For the Boys
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|For the Boys|
|Directed by||Mark Rydell|
|Produced by||Bonnie Bruckheimer|
|Written by||Marshall Brickman
|Music by||Dave Grusin|
|Edited by||Gerald B. Greenberg (as Jerry Greenberg)
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
For the Boys is a 1991 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 adaptations 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.
The two bickering performers go overseas twice more to entertain the troops in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. They endure the horrors of combat, the sin of temptation where they appeared to have slept together after seeing a soldier killed in action, the paranoia of McCarthyism and, ultimately, the death of Dixie's son in Vietnam (which occurs right in front of them when the show is attacked in a mortar barrage), which they both mourn.
Dixie has not forgiven Eddie for his part in all this. But, at the last minute, because he speaks of their joint loss in Vietnam, she consents to join 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
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 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 13 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. Retrieved October 13, 2011.[dead link]
- "For the Boys". Marriott Theatre. Archived from the original on November 16, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
- For the Boys at the Internet Movie Database
- For the Boys at Box Office Mojo
- For the Boys at AllMovie
- For the Boys at Rotten Tomatoes