Film Capsule: The First Wives Club

The First Wives Club is a 1996 movie directed by Hugh Wilson based on the novel by Olivia Goldsmith. It stars Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton as three divorced women who seek revenge on their husbands who left them for younger women.

The movie helped R&B singer Puff Johnson score a world-wide hit with the movie’s theme song “Over & Over”.

Composer/arranger Marc Shaiman was nominated for an Oscar for his score.


Elise Elliott (Goldie Hawn), Brenda Cushman (Bette Midler), Annie Paradis (Diane Keaton), and Cynthia Griffin (Stockard Channing) were best friends at Middlebury College during the 1960s, but marriage and children force them to drift apart. Decades later, Cynthia commits suicide because her husband has divorced her, having left her for a younger woman. The three remaining women reunite at her funeral. Subsequently, we learn that their husbands are divorcing them too, and, like Cynthia’s ex-husband, are taking up with younger women.

All three had helped their husband’s careers, and all three feel they are being shafted. They plan to get revenge by ruining their husbands careers. Brenda plans to expose her ex-husband Morty’s (Dan Hedaya) income tax fraud, Elise plans to reveal that Bill’s (Victor Garber) mistress is a minor and ruin his reputation, and Annie buys out Aaron’s (Stephen Collins) partner taking half of his advertising business. Deciding that revenge would make them no better than their husbands, they instead use these situations to push their men into funding the establishment of a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding abused women, in memory of Cynthia.

It is important to note that the plot of the movie diverges significantly from that of the novel. In the novel, the wives also seek revenge on Cynthia’s ex-husband Gil (James Naughton), each wife has a romantic subplot, and the children have more significant roles.


Diane Keaton – Annie Paradis
Bette Midler – Brenda Cushman
Goldie Hawn – Elise Elliot
Stephen Collins – Aaron Paradis
Dan Hedaya – Morton Cushman
Victor Garber – Bill Atchison
Marcia Gay Harden – Dr. Leslie Rosen
Sarah Jessica Parker – Shelly Stewart
Elizabeth Berkley – Phoebe LaVelle
Stockard Channing – Cynthia Swann Griffin
Maggie Smith – Gunilla Garson Goldberg
Bronson Pinchot – Duarto Felice
Ari Greenberg – Jason Cushman
Jennifer Dundas – Chris Paradis
Eileen Heckart – Catherine MacDuggan
Philip Bosco – Uncle Carmine Morelli


* Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and Diane Keaton were all born within 45 days of each other, and celebrated their 50th birthdays together while filming this movie.
* “The First Wives Club” is the second time that Diane Keaton and Jennifer Dundas (Lowe) have played mother and daughter. The first time was in “Mrs. Soffel” in 1984, when Dundas was still being billed as Jennie Dundas.
* Jon Stewart had a small part in the film but it was left on the cutting room floor.
* When the three ladies meet after the funeral, they are talking about Elise’s plastic surgery. Brenda asks Elise whether she got “a little bit or the full enchilada?” Originally, the line was filmed as “…or the full Ivana?” but was redubbed in post-production (and noticeably corrected with a different camera angle towards the end of the line, obscuring Brenda’s mouth) once Ivana Trump was cast in a cameo.
* Hugh Wilson cast his daughter, Cannon, for the crew of the commercial that Morty is shooting when they come kidnap him.
* Doctors created Goldie Hawn’s simulated collagen treatment by injecting her lips with a harmless saline solution. Though temporary, Hawn later remarked in interviews that the experience was quite painful and that it had discouraged her from ever getting collagen for real.
* In an interview, Bette Midler mentioned that all three main cast members wanted to make a sequel, but the studio was unwilling to go ahead with a sequel because they viewed the success of this film as a “fluke”. Midler also said that just before the movie opened, she was told it would not do very well because the film was competing against action movies with male stars such as Bruce Willis. This film opened at number one and out-grossed those action movies.
* The theatrical trailer features snippets of scenes that were not included in the final film.
* This film is Timothy Olyphant’s screen debut.
* Ironically, Goldie Hawn, who played a woman who divorced her husband and her ex-husband ends up with a younger woman, divorced her husband and since 1982 have been living with Kurt Russell who is younger than she is.
* Heather Locklear appears in a no-line scene (the funeral scene) during the first half of the film. She plays the younger woman for whom Stockard Channing’s husband left her.
* Coincidentally, Diane Keaton and Stephen Collins appear together as on-screen couples in both this movie and Because I Said So (2007).
* First Wives Club is being developed into a Broadway musical and will feature a score by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, the threesome who created hits for Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and The Supremes. The score will include original tunes for the musical and will feature some of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s hit tunes as well. First Wives Club — The Musical is being produced by Paul Lambert and Jonas Neilson.


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3 thoughts on “Film Capsule: The First Wives Club

  1. When my Mom, Brother and Step-dad saw this movie (without me) on opening weekend, I knew it was going to be a hit. I was proud of Bette for this film and its success. I remember how exciting it was to read all the interviews and seeing all the TV appearances. Too bad there was never a sequel.

  2. wow creepy, i just watched this movie last night!! now that i think about it, when i watched ruthless people, the next day the time capsul for ruthless people was up! HMMM i’m not gonna say which ovie i watch tonight, but if the time capsul for it is on tomorrow, ten i will be officilay creeped out, and then i’ll start to believe that i have a weird power or something 🙂

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