Throw Momma from the Train
|Throw Momma from the Train|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny DeVito|
|Produced by||Larry Brezner|
|Written by||Stu Silver|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Edited by||Michael Jablow|
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures|
Throw Momma from the Train is a 1987 American black comedy film directed by and starring Danny DeVito in his directorial feature film debut. The film co-stars Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, Anne Ramsey, Branford Marsalis, Kim Greist, and Kate Mulgrew appearing in supporting roles.
The title comes from Patti Page's 1956 hit song, "Mama from the Train (A Kiss, A Kiss)". The film was inspired by the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Strangers on a Train, which is also seen in the film.
The film received mixed reviews, but was a commercial success. Anne Ramsey was singled out for praise for her portrayal of the overbearing Mrs. Lift; she won a Saturn Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Novelist Larry Donner (Billy Crystal) struggles with writer's block due to his resentment towards his ex-wife Margaret (Kate Mulgrew), who stole his book and garnered mainstream success and critical acclaim with it. Owen Lift (Danny DeVito) is a timid, middle-aged fellow who still lives with his overbearing, abusive and paranoid mother (Anne Ramsey). Owen fantasizes about killing his mother but can't summon the courage to bring his desires into fruition. As a student in Larry's community college writing class, Owen is given advice by Larry to view an Alfred Hitchcock film to gain some insight into plot development for his mystery stories. He sees Strangers on a Train, in which two strangers conspire to commit a murder for each other, figuring their lack of connection to the victim will, in theory, establish a perfect alibi. Having overheard Larry's public rant that he wished his ex-wife dead, Owen forms a plan to kill Margaret, believing that Larry will, in return, kill his mother.
He tracks Margaret down to Hawaii and eventually follows her onto a cruise ship she is taking to her book signing. He then apparently pushes her overboard while she tries to retrieve an earring that fell. Owen returns from Hawaii to tell Larry of Margaret's death and that Larry now "owes" him the murder of his mother, lest he inform the police that Larry was the killer. After having spent the night drinking alone during the hours of Margaret's disappearance, Larry panics because he lacks a sufficient alibi. That, along with a news report announcing that the police suspect foul play, convinces Larry that he's the prime suspect. He decides to stay with Owen and his mother in an attempt to hide from the police. Larry meets Mrs. Lift, but despite her harsh treatment of him he refuses to kill her. Eventually, when Mrs. Lift drives Owen to the breaking point, Larry finally relents and agrees to go through with the murder.
After two unsuccessful attempts, Larry flees the Lift home when Mrs. Lift recognizes him as a suspect from a news broadcast about his ex-wife's disappearance. He boards a train to Mexico and, surprisingly, Owen and Mrs. Lift come along so as to avoid having to lie for him. During the journey, Larry's patience with Mrs. Lift finally runs out when she impolitely gives him advice on writing. He follows her to the caboose with the intent of throwing her from the train, but Owen begins having second thoughts about having his mother killed and gives chase. In the ensuing fight, Mrs. Lift falls from the train but is rescued by Owen and a repentant Larry. Mrs. Lift is grateful at her son for saving her, but unappreciative of Larry's help and kicks him, resulting in him losing his balance, landing on the tracks and breaking his leg.
During his recovery in hospital, Larry discovers that Margaret is still alive; she simply fell overboard by accident and was rescued by a Polynesian fisherman whom she has decided to marry. Much to his annoyance, Larry learns that Margaret plans to sell the rights of her ordeal for $1.5 million. On the advice of a fellow patient, Larry chooses to free himself of his obsession with his ex-wife and instead focus on his own life, thereby freeing him of his writer's block.
A year later, Larry has finished a novel based on his experiences with Owen and Mrs. Lift entitled Throw Momma from the Train. Owen visits and informs him that his mother has died (of natural causes) and that he's going to New York City for the release of his own book. Unfortunately for Larry, Owen reveals that his book is also about their experiences together. Thinking that his book has been scooped once again, an enraged Larry proceeds to strangle him, but stops when Owen shows him that his book is a children's pop-up book called Momma, and Owen, and Owen's Friend, Larry with the story drastically altered to be suitable for children. Months later, Larry, Owen, and Larry's girlfriend Beth (Kim Greist) vacation together in Hawaii, reflecting on the final chapter of Larry's book. Larry and Owen's books have now become best-sellers, making them both successful writers as well as close friends.
- Danny DeVito as Owen Lift
- Billy Crystal as Larry Donner
- Anne Ramsey as Momma Lift
- Kim Greist as Beth
- Kate Mulgrew as Margaret Donner
- Branford Marsalis as Lester
- Rob Reiner as Larry's agent Joel
- Bruce Kirby as Detective DeBenedetto
- Oprah Winfrey as Herself
- Farley Granger as Guy Haines (archive footage)
- Robert Walker as Bruno Anthony (archive footage)
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 63% based on reviews from 32 critics, with the consensus being that "Danny DeVito's direction is too broad to offer the kind of nastiness that would have made Throw Momma from the Train truly special, but DeVito's on-screen chemistry with co-star Billy Crystal makes this a smoothly entertaining comedy."
Awards and nominations
|Academy Award||Best Supporting Actress||Anne Ramsey||Nominated|
|Saturn Award||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Nominated|
|Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Danny DeVito||Nominated|
- Maslin, Janet (December 11, 1987). "Throw Momma from the Train". The New York Times.
- Gardner, Eriq (January 29, 2015). "Two Men Inspired By 'Throw Momma from the Train' Fail To Get Away With Murder". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
- Bailey, Jason (January 14, 2015). "David Fincher, 'Strangers on a Train,' and the Tricky Business of Remaking Hitchcock". Flavorwire. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
- Rotten Tomatoes