BetteBack: Midler’s ‘Divine Madness’ inspires raving

The Daily Herald
Midler’s ‘Divine Madness’ inspires raving
by Dann Gire
October 2, 1980

DIVINE MADNESS” – Cast: Bette Midler, Jocelyn Brown, Ula Hedwig and Diva Gray. Written by Jerry Blatt, Bette Midler and Bruce Vilanch. Produced and directed by Michael Ritchie. A Warner Brothers release. Rated R. ***

Concert movies have always been a source of dread for me. Dread because they’re virtually all the same. B-O-R-I-N-G. Somebody nails a camera to the auditorium floor about center stage and photographs the whole action from
v i r t u a l ly one angle – straight on.

All you see are performers with microphones jammed in their mouths. If we’re lucky, maybe a few closeups or a couple of cutaway shots to the drummer But, my faith is revitalized. “Divine Madness” is not an ordinary “concert movie.” It’s almost a real f i lm. It has honest-to-goodness edi t ing, c inema -qua l i ty lighting and u n i q ue camera movement, something worthy of its main performer, the legendary Bette Midler – the “Divine Miss M.” The self proc’laimed “queen of f l a sh and
trash” whose motto is “sleaze with ease ”

Director Michael Ritchie, noted for helming “The Island,” “SemiTough” and other standard f e atures, constructed “Divine Madness” f r om three nights of shooting Midl e r ‘s Broadway stage show at tlie old Pasadena Civic Auditorium in California. Ritchie’s filming style required 10 cameras set up at s t r a t egic points in the audi tor ium alongside 1,600 lights and special sound equipment.

RITCHIE CAREFULLY plotted angles and locations to insure that no cameras would be seen in the final print. The result is an exciting, innovative movie that transcends the usual barriers of live performances and staged film screens.

Then there’s Midler, bouncing around on stage with more energy than a ruptured nuclear reactor. Backed by her trio The Harlettes, Midler slides through ballads, spicy pop numbers and resurrected ’50s tunes. Between her highly physical musical renditions, Midler displays her comic talents as she evolves through her stage characters: the tasteless Delores DeLago, the Toast of Chicago; t a cky Sophie Tucker and her outrageously off-color jokes; and the famous “Divine Miss M.”

One key to the Midler success is the star’s ability to share a strong camaraderie with her fans. The j o y f u l, e x u b e r a nt Midler of “Divine Madness” is the opposite of Midler’s depressing role in last year’s “The Rose.”

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