BetteBack: The End Of 1982

“You’re only as good as your last picture” is one of those overworked Hollywood cliches with just enough truth behind it not to be dismissed casually. Winning and losing is all part of the movie game and in 1982, E.T. and Sylvester Stallone were champions, while Inchon, Bette Midler and Luciano Pavoratti were bums.

Careers may not live or die exclusively on the basis of a single movie but, then again, it’s amazing how a performer or a film-maker’s perceived box-office power ‘can t u rn from bonanza to poison in the course of a year.

So, here’s a quick, check-list of 1982’s winners and losers on the cinematic barometer of success.

The biggest winner of the year, to’ no one’s surprise, in retrospect, was the pint-sized E. T. Not only did this visitor from space dominate the box office, he captured the hearts qf the critics. With E. T., Poltergeist and Raiders of the Lost Ark, producer-director Steven Spielberg has to be Hollywood’s hottest commodity.

Veterans who still rate high on the winners list include Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, Richard Pryor and Sylvester Stallone. Each of these actors released at least two movies in 1982 and while the jury’s still out on Eastwood’s Honkytonk Ma n , . the remaining movies all rang loud at the box office.

Rocky potent

Stallone was the bigger winner of the four. Rocky was still potent in its third inning and First Blood gave him his first success in a non-Rocky role. The other actors all wound up faring better commercially than critically.

However, their lot was much better than that of Al Pacino (Author! Author!), Jack Nicholson (The Border), Ryan O’Neal (Partners), Gene Wi lder (Ha n ky Panky), Ha r r i son Ford (Blade Runner) and Sean Connery (Wrong is Right), who all met
with crushing commercial and critical response to new movies.

On the distaff side, it was a disappointing year. Neither Jane Fonda nor Barbara Streisand released movies, so the brightest lights were Meryl Streep, Margot Kidder, Julie Andrews- and Debra Winger. Streep and Kidder’s success was largely critical, although Kidder managed to retain her Lois Lane role in the upcoming Superman saga. Andrews proved it’s never too late for a comeback in Victor/Victoria and Winger rallied from the disappointing Cannery Row to score in the year’s most romantic f i lm, An Officer and a Gentleman.

Less fortunate were Bette Midler in the appropriately titled Jinxed, Morgan Fairchild’s debut in The Seduction, Diane Keaton (Shoot the Moon) and Genevieve Bujold (Monsignor).

Paul Newman, Charles Bronson, Peter O’Toole and Dustin Hoffman made t r i ump h a nt comebacks of sorts. Hoffman has enjoyed a longstanding love a f f a ir with the public but, lest -we forget, it’s been three years between Kramer Vs. Kramer and Tootsie. And Newman’s performance in The Verdict is a strong candidate for copping the actor his first Oscar.

Bronson regained some of his boxo f f i ce c l o ut w i th De a th W i sh II though the critics remained unimpressed. They saved their accolades for O’Toole in My Favorite Year.

Losers in 1981 who regained their status included Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Richard Gere (An Officer and a Gentleman). Martin f inished last year with Penni e s . f rom Heaven but the real rewards came with Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. And Williams proved there was life after Mork in The World According to Garp.

On the winners side of new talent entries were Eddie Mu r p h y, Bob Hoskins, Michael Keaton (Night Shift), Fanny Ardent, the comedy team of Wally and Andre and the entire cast of Diner. Murphy, a member of the Saturday Night Live team, made his f i lm debut in 48 Hrs. and was immediately signed to a multipicture contract at Paramount.


Hoskins came on like the British answer to Jimmy Cagney in The Long Good Friday and Ardent was a stunning French temptress in Francois T r u f f a u t ‘s The Woman Next Door.

L u c i a no P a v o r a t ti a nd K e n ny Rogers will just have a difficult time finding another picture. Yes, Giorgio and Six Pack did nothing to widen the established recording stars’ careers and things might have turned out better had they changed movies.

Other notable mistakes of ’82 include Christopher Reeve’s attempt to switch capes in Monsignor and Arnold Schwarzenegger succumbing to the type of “beefcake” role (Conan) he’s avoided for years. The gigantic movie flops were Inchon, Megaforce, National Lampoon’s Class Reunion and One From the Heart.

Winning movies included two f i lms that were almost not released – Chariots of Fire and The Chosen – and two Canadian movies that had a critical (Quest for Fire) and a commercial (Porky’s) success.

Finally, the future looked bleak for Robert Al tman when 20th CenturyFox released his-shelved 1980 production of Health. However, things abruptly picked up with the launch of his independently produced Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmie Dean, Jimmie Dean. The f i lm won the top prize at the Chicago f i lm festival and Altman is back at work again.

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