Bette Midler 1974: A Movie Comes Back To Haunt Bette

Bradford Era
The Voice of Broadway
May 4, 1974

Patricia Lanigan of E. Meadow, N.Y., askes if Bette Midler has a “religious” flick due; yes, more irreligious, however: it’s a cheapie ($30,000) in more ways than money: it’s an ineptie, too – titled originally “The Greatest Story Ever Overtold,” a candidly sacrilegious story of Jesus and Mary, so bad it wasn’t released, nor even escaped, since it was slapped onto celluloid three years ago.

Meanwhile , back at the footlights, Bette Midler’s campy nonsense got hot which makes the cheapie a fiscally viable property. The name’s now changed to “The Divine Mr. J.,” a takeoff on the already campy Bette-billing and, with her neostardom all the way from the homo-baths to the Palace Theater, La Midler now wants to keep it buried. No way!

It’s been edited to make Bette seem the star – she was a prominent afterthough as first filmed – and it was previewed at a drag ball and pronounced rotten but financially promising. It’s an all directions insult (it’s billed as “A Metro Golda-Meier Production”), noisily trumpeting its afterthought-star as “The Virgin Midler,” and a prime favorite for the year’s prize in the Age of Vulgarity: marijuana is smoked at the Last Supper, John the Baptist baptizes with low-comedy seltzer water in the face, Christmas is a tourist promotion of the Bethlehem Merchants Assn., etc.

Mrs. Laingan in her query was intuitive: “Both the title and Ms. Midler grab me wrong.” Right.

Ms. Midler took the money and ergo, her chances. She can’t stop it unless she buys it from the owner.

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