Actress Vanessa Redgrave Nominated
Best Screenplay – Based on Material Previously Produced or Published Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Won
Best Art Direction Luciana Arrighi and Ian Whittaker Won
Best Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan and John Bright Nominated
Best Original Score Richard Robbins Nominated
American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
Argentine Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film James Ivory Nominated
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Emma Thompson Won
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Helena Bonham Carter Nominated
Vanessa Redgrave Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Best Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan and John Bright Nominated
Best Production Design Luciana Arrighi and Ian Whittaker Nominated
Bodil Awards[29] Best European Film James Ivory Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards[30] Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
British Academy Film Awards[31] Best Film Ismail Merchant and James Ivory Won
Best Direction James Ivory Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Emma Thompson Won
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Samuel West Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Helena Bonham Carter Nominated
Best Screenplay – Adapted Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Best Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan and John Bright Nominated
Best Editing Andrew Marcus Nominated
Best Make Up Artist Christine Beveridge Nominated
Best Production Design Luciana Arrighi Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers[32] Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film Tony Pierce-Roberts Won
Camerimage[33] Golden Frog Nominated
Cannes Film Festival[34] Palme d'Or James Ivory Nominated
45th Anniversary Prize Won
César Awards[35] Best Foreign Film Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[36] Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Film James Ivory Nominated
Best Foreign Actor Anthony Hopkins Nominated
Best Foreign Actress Emma Thompson Won[a]
Directors Guild of America Awards[37] Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures James Ivory Nominated
Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Film Won
Best Actress Emma Thompson (also for Peter's Friends) Won
Golden Camera Best International Actress Vanessa Redgrave (also for Young Catherine) Won
Golden Globe Awards[38] Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Emma Thompson Won
Best Director – Motion Picture James Ivory Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Guild of German Art House Cinemas Awards Best Foreign Film James Ivory Won
Independent Spirit Awards[39] Best Foreign Film Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards[40] Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
London Film Critics Circle Awards British Film of the Year Won
British Actress of the Year Emma Thompson Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[41] Best Actress Won
Nastro d'Argento Best Foreign Director James Ivory Nominated
Best Production Design Luciana Arrighi Won
National Board of Review Awards[42] Best Film Won
Top Ten Films Won
Best Director James Ivory Won
Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards[43] Best Actress Won
Best Supporting Actress Vanessa Redgrave 3rd Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[44] Best Film Runner-up
Best Director James Ivory Runner-up
Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
Political Film Society Awards Democracy Nominated
Producers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Ismail Merchant Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards[45] Best Picture Won
Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
USC Scripter Awards[46] Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (screenwriter);
E.M. Forster (author)
Writers Guild of America Awards[47] Best Screenplay – Based on Material Previously Produced or Published Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated


  1. ^ "British Council Film: Howards End". British Council. 28 April 2016. UK, Japan, US coproduction
  2. ^ a b "HOWARDS END". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  3. ^ "HOWARDS END - Festival de Cannes". Festival de Cannes. 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Merchant Ivory Productions Budget vs US Gross 1986-96". Screen International. 13 September 1996. p. 19.
  5. ^ Building Howards End (dvd). Criterion Collection. 2005.
  6. ^ "Sony Pictures Classics - About Us".
  7. ^ a b c Film Society of Lincoln Center (28 July 2016). 'Howards End' Q&A James Ivory. Archived from the original on 11 December 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  8. ^ Howards End Commentary by Ismail Merchant & James Ivory (dvd). Criterion Collection. 2005.
  9. ^ Soundtrack Information /Track Listing, accessed 2 January 2022
  10. ^ Biography Teddy Peiro, accessed 2 January 2022
  11. ^ Piano Music of Francis Poulenc Vol #1 Nocturne #8
  12. ^ a b Pym, John (1995). Merchant Ivory's English Landscape: Rooms, Views and Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. Harry N. Abram. p. 93. ISBN 978-0810942752.
  13. ^ "Howards End". The Castles and Manor Houses of Cinema's Greatest Period Films. Architectural Digest. January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  14. ^ Country Life (19 March 2009). "Interview, Edward Harley". Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  15. ^ "Howards End film locations". Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (5 June 2005). "Howards End (1992)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  17. ^ Martin, Leonard (2015). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. Signet Books. p. 653. ISBN 978-0-451-46849-9.
  18. ^ Kehr, Dave (1 May 1992). "Home with a View". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  19. ^ "Howards End". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  20. ^ "Howards End". Metacritic. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  21. ^ "HOWARDS END (1993) B". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 20 December 2018.
  22. ^ "Howards End". Box Office Mojo.
  23. ^ "Cannes Classics 2016". Cannes Film Festival. 20 April 2016. Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  24. ^ McNary, Dave (17 June 2016). "Restored 'Howards End' to Be Released in Theaters". Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  25. ^ "106 Doesn't Add up". 24 January 1993.
  26. ^ "Howards End Blu-ray". Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  27. ^ "Howards End Blu-ray Release Date December 6, 2016".
  28. ^ "The 65th Academy Awards (1993) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Archived from the original on 9 November 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  29. ^ "1993". Bodilprisen (in Danish). 19 October 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  30. ^ "BSFC Winners: 1990s". Boston Society of Film Critics. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  31. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1993". BAFTA. 1993. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  32. ^ "Best Cinematography in Feature Film" (PDF). Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  33. ^ "CAMERIMAGE 1993". Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  34. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Howards End". Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  35. ^ "The 1993 Caesars Ceremony". César Awards. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  36. ^ "1988-2013 Award Winner Archives". Chicago Film Critics Association. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  37. ^ "45th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  38. ^ "Howards End – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  39. ^ "36 Years of Nominees and Winners" (PDF). Independent Spirit Awards. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  40. ^ "KCFCC Award Winners – 1990-99". Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  41. ^ "The Annual 18th Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  42. ^ "1992 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  43. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  44. ^ "1992 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  45. ^ "1992 SEFA Awards". Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  46. ^ "Past Scripter Awards". USC Scripter Award. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  47. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on 5 December 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2010.