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Daniel (1983)

R | | Drama | 10 February 1984 (UK)
5:49 | Trailer
Daniel Isaacson attempts to determine the true complicity of his parents Paul and Rochelle Isaacson, who were executed for espionage in the 1950s.


Sidney Lumet


E.L. Doctorow (novel), E.L. Doctorow (screenplay)



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Timothy Hutton ... Daniel Isaacson
Mandy Patinkin ... Paul Isaacson
Lindsay Crouse ... Rochelle Isaacson
Edward Asner ... Jacob Ascher
Ellen Barkin ... Phyllis Isaacson
Julie Bovasso ... Frieda Stein
Tovah Feldshuh ... Linda Mindish
Joseph Leon Joseph Leon ... Selig Mindish
Carmen Mathews ... Mrs. Ascher
Norman Parker ... East Bronx Children's Shelter Director
Amanda Plummer ... Susan Isaacson
Lee Richardson ... Reporter
John Rubinstein ... Robert Lewin
Colin Stinton ... Dale
Maria Tucci ... Lise Lewin


The fictionalized story of Daniel, the son of Paul and Rochelle Isaacson, who were executed as Soviet spies in the 1950s. As a graduate student in New York in the 1960s, Daniel is involved in the antiwar protest movement and contrasts his experiences to the memory of his parents and his belief that they were wrongfully convicted. Written by Michael C. Berch <mcb@postmodern.com>

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Release Date:

10 February 1984 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Daniel, Passado Sem Resgate See more »


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Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


A very early feature film role for both actress Ellen Barkin and actress Amanda Plummer. See more »

Alternate Versions

NBC edited 33 minutes from this film for its 1987 network television premiere. See more »


Featured in American Masters: By Sidney Lumet (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

A Radical Tradition
19 February 2010 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

In filming E.L. Doctorow's fictionalized account of the Rosenberg case and its implications for the children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Sidney Lumet brought a good vision to the finished product. Lumet grew up in those times and had I'm sure peripheral associations with the kind of people that would have gone the same way as Julius and Ethel or in the case of the film and novel, Paul and Rochelle Isaacson. Lumet's love of New York also helps a lot in this film.

The fictionalized Rosenbergs are played by Mandy Patinkin and Lindsay Crouse. We get the idealism of the Rosenbergs, the history of persecution they felt, the empathy for other minorities. It should never be forgotten that it was Communists for their own reasons, but still were the first ones to take up black civil rights as a group cause. Radical politics and all, Patinkin and Crouse give their children a fine set of universal values to live by.

The real Rosenberg sons were adopted by another couple and to this day still try and claim a good legacy for their parents. In the film the title role of Daniel is played by Timothy Hutton and his sister is played by Ellen Barkin. Years after the executions of their parents they have continued the radical traditions of the parents, but they're into the protest politics of the sixties, involved in a mass movement the parents only dreamed about, but hardly under the auspices of the Communist Party USA.

Barkin is caught up in the moment, but Hutton wants to clear his parent's names. In real life it was Ethel Rosenberg's brother David Greenglass who fingered both of them as Communist spies. Greenglass was assigned as a sergeant to Los Alamos and purportedly did the actual stealing of the atomic bomb design. In other words for the kids it was a beloved uncle.

They should have kept that part of the story, but I'm willing to bet that E.L. Doctorow did not want to be sued by David Greenglass who is still alive now, so a family friend and hanger-on with the Communists played by Joseph Leon is the informer.

The highlight of the film is the confrontation scene with Hutton and Tovah Feldshuh playing the daughter of Joseph Leon. The growing up experiences of both are laid out naked and bare, the acting is some of the best both these players have ever done.

In real life Julius Rosenberg was guilty of being a ringleader of a nest of Communist spies. Ethel Rosenberg's guilt is far more problematic, the closest you could come to here is Mrs. Mary Surratt who ran the boardinghouse where Booth and his fellow conspirators met in the Lincoln assassination plot. Her son was part of the ring, but he fled the country so the country in the ill tempered mood it was in, countenanced the hanging of the mother instead. Ethel was probably supportive of her husband's activities as a dutiful wife and nothing more.

What is also clear is that the US government threw out the rulebook when it came to due process in the prosecution of the case. It was the times, you had to have been there.

Although it's not the real story, no more than Billy Bathgate was about Dutch Schultz, E.L. Doctorow and Sidney Lumet weave a very fine tale about some troubled times.

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