Secret Admirer

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For other uses, see Secret admirer (disambiguation).
Secret Admirer
Secret admirer.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Greenwalt
Produced by Steve Roth
Written by
Music by Jan Hammer
Cinematography Victor J. Kemper
Edited by Dennis Virkler
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release dates
  • June 14, 1985 (1985-06-14)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $8.6 million (US)[1]

Secret Admirer is a 1985 American teen romantic comedy film written and directed by David Greenwalt in his feature film directorial debut, and starring C. Thomas Howell, Lori Loughlin, Kelly Preston and Fred Ward. The original music score was composed by Jan Hammer. The film was produced at the height of the teen sex comedy cinema craze in the mid-1980s.


Michael Ryan is a high school student who receives an anonymous love letter. Michael is obsessed with Deborah Ann Fimple, the class beauty, and his best friend, Roger, convinces him that the letter is from her. However, he is totally oblivious that his friend Toni Williams is in love with him. Michael writes Deborah Ann an anonymous love letter in return, and asks Toni to give it to her. Toni realizes the letter is poorly written and unromantic (since Michael had copied words from greeting cards), so she rewrites it. Elizabeth Fimple, Deborah Ann's mother, discovers the letter. Her jealous police officer husband, Lou Fimple, sees her reading it. He steals the letter, and believes that his wife is having an affair. He suspects his neighbor (and bridge partner) George Ryan. George also mistakenly reads the letter because Lou's wife is his night school teacher and it somehow ends up in his book. When George asks her about it he assumes she wants to have an affair with him despite the fact his wife and she are friends. Meanwhile, Lou shows the letter to George's wife, Connie, and proposes that they expose the adulterers. Receiving no response from Deborah Ann, Michael writes a second letter, which Toni again rewrites.

Michael experiences a series of wacky adventures with his friends throughout the summer. After Toni arranges a meeting between the two; He tells Deborah Ann that he wrote the love letters, and she finally agrees to a real date during which they are almost caught by Debbie's jock college "quasi boyfriend" Steve but Toni intervenes by pretending to seduce him and later ditches him. After a short while Michael realizes Deb is snobby and shallow, not like he expected her to be; they break up after his birthday party when he realizes he can't sleep with her as she intends for his birthday present. Eventually, Lou and Connie cannot control themselves at a bridge party: Lou assaults George, and Connie breaks down in front of her friends. When Lou confronts his wife about the letter, Deborah Ann overhears him reading the words and tearfully accosts her father for reading her private mail. Debbie runs to her rooms and cries, while both sets of parents make up after the misunderstanding with the letters. Michael also blasts his parents for reading his letter and invading his privacy.

Just as the fall semester is about to start, Michael (by comparing Debbie's letter's to Toni's handwriting) realizes that Toni wrote the original love letter. He races to her home but is told that she has left for a study abroad program aboard a ship that will keep her away for a full year. Michael rushes to the dockyard after a brief scuffle with Steve, screaming his love for Toni. After shouting her love for him as the ship continues to sail away he dives into the water, but cannot reach the ship. Toni dives into the water, too. The lovers embrace in the water and kiss.



Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 33% of nine surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 4.3/10.[2] In a negative review, Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the initial concept might have sounded good. Maslin called Fred Ward the film's "sole ray of sunshine".[3] Time Out London compared it negatively to French sex farces and said that it offers no insights.[4] TV Guide rated it 1/5 stars and wrote, "This cross between theatrical farce and teen sex comedy is a moronic package that liberally insults the intelligence of both its viewing audience and the hapless adult actors locked into career low points."[5] Reviewing the film retrospectively, Sarah D. Bunting of Slant Magazine called it "relatively good", which she defines as "not unwatchable" in terms of teen films.[6]

In 1985, the Los Angeles Times asked a group of teens to judge their interest in a series of released films. After seeing preview and press materials, the teens rated Secret Admirer C on an A to F range; their opinion was divided over whether they wanted to see it or not.[7]

Vasos de Papel plagiarism controversy[edit]

In 2016, the Puerto Rican independent film Vasos de Papel (English: Paper Cups) was object of intense criticism, and even more intense mockery, after it was discovered that the film, produced and directed by Eduardo "Transfor" Ortiz, was an almost-exact copy of Secret Admirer, but filmed in Spanish with local Puerto Rican actors and locations. The film had been playing on 25 screens at local cinemas for less than a week when reports of similarities between the two films arose.[8] Once the film was no longer being shown in cinemas across Puerto Rico, Mr. Ortíz, who had previously attributed the writing of the film's screenplay only to himself, first said that there were only "certain similarities between one film and the other, not plagiarism. Everything is a matter of interpretation". Only a few hours after making that statement, Mr. Ortíz changed it, saying in a radio interview that he "had done something terribly wrong", and apologizing to his cast and crew. Mr. Ortíz had ignored and/or refused to comment on the issue until actress Natalia Lugo, the lead actress of the film, released a statement on her Facebook page where she both condemned the film and expressed the embarrassment she felt when she saw 'Secret Admirer', and came to understand how she and her fellow actors and crew had been duped.[9]


  1. ^ "Secret Admirer". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-04-26. 
  2. ^ "Secret Admirer (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-04-26. 
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (1985-06-14). "Secret Admirer (1985)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-04-26. 
  4. ^ "Secret Admirer". Time Out London. Retrieved 2015-04-26. 
  5. ^ "Secret Admirer". TV Guide. Retrieved 2015-04-26. 
  6. ^ Bunting, Sarah D. (2010-06-17). "Summer of '85: David Greenwalt's Secret Admirer and the Unexpected Pleasure of a Bridge-Club Set-To". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2015-04-26. 
  7. ^ Horn, John; Raskin, Alex (1985-05-19). "Summer Movies : What Films Will Make The Grade With Teen-agers?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-04-26. 
  8. ^ Maldonado, Omar (2016-02-19). "¿Vasos de Papel se copia de Secret Admirer?". El Calce. Retrieved 2016-03-09. 
  9. ^ Brugueras, Melba (2016-03-07). "Transfor Ortiz reacciona a señalamientos de plagio en “Vasos de papel”". Primera Hora. Retrieved 2016-03-09. 

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