Outrageous Fortune (film)

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Outrageous Fortune
Theatrical release poster
Directed byArthur Hiller
Written byLeslie Dixon
Produced byTed Field
Robert W. Cort
CinematographyDavid M. Walsh
Edited byTom Rolf
Music byAlan Silvestri
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • January 30, 1987 (1987-01-30)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$52.9 million

Outrageous Fortune is a 1987 American comedy film written by Leslie Dixon, directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Shelley Long and Bette Midler. The title is taken from Shakespeare's Hamlet ("...the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune..."). It is the tenth film of Touchstone Pictures.

The film was successful at the box office, and Midler was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and won an American Comedy Award for Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role).


Refined but struggling actress Lauren Ames (Shelley Long) finally has a chance to study with the great theatre professor Stanislav Korzenowski (Robert Prosky). Sandy Brozinsky (Bette Midler), a brash, loud actress, decides through happenstance to also study with Korzenowski. Lauren and Sandy take an instant dislike to each other when they first meet in Korzenowski's class, but unknown to each other, both women begin dating the same man, Michael Santers (Peter Coyote).

When Michael "dies" in a gas explosion at a local store, Lauren and Sandy figure out that Michael may have faked his death, and they form an uneasy alliance to follow leads across the country to find him and force him to choose between them. During their quest, Lauren and Sandy are chased by CIA agents, as well as Russian assassins who are also after Michael.

When Lauren and Sandy finally find Michael, he tries to kill both of them and they are forced to run until they are captured by the federal agents. Lauren and Sandy learn that Michael is a double agent for the CIA who has now gone rogue, also working for the KGB, and that he has stolen a toxin that could destroy huge areas of nature with just a few drops. The CIA wants to find Michael to force him to give back the toxin bio-weapon, while the Russian assassins are men cheated by the double agent who works for Korzenowski, their theatre professor.

The chase leads to rural New Mexico when Lauren is taken hostage by Michael and his rogue associates who force a trade with the CIA for the toxin, and with Korzenowski with the stolen cash he intended to give to Michael. When the trade goes awry, Lauren gets away with both the money and the toxin, with Michael in hot pursuit. Cornered on a series of mountain tops, Lauren uses her former ballet skills to evade him, culminating in a grand jeté, as pursuing Michael slips and is presumably killed on the rocks far below while the money is lost to Native Americans. The women form a lasting friendship, and go on to perform Hamlet together, with Lauren in the title role and Sandy as Ophelia.


Both Shelley Long and Bette Midler were promised top billing when they signed to do the film; however, neither was willing to give up top billing to the other. To compromise, Long received top billing in advertising west of the Mississippi River, and Midler received the honor in the east. This agreement extended through the original LaserDisc and VHS release of the title, with discs shipped to retailers in the west featuring Shelley Long and retailers on the east receiving discs featuring Bette Midler.[1]

On an episode of Oprah, Midler remarked that working with Long was "rough," echoing similar sentiments amongst Long's bosses on her hit TV series Cheers.[2]

Suzanne Somers has said that Michael Eisner offered her a three-movie deal with Disney which included Outrageous Fortune, but she turned it down. She would have played Bette Midler's part.[3]


  • Newark, New Jersey, United States[4]
  • Laguna Pueblos, New Mexico, United States
  • Los Angeles, California, United States
  • New York City, New York, United States
  • Los Cerrillos, New Mexico, United States
  • Castaic, California, United States
  • Isleta, New Mexico, United States
  • Abiquiu, New Mexico, United States


The film received mixed reviews from critics.[5][6][7] On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 56% of 25 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5.3/10.[8] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 55 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "mixed or average" reviews. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore were more positive, giving the film an average grade of "A−" on a scale of A+ to F.[9]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2 stars out of 4, saying that the movie is "painstakingly crafted as a product," and focused on assembling "standard cliches" and expensive stunts rather than exploring the humanity of its characters.[10] Gene Siskel gave it 2 and a half stars, praising Bette Midler for providing "big laughs" but saying she "is the only reason to watch this uneven comedy."[11] Janet Maslin of The New York Times described the two leads as "hilarious," saying Shelley Long does her role "to perfection" and Bette Midler "has flawless phrasing and timing." She said the film "has a light tone, a steady pace and an enjoyable professionalism that help take the edge off the material's occasional lapses."[12]

For her performance, Midler received a Golden Globe nomination.

Box office[edit]

Outrageous Fortune was financially successful, debuting at number 2 at the US box office with a gross of $6.4 million in its opening weekend, a record for Disney at the time.[13] It went on to gross $52.9 million in the US and Canada.[14][15]


  1. ^ "A Safe Bette". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-02.
  2. ^ "Bette Midler says it was rough to work with Shelley Long on Oprah in 1988". YouTube.
  3. ^ "Actress and Activist Suzanne Somers Answers Social Media Questions". Larry King Now. 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2014-12-04.
  4. ^ Outrageous Fortune at the American Film Institute Catalog
  5. ^ "MOVIE REVIEWS: ONE WISTFUL, THE OTHER WILD : The 'Outrageous Fortune'(s) of Two Unlikely Friends". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-02.
  6. ^ "Outrageous Fortune". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2012-06-02.
  7. ^ "Outrageous Fortune Sells Its Characters Short". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-06-02.
  8. ^ "Outrageous Fortune". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 19, 2023. Edit this at Wikidata
  9. ^ "OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (1987) A-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 30, 1987). "Outrageous Fortune movie review (1987)". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved October 19, 2023.
  11. ^ Siskel, Gene (January 30, 1987). "FLICK OF WEEK: `RADIO DAYS` SOUNDS AND LOOKS TERRIFIC". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 19, 2023.
  12. ^ Maslin, Janet (January 30, 1987). "FILM: MIDLER AND LONG IN 'OUTRAGEIOUS FORTUNE'". The New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2023.
  13. ^ Greenberg, James (July 22, 1987). "'Robo' B.O. Snatches 'Snow White' From Mouth of 'Jaws'". Variety. p. 3.
  14. ^ "Movies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  15. ^ "Platoon Remains No. 1 In Box-Office Earnings". The New York Times. 19 February 1987. Retrieved 2012-06-10.

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