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|Tough Guys Don't Dance|
|Directed by||Norman Mailer|
|Screenplay by||Norman Mailer|
Robert Towne (Rewrites)
|Based on||Tough Guys Don't Dance|
by Norman Mailer
|Produced by||Menahem Golan|
John Bailey (Uncredited)
|Edited by||Debra McDermott|
|Music by||Angelo Badalamenti|
|Distributed by||The Cannon Group|
Tough Guys Don't Dance is a 1987 crime mystery comedy-drama film written and directed by Norman Mailer based on his novel of the same name. It is a murder mystery/film noir piece. It was screened out of competition at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.
Tim Madden (Ryan O'Neal) is a former bartender who was imprisoned for dealing cocaine, now a struggling writer prone to blackouts. On the 24th morning after the decampment of his wife Patty Lareine (Debra Sandlund), he awakens from a two-week bender to discover a tattoo reading "Madeleine" on his arm and a bloodbath in his car. He soon finds a woman's severed head in his marijuana stash in the woods, and the new Provincetown police chief Luther Regency (Wings Hauser) shacked up with his former girlfriend Madeleine (Isabella Rossellini).
Flashing back, Madden remembers the time when he encouraged Madeleine to go swinging with a Li'l Abnerish couple from down South, the fundamentalist preacher Big Stoop and his Daisy Mae-ish wife, Patty Lareine, whose ad Tim had come across in Screw magazine. On the trip back, Tim and Madeleine's car crashes due to Madeline being incensed that Tim has so enjoyed Patty Lareine's charms. The pregnant Madeleine loses her baby in the crash.
Except for his father (Lawrence Tierney), who is dying of cancer, Tim suspects everyone, including Patty Lareine, multi-millionaire prep-school pal Wardley Meeks III—and even himself—of murder. Patty Lareine had left Big Stoop, married Wardley, left him in a messy divorce that netted her a rich cash settlement, and in turn married Tim, whom she fancied. Patty Lareine disappears, and Tim goes on his fatal bender that has left his memory in shards after receiving a letter from Madeline informing him that her husband (Regency) is having an affair with his wife (Patty).
Tim remembers his assignation in the local tavern's parking lot with the blond porn star Jessica Pond, while her effete husband Lonnie Pangborn watched from the sidelines, distraught. It was Jessica's head in the Hefty bag with his grass, but soon another head turns up in his marijuana stash, that of Patty Lareine.
Tim's father helps him get rid of the heads into the bay. Regency ultimately goes crazy and is shot by Madeleine. She then uses Regency's cocaine money to buy Tim and herself a multimillion-dollar home.
The title comes from an anecdote told to Mailer by prizefighter Roger Donahue: Frank Costello, the Murder, Inc. honcho, and his girlfriend greet three champion boxers in the Stork Club. Costello demands that each, in turn, dance with the woman, and each nervously complies. The last, Willie Pep, suggests that Mr. Costello dance. Costello replies, "Tough guys don't dance."
- Ryan O'Neal as Tim Madden
- Isabella Rossellini as Madeleine Regency
- Lawrence Tierney as Dougy Madden
- Wings Hauser as Luther Regency
- Debra Sandlund as Patty Lareine
- Penn Jillette as Big Stoop
- John Bedford Lloyd as Wardley Meeks III
- Frances Fisher as Jessica Pond
- R. Patrick Sullivan as Lonnie Pangborn
The film was a box office bomb, making only $858,250 (equivalent to $2,210,740 in 2022), less than a fifth of its $5 million (equivalent to $12.9 million in 2022) budget.
Hal Hinson of The Washington Post said that the film was "hard to classify; at times you laugh raucously at what's up on the screen; at others you stare dumbly, in stunned amazement". Roger Ebert, in a 2+1⁄2 star review in the Chicago Sun-Times praised the cinematography, the Provincetown setting, and said that the relationship between Tim and Dougy was the best aspect of the film, but also had to say that "what is strange is that Tough Guys Don't Dance leaves me with such vivid memories of its times and places, its feelings and weathers, and yet leaves me so completely indifferent to its plot. Watching the film, I laughed a good deal."
However, the film had at least two supporters. Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, said "Norman Mailer's best film, adapted from his worst novel, shows a surprising amount of cinematic savvy and style." Also, "He translates his high rhetoric and macho preoccupations (existential tests of bravado, good orgasms, murderous women, metaphysical cops) into an odd, campy, raunchy comedy-thriller that remains consistently watchable and unpredictable—as goofy in a way as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Where Russ Meyer featured women with oversize breasts, Mailer features male characters with oversize egos, and thanks to the juicy writing, hallucinatory lines such as 'Your knife is in my dog' and 'I just deep-sixed two heads' bounce off his cartoonish actors like comic-strip bubbles; even his sexism is somewhat objectified in the process." Vincent Canby of The New York Times said that the film was "not the high point of the Mailer career, but it's a small, entertaining part of it".
In the years since the film's release on video, the film has become a cult classic in bad film circles. The scene in which Tim discovers his wife is having an affair has become famous due to its melodramatic line delivery and repetition of the phrase "Oh man, oh god!" Channel 4 Film said "The overkill is strangely compelling and Mailer's disregard for taste and convention ensure his film is a massive but spectacular and unmissable folly." The film apparently got enough of a following for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which owns much of Cannon's film library, to release an anamorphic widescreen DVD of the film on September 16, 2003. The disc contained an interview with Norman Mailer, a tour of Provincetown and the film's trailer. In August 2021 the film was released on Blu-ray by Cult film label Vinegar Syndrome.
|Independent Spirit Awards 1988|
|Best Cinematography (John Bailey)||Nominated|
|Best Feature (Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus)||Nominated|
|Best Female Lead (Debra Sandlund)||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Male (Wings Hauser)||Nominated|
|Golden Raspberry Awards 1988|
|Worst Director (Norman Mailer)||Won, tied with Elaine May for Ishtar|
|Worst Actor (Ryan O'Neal)||Nominated|
|Worst Actress (Debra Sandlund)||Nominated|
|Worst New Star (Debra Sandlund)||Nominated|
|Worst Picture (Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus)||Nominated|
|Worst Screenplay (Norman Mailer)||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actress (Isabella Rossellini, also for Siesta)||Nominated|
- "Tough Guys Don't Dance (18)". British Board of Film Classification. October 9, 1987. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
- Mann, Roderick (July 6, 1980). "MOVIES: THE HIGH ADVENTURES OF 'GREEN ICE'". Los Angeles Times. p. o25.
- "The Unstoppables". Spy. November 1988. p. 92.
- "Festival de Cannes: Tough Guys Don't Dance". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved July 25, 2009.
- "Tough Guys Don't Dance". IMDb.
- Wood, Ann (September 23, 2015). "Norman Mailer Society brings 'Tough Guys' home". Provincetown Banner.
- Tough Guys Don't Dance at Box Office Mojo
- Tough Guys Don't Dance at Rotten Tomatoes