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Only the Lonely
Theatrical release poster
Directed byChris Columbus
Written byChris Columbus
Produced byJohn Hughes
Hunt Lowry
CinematographyJulio Macat
Edited byRaja Gosnell
Peter Teschner
Music byMaurice Jarre
Roy Orbison
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • May 24, 1991 (1991-05-24)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$25.1 million[1]

Only the Lonely is a 1991 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Chris Columbus, produced by John Hughes, and stars John Candy, Maureen O'Hara (in her final film role), Ally Sheedy, Anthony Quinn, and James Belushi. The film is a comedic take on the premise established in the 1953 television play Marty and the 1955 film Marty, while the title comes from the song "Only the Lonely" by Roy Orbison. The story follows a bachelor police officer who is looking to settle down and start a family with a mortuary beautician, while coping with his controlling mother who wants him all to herself.

The film was met with mixed reviews.


Chicago police officer Danny Muldoon is a 38-year-old lonely bachelor living with his controlling mother Rose. Danny has been responsible for his family since his father died, working to put his brother Patrick through law school and feeling responsible for caring for Rose, often envisioning her dying in horrible ways if he is not around to protect her. Patrick, despite having a wife and children, repeatedly tries to convince Danny to remain single and relocate to Florida with Rose, while her neighbor Nick Acropolis makes continuous attempts to date her.

One night, two men bring a corpse into a bar while Danny is there, drawing the attention of the local funeral director and his highly-introverted daughter, Theresa Luna. Danny is immediately smitten with Theresa, taking her on several dates, during which she becomes increasingly confident. However, the relationship struggles because of Danny's guilt about not being around for his mother and Rose's interference out of concern that his relationship will leave her alone. When Rose finally meets Theresa for dinner, she makes derogatory comments about her appearance and Sicilian/Polish heritage. Theresa stands up for herself for the first time by chastising Rose, and berates Danny for failing to do so on her behalf. After returning home, Danny scolds his mother for the cruel remarks she makes to others under the guise of "telling it like it is", reminding her that the only time he heard his father cry was after she harmed his career by making rude remarks to a prospective client.

Danny decides to marry Theresa, proposing to her from the bucket of a Chicago fire truck outside her bedroom window. During fitting for his wedding suit, Patrick again tries to convince Danny to move to Florida, arguing that Danny deserves better than Theresa. Danny rebuffs him, stating that Patrick only wants to ensure Danny is available to care for Rose to assuage Patrick's own guilt about not doing so. Patrick asks that Danny ensure he truly loves Theresa and is not settling just to not be alone. The night before the wedding, Rose gives her approval to the relationship. However, Theresa becomes upset when Danny interrupts their time together following the rehearsal dinner to call and check on Rose, rationalizing that he will never truly prioritize their relationship over his mother. On the day of the wedding, neither Danny or Theresa turn up and their relationship ends.

Returning to his single life, Danny makes plans to move to Florida with Rose. When an elderly friend named Doyle passes away suddenly, leaving behind no family and few friends, Danny realizes he does not want to end up the same way. He goes to see Theresa but walks away before they can talk. On the day they are scheduled to move to Florida, Danny tells Rose he will not be accompanying her because he wants to be with Theresa. Though broken-hearted, Rose tells Danny to find Theresa, marry her, and have a family. Aboard the plane to Florida, Rose learns that Danny gave his ticket to Nick, and the pair hold hands.

Danny learns that Theresa has left for New York City by train and has his friend at the railroad service stop and deboard the train at a station outside Chicago. There, Danny apologizes to Theresa, proclaiming his love for her and that he intends to move with her to New York City and join the NYPD. Though Theresa admits her love for him, her worries about Rose remain, but Danny assures her that she is his priority now. Danny experiences one final vision of Rose and Nick defeating a group of terrorists aboard the plane, accepting that she can take care of herself. Danny and Theresa board the train for New York to start their life together.




Chris Columbus wrote the part of Rose specifically for Maureen O'Hara, but did not know that she had retired from acting and was living in the Virgin Islands. Columbus contacted O'Hara's younger brother Charles B. Fitzsimons, a producer and actor in the film industry, to ask him to send O'Hara a copy of the script, which he did, telling her, "This you do!". O'Hara read the script and loved it. She was reported to have replied to Fitzsimons, "This I do!". However, she would not commit until she met co-star John Candy.

Co-star Jim Belushi recounted this story: On the set of Only the Lonely, the producers stuck Maureen O’Hara in a tiny trailer. When John Candy complained on her behalf, he was told the budget was being spent on the picture, not on accommodations for old movie stars. Candy responded by giving O'Hara his trailer and going without one until the studio finally caved in and got a trailer for each actor.

John Hughes co-produced the film. This movie marked Macaulay Culkin's third film with Hughes and Candy (after Home Alone and Uncle Buck). Other than New Port South, it was the only film Hughes produced that he did not write.


Most of the film was shot on location in Chicago. Danny and Rose Muldoon's house is located at the intersection of Clark Street and Roscoe Street, as is the front façade of O'Neils' Pub. The inside of the pub was shot at Emmett's Pub, a Chicago landmark that was also used in Uncle Buck, another film with John Candy. At the request of producer John Hughes (a Chicagoan and big fan of the Chicago White Sox) and sports fan John Candy, the baseball stadium where Danny and Theresa's first date took place was arranged to be set at old Comiskey Park (home of the Chicago White Sox until 1990). Hughes hastily arranged the filming, as the stadium was slated to be torn down imminently. There is also a shot showing old Comiskey Park and the new Guaranteed Rate Field, the current home of the White Sox, under construction next door. Comiskey Park was located at the corner of 35th St. and Shields Ave., on the South Side of Chicago. The scene where Danny and Theresa kiss along Lake Michigan is located at Lincoln Park, Chicago, and the dinner scene was shot at One Ambassador East, also known as the Ambassador East Hotel, located at 1301 North State Parkway in Chicago's Gold Coast. The church scenes were filmed at St. John Cantius Church in West Town on 825 N Carpenter St.

The final scene with Danny and Theresa was shot at the Amtrak station in Niles, Michigan, which was renamed to Willoughby and decorated with Christmas lights for the filming.[2]


Roy Orbison's song "Only the Lonely" is played in its entirety in the movie's opening scene. "Someone Like You" by Van Morrison is played during one of Danny and Theresa's dates. "Dreams to Remember" by Etta James is played, also in its entirety. Also, "Pachelbel's Canon" is played briefly during the wedding scene. The film's original music was composed and conducted by Maurice Jarre.

The soundtrack album was released by Varèse Sarabande, featuring 28 minutes of Jarre's score and the songs "Only the Lonely" and "Someone Like You."


Box office

See also: 1991 in film

Only the Lonely was released in the United States and Canada on May 24, 1991. During its opening weekend it grossed a total of $6 million from 1,521 theaters—an average of $3,943 per theater—making it the fifth-highest grossing film of the weekend, behind the debuting Thelma & Louise ($6.1 million) and ahead of the debuting Drop Dead Fred ($3.6 million).[3] In its second weekend, Only the Lonely retained the number five position with a $3.6 million gross, placing it behind Thelma & Louise ($4.2 million) and ahead of Hudson Hawk ($3.1 million), also in its second week of release.[4] It fell to the number eight position in its third weekend with a $2.1 million gross, again behind Thelma & Louise ($3 million) and ahead of Hudson Hawk ($1.5 million).[5] Only the Lonely left the top-ten highest-grossing films after four weeks.[6]

In total, Only the Lonely grossed $21.1 million, making it the 60th-highest-grossing film of 1991.[6][7]

Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 65% based on reviews from 23 critics, with an average rating of 6/10.[8] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100 based on 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[10]

Entertainment Weekly gave it a grade C.[11]


  1. ^ "Only the Lonely (1991) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  2. ^ "Niles, Michigan (NLS)". Amtrak. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  3. ^ "Domestic 1991 Weekend 21 May 24-27, 1991 - Memorial Day weekend (US)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on December 16, 2023. Retrieved January 19, 2024.
  4. ^ "Domestic 1991 Weekend 22 May 31-June 2, 1991". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on December 16, 2023. Retrieved January 19, 2024.
  5. ^ "Domestic 1991 Weekend 23 June 7-9, 1991". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on December 16, 2023. Retrieved January 19, 2024.
  6. ^ a b "Only the Lonely". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on December 15, 2023. Retrieved January 19, 2024.
  7. ^ "Domestic Box Office For 1991". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on December 15, 2023. Retrieved January 19, 2024.
  8. ^ "Only the Lonely (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  9. ^ "Only the Lonely Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  10. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  11. ^ "Only the Lonely".