MovieChat Forums > The Karen Carpenter Story (1989) Discussion > This is not the Karen Carpenter Story

This is not the Karen Carpenter Story

I just watched ... again. This is the story of a disease with a backdrop of super stardom. How can you tell the story of Karen Carpenter, one of the most gifted vocalists of our time AND Richard Carpenter who was one of the most gifted producers of our time without talking showing any passion for the music they created. They walk through this movie as if music was something they HAD to do. You don;t get that good without a lot of practice and a lot of passion. You don't have anorexia without the strength and courage of a lion. These were two people that were driven. The actors that portray them in this movie walk through their story as if it was a bad soap opera ... no glory, no happiness. AND ... it suggests that Mom was to blame for everything. It was a great idea but so poorly executed. Karen and Richard deserve better.


Richard was executive producer on the film, and Cynthia Gibb wore many of Karen's actual clothing in the film.

I've heard that Richard had final script approval. He certainly had more than just a small say in it, I'm sure. My feeling it was due to his censorship of some of the more sensitive things from his and Karen's lives that leave you feeling that this film is lacking passion.

Many of the cast members had odd experiences during the filming of this picture. Cynthia Gibb even said she felt Karen's presence heavily. I'm sure that's a factor as well, not to mention the time constraints of a made for TV movie that has to break for commercials.



Karen Carpenter came off like a flake in that movie. Karen was not a flake. She was a driven profession and her speaking voice was only matched by her singing voice. She was incredibly musical. Another thing is that people with eating disorders are extremely strong people and very controlling themselves. Karen was an extremely complicated woman filled with talent, passion, love and a few problems and although her problems were bad they weren't that bad. He death was very uncommon and rare considering her health. The movie was about a troubled singer who was torn apart mentally and physically by anorexia, not Karen carpenter. Her brother came out openly against this project many times.

Macklin Crew


A lot of what you said is very true.


A fan asked Richard this:

“Were you pleased with the outcome of the 1989 ‘The Karen Carpenter Story’?”

“Heavens no, I was not pleased. It’s not a good film. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was agreeing to cooperate in the making of it. It brings to mind the old adage 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions'.“

I actually really liked the film and thought it was very moving. I agree that there was so much left out of the film, I mean The Carpenters' career spanned more than a decade. It's hard to put decades of a person's life in a 90 minute movie though. At least he was a co-producer on this film. you can only do so much. I can understand how disappointed Richard must have been, how his family was portrayed on screen in the final product might have been completely different than how they acted in real life, and the film only highlights certain phases of their lives.

This article is very interesting: arpenter

"If I'd had my druthers, it wouldn't have been made at all."

Those words come from Richard Carpenter, who spent most of his professional life as half of that 1970s pop music phenomenon known as The Carpenters. He is talking about "The Karen Carpenter Story," a CBS made-for-TV movie for next season based on the short life of his sister Karen, who died at 32 after a 7-year battle with anorexia nervosa.

"Look, I've been ambivalent on this from the word go," Carpenter said tersely, watching Cynthia Gibb as Karen and Mitchell Anderson as Richard re-enact a Carpenters concert rehearsal during filming at downtown Los Angeles' stately Embassy Theater.

It comes as no surprise that Richard--or any member of the Carpenter family--might have reservations about such a movie, particularly in light of the ghoulish tabloid reports that followed Karen's death. What does come as a surprise is that Carpenter is co-executive producer of the film.

So why \o7 is\f7 "The Karen Carpenter Story" being made--with Carpenter at the helm, no less?

"If it has to be made, we're the people who should be making it," Carpenter said. "When Jerry Weintraub (the other co-executive producer of the movie) proposed the idea to me, his reasoning was that for all celebrities, there are parts of our private lives that are matters of public record. And somebody else could do this without our blessing. It (Karen's story) wouldn't have been as well told (by someone else), it just wouldn't."

And though five years have passed since Karen's well-publicized death in 1983, Carpenter said he believes someone else \o7 would \f7 have made her life into a film eventually, without the family's permission.

The CBS movie, filmed at the Carpenter family home in Downey and at other Los Angeles-area locations, was written by Barry Morrow and Cynthia A. Cherback and was directed by Joseph Sargent. Peter Michael Goetz and Louise Fletcher portray Karen and Richard's parents, Harold and Agnes Carpenter.

As added evidence that his motives are not exploitative, Carpenter, 42, who continued to release albums and produce other artists for A & M Records after Karen's death, said he has turned down numerous offers from publishers to write a book.

"What would it have accomplished?" he asked philosophically. "Maybe in 20 or 30 years . . . ."

Carpenter did, however, write about his sister's death for People magazine in 1983 for the same reason he said he is producing the movie: to set the record straight.

"There were certain things that I was reading that really weren't true, and I wanted it to be stated as accurately as it could be, but without being able to button up exactly what happened," he said.

So too with the movie. "I'm not for a second going to say this is exactly the way it happened," he said, "because it's not. (But) I think that, considering the genre we're dealing with, it came off as well as it can."

Carpenter wrote in his People article (accompanied by a cover photo of a skeletal Karen smiling) that his sister's collapse from heart failure at the family home in Downey came as a shock. She had recently returned to California after hospitalization and months of therapy in New York and had seemed in good spirits. Her weight, which had dropped as low as 80 pounds, had risen to about 110, not much below normal for her 5-foot-4 frame.

Carpenter denied in the article that any of the factors that some journalists suggested had caused Karen's illness--her brief and unhappy marriage, career pressure or her family--could be held responsible.

Carpenter believes the script succeeds in not pointing an accusatory finger at anyone in particular, even though family disagreements figure into the story.

"I don't have an answer for it; I never will. No one does," he said. "It would be easy to pin it on her career; it would be easy to pin it on our mother. To me, (blaming Karen's illness on mother Agnes) gets back to the old psychoanalyst's routine that whatever's ailing the patient, it's the mother's fault. And I don't think it's all that black and white and all that easy. I know it isn't in Karen's case."

One revelation in the script that never came out in any of the publicity at the time of Karen's death: Richard Carpenter developed a dependency on Quaaludes when urged by Agnes to take them to relax and sleep better. He went into treatment and kicked the habit in 1979. Although the script clearly depicts Agnes offering him the drugs, Carpenter does not believe the movie lays blame on his mother for that, either.

"I don't think it's all that bad, really," Carpenter said. "No one's an angel; I've never met one. My mother is a damn good woman, and like all of us she has her fortes and her shortcomings."