By Joe Reid
September 20, 2016 // 10:02am


Twenty years ago today, three Hollywood actresses of a certain age teamed up to headline a major studio release and took it to massive popular success. The First Wives Club was a major success story for so many reasons: an original mainstream comedy, a movie about women over 50, a movie that recognized the comedic potential of actresses like Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, and Goldie Hawn ”¦ with every year that goes by, the movie seems more and more like a miracle.

The story was simple and very much in tune with the sensibilities of the ’90s. After their old friend Cynthia (Stockard Channing) commits suicide after her husband leaves her for a younger woman, Annie (Keaton), Elise (Hawn), and Brenda (Midler) reconnect and realize that they’re all in the same boat: they gave their husbands the best years of their lives, only to be tossed aside for younger models once their men became successes. In an act of self-improvement and, yes, vengeance, the women band together to set things right in their lives.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this most unheralded of Hollywood success stories, here are 10 fun facts about the film, from the golden cast to the musical numbers to the actors left on the cutting room floor.

  1. The Director Was Used to Very Different Comedy

Director Hugh Wilson took the reigns of director on The First Wives Club for producer Scott Rudin. Wilson’s most notable previous credit was as the director for 1984 franchise-starter Police Academy.

2. The Cast Is Jam-Packed With Oscar Winners

For a mainstream comedy pitched right down the middle of America’s taste level, The First Wives Club benefitted from a remarkably accomplished cast. Part of that was surely the fact that a movie with multiple significant roles for women age 50 or older was not something that came around very often. Whatever it was, The First Wives Club boasts SIX performers who either had already won an Oscar (Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Maggie Smith, Eileen Heckart) or would eventually win one (Marcia Gay Harden, J.K. Simmons). Add to that Bette Midler and Stockard Channing, both Oscar nominees, and you have one wildly prestigious cast. No wonder they took home a National Board of Review award for Best Ensemble.

3.  Jon Stewart Was Left On The Cutting-Room Floor


Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart was also supposed to be in The First Wives Club, as Goldie Hawn’s beginning-of-the-movie boyfriend. Alas, his character was a sacrifice to the editing-room floor, as all Stewart’s scenes were cut.

4. Timothy Olyphant Made His Film Debut


Olyphant – who would later go on to make Justified and Deadwood – played the movie director who wants to cast Elise as an aging gorgon of a mother. At age 28, it was Olyphant’s first movie, one year before Scream 2 would be his big breakthrough.

5. Donald Trump’s First Wife Gets the Movie’s Most Memorable Line

In 1996, Ivana Trump was the ultimate first wife, sticking with Donald until he was rich enough to toss her overboard for newer, younger Marla Maples in one of the biggest tabloid scandals of the early ’90s. “Don’t get mad. Get everything!” Amen, Ivana. Amen.

6. The Big Musical Moment Was 30+ Years in the Making

In the film’s transcendent final scene, Annie, Brenda, and Elise take a victory lap with a group singalong of Lesley Gore 1963 hit “You Don’t Own Me.” Gore was the teenage pop songstress of the 1960s, with hits like “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry.” “You Don’t Own Me” hit #2 on the Billboard charts, bested by The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” but perhaps as cosmic consolation, Gore’s anthem to independence was the perfect song for these first wives to sing out into the streets of New York as the credits rolled.

7. The Film Was a Box-Office Bonanza


The First Wives Club opened #1 at the box office on September 20, 1996, handily besting Bruce Willis’s Last Man Standing. It stayed at #1 for three consecutive weeks and stayed in the top 5 for six weeks total, all en route to $105 million dollar domestic take. It was the 11th highest grossing movie of the year, and only Twister and 101 Dalmatians made more money with women in lead roles.

8. Keaton, Hawn, and Midler Stole the Show at the Oscars

While The First Wives Club only got an Oscar nomination for its Marc Shaiman score, all three lead actresses were invited to present at the Academy Awards. No surprise, since all three were Oscar favorites. Still, theirs was the most sparkling presenter banter of the night, with Midler throwing some (playful?) shade Madonna’s way, before she and Hawn got into a (playful?) argument over the proper pronunciation of “Streisand.”

9. These First Wives Would Meet Again

With a cast this big, it was inevitable that the actresses would end up starring opposite each other again. Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker had co-starred once before already in Hocus Pocus. Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn would reunite in the Warren Beatty-starring Town and Country that was so unmemorably disastrous that Beatty wouldn’t make another movie for 15 years (he’s back this fall with a Howard Hughes movie, though!). And Keaton and Sarah Jessica Parker would reunite under antagonistic circumstances in The Family Stone.

There have also been reports of Midler, Keaton, and Hawn all getting together again for a Netflix project called Divination, where the three would play estranged members of a singing group forced to reconnect, but there has been no further word on the project since December.

10. We’re Getting a Remake


TVLand is bringing us a reboot of The First Wives Club, starring Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother), Megan Hilty (Smash), and Vanessa Lachey. While the premise will once again center on three friends who reunite after the suicide of their fourth friends, the women will be San Francisco professionals rather than Manhattan society ladies. It should also be noted that while Midler, Keaton, and Hawn were all 50 years old when The First Wives Club was released, Hannigan (42), Hilty (35), and Lachey (35) are all quite a bit younger.

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