21. Tootsie

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Movie: Tootsie

Release Date: December 17, 1982

Director: Sydney Pollack

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Dabney Coleman, Teri Garr, Charles Durning, Bill Murray.

Tag Lines: “Little did this desperate, out of work actor know when he secretly auditioned for a female role that he’d become the hottest star on television. Not even the girl he’s madly in love with knows that he’s Tootsie.”

“Desperate, he took a female role and became a star. If only he could tell the woman he loves.”

“He’s Tootsie…She’s Dustin Hoffman.”

“What do you get when you cross a hopelessly straight starving actor with a dynamite red sequined dress? You get America’s hottest new actress.”

“Can you keep a secret? In the next 72 hours, this desperate, unemployed actor will secretly audition for the lead of a soap opera. And become America’s hottest new actress.”

“This Is a Hell of a Way To Make a Living.”

“This Christmas everyone will know that she’s Dustin Hoffman and he’s Tootsie.”

Relevance: In December of 1982, at the age of eleven, I was not aware of Sydney Pollack’s comedy ‘Tootsie’ when it was released in theaters. But I soon would be. Released to glorious reviews from critics, ‘Tootsie’ was a huge financial success, eventually becoming the second highest grossing film of that year. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning one for Jessica Lange’s supporting role performance. It was at that award telecast on April 11, 1983 that I knew ‘Tootsie’ would be viewed in my very near future, thanks to my mom.

I of course saw the trailer to the movie and knew of its premise, but at that age I was all about ‘E. T. the Extra-terrestrial’ (see 61. E. T. the Extra-terrestrial). My mom however loved Jessica Lange and was thrilled when she took home the Oscar for ‘Tootsie.’ She had not yet seen the film, but she made her thoughts loudly known that she could not wait to see it. I don’t know exactly when my family watched the movie, possibly later that year or in early 1984, but it was not only my mom that loved it. ‘Tootsie’ became a movie that the entire family thoroughly enjoyed over and over again.

We first watched ‘Tootsie’ the night it premiered on HBO. I was at least twelve by that point and with each growing age I was becoming more and more of a cinephile. I loved all movies and enjoyed watching them at the theater or in the comfort of my home. When it came to viewing a movie at my house with my family growing up, we all had our place. The night we watched ‘Tootsie’ was no different. Once we knew the date and time, thanks to our handy-dandy HBO Guide, we all made sure we were bathed, in pajamas, had our snacks and in our designated seats ready for showtime.

We had a long sectional army green couch in our living room that went up three-quarters the length of one wall, rounded the corner and continued three-quarters down the other wall. My mom always sat in the “rounded section” with her legs stretched out on the couch with her glass of water, cigarettes and ash tray to her right. The back of the couch had a paneled or floored shelf, for lack of better description, that ran most of its length, easy for her to put everything she needed right by her side. My dad always plopped himself by her feet, most of the time falling asleep. My sister was to my mom’s left and I was either to my sister’s left or on the floor in front of our coffee table. If there were snacks, they were often placed on that table and that’s where I was located for the duration. Once we were in place for the movie, there was usually silence except for the occasional munching on snacks or the flicker of a cigarette lighter. However, when it came to ‘Tootsie,’ there was also uproarious laughter.

‘Tootsie’ wasn’t just a “giggle” type of movie for my family, it was a boisterous laugh out loud comedy which erupted on all parts of that sectional couch, especially the “rounded section.” To say my mother loved this movie would be an understatement. She adored it. My mom had a pretty recognizable cackle when she laughed, and it was very infectious and could light up a room with it. She was a tiny woman, and her whole body would be animated during her laugh making it difficult not to smile while watching her. Watching ‘Tootsie,’ my mother’s laughs grew and grew throughout the entire film until that explosive climax. Now I had heard my mother laugh pretty hard before that moment, but to this day there was no greater guffaw heard since Edward Kimberly made his appearance at “Southwest General.” I swore the whole sectional moved. Her laughter only made the rest of the family laugh even harder.

Needless to say, ‘Tootsie’ became a movie that my family watched over and over again. As soon as possible, it became a part of our movie collection and every time it played, we laughed, especially my mom. It never seemed to get old for us. As I aged, the movie remained one of my favorite comedies of all time. I bought the 25th Anniversary Edition DVD and have watched the film numerous times throughout the years. As someone that often performs with community theater groups, I have often quoted “I can’t act with this,” always getting a giggle from my other actors, except maybe the person it referenced. ‘Tootsie’ is talked or thought about at least once a week in my household or with friends and it’s a movie that brings a smile to my face every time. Go, ‘Tootsie,’ go!

Today’s Thoughts: “Dr. Brewster tried to seduce several nurses in this unit, claiming to be the throes of an uncontrollable impulse. Do you know what? I’m going to give every nurse on this floor an electric cattle prod and instruct them to just zap him in his badubies!”

Just knowing that I was going to watch ‘Tootsie’ today made me giggle. It is just one of those movies that brings me pure joy to sit down and watch. Thankfully I have friends as well as a husband that enjoy this film as much as I do. If not, they would get sick of me referencing it all of the time. On a day when I am still feeling a tad under the weather, ‘Tootsie’ was the perfect remedy to make me feel a little better.

Sydney Pollack was a terrific director and actor and for me his crowning achievement is definitely ‘Tootsie.’ It’s such a funny, funny film. However, hidden within the script is a great exploration of sexism, misogyny and feminism, especially within the boundaries of entertainment and Hollywood. That is even more true when you consider that it was produced in 1982. One of the last lines of the film is very striking even to this day, “But I was a better man with you, as a woman… than I ever was with a woman, as a man. You know what I mean? I just gotta learn to do it without the dress.” As the saying goes, don’t judge a person until you have walked in someone else’s shoes. Michael Dorsey did just that.

The cast of ‘Tootsie’ is top notch. Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Dabney Coleman, Teri Garr, Charles Durning and Bill Murray are all phenomenal, just sheer perfection. Even the director, Sydney Pollack, wanted to join in with the cast and has some of the funniest moments and lines in the film. That Russian Tea Room Scene is simply hysterical. However, Bill Murray’s “That is one nutty hospital” and “I think we are getting into a weird area here” always make me laugh the hardest.

‘Tootsie’ is a wonderfully, funny, classic romantic comedy that is just as hilarious now as it was thirty-eight years ago. Not only does it always entertain me, but I can’t help but smile thinking about those memories I have associated with it. It is a fantastic film that comes highly recommended. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check it out. If you have, revisit it and fall in love with it all over again.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Jessica Lange (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, Sydney Pollack, Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Dustin Hoffman (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Teri Garr (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Larry Gelbart, Murray Schisgal, Don McGuire (nomination), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Owen Roizman (nomination), Academy Award for Best Sound, Arthur Piantodosi, Les Fresholtz, Rick Alexander, Les Lazarowitz (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Frederic Steinkamp, William Steinkemp (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, “It Might Be You,” Dave Grusin, Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Dustin Hoffman (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Motion Picture, Jessica Lange (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Sydney Pollack (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Larry Gelbert, Murray Schisgal (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actor, Dustin Hoffman (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Make Up Artist, Dorothy J. Pearl, George Masters, C. Romania Ford, Allen Weisinger (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Sydney Pollack (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actress, Jessica Lange (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress, Teri Garr (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay – Adapted, Larry Gelbert, Murray Schisgal (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design, Ruth Morley (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Original Song, “Tootsie,” Dave Grusin, Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Sydney Pollack (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay, Larry Gelbert, Murray Schisgal (winner), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Film Registry (1998), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Sydney Pollack (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress, Jessica Lange (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay, Larry Gelbert, Murray Schisgal (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, Dustin Hoffman (nomination), New York Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, George Gaynes (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen, Larry Gelbert, Murray Schisgal (winner).

Ways to Watch: Hulu, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, DVD Availability.

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