Endless Love (1981 film)

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Endless Love
Endless love.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli
Produced by Keith Barish
Dyson Lovell
Screenplay by Judith Rascoe
Based on Endless Love
by Scott Spencer
Music by Lionel Richie
Jonathan Tunick
Cinematography David Watkin
Edited by Michael J. Sheridan
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
July 17, 1981 (1981-07-17)
Running time
116 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $32,492,674

Endless Love is a 1981 romantic drama film directed by Franco Zeffirelli starring Brooke Shields, Martin Hewitt, Tom Cruise in his film debut, and James Spader in his second film role. The screenplay by Judith Rascoe was adapted from the novel by Scott Spencer. The original music score was composed by Jonathan Tunick.

The film was a moderate box-office success, and its theme song, performed by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie and also called "Endless Love", became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and was the biggest-selling single in Ross' career. Billboard magazine chose it as "The Best Duet of All Time" in 2011, 30 years after its debut. It spent 9 weeks at #1 and received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for "Best Original Song", along with 5 Grammy nominations.


In suburban Chicago, teenagers Jade Butterfield (Brooke Shields) and David Axelrod (Martin Hewitt) fall in love after they are introduced by Jade's brother Keith (James Spader). Jade's family is known in their community for a bohemian lifestyle, allowing them to develop an all-consuming and passionate relationship; including allowing the two to make love in Jade's bedroom. In contrast to the openness of her family, David's home life is dull; his parents are wealthy political activists who are not actively involved in his life.

One night Jade's mother Ann (Shirley Knight) sneaks downstairs, and upon seeing Jade and David make love by the fireplace, starts living through them vicariously. Jade's father Hugh (Don Murray), however, watches the couple with increasing unease. Jade's nightly trysts begin negatively impacting her grades and her ability to sleep. She attempts to steal one of her father's prescription sleeping pills but is caught in the act. This is the last straw for Hugh and he insists David stop seeing Jade until the end of the school term in 30 days. Although David initially causes a scene, Ann gently coaxes him into agreeing, telling him not to let Hugh "do something he'll regret".

Back at school, David's friend Billy (Tom Cruise) tells him that when he was eight years old he tried burning a pile of newspapers and after he became scared, put the fire out, only to find his parents think he was a hero for saving the house from burning. Inspired by this story, David starts a fire on the Butterfields' front porch and walks away briefly but by the time he returns, the flame has spread too far. He rushes to warn the family but he is too late, the entire house is lost.

Following the trial, David is convicted of second-degree arson, sentenced to five years probation, sent to a mental hospital for evaluation, and is forbidden from ever going near Jade or her family again. Nevertheless, he continues to write daily, but his letters are not sent due to the court order to not contact Jade. His parents pull strings to have him released early, much to Hugh's chagrin. David receives his many letters upon his exit, and upon realizing why Jade never wrote back, decides to pursue her even though he knows full well that it will violate his parole.

In the meantime, following the loss of their home, the Butterfield family has moved from Chicago to Manhattan, and Ann and Hugh divorce. In Manhattan, Ann tries to seduce David, but he refuses which leaves her rather nonplussed. When Ann isn't looking, David thumbs through her address book to see where Jade is. On his way over, Hugh sees David on the street and while chasing him, is hit by a car and killed. Hugh's new wife Ingrid Orchester (Penelope Milford), catches up to the scene just in time to witness David flee.

Later, Jade goes to David's apartment to say goodbye but he pulls her back as she tries to leave, throwing her on the bed and forcefully holding her down until she admits she loves him, which she eventually does. Keith comes home to find the pair together again and angrily informs Jade that David is at fault for their father's death. Jade refuses to believe it at first but when David confirms it she becomes horrified and hides behind Keith, whom David then shoves out of the way in a desperate bid to grab her. Keith fights him off until the police arrive and arrest David.

Sentenced to prison, David seems doomed never to see Jade again. Jade tells her mother at her father's lakeside funeral that no one will ever love her the way David does, and Ann speaks her understanding and approval. The final scene shows David watching Jade walk towards him through his barred cell window.



Endless Love was the feature film debut for a number of actors, including Tom Cruise, Jami Gertz, and Jeff Marcus, and features very early appearances by James Spader, as the elder brother of Brooke Shields, and of a pre-Beverly Hills, 90210, Ian Ziering.

The film was shot on location in Chicago, New York City, and Long Island. The film is noted to have one of the most spectacular one-man stunt displays when Hugh Butterfield (Don Murray) gets hit by a car in New York.[citation needed] The stuntman does a high end-over-end flip in mid-air.

The MPAA initially rated Endless Love with an X rating. The film was re-edited to earn an R rating.[1]

Differences between the film and the novel[edit]

The novel and film differ in several respects. The novel begins with David burning down the Butterfields' house in 1967. The death of Hugh takes place near the end of the film, but only in the middle of the novel. After that, in the novel Jade and David reunite and live together in Vermont for several months before he is re-arrested. Then David is held in psychiatric hospitals for several years, during which time Jade marries and moves to Europe and David has sexual relationships with several other women. At the end of the novel, it is 1977 and David is released and living with an unnamed woman while Jade remains married and in Europe.


The soundtrack peaked at #9 on the Billboard Top 200 and was certified platinum. It also featured a second duet between Ross and Richie, "Dreaming of You," that received considerable airplay but was never released as a single.


The film was panned by numerous critics for poorly handling the source material as well as glorifying what audiences saw as an unhealthy, damaging relationship. Movie historian Leonard Maltin called it "a textbook example of how to do everything wrong in a literary adaptation ... Scott Spencer's deservedly-praised novel is thoroughly trashed."[2]

In 2014, Scott Spencer, the author of the novel on which the film was based, wrote, "I was frankly surprised that something so tepid and conventional could have been fashioned from my slightly unhinged novel about the glorious destructive violence of erotic obsession".[3] In 2014, Spencer described the film as a "botched" job and wrote that Franco Zeffirelli "egregiously and ridiculously misunderstood" the novel.[4]

Endless Love was a financial box office success. It sold 11.2 million tickets in the U.S. alone (the 22nd highest grossing film of 1981).

Awards and nominations[edit]

Winner: 1981 ASCAP Award, Lionel Richie, Endless Love
Nominee: 1982 Academy Award for Best Song, Lionel Richie, Endless Love
Winner: 1982 American Movie Award, Marquee Award, Lionel Richie, Endless Love
Nominee: 1982 Golden Globe Award, Best Original Song - Motion Picture, Endless Love
Nominee: Best Young Motion Picture Actor - Martin Hewitt
Nominee: Best Young Motion Picture Actress - Brooke Shields
Nominee: Worst Actress - Brooke Shields
Nominee: Worst Director - Franco Zeffirelli
Nominee: Worst New Star - Martin Hewitt
Nominee: Worst Picture - Dyson Lovell
Nominee: Worst Screenplay - Judith Rascoe
Nominee: Worst Supporting Actress - Shirley Knight

American Film Institute

Home media[edit]

The film was released in the United States on DVD (Region 1) for the first time on May 27, 2014.[7] The film is also available from video streaming services such as Amazon Instant Video.[8]


In August 2012, Universal Pictures announced plans for the remake of the 1981 film. Country Strong‍‍ '​‍s Shana Feste is slated to direct the remake.[9] Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde have the roles played by Hewitt and Shields in the original.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Weekly World News. July 14, 1981. p. 46. ... She's never been turned on by a kiss... 
  2. ^ Google Books: Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide, "Endless Love" (1981)
  3. ^ Spencer, Scott (September 10, 2013). "Spoiler Alert". The Paris Review (Paris). Retrieved June 22, 2014. 
  4. ^ Appelo, Tim (February 14, 2014). "'Endless Love' Author Trashes Remake: 'Stick With the Paperback'". The Hollywood Reporter (Hollywood). Retrieved June 22, 2014. 
  5. ^ AFI'S 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees
  6. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved October 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ Amazon: Endless Love (1981)
  8. ^ Amazon Instant Video: Endless Love Retrieved October 21, 2013
  9. ^ Universal, Scott Stuber Working On ‘Endless Love’ Remake August 2, 2012
  10. ^ 'Endless Love' Remake: Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde Cast as Leads March 22, 2013

External links[edit]