The 1983 Michael Keaton-Teri Garr comedy classic Mr. Mom is getting a 2019 makeover as a digital series on Vudu. It looks like the first of many as MGM inked a deal with the Walmart-powered streaming service to create content from their vast library with “Movies On Us,” which aims to compete with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
The original Mr. Momwas written by John Hughes and directed by Stan Dragoti. It was hilarious at the time because men were rarely stay-at-home dads in the ’80s, and it highlighted how women were becoming a part of the workforce. Now that women have careers and dads serve as equal partners in raising the kids, it may be a little harder to push that concept. But, they’re going to try! The series will actually revolve around the film’s toddler Megan, now grown up, taking a job and leaving her husband to tend to her little one.
It’s the 30th Anniversary of Young Guns (currently steaming on Hulu and Netflix) and we’re celebrating. Young Guns is considered the most historically accurate version of Billy the Kid on film, but let’s be honest – the real Billy and the Regulators weren’t quite as attractive. By putting hot, cool actors like Emilio Estevez and Kiefer Sutherland in a testosterone-heavy “band of brothers” environment with a “heavy-metal” ’80s score, did Young Guns make gun ownership sexy to men? We explore how Young Guns affected its teen viewers in 1988 and how it still affects Gen X today on the latest episode of ’80s Movies: A Guide to What’s Wrong with Your Parents. Give a listen to our take on Young Guns below and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.
Also, check out the complete guide to Young Guns: https://80smovieguide.com/young-guns/
In Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony countering his 1982 high school rape allegation, he said that the high school yearbook editor tried to project the image that the school was “Animal House, Caddyshack, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Any teen who lived in the ’80s can back up that those films were wildly important to Gen X. In the ’80s, a day wouldn’t pass without hearing at least one boy quoting one of these films. By the way, no one was quoting the upstanding citizens of the film — they most quotable quotes came from the numbnuts of the groups. “Hey bud, let’s party!” from Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), “Whoa, did someone step on a duck?” from Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), and “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily” from Bluto (John Belushi), just for starters.
The goal of ’80s Movie Guide is to address how the media and pop culture influence the opinions we hold, the choices we make, and how we see the world. Movies are immersive experiences and thus, more than any other medium, have the ability to subconsciously inform the viewer on how to conduct themselves. Teens and children are always looking down the road – if you’re 7, how do 10-year-olds act? If you’re 10, what do the cool 13-year-olds do? If you’re 13, what are 17-year-olds doing and how can I be sure I’m in the right group to do that? If you’re 17, how should I behave when I’m 20?
That’s why ’80s movies are so, so damaging to an entire generation. We are not saying Kavanaugh did or didn’t violate any women, but we are saying that the stories coming from women about the 1980s are entirely accurate. Moreover, when you examine ’80s movies, you see where a world might exist where both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford,are both telling the truth. Let’s do a brief overview, focusing on Animal House.
Animal House put the “teen sex comedy” genre into motion with a film described as “the wildly obscene antics of a college frat house.” Some of those antics include Bluto (John Belushi) climbing up a ladder to be a peeping tom gawking at a room full of girls getting undressed. He moves his ladder to get a better look at one woman. After staring at her for quite a bit, he falls off his ladder – how funny! Oh, boys will be boys!
Delta Tau Chi faces a probation hearing, charged with “individual acts of perversion so profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits us listing them here.” Fraternity leader Eric “Otter” Stratten offers this defense: “The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules or took a few liberties with our female party guests. We did. (Wink.) But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few sick, perverted individuals!”
Otter is the hero of the film, the cool guy. Here are some examples of his behavior (all played for laughs):
He pretends to be engaged to a girl who recently died to play on the sympathies of her sorority sisters into having sex with him and his friends.
He has sex with the drunk wife of the university’s dean, proving there’s no greater revenge than screwing your enemy’s woman – he impressed her at the grocery store with a line about the size of his cucumber.
He proves that theory again when he “scores” with the girlfriend of a rival by harassing her with lines like, “Can I massage your thighs while you eat?”
Additionally, it promotes racism. It shows drinking and driving. A college professor introduces his students to drugs. Four young men abandon women and leave them with no way to escape in a situation set up as dangerous. It’s implied a sweet young man knowingly has sex with a 13-year-old. Lout Bluto throws a young woman into a stolen car against her will caveman style … the next scene shows her arms around him while he drives, the graphic telling us they got married and Bluto became a Senator.
Oh, and there’s this – Larry “Pinto” Kroger debates whether or not he should have sex with a drunk, unconscious girl. Ultimately, he makes the right decision, but it does validate the thinking that he has a “right” to have sex with a drunk, unconscious girl. Pinto is a virgin, portrayed as not as masculine as his friends, which is why the movie implies he can only “get” a sexually forward 8th grader who has consumed so much alcohol she almost needed to have her stomach pumped. The scene isn’t appalling because Larry makes the right choice, the scene is appalling because it tells young viewers that if you don’t take advantage of a passed out girl, you’re soft, a pussy, a “homo”:
Animal House does have equal opportunity disrespect – authority, blacks, and pledges are all disrespected alongside women. Remember, though, this is the film that sets the entire genre into motion.
With Animal House, college campuses changed everywhere…and with that, so did high schools (because kids reach upward). Debauchery in whatever form became cool. The movies that followed took the cue from Animal House.
The year after Animal House, the PG-movie Meatballs was released. Starring another “Saturday Night Live” star, Bill Murray, Meatballs is about a summer camp who keeps losing the camp competition to the nearby rich kids camp. The story focuses on the lives of the campers and the camp counselors and has the typical kind of leering lechery one expects from an early ’80s film. It may not have been intended as a movie for kids, but since it covers the difficulties of kids at camp, it was accepted as a kids movie. In other words, many, many children watched it and the movie’s catchphrase — “it just doesn’t matter” — became something kids chanted amongst each other on playgrounds. A troubling scene exists that seemed to raise no eyebrows at the time. Murray’s character Tripper aggressively tries to convince fellow counselor Roxanne to sleep with him. She repeatedly tells him no, to get off of her, that she will scream, and he doesn’t stop until their boss walks back into the room. Today, we recognize that as attempted rape. In 1979, that was just a guy “taking a swing.” By the way, Roxanne continues to interact with Tripper. She doesn’t call the police. She doesn’t report it, even to her boss. Take a look:
Perhaps that’s what led to Little Darlings (1980), starring two of America’s young darlings, Kristy MacNicol and Tatum O’Neal, as two 15-year-olds competing to lose their virginity first at summer camp.
Meanwhile, the guys behind Animal House made Caddyshack (1980)and disrespectful cinema really starts to take hold. Caddyshack features a golf groupie named Lacey Underwood (Cindy Morgan) who sleeps with everyone. Fun fact: Cindy Morgan, who played Lacey Underwood, did not want to do the nudity. Writer-director Harold Ramis was okay with making the change, however, uber-producer Jon Peters (one of the most powerful producers then and in Hollywood history) told her if she didn’t go topless, he’d make sure she never worked in Hollywood again. Now, when you search “Cindy Morgan” and “Caddyshack,” porn sites come up with her topless scenes with comments sections full of pervy messages.
Then, in Nov. 1981, Porky’s emerged. And that changed everything. Disrespectful is one element, but the boys will do anything to get laid concept really took off. The teen sex comedy was officially BORN. And, with success, it began devolving. We got…
The Last American Virgin (1981) – get girls drunk to have sex with them…and they don’t deserve your respect because girls love being mistreated.
Zapped! (1982) – beloved TV stars Scott Baio and Willie Ames get telekinetic powers and use it to make girls clothes fly off!
The Tom Cruise-starrer Risky Business (1983) – in the money is power ’80s, a teen becomes a pimp and turns his family home into a whore house, what a savvy businessman!
Revenge of the Nerds (1983) – having sex with the girl of your rival is the best revenge, even if you have to trick her (ps – she LOVES being raped)!
Class (1983) – whoops, I’m a teen who just slept with my best friend’s mom!
Blame It on Rio (1984) – whoops, I’m an aging man who slept with my best friend’s teen daughter whom I’m vacationing with but she totally wanted it!
Bachelor Party (1984) – made teens wonder why there would be a goat at a wild party and set the expectation that bachelor parties should be out-of-control hedonism from thereon out.
Sixteen Candles (1984…and YES, IT IS A TEEN SEX COMEDY) that ends in rape but she loved it…etc., etc.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) is, in many ways, the antidote to those films. Written by Cameron Crowe and directed by Amy Heckerling, a woman (*gasp*!), it shows how difficult it is to be a teen and how much kids PRETEND they’re having sex so they appear cool, but in truth, are unprepared for it. Great message, but that’s not what young viewers took away from the film. They remember Brad’s fantasy scene that shows Phoebe Cates removing her bikini top. They also inaccurately remember that girls just want to get laid and guys are there to accommodate, by any means. In fact, here’s what teens remember:
Jennifer Jason Leigh explains how the MPAA unwittingly forced the movie to make changes that perhaps would have altered the movie’s takeaway message.
So, whether or not Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, only they know. But, the scenario that a boy and his friend thought it was funny to take advantage of a woman sexually? Pop culture and the era supported teen boys to think such behavior was acceptable. It’s entirely likely if they did what Ford alleges, Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge wouldn’t have lost a wink of sleep over it or even remember it later because, after all, boys will be boys. The culture suggested there was nothing wrong with that type of behavior. They were expected to “take a swing” – and why not? Of course, she’ll like it.
Luckily, times have changed. Let’s keep it that way.
Childhood flashback to when a new toy rocked your world: THE TRANSFORMER! You twisted and turned Bumblebee the robot and Optimus Prime into vehicles while watching the cartoon series and in 1986, life got even better when The Transformers: The Movie hit theaters. Now, on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m., The Transformers: The Movie – remastered and restored – will play on the big screen! Plus, the one-night-only screening includes an exclusive behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the making of this December’s Bumblebee, as well as a brand-new interview with singer-songwriter Stan Bush, including recent performances of the theme songs “The Touch” and “Dare.” Audiences who attend the Fathom Events screenings will also receive a poster of The Transformers: The Movie (quantities limited, while supplies last)!
Transformers fans responded with such overwhelming enthusiasm, the cinematic event was expanded to nearly double the theaters to accommodate the demand. But, we have your back! ’80s Movie Guide will give FIVE pairs of tickets away this weekend! To win, just find us on your favorite social media platform, and follow/like us and leave a TRANSFORMERS related comment so we know you want the tickets! We have five pairs to give away between the three platforms so chances of winning are pretty good. You also get an entry for liking/sharing/retweeting our The Transformers: the Movie related posts – and you can enter as much as you like. Winners will be announced as an update to this page this Monday, Sept. 17. Here’s how to find us:
The Transformers: The Movie has captured a special place in the hearts of millions and has been a staple in the pop culture zeitgeist since 1986. Featuring memorable characters from the heroic Autobots and villainous Decepticons, this full-length animated adventure boasts the voice talent of Orson Welles in his final voice acting role (!) and an all-star voice cast that includes Peter Cullen, Eric Idle, Casey Kasem, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack and Frank Welker.
In The Transformers: The Movie, the Autobots, led by the heroic Optimus Prime, prepare to make a daring attempt to retake their planet from the evil forces of Megatron and the Decepticons. Unknown to both sides, a menacing force is heading their way – Unicron. The only hope of stopping Unicron lies within the Matrix of Leadership and the Autobot who can rise up and use its power to light their darkest hour. Will the Autobots be able to save their native planet from destruction or will the Decepticons reign supreme?
Check out how the ’80s nostalgia classic looks after the restoration in the video below. Find your nearest theater and buy tickets HERE. And remember, follow and like us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to be in the running to win a pair of tickets to the one-night-only ’80s flashback event!
Today is the 34th Anniversary of The Karate Kid, a movie that continues to resonate with the kids of the ’80s…and Millennials and Generation Z. The film about a bullied teen (Ralph Macchio) who is trained in self-defense by a wise, elderly karate master (Pat Morita) spawned sequels, a spinoff, an animated series, and currently, the fantastic YouTube series “Cobra Kai.” Why does it work?
It’s the ultimate fantasy: taking on and conquering a bully.
The magical mentorship/friendship/surrogate parent-child relationship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi.
The Crane Kick finale
Another reason The Karate Kid resonated with ’80s teens was that it represents how Generation X sees itself: an underdog, a latch-key kid who had to deal with life’s obstacles without a parent around, and who succeeded through hard work. ’80s MOVIES: A GUIDE TO WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR PARENTS podcast explores this and how today’s teens view this movie today. Listen to the end: Gen Z co-host Riley Roberts (pictured above) gives substantial and shocking insight of what it’s like to be a teen in today’s drug-filled high schools. Click HERE to check out our comprehensive guide to The Karate Kid.
It’s been 30 years since Bull Durham hit theaters, which is widely considered the best sports film ever and one of the best comedies of all time. Bull Durham is about aging catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) demoted back to the minor leagues to coach promising pitcher “Nuke” Laloosh (Tim Robbins) and encounters Annie Savoy, a fan who is also mentoring Nuke with an entirely different approach (Susan Sarandon).
At the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz sat down with Robbins and Bull Durham’s writer-director Ron Shelton.
One of the interview’s biggest revelations is that Robbins says the studio wanted to fire him after his first day of work. “This was my first big movie,” Robbins says. “It was the scene where I had just returned from a road trip and she’s trying to teach me pitching in the backyard. So, I’m supposed to be tired, right? The studio gets the dailies and they call Ron up and say, ‘This guy has no energy. I don’t know if this guy is going to be funny, he’s got no energy.’ Ron just told them, ‘Yeah, that’s because [his character] was on a road trip and he’s an actor.’ But, I think they wanted to fire me. Ron stood up for me.”
Robbins shared his observations of how Shelton operated to then make sure that situation didn’t repeat itself. “So, the next day, we’re at dailies and I’m sitting next to Kevin and we hear this commotion behind us. We see Ron has a significant member of the production high, up off his feet, holding him up against the wall, saying, ‘Don’t ever talk to any of my actors again, I’ll f—king kill you.’ Kevin leans over to me and whispers, “Cujo…Cujo!”
Robbins says from then on, Cujo – the rabid St. Bernard in Stephen King’s 1983 movie of the same title – was the nickname for Shelton.
The moment stayed in Robbins mind. He says he was so impacted by Shelton’s behavior on his behalf that it informed his future career as a director. “What Ron was doing on the set the third day of shooting was drawing a line, saying I’m going to make my movie. You can fire me if you want, but I’m going to make my movie, and you’re not going to mess with it. That was a big lesson for me when I started to direct. If you care what you’re doing, sometimes you have to put it all on the line and say no.”
Another time Shelton had to say no was one of his favorite scenes – which happened to be one of his star’s favorite scenes. It’s a scene where Annie Savoy explains herself and how she came to pick a player to sleep with and mentor each season. “There’s a scene missing that Susan has not forgiven me cutting out from the movie, because it was her Oscar speech,” Shelton says. “It’s the old ‘kill your darling’ scene: there’s a point which your favorite scene is actually hurting the movie. There’s a scene in which Crash asks her ‘why baseball?’ and she tells him how she came to baseball. Every time we’d screen the movie… the air was going out of the room during the scene, in which Susan was great. We kept asking, ‘why, why, why?; and we kept trimming it, and trimming it, and trimming it. We finally said, ‘Well, take it out and we’ll see what happens.’ And, the movie just soared. What I think we’ve learned, 30 years later, is that [in the scene that is set early on in the film] there was such intimacy between them [Crash and Annie], that the movie was over. We still had a story to play out. It was the way people would talk when they are really trusting and have fallen in love, not before. But, Susan still has not forgiven me.”
Annie’s big speech isn’t the only scene to land on the cutting room floor. Crash’s pool hall brawl with Nuke toward the end of the film was completely reshot after the film was completed and turned in. “It was originally shot in a whorehouse in Durham with Kevin playing the piano. [Crash] was hanging out there because the owner of the place was an old ballplayer,” says Shelton. “It made me nervous when we shot it. It made me nervous when we cut it. After I showed the director’s cut to the studio, they said, ‘We don’t like it. What can we do about it?”
Shelton says he convinced the studio to let him reshoot the scene in a Los Angeles pool hall – and it worked. “I don’t think there was a line of dialogue that changed. Instead of playing the piano, they’re playing pool.”
Another challenge Shelton ran into was that the story takes place in the summer in the South. However, they filmed Bull Durham in winter, which created one big visual problem. “You can see people’s breath,” says Shelton. “I asked the actors to put ice cubes in their mouth because I was told that would negate it.”
Robbins said another “fix” was that they put oil all over him so Nuke looked like he was sweating in the North Carolina sun. And one thing to watch for? Shelton says, “When [Robbins] did the scene with the garter on the mound, he’s freezing.”
The garter belt scene comes at a time when Nuke and Annie’s relationship has come to a place where he really trusts her – and Annie’s guidance is what she believes is her mission in life. Nuke does come off in the film as, well, dumb. Robbins says, “After the movie came out, I got so many offers to play stupid people.”
Even though Crash refers to Nuke as dumb, that’s incorrect. “Annie says, ‘He’s not dumb, he just lacks wisdom and it’s my job to teach him,” says Shelton. “Nuke is not dumb, he really is just young and immature. Tim brought such dignity to the part that we remember Nuke, we care about Nuke, and Nuke actually grows. At the end of the movie, he’s teasing Crash with clichés, he knows how to get under Crash’s skin, and his whole manner has changed. He’s moving on, he’s learned his lessons.”
At the time, the studio was nervous that audiences would not believe sexy-smart Susan Sarandon would fall for young, lanky Tim Robbins, especially in the packaging of arrogant Nuke Laloosh. “Nuke could compete with Crash in any way except with a woman,” says Shelton. “I remember getting a call from the studio who said, ‘Are we gonna believe it?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah! You’re going to believe it!’
Robbins and Sarandon fell in love while filming Bull Durham, got married, and made a family of five. Their marriage lasted 23 years.
Sports Illustrated named Bull Durham the No. 1 sports film of all time – which is interesting because Shelton hated the genre. Shelton says, “I never liked sports movies. Nobody hits a home run in the bottom of the ninth to win the World Series. It’s happened once or twice in
history. A game – and life – ends with a weak groundball to third base.”
So, Shelton gave his sports film authenticity, creating a work of fiction based on experiences he’d had and witnessed when he was playing in Baltimore’ farming system. “There were a number of guys I’d played with in the minors who were turning out to be career minor-leaguers, but they were great,” says Shelton.
However, there was one player who is the closest to the genesis of Crash Davis. “We played with a guy in the Triple-A named Mike Ferraro who was four years in a row International AAA All-Star Third Baseman. He never got to the big leagues* because he was backup to Brooks Robinson. They didn’t want him sitting on the bench in Baltimore where he would be rusty in case Brooks got hurt, and Brooks never did. By the time Mike got to the big leagues, he was 32 and he was injured,” says Shelton, who retired at the age of 26. “There were a number of guys like that, and I have great admiration for them because they were complete professionals. I admire the professionalism of guys who would show up every day and did the job at a high level – even when it galled them to have to teach people like Nuke.”
Shelton got out of the game when the 1972 baseball strike was looming. But, he says leaving is a tough call: players are in it because they love the game. He says, “There is always the hope, and it’s somewhat delusional, that you’ll get the call when you’re 31 or 32. It happens once in a while…but it’s very rare that you get the break that way.”
The authenticity Shelton brought to the film famously followed into casting. The former infielder didn’t want what he calls a “Tony Perkins” situation that plagues sports films: great actors who are terrible athletes. Shelton made everyone audition. Robbins said he had the background for the role and actually had an offer on the table to star in another baseball movie that was going into production at the time, Eight Men Out. “I had played ball and played third base, so I had a pretty good arm. But, I’d never pitched before, so I had to learn all the mechanics of that.”
For Robbins, deciding which baseball movie to take wasn’t a hard choice. “The part of Nuke was so beautifully written and so funny, I leapt at the opportunity.”
Shelton added, “In a perfect world, I’d have cast a left-handed pitcher, because left handers are all insane. Left handers are goofy, so he’s a right-handed ‘lefty.’”
Shelton’s desire to create a different kind of sports movie provoked another kind of out of the box thinking. Shelton says he didn’t write it as a sports film, a romance, or a comedy. He wrote Bull Durham as a western. “[The script] was a western model when I started writing it. You don’t know where [Crash] is from, you don’t know anything about his background, you don’t think about his parents or his upbringing or his schooling. He’s just a professional, his “guns” are really the tools of his trade – in this case a catcher. And, he goes from town to town wherever he’s hired.”
Bull Durham is currently playing on Hulu and Epix on Demand. Check out our Bull Durham page for more insider info, fun facts and fresh analysis on the film: https://80smovieguide.com/bull-durham/
Bull Durham is the ultimate rom-com for men. The tagline says it all: “It’s about sex and sport. What else is there?” But the film provides plenty of fantasy for women (and not just Kevin Costner, who was at max dreaminess in 1988). Additionally, as much as it’s sexually progressive, it’s also detrimental.
On the ’80s MOVIES: A GUIDE TO WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR PARENTS podcast, ’80s Movie Guide co-founders Tara McNamara (’80s kid) and Riley Roberts (pictured right…age 17, so, still a kid) explore how Bull Durham is to men like Disney Princess movies are to women, creating an unattainable idea of the perfect woman. At the same time, for two hours women could live in an idyllic world where slut-shaming isn’t a thing. However, there’s a tragedy in Annie and Millie: they found a way to be an accepted part of the ballclub, but only by opening their legs.
Listen to the podcast to get historical perspective and to rethink Bull Durham in a whole different way:
Find out why Bull Durham was rad, behind the scenes info, and fun trivia on our Bull Durham page!
Footloose isn’t just a story about a group of kids fighting to have a prom. It’s about:
a suicidal girl suffering from depression and no one is noticing all the red flags she’s waving,
a community grieving over the loss of their loved ones and grappling to prevent another tragedy,
youth fighting “The Man,”
religious intrusion: how much we should trust our pastor’s interpretation of scripture versus our own,
how in 1980s small-town America, older white men held all the power.
In our “’80s Movies: A Guide to What’s Wrong with Your Parents” podcast, mother-daughter movie critics Tara McNamara and 17-year-old Riley Roberts look back at Footloose for why it’s fantastic, how it revolutionized movie marketing, how it took teen movies a different direction, and ultimately, how it’s the hallmark to understand exactly why the United States has become so polarized into “conservative” and “liberal” factions. (really!). Give it a listen and always, always…dance your a** off:
Check out the Footloosepage for all the behind-the-scenes info…like who really couldn’t dance, what happened when Kevin Bacon tried to get into character at the local high school, and how the film got the green light and how it almost lost it!
With the reboot of Overboard, mother-daughter movie critics Tara McNamara and 17-year-old Riley Roberts explore the original 1987 Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell rom-com treasure, evaluate if it holds up today, and wonder why no one called out all the white slavery and stuff. The duo also review the new Anna Faris-Eugenio Derbez gender reversal remake and evaluate if the 2018 tweaks work and if it’s worth watching.
The duo have been reviewing and covering films for more than a decade on national TV programs like TODAY, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, INSIDE EDITION. They analyze what’s great about ’80s movies ..and what’s super. duper. messed. up.
Read all about made Overboard a classic, all the behind the scenes info, why it’s so ’80s, and all the headslap moments: https://80smovieguide.com/overboard/
Veronica Cartwright says that while filming the huge Houston barbeque scene in The Right Stuff, a booming voice shouted over and over again with a reminder to not eat the steak served on all of the plates. Indeed, in the film, plates and plates of food are shown, and Dennis Quaid and Fred Ward are even seen eating baked beans, but never does anyone take a bite of meat. (The cast and extras didn’t go hungry. Cartwright says after the scene was over, they were each handed a bag of McDonald’s food.)
Cartwright played Betty Grissom, wife of Ward’s astronaut character Gus Grissom, in The Right Stuff. She and Mary Jo Deschanel, who played John Glenn’s wife Annie, discussed the making of the film with Ben Mankiewicz at the 2018 Turner Classic Film Festival.
The Right Stuff tells the story of the beginnings of the U.S. space program through the eyes of the astronauts that risked it all to go into space and their wives.
The two credited writer-director Philip Kaufmann for creating an environment where the actresses playing the wives could bond, and therefore, quickly create the familiarity that developed over time amongst the wives of America’s first astronauts. “They stuck us in honey wagons. I [shared] with Pamela Reed,” says Cartwright. “We had big dresses so one person would have to stand on the toilet to get dressed, it was so small!”
Deschanel adds, “Phil told me, ‘I think the women are much more fascinating characters.’ And, he set up an atmosphere that supported the women.”
Both actresses were unable to meet their real-life counterparts. Gus Grissom’s portrayal in The Right Stuff is based on the scandal that unfolded but the portrayal is ultimately unfair, leaving the audience to question if Gus Grissom did indeed “blow the hatch” of the Liberty Bell 7 capsule after splashdown (this accusation had been debunked long before the film was made). Therefore, Betty Grissom was not supportive of the film. As for the Annie Glenn, John Glenn was running for president of the United States during the production of The Right Stuff, and Deschanel says the Glenns “didn’t want to have anything to do with the film.”
The actresses were still able to research their roles as Kaufmann provided each of the actors “huge packets of film footage” of the real people they would be portraying. One thing Cartwright saw in the footage stuck in her mind as a key to understanding Betty Grissom: her unusual straw purse she carried to a ceremony where she believed she was going to meet First Lady Jackie Kennedy. “I had to find that bag!” says Cartwright, “It said so much about her!”
Another fond memory the actresses shared was of the actors playing the press. Unlike in the film, the actors playing the reporters enhanced – not hounded – the lives of “the wives.” “The ‘press corps’ were all part of a theater company [San Francisco’s improv comedy troupe Fratelli Bologna],” says Cartwright. “They would sing and always be entertaining for us! It was a fun atmosphere.”
The actresses took the note. Deschanel and Cartwright say by movie’s end, “the wives” had become a clique and spent time together outside of their shooting days. The women choreographed a song and dance number that they performed at the wrap party.
This year marks the 35th Anniversary of the release of The Right Stuff. This article was written the day it was announced that Tom Wolfe, the author of the novel in which the film is based on, passed away.