BetteBack November 24, 1991: Bette Midler overcame many obstacles to get ‘For The Boys’ made

Syracuse Herald Journal
November 24, 1991

5-10-2015 4-27-15 PM

Bette Midler – wife; mother, movie and pop music star – is tending to business. Show .business!
She’s facing a battery of interviewers, moving from table to table, trying to maintain her energy. The.night before, the star endured the pressure of having her new motion picture, “For the-Boys,” play before,an-A Jist audience of industry executives, stars and the national press corps. Superstars Richard Gere and Alec Baldwin headed the star parade.

More taxing .for Midler, was the post-screening show. ”¢ For the first time,in .seven years. Midler sang a full-length concert Flanked by a pair of 12-foot-high gold Oscars the newly blonde star belted out 40.minutes of tunes, finishing to a standing ovation for the title tune from her film “The Rose,” was a duet with James Caan on Baby It’s Cold Outside ” Joked Midler, as she’introduced-her “For the-Boys” co-star Caan “He’s survived”‘Barbra (Streisand) Kathy Bates (in. ‘Misery’), and now Bette Midler.

Then there was the gown she chose to wear for her concert: “I couldn’t get into it without having to struggle,” she confessed the next morning.

Still to come are the reviews when the film opens nationwide Wednesday,-but the 45-year-old “performer ‘ must have felt relief at simply having completed the film that was several years in the making.

Midler and her company,-All-Girl Productions, have a contract with ^”the Disney orgahization that givesDisney first look at projects.

Disney passed on “For the Boys,”

”¢ “I expected them to pass,” Midler said. “1 could hear them saying, ‘What do-you need the Korean War .for?’^Nobody remembers that war. “But’I never despaired for a single second.”

”¢ -Another strike against the movie is tne.fact that musicals have -long been’put of favor. They’re also deemed too .expensive.

The absence of full-scale musicals is a situation Midler deplores.

“In the old days, the studios made musical units – like Arthur Freed’s MGM,” she pointed out “But they let them die or let”them-just, go away.-There’s.-no apprenticeship.

People are not able to do the same quality of work when that happens ”

NEXT STOP: 20th Century Fox

The studio gave ‘ For the Boys” a green light without hesitation However, the end was not in sight for Four more years were invested developing the script.

The result is the 50-year saga of a singer (Midler) and a comedian (Caan) who meet on a USO tour during World War II The pair moves on to become America’s favorite TV entertainers, but their personal relationship is fraught with trauma.

The choice of Caan came from director Mark Rydell.

“He was not the first person to come to mind,” admitted Bonnie Bruckheimer, co-producer with South and a partner in All-Girl. Rydell’s task was made difficult by Caan’s record, which at that point did not include “Misery,” the film which restored him to prominence
in the industry.

“Jimmy had a bad period,” Rydell said “There was the tragic personal loss of his beloved sister When she died so young, it shattered him ”

Furthermore, Rydell said, “He s always been kind of a rebel He wouldn’t play in those garbage films. He just wouldn’t play in a Terminator 2 ‘ ” He could have added that Caan suffered an acute drug problem.

But Caan had done a musical film, .”Funny Lady” (1975), surviving the obsessive perfectionist Streisand, and had displayed a deft light comedy touch in Rydell’s own film, “Harry and Walter Go to New York” (1976)

Rydell sounds like the president of Caan’s fan club when he describes the actor “Jimmy has greatness in him as an actor He’s very selfless. He never sues for sympathy, and he never curries favor ”

Finally, the director said, “I told Bette I wouldn’t do the picture without him ”

MIDLER WANTED the talent, the familiarity and the security of Rydell, who had presided over “The Rose” (1979), which earned her an Oscar nomination She caved in to Caan’s casting.

Despite her perseverance, Midler said she was only “semi-consumed” by “For the Boys ”

“I loved the music, so I felt the movie had a shot I felt strongly, too, about the idea of raising a child you’re absolutely crazy about, and to lose that child to a war you don’t understand as I do with my son in the film And I believed in the two characters (hers and Caan’s) ”

But, Midler conceded, “1 was absolutely terrified,” at doing a full scale musical again, her first since “The Rose ”

After several flops, notably “Jinxed” (1982), Midler’s screen career was washed up She said, “1 found a road – the bawdy comedy road seven .years ago with ‘Down and Out in Beverly Hills ‘ 1 had a lot of success with this type of comedy.

Now I’m feeling my way again back into a musical”

The added prospect of playing a character at age 80 also frightened the star “I’d never done it like Dustin Hoffman did in ‘Little Big Man’ and Keir Dullea in ‘2001’ So I spent some days at an old-age home, but I found that the makeup was a tremendous help ” From the personal standpoint, she said, seeing herself wrinkled, puffy and liver-spotted, was “depressing ”

Midler is more than a titular head of All-Girl Productions According to Bruckheimer, “Bette and Margaret work on story development We’re on the phone with her every day, several times a day, when she isn t in the office ”

BRUCKHEIMER also calls Midler “very, very cost conscious She does not want to spend a lot if she doesn’t have to ”

Example- Rather than shift production to England, Korea and Vietnam, Midler and company found suitable locations in California, then hired real servicemen and reservists as extras.

One week, the extras were plenliful The next, half the supply dried up They had been shipped off to fight in Operation Desert Storm.

“It was horrifying, ” Rydel! recalled “But it lent a resonance to what we were filming ”

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