Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Kitsch classics: For The Boys, 1991

FOR THE BOYS. Bette Midler's dramedy (comedy drama) vanity production from 1991 was not  a success at the time. I remember 4 other people in the cinema when I saw it back then. It was widely panned as being absolutely dreadful but it bears a re-view now. As I remembered, the 1940s and 1960s sequences are brilliantly done by director Mary Rydell - who also handled Bette's debut in THE ROSE.

Bette Midler gives the brassiest, sassiest performance of her career as Dixie Leonard, a USO singer whose electrifying stage presence, and flair for outrageous comedy, captivates troops and civilians alike. Teamed up with America's beloved song and dance man Eddie Sparks (James Caan) the whole world becomes Dixie's stage through very different wars and 50 years of music and memories, laughter and tears. All of it - For the Boys. 

I like this a lot actually, its another superior soap - Bette runs the gamut, matched by Caan (so good in LADY IN A CAGE, FUNNY GIRL, THE GODFATHER etc) as the devious Bob Hope-like entertainer always going overseas to entertain the troops, with some cheesecake in tow. We go through 1940s wartime England, and then Korea in the Fifties, to the brilliant Vietnam sequence in the Sixties (great music by Cream and others) as Eddie and Dixie entertain while backstage we see how sleazy and petty he is as she grows weary of having to support him, as they do tv sitoms and become a great double act. His treachery in getting rid of her uncle (George Segal - sadly underused) during that witch-hunt era of the early 50s and his getting close to her son, after her husband is killed, also rankle. Now they are wanted together again for a tv celebration - will she bury the hatchet and show up? 
What is hilarious here is their makeup for them as old, under layers of latex and doddering around - which seemed to go on forever when seen in the cinema. She actually looks like one of Matt Lucas's LITTLE BRITAIN creations (thats a reference for UK viewers). Rydell brilliantly stages the 1940s sequence with all those men and lots of lights as Dixie wows them with that delicious number "Stuff like That There" and "P.S. I Love You"; then she also sings a terrific "Come Rain or Come Shine" to her husband, when they surprise her with him when in France.  By the time of the Vietnam era our two leads don't talk to each other, but a reunion with her son before all hell breaks loose is well handled too, after she delivers a poignant version of the Beatles' "In My Life". Its really a nice panorama of American showbiz during the last 50 years or so an ambitious project for Midler, who co-produced. Its certainly worth  re-look now.


  1. If the whole movie was as good as the first fifteen minutes it could have been a classic. Caan character is such a jerk that you can't feel any sympathy for him but whenever Bette performs the movie is wonderful. It has nice parts scattered throughout but good God how they didn't realize how awful the old age makeup was and how much it damaged the film I just don't understand.

  2. Yes it was weird seeing them so old which seemed to go on for half an hour or so, and it drained all the fun and life from the film, after that terrific first half.