Posts Tagged ‘1980’
Before the days of HANNAH MONTANNA, all of the JONAS BROTHERS, OLSEN SiSTERS and DAKOTA FANNiNGS combined there reigned two other child stars extraordinaire: TATUM O’NEAL and KRiSTY McNiCHOL. In the dawn of such television shows like ‘THE PARTRiDGE FAMiLY’, ‘THE WALTONS’ and ‘THE BRADY BUNCH’ – these two were at the peak of their careers in a time when teen stars were still expected to hold on to a certain amount of wholesomeness. At the age of 10, TATUM O’NEAL was the youngest person to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1973’s ‘PAPER MOON’, solidifying her as Hollywood royalty, while KRiSTY McNiCHOL became a mega teen star herself, best known for her role as Leticia “Buddy” Lawrence on the television drama series ‘FAMiLY’ (1976-1980). McNiCHOL won several Emmy’s in her role as “Buddy” and was plastered all over TEEN BEAT Magazines with her feathery hair and tom-boy demeanor.
As evidence has shown over the years, transitioning from child star into bonnafied superstar status is not easy, to say the least. Off the top of my head MACAULAY CULKiN, ‘WHALE RIDER’s KEiSHA CASTLE-HUGHES and ‘THE SiXTH SENSE’S’ HALEY JOEL OSMONT come to mind as examples of some child star names who struggled to make such transition. Even the big names we still do see within the entertainment world today like HiLARY DUFF and CHRiSTiNA RiCCi, appear more geared toward branding them as fashionistas as opposed to keeping us abreast on their actual whereabouts in the movie/television industry.
But I digress – so let’s switch gears and go back to the summer of 1980; when a little summer camp film named ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’ was released. ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’ was a star vehicle designed to pit these two equally prominent starlets (by 1980 O’NEAL was 18 years old, McNiCHOL 19) together in holy teen matrimony. To be clear, ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’ never did live up to the hype, critically or commercially but it was a lot of fun and what it did accomplish was the creation of a nostalgic sort of coming-of-age film; entertaining and sunny.
In a nutshell let me set the scene: its summer 1980 and young girls all over the country gather at CAMP LiTTLE WOLF somewhere in a particular picturesque region of America. The girls come from vastly different backgrounds, but two of them quickly stand out: The tough-talking feisty Angel (McNiCHOL), who is never seen without a cigarette in her mouth and the prissy Ferris (O’NEAL), who obviously comes from money, as we can tell at the films start where her father drops her off in a long white limousine. We’re barely minutes into the film before these two girls are at each others throats. It’s brilliant.
Of course with so many teen girls gathered in the same place, the talk quickly turns to sex. Outspoken vixen Cinder (KRiSTA ERRiCKSON), reveals that she “hit a home run” at fourteen (you know, not just first, second or whatever base). She quickly exposes both Angel and Ferris as virgins and proposes a contest: Which one of them can lose her virginity first? Yes – this is essentially the basis for the rest of the movie – and as the tagline of ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’ warns: “Don’t let the title fool you”. The rest of the girls quickly get in on the bet and soon the game is on! Ferris – on advice from her experienced mentor Cinder (the resident camp BiTCH) – concentrates her attention on the camp’s coach Gary (ARMANDE ASSANTE, playing the older father figure type), meanwhile Angel manages to zero in on a young boy, Randy (MATT DiLLON), from a nearby boys camp.
During the coming weeks the girls will learn some important lessons about love and sex, and when the camp is over one of them will emerge victoriously as a woman. Whatever that really means. Sometimes it does sort of feel like ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’ is as much an opportunity to showcase O’NEAL and McNiCHOL for the young, nubile girls they were.
I won’t spoil the ending – but I will say that as much as I adore TATUM O’NEAL for her work on ‘PAPER MOON’, it’s really McNiCHOL who steals this film. As Angel, McNiCHOL is a fascinating, complex young girl who seems to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. She may act tough, smoke cigarettes and kick boys in the crotch but underneath all of that bark is a little girl lost – someone fragile and intense. Not entirely unlike KRiSTY McNiCHOL the real person – who would eventually go on to retire from the acting profession after being diagnosed with bi-polar depression. I’ve often thought that this struggle that McNiCHOL would battle much later on in her career actually peeks its way into ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’. The best evidence of this comes from the scenes between she and MATT DiLLON. Angel’s heartfelt struggle to give herself away sexually to someone she doesn’t ‘love’ is played by McNiCHOL with a fragile tenderness that feels tinged with the struggle any normal teen would feel in reality – perhaps even herself at that time.
In addition to these lovely girls, ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’ does also boast some other familiar faces worth noting. As I mentioned – MATT DiLLON plays Angel’s love interest Randy. Looking so young and boyish you kind of have to forget how slimy his role was in ‘WiLD THiNGS’ (1998) or ‘THERE’S SOMETHiNG ABOUT MARY’ (1998). The chemistry between DiLLON and McNiCHOL was by far stronger than that of anyone else in the movie. In fact, ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’ could have focused entirely on this love interest and it might have even worked better than the final product. Another very familiar face – ‘SEX AND THE CiTY’S’ very own Miranda Hobbs aka CYNTHiA NiXON makes her film debut in ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’. Miranda err.. .. sorry – Sunshine as she plays in ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’ can be seen amongst the core group of girls at camp as well – this time playing the resident hippy child as opposed to the New York City lawyer she embodies on SATC.
Ultimately what I love about ‘LiTTLE DARLiNGS’ is that it’s a cheeky, albeit awkward attempt to make a serious film about teen identity and sexuality. It misses a lot of marks, but it is light, harmless and fun.
Check out the following Youtube links for trailers to “LiTTLE DARLiNGS’ as well as a photo montage.
By the time ROBERT REDFORD’S ORDiNARY PEOPLE came out in 1980, MARY TYLER MOORE had already established herself as a dynamic performer. I always loved MTM – that smile, the hair, and her effervescent energy. With THE DiCK VAN DYKE SHOW and THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, MARY proved she is a very funny woman who can share the laughs with an equally talented cast of people like DiCK VAN DYKE, BETTY WHiTE, ED ASNER, GAViN MaCLEOD etc. Clearly it was always easy to love MARY TYLER MOORE.
However, what makes MTM even more cool to me is that as adept as she was at comedy and sharing the laughter – she was also a formidable dramatic actress, and no other film displayed this talent as much as ORDiNARY PEOPLE – a film in which MTM was polar opposite to the smile and warmth that MARY TYLER MOORE exuded. ORDiNARY PEOPLE concerns the disintegration of an upper-middle class family in Lake Forest, Illinois, following the death of the older son in a boating accident. The screenplay by ALViN SARGENT was based upon the 1976 novel of the same same, by JUDiTH GUEST.
The film was a critical and commercial success, winning that year’s Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as nominations for TiMOTHY HUTTON and of course, MARY TYLER MOORE as Best Actress. Although she didn’t take the prize that year – she certainly proved herself as an actress with dimension.
Essentially, ORDiNARY PEOPLE is about The Jarretts; an upper-middle class family trying to return to normal life after the death of one teenage son and the attempted suicide of their surviving son, Conrad (TiMOTHY HUTTON). Conrad, who has recently returned home from a four-month stay in a psychiatric hospital, feels alienated from his friends and family and begins seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Berger (JUDD HiRSCH). Berger learns that Conrad was involved in a sailing accident in which his older brother, Buck (whom everyone idolized), died. Conrad now has to deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt. It’s not the lightweight stuff that was THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. It’s heavy and hardly full of laughs.
Then you have Conrad’s father, Calvin (DONALD SUTHERLAND - who I love), awkwardly struggling to connect with his surviving son and wife. Conrad’s mother, Beth (MTM) struggles to comprehend her loss, maintain her composure, and focuses on what her family once was, and cannot be again. Beth appears to have loved her elder son more (though perhaps more what he represented?), and as a result has now grown cold toward Conrad. She is fixated with maintaining the appearance of perfection and normalcy. MTM is quite amazing in this sense – completely embodying Beth in this role – without even the slightest hint of the MTM we had all grown to know and love up until that point. Conrad works with Dr. Berger, and learns to try to deal with, rather than control his emotions. He starts dating Jeannine (ELiZABETH McGOVERN), and begins to regain a sense of optimism. He suffers a setback when he learns that Karen, a friend of his from the psychiatric hospital (DiNAH MANOFF – if anyone remembers her as Marty in GREASE, or T.v.’s EMPTY NEST) committed suicide. Conrad struggles to communicate and re-establish a normal relationship with his parents and schoolmates. He cannot seem to allow anyone, especially Beth, to get close – and it’s within these parts of ORDiNARY PEOPLE we are able to appreciate again just how MTM dominates the screen as a cold and unforgiving mother.
I will not spoil how ORDiNARY PEOPLE concludes, although many of you already know. I will say that it has always left an impression on me – in the best possible sense.
Today I salute not only a fantastic film, but an actress who epitomized her role. MTM wasn’t afraid to be cold – and to shed that which made her so lovable to instead play the part of a mother who couldn’t help but alienate her son – which is an aspect of the role that drew MTM to the film. Please check the following youtube links – for the ORDiNARY PEOPLE trailer as well as an in-depth interview with MTM herself where she reflects on her involvement with the film.
I’m really not the biggest BROOKE SHEiLDS fan per se – so one would have to wonder why I blog about her at all. To clarify, I mean I’m not particularly a fan of her as an actress or even a leading HOLLYWOOD STARLET, if you will. She’s never made a lasting impression on me despite having seen ENDLESS LOVE, THE BLUE LAGOON, or even SUDDENLY SUSAN, arguably her biggest contribution to pop culture history (if you don’t count her famous CALViN KLiNE adds).
On the other hand, being a child of the 1980′s I do recall BROOKE SHEiLDS as a public figure; in particular her 1978 appearance in LOUiS MALLE’S PRETTY BABY, a movie in which she played a child who lived in a brothel. SHEiLDS was 11 years old at the time and filming nude scenes, raising all sorts of questions about child pornography and subsequently leading to a lot of controversy. Like I said, the controversy didn’t necessarily make PRETTY BABY a good film, but it made SHEiLDS a household name; her LOLiTA-esque beauty undeniable. This is something I find intriguing about her; she is a prime example of child-like innocence being turned into a commodity. Even being a gay boy I couldn’t help but look at her myself and see her for what she was – a beautiful, sexual and exploited little girl. I found the images of her career at this point in time often depicted her as this nubile creature – beautiful yet somehow suggestive and inappropriate…. I mean I knew how to separate sex from the freedom of expression that is photography, film and art – but I also knew that it raised valid questions about the sexualization of children for ‘art’.
I find BROOKE SHEiLDS was far more interesting as a child than she is an an adult. Even doing research on her for the sake of this blog I kept thinking – wow, how come you were more intriguing to me as a child than you are currently today? Perhaps part of it is that, from the time she was 11 months old and modeling (iVORY SOAP adds), she was promoted, even by her mother and former manager TERi SHEiLDS in very provocative ways. At 14 she was the youngest fashion model ever to appear on the cover of the top fashion publication VOGUE, and soon after in controversial print and TV adds for CALViN KLEiN jeans. The TV add included the famous tagline “You want to know what comes between me and my CALViNS? Nothing.” This alone helped catapult KLEiN’S carreer to super-designer status, yet again providing an example how how her youthful sexuality was used to make money, with or without her full comprehension or consent.
By the age of 16, SHEiLDS had become one of the most recognizable faces in the world, because of her dual career as a provocative fashion model and controversial child actress. TiME magazine reported, in its February 9, 1981 cover story, that her day rate as a model was $10,000. In 1983, SHEiLDS appeared on the cover of Paris VOGUE, the October and November issues of American VOGUE and the December edition of Italian VOGUE. During that period SHEiLDS became a regular at New York City’s nightclub STUDiO 54 as well – yet like I said, never quite found that acting role that would have the public believing fully that she was more than a ‘pretty baby’. Finally, in 2009, a naked picture of BROOKE SHEiLDS, taken when she was 10, was originally included in RiCHARD PRiNCE’S ‘SPiRiTUAL AMERiCA’ exhibit but was ironically enough removed by police after being deemed a “magnet” for pedophiles. Yet again, it serves as a reminder of not only SHEiLD’S history of such controversy but of the topic of child pornography and the sexualization of children for art .
Check out a scene from PRETTY BABY as well the infamous CALViN KLEiN jeans add & selected BROOKE SHEiLDS photographs.
There are a couple of factors that make LADY SiNGS THE BLUES (1972) and THE ROSE (1980) stand out among the many films past that have used music and tragedy to shape their characters stories. Both revolve around the lives of professional women; each struggling in their respective personal and professional lives. The heroines in LADY SiNGS THE BLUES and THE ROSE are played by real-life singers-turned-actresses who surprised audiences and critics with these debut roles. DiANA ROSS and BETTE MiDLER went on to receive Best Actress nominations, continuing the singer-turned-actress trend.
In LADY SiNGS THE BLUES, DiANA ROSS surprised everyone by trading in the sequin BOB MACKiE gowns and cooing vocals she had gained success with as lead singer of THE SUPREMES. Instead Ross was ready to leave Motown and opt for a more serious reputation as an actress. LADY SiNGS THE BLUES was the perfect vehicle for Ross at the time, who prepared herself to play the real life BiLLiE HOLLiDAY by submerging herself in to HOLLiDAY’s music and life story. Apparently the work paid off well. It’s impressive to watch Ross strip herself of her own glamour girl exterior and wear the notoriously difficult life of BiLLiE HOLLiDAY so effortlessly. And I do love a good transformation. For example, LADY SiNGS THE BLUES opens with HOLLiDAY’S 1947 arrest for narcotics and subsequent admission into an asylum; all the while strung out on heroin. It’s a far cry from HOLLiDAY the performer. Yet, just as Ross was able get raw for the camera, she was equally adept at singing HOLLiDAY’s music and becoming the star. Listen to Ross sing My Man/Mon Homme and you have a different yet equally impressive interpretation of HOLLiDAY’s original. All at once you get a beautiful dose of song and self-destruction combined – thanks to the troubled life that was BiLLiE’s, and the talent that was DiANA ROSS.
Similarly to how Ross lost herself in Billie Holliday’s world of self-destruction and blues, BETTE MiDLER got lost in her own tragic world of showbiz and excess as a rock star on the verge of a nervous breakdown in 1980’s THE ROSE.
By the late 1970’s MiDLER had already established herself a name in the music business. With THE ROSE, MiDLER propelled herself further into the limelight. As The Rose, MiDLER dove deep into the life of a tired rock n’ roll superstar ready to quit the crazy life, that is after one final show in her hometown. And not just any show – this show was meant to be the iN-YOUR-FACE show to all those in her hometown who had stepped on The Rose in her youth. This show was meant to be a vindication yet from the moment we meet The Rose and follow her tumultuous time on and off the stage, you do have to wonder – will she or won’t she get out alive? The Rose is unafraid to self destruct on stage. For example, in The Rose’s final hours, and ironically enough in her final hometown show, she gives the ultimate performance with Stay With Me Baby. Wailing and screeching through every desperate line, its as though she is clinging to any last chance at hope to make it out alive and find some peace of mind. There’s formidable strength in her pain and suffering. Another strong example of how you can combine a tragic heroine with a song and create a beautiful cinematic moment.
Like Ross, MiDLER received a Best Actress nomination but never took it home. Check out these videos below for more on LADY SiNGS THE BLUES and THE ROSE.