For the Boys
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|For the Boys|
|Directed by||Mark Rydell|
|Produced by||Bonnie Bruckheimer|
|Music by||Dave Grusin|
Gerald B. Greenberg (as Jerry Greenberg)|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
For the Boys is a 1991 American comedy-drama musical film which traces the life of Dixie Leonard, a 1940s actress/singer who teams up with Eddie Sparks, a famous performer, to entertain American troops.
As in The Rose, Midler's first starring role and also a blockbuster quasi-biopic, the film is fiction. However, actress/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.
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, Christopher Rydell, Arye Gross, Norman Fell and (a then-unknown) Vince Vaughn in his film debut, playing a Cheering Soldier in a Crowd.
For her performance, Bette Midler was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. The movie 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", "Every Road Leads Back To You" and the Beatles' "In My Life". Many of these have lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
In the early 1990s, retired entertainer Dixie Leonard (Midler) has a commitment to attend a Hollywood ceremony being televised live to honor her and her longtime show-biz partner Eddie Sparks (Caan). 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 really 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 (Segal) 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, she continues working with him back in the U.S. to support herself and her son. Eddie is married with daughters, but treats Dixie's son as if he were his own.
As the Korean War breaks out, Eddie announces on stage that he and Dixie will be performing for the US troops there, without having told Dixie of his plans first. In revenge, Dixie announces that Eddie made a $100,000 donation to the Red Cross. Reluctantly, she travels to Korea with him. On their way to the camp, they encounter a unit of soldiers which 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 (Rydell) has grown up to be a soldier like his father, and is deployed to Vietnam. Dixie eventually agrees to perform there for Christmas with Eddie. On their way to the camp, the performers are warned of the camp possibly getting 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 which 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 manage to seek shelter, but Danny is killed right in front of them, which they both mourn.
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.
- Bette Midler as Dixie Leonard
- James Caan as Eddie Sparks
- George Segal as Art Silver
- Patrick O'Neal as Shephard
- Christopher Rydell as Danny Leonard
- Arye Gross as Jeff Brooks, the young man who comes to escort Dixie
- Norman Fell as Sam Schiff
- Rosemary Murphy as Luanna Trott, a journalist
- Bud Yorkin as Phil
- Dori Brenner as Loretta, Dixie's friend on the road
- Jack Sheldon as Wally Fields
- Karen Martin as Victoria Lee, the dancer
- Shannon Wilcox as Margaret Sparks, Eddie's wife
- Michael Greene as Maj. Gen. Scott
- Melissa Manchester as Corrine
- Steven Kampmann as Stan Newman
Many of the U.S. Marines from Camp Pendleton, California were going to be used as extras in some scenes. Unfortunately, Operation Desert Shield started and many of them had to be shipped to the Middle East. Producers had to hire clean-cut civilians to fill the ranks.
Awards and nominations
For the Boys: Man of the Year (William Knudson) Man of the Year Runner Up (Geoffrey Berger)
The soundtrack album is composed largely of standards popular from the era, although several were written after the time period the film takes place.
- "Billy-a-Dick" (Bette Midler)
- "Stuff Like That There" (Bette Midler)
- "P.S. I Love You" (Bette Midler)
- "The Girl Friend of the Whirling Dervish" (music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer)
- "I Remember You/Dixie's Dream" (Bette Midler and James Caan)
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (Bette Midler and James Caan)
- "Dreamland" (score by Dave Grusin, Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman)
- "Vickie and Mr. Valves" (written by Lenny La Croix)
- "For All We Know" (Bette Midler)
- "Come Rain or Come Shine" (Bette Midler)
- "In My Life" (Bette Midler)
- "I Remember You" (Bette Midler)
- "Every Road Leads Back to You" (Gary Le Mel, Bette Midler)
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 #78 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #15 on the Adult Contemporary chart, while "In My Life" reached #20 on the AC chart while failing to register at all on the pop side.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, where it currently holds a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 14 reviews.
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. However the film continues to enjoy cult status among aficionados of musicals, bio-pics and events where one or more wars serve as a backdrop.
- Weiss, Hedy (August 10, 2011). "Marriott stages musical version of 'For the Boys'". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
- "For the Boys". Marriott Theatre. Archived from the original on November 16, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2011.