Little Darlings

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For the novel by Jacqueline Wilson, see Little Darlings (novel). For the jazz/pop standard, see Lil' Darlin'.
Little Darlings
Little Darlings film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ronald F. Maxwell
Produced by Stephen J. Friedman
Screenplay by Kimi Peck
Dalene Young
Story by Kimi Peck
Starring Tatum O'Neal
Kristy McNichol
Armand Assante
Matt Dillon
Maggie Blye
Nicolas Coster
Marianne Gordon
Music by Charles Fox
Cinematography Beda Batka
Edited by Pembroke J. Herring
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
March 21, 1980 (US)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $36,326,249

Little Darlings is a 1980 American teen comedy-drama film starring Tatum O'Neal and Kristy McNichol and featuring Armand Assante and Matt Dillon. It was directed by Ronald F. Maxwell.[1] The screenplay was written by Kimi Peck and Dalene Young and the original music score was composed by Charles Fox. The film was marketed with the tagline "Don't let the title fool you," a reference to a scene in which Randy comments on Angel's name, to which Angel replies, "Don't let the name fool you."

The film was notable for having a contemporary pop soundtrack, with music by artists like Blondie, Rickie Lee Jones, Supertramp, The Cars, and Iain Matthews. The original video release — on blue box VHS and laserdisc — kept the soundtrack intact, however, many songs in the film such as Supertramp's "School", John Lennon's "Oh My Love" and The Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow" were removed from the second round of home releases — VHS red box — due to licensing issues, and were replaced with sound-alikes. As of 2010, the film has not been released on DVD, but was briefly available for digital video rental on iTunes and Amazon with the original soundtrack. It has since been removed from both services. Turner Classic Movies aired the original theatrical version, letterboxed, and with all original music and credits intact, on January 7, 2012. Lionsgate has announced the release of the film on DVD, but has yet to be released.

Critic Roger Ebert said of the film that it "somehow does succeed in treating the awesome and scary subject of sexual initiation with some of the dignity it deserves."[2]


A group of teenage girls from the Atlanta area go to summer camp, and two of them make a bet as to which one will lose her virginity first. The two girls then choose "targets", or guys they want to be the ones they lose their virginity with. Unbeknownst to the adults, all the girls in camp bet money on the contest and divide into two "teams," each rooting for and egging on either Ferris (Tatum O'Neal) or Angel (Kristy McNichol). At the same time, the girls engage in typical teenage behavior, such as food fights and other activities.

The girls involved in the contest are opposites and rivals: cynical, suspicious and streetwise poor girl Angel Bright and naive, prissy and romantic rich girl Ferris Whitney. Both girls discover that "it" is not what they thought it was.

Ferris thinks of love as romance and wine and flowers. She imagines herself swept off her feet by Gary, the camp counselor. When she lies about "making love" with him, the biological side manifests itself in others' reactions to what she said she did. She discovers that, at least in the context of a camp counselor having sex with a fifteen-year-old, sex can be hurtful and its consequences ugly. Her attitude is now more grounded in reality; she has become more like street-wise Angel.

Angel approaches the same issue from the other side. She views winning the contest as a mechanical, purely biological function, "no big deal" as her mother has told her. But when she tries to do "it" with Randy (Matt Dillon) in the boathouse, she becomes confused by feelings she did not know she had. She behaves very defensively, as if Randy is trying to force her to have sex. Randy, who could take it or leave it, is put off by her recalcitrance and leaves. She then must admit to herself that sex is not a mechanical function she can cynically turn on and off, but is something she deeply wants to do.

Angel reconnects with Randy later with a much improved attitude, one closer to Ferris'. This time she pays attention not to clothing removal procedures and condoms, but to her feelings for Randy.

In the end, Ferris discovers that love involves sex, which is not always romantic, and Angel discovers that sex involves love, which deeply touches her and transforms her soul. They both grow up that summer.


Theme music[edit]

The song "Shake It" by Ian Matthews is on the soundtrack at the beginning of the movie.


Little Darlings was filmed in Hard Labor Creek State Park, 50 miles east of Atlanta during the summer of 1979. The signs and props built for the film remain for visitors to see. The gas station men's room (condom) scene was filmed in downtown Rutledge, the town nearest the park. The meeting place for the busses at the beginning and ending were filmed in a parking lot near the offices of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and you can see the old Omni Coliseum in the background including in the last scene of the movie. When Ferris is driven into town, they pass the Swan House, indicating that her family lives in Buckhead, a wealthy part of town to the north of the city.

TV version[edit]

An alternate version of Little Darlings was made for TV which had all the sex-related scenes and dialogue removed, giving the impression that, instead of trying to lose their virginity, Angel and Ferris were merely trying to make a guy fall in love with them. The deleted scenes were replaced with leftover footage not seen in the film version, including a scene in which Angel rescues Ferris from drowning in the lake. Some additional music was also used in this version. The director has stated that he had no participation in this version and disassociates himself with it.

Awards and honors[edit]

Nominee: Second Best Young Actress in a Major Motion Picture - Kristy McNichol


  1. ^ New York Times, Little Darlings (1980) Overview
  2. ^ Little Darlings By Roger Ebert,, March 25, 1980

External links[edit]