Little Darlings

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Little Darlings
Little Darlings film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRonald F. Maxwell
Produced byStephen J. Friedman
Screenplay byKimi Peck
Dalene Young
Story byKimi Peck
StarringTatum O'Neal
Kristy McNichol
Armand Assante
Matt Dillon
Maggie Blye
Nicolas Coster
Marianne Gordon
Music byCharles Fox
CinematographyBeda Batka
Edited byPembroke J. Herring
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
March 21, 1980 (US)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
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."

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 Atlanta go to summer camp, and, unbeknownst to the adults, two of them make a bet as to which one will lose her virginity first, with all the girls in camp betting money on the contest. The girls involved in the contest are opposites and rivals: cynical, suspicious and streetwise poor girl Angel Bright (played by Kristy McNichol) and naive, prissy and romantic rich girl Ferris Whitney (played by Tatum O’Neal). The rest of the girls divide into two "teams", each rooting for and egging on either Ferris or Angel. The two girls then choose "targets", or guys they want to be the ones they lose their virginity with. Both girls discover that sex is not what they thought it would be. At the same time, the girls engage in typical teenage behavior, such as food fights and other activities.

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. She discovers that, at least in the context of a camp counselor having sex with a fifteen-year-old, sex can be damaging and its consequences ugly. Her attitude is now more grounded in reality; she has become more like street-wise Angel.

Street-wise Angel approaches the same issue from the other side and learns the opposite lesson. She views winning the contest as a purely biological function, "no big deal" and "nothing," as her mother told her. But when she tries to do "it" with Randy in a boathouse, she becomes confused by scary feelings she did not know she had. She behaves defensively, like she doesn't want it. Randy, confused, is put off by her recalcitrance and leaves. Angel must then admit to herself that sex is not just a mechanical function she can cynically turn on and off. It involves feelings and caring. It's important, and something she deeply wants. As Randy leaves, she tearfully protests, "But I like you!"

She meets Randy a few days later with a much improved attitude--one closer to Ferris'. This time she pays attention, not to clothing removal and condoms, but to Randy and her feelings. From the novel: "All the fear and worry melted as they kissed. Soon she didn't know who was touching whom, only that it was wonderful and right and fine."[3]

Angel has sex, but doesn't tell the other girls, while Ferris remains a virgin and lies about it "We had chilled Chablis; and the darkness enveloped us.")

In the end, Ferris discovers that love involves the physical sex act, which is not necessarily romantic, and Angel discovers that sex involves love, which deeply touches her and transforms her soul.



The film was made by Stephen Friedman's King's Road Productions. Paramount agreed to provide $5.3 million to make it in exchange for $14.3 million to market and develop the film.[4]

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 the old Omni Coliseum can be seen 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.

Soundtrack and licensing issues[edit]

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 2019, the film has not been released on DVD or Blu-ray, but was briefly available for digital video rental on iTunes and Amazon with the original soundtrack. Currently it's been made available once again on Amazon's video service. 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, however it was later canceled.


The film made $19.4 million at the box office. It sold to television for $2.7 million and to ancillary markets (eg cable) for $1.2 million, meaning it made a profit of $3.8 million.[4]

TV version[edit]

Little Darlings was shown on television in a heavily edited version 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 engaged in competition simply to make a guy fall in love with them. The deleted scenes were replaced with alternate footage not seen in the theatrical version, including a scene in which Angel rescues Ferris from drowning in the lake during a thunderstorm. Some additional music was also used in this version. Director Ron Maxwell has stated that he had no participation in this TV version and does not approve of it.

Awards and honors[edit]

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


  1. ^ The New York Times, Little Darlings (1980) Overview
  2. ^ Little Darlings By Roger Ebert,, March 25, 1980
  3. ^ Pilcer, Sonya (1980). Little Darlings. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0345288943.
  4. ^ a b Moreland, Pamela (12 July 1981). "Loser at Box-Office, Often Lucrative on the Box: Pay TV, Videodiscs and In-Flight Film Deals Leading Investors to the Movies". Los Angeles Times. p. g1.

External links[edit]