For the Boys

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For the Boys
For the Boys (1991 film) poster.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed byMark Rydell
Screenplay byMarshall Brickman
Neal Jimenez
Lindy Laub
Story byNeal Jimenez
Lindy Laub
Produced byBette Midler
Bonnie Bruckheimer
Margaret South
CinematographyStephen Goldblatt
Edited byJerry Greenberg
Jere Huggins
Music byDave Grusin
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 22, 1991 (1991-11-22)
Running time
138 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million
Box office$23.2 million

For the Boys is a 1991 American musical comedy-drama film that traces the life of Dixie Leonard, a 1940s actress/singer who teams up with Eddie Sparks, a famous performer, to entertain American troops.

The film was adapted by Marshall Brickman, Neal Jimenez, and Lindy Laub from a story by Jimenez and Laub. It was directed by Mark Rydell and the original music score was composed by Dave Grusin. It stars Bette Midler, James Caan, George Segal, Patrick O'Neal, Arye Gross, and Norman Fell. A then-unknown Vince Vaughn made his film debut as a cheering soldier in a crowd.

As in The Rose, Midler's first starring role and also a large budget quasi-biopic, the film is fiction. However, actress and singer Martha Raye believed that Midler's character was based on many widely known facts about her life and career with the USO and pursued legal action based on that assumption. After a protracted legal engagement, Raye ultimately lost the case. The Caan character was generally believed to be based on Bob Hope.

For her performance, Midler won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. The soundtrack features covers of many classic songs, including "Come Rain or Come Shine", "Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Frank Loesser, "P.S. I Love You", "I Remember You" and the Beatles' "In My Life". Five of the 13 songs have lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The soundtrack's first single, "Every Road Leads Back to You," was an original written by Diane Warren.

Despite a mixed critical reception and box office failure, the film was adapted for the musical stage in 2011 by Aaron Thielen and Terry James and debuted at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Illinois.[1][2]


In the early 1990s, retired entertainer Dixie Leonard has a commitment to attend a Hollywood ceremony being televised live to honor her and her longtime show-biz partner Eddie Sparks. When a young man from the TV show comes to pick her up, Dixie balks and explains what brought Eddie and her together, as well as what drove them apart. The majority of the film is an extended flashback.

Dixie's story begins during World War II when she receives an offer to entertain the troops overseas as part of Eddie's act. Dixie is an instant hit with the boys in uniform, but Eddie wants her gone, ostensibly because he finds her kind of humor too coarse, but in actuality because she stole the show by topping his jokes. Dixie doesn't care for him much, either, but fellow entertainers and her joke-writer uncle Art persuade her to stay.

Eddie wins her over, particularly by reuniting Dixie with her soldier husband on stage. However, later in the war, Dixie's husband dies in battle.

Despite her distaste for Eddie, Dixie continues working with him back in the States...mostly to support herself and her son Danny. Eddie is married with daughters, yet he becomes a proud surrogate father to Danny.

As the Korean War breaks out, Eddie announces on stage that he and Dixie will be performing for the U.S. troops there, without having told Dixie of his plans first. In revenge, Dixie announces that Eddie made a $100,000 donation ($1,127,000 today) to the Red Cross. Reluctantly, she travels to Korea with him. On their way to the camp, they encounter a unit of soldiers that has been ambushed. Dixie cares for a wounded soldier but cannot save him: he is pronounced dead on arrival at the field hospital. Dixie and Eddie appear to spend the night together. At the Christmas dinner, a fight ensues after Art announces to everybody that Eddie has fired him for being a communist sympathizer.

In the meantime, Danny has grown up to be a soldier like his father and is deployed to Vietnam. At Art's suggestion, Dixie eventually agrees to perform there for Christmas with Eddie. On their way to the camp, the performers are warned of the camp possibly being attacked, because of which they are to be flown out immediately after their performance. Before going on stage, Dixie and Eddie meet Danny, who reveals to them the barbarity that is spreading among his comrades. The show begins with the performance of a dancer, who starts getting harassed by the soldiers, and only Eddie's intervention prevents the situation from getting out of control. Dixie comes on stage and makes some cynical remarks about the soldiers, then sings “In My Life”. While she is still on stage, the camp is attacked in a mortar barrage. Dixie and Eddie find shelter, but Danny is killed right in front of them; both mourn deeply for him.

Dixie has not forgiven Eddie for his part in all this, and they have another heated argument in the dressing room. Eddie goes out on stage alone. But, at the last minute, because he speaks of their joint loss in Vietnam, Dixie joins him on stage for one last song and dance, before appearing to accept their mutual love for one another.



The film received mixed reviews from critics, holding a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 16 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10.[3] John Simon of the National Review called For the Boys "mindless".[4]

Produced on a $40 million budget, For the Boys was a commercial disappointment upon its original release, returning just $23 million in box office receipts worldwide.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[5] Best Actress Bette Midler Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[6] Best Actress Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[7] Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Won
Best Original Score – Motion Picture Dave Grusin Nominated


The soundtrack album is composed largely of popular standards from the era, although several were written after the time period in which the film takes place.

Track Listing Information based on the album's Liner Notes[8]

  1. "Billy-a-Dick"
    Performed by Bette Midler
    with Orchestra arranged & conducted by Marc Shaiman
    Music composed by Hoagy Carmichael
    Lyrics written by Paul Francis Webster
    Background Vocals: Patty Darcy
  2. "Stuff Like That There"
    Performed by Bette Midler with Orchestra conducted by Billy May
    Written by Jay Livingston & Ray Evans
    Arranged by Billy May & Arif Mardin
  3. "P.S. I Love You"
    Performed by Bette Midler
    Music composed by Gordon Jenkins
    Lyrics written by Johnny Mercer
    Rhythm arranged by Dave Grusin
    Strings arranged by Arif Mardin
  4. "The Girl Friend of the Whirling Dervish"
    Orchestra arranged & conducted by Marc Shaiman
    Music composed by Harry Warren
    Lyrics written by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer
    Background Vocals arranged by Marc Shaiman, Morgan Ames & Lorraine Feather
  5. "I Remember You/Dixie's Dream"
    Performed by Bette Midler and James Caan
    Arranged by Marc Shaiman
    "I Remember You" Music composed by Victor Schertzinger
    "I Remember You" Lyrics written by Johnny Mercer
    "Dixie's Dream" Written by Marc Shaiman
  6. "Baby, It's Cold Outside"
    Performed by Bette Midler and James Caan
    Written by Frank Loesser
    Rhythm arranged by Marc Shaiman
    Strings arranged by Arif Mardin
  7. "Dreamland"
    Performed by Bette Midler
    Music composed and arranged by Dave Grusin
    Lyrics written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman
  8. "Vickie and Mr. Valves"
    Trumpet Solo performed by Jack Sheldon
    Orchestra arranged & conducted by Marty Paich
    Written by Lenny Lacroix
  9. "For All We Know"
    Performed by Bette Midler with Orchestra conducted by Ralph Burns
    Music composed by J. Fred Coots
    Lyrics written by Sam Lewis
  10. "Come Rain or Come Shine"
    Performed by Bette Midler
    Music composed by Harold Arlen
    Lyrics written by Johnny Mercer
    Rhythm arranged by Marc Shaiman
    Strings and Woodwinds arranged by Arif Mardin
  11. "In My Life"
    Performed by Bette Midler
    Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
    Music arranged by Robbie Buchanan
    Strings and Background Vocals arranged by Arif Mardin
    Guitar: Steve Lukather
    Music programmed by Robbie Buchanan, Joe Mardin & Eric Persing
  12. "I Remember You"
    Performed by Bette Midler with Orchestra conducted by Arif Mardin
    Music composed by Victor Schertzinger
    Lyrics written by Johnny Mercer
    Background Vocals arranged by Arif Mardin
  13. "Every Road Leads Back to You"
    Performed by Bette Midler
    Written by Diane Warren
    Arranged by Joe Mardin
    Drums: Jeff Porcaro
    Guitar: John Goux

Two Bette Midler singles were issued from the soundtrack, although neither performed particularly well on the U.S. singles charts. "Every Road Leads Back to You" peaked at No. 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 15 on the Adult Contemporary chart, while "In My Life" reached No. 20 on the Adult Contemporary chart while failing to register at all on the pop side.


  1. ^ Hetrick, Adam (August 26, 2011). "Stage Musical For the Boys, With Michele Ragusa and Timothy Gulan, Opens at Marriott Theatre". Playbill. Archived from the original on December 1, 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-01.
  2. ^ "For the Boys". Marriott Theatre. Archived from the original on November 16, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  3. ^ For the Boys at Rotten Tomatoes, accessed 30 December 2022.
  4. ^ Simon, John (2005). John Simon on Film: Criticism 1982-2001. Applause Books. p. 326.
  5. ^ "The 64th Academy Awards (1992) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  6. ^ "1988-2013 Award Winner Archives". Chicago Film Critics Association. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  7. ^ "For the Boys – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  8. ^ Midler, Bette. “For The Boys: Music from the Motion Picture” (Album Notes). Atlantic. 1991.

External links[edit]