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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tootsie (1982)

#2 - 1982 Box Office: Gross $177,200,000

He's Tootsie... She's Dustin Hoffman
Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is an actor living in New York who's constantly told that he's too old or too young or too tall or too short... His friend (soon with benefits) & protégée Sandy Lester (Teri Garr) has similar bad luck on her auditions—it seems the early '80s are not an easy time to be an actor in NYC (unlike, you know, today).  Michael's agent (director Sydney Pollack) believes that his temper and perfectionism are to blame—no one in NYC or LA wants to hire a man who can't even finish a tomato commercial.  One final option, a play written by his roommate (Bill Murray), needs a producer, so in a desperate attempt to earn $8,000, he dresses in drag and auditions for the soap opera "Southwest General."  His new persona, "Dorothy Michaels" is soon a hit with audiences despite the objections of director Ron Carlisle (Dabney Coleman).  S/he soon grows close to her costar (and the director's girlfriend), Julie Nichols (Best Supporting Actress, Jessica Lange), but outside of the dress, Michael has no luck courting her.  In the dress, however, s/he attracts both the soap's elderly lothario (George Gaynes) AND Julie's father (Charles Durning).  As Dorothy's success continues to grow, her contract is renewed, trapping Michael for much longer than he intended.

Trivia (mostly courtesy of the IMDb)
  • Its opening weekend gross was only $5,540,470 but it still became the highest grossing comedy of 1982
  • The film's working title was "Would I Lie to You?" until Dustin Hoffman suggested the current title, which was his mother's dog's nickname
  • The crew would only give bad news to Dustin Hoffman if he was in drag, saying he was "much nicer as a woman"
  • Sydney Pollack originally was not meant to cameo as Michael's agent, however, Dustin Hoffman felt the director's presence in those scenes was necessary to build Michael's desperation. Hoffman sent red roses to Pollack daily, with a note "Please be my director. Love, Dorothy" until Pollack finally agreed to the role
  • "Southwest General" is a parody of "General Hospital," which actually had a plot twist where character Sally Armitage was revealed to be Max Hedges
  • The bit where Julie reaches behind her and accidentally grabs a corn cob instead of the phone was a genuine mistake in blocking. The director decided to leave it in
  • During the opening credit sequence Sydney Pollack cameos as the voice of the unseen play director who tells Michael Dorsey he's looking for someone else
  • Dustin Hoffman's breasts were custom-fitted prostheses purchased from an outlet specializing in post-mastectomy products, at a cost of $175 each
I am not Emily Kimberly, the daughter of Dwayne and Alma Kimberly...
This is a movie that I've always felt a little ashamed never having seen—I mean it was nominated for 10 Oscars (of which it only won the 1 for Lange)!  I never knew the first 20 minutes focused on the difficulties of getting hired in NYC—had I known, I may have sought this out earlier cause I love movies about acting...  I totally realize how lucky I am to have a job and I do feel bad for other actor friends who are out there pounding the pavement going from audition to audition, but I can't say that watching this didn't sort of make me wish I had a savings account big enough to move to NYC and give it a try myself (acting, not dressing in drag)...  Hoffman does a fantastic job creating Dorothy—she and Michael are two very distinct characters.  I'm not quite sure if his disguise was really good enough to fool two gentlemen callers, but it was a clever plot device that created some humorous results.  I did find the issues it brought up regarding homosexuality and cross-dressing interesting, even if, as a simple comedy, it doesn't delve too deeply into examining them.  In the end, it's little more than a simple rom-com between a woman and a man-dressed-as-a-woman. Bill Murray's excellent supporting performance is enough to make me glad this became the #2 earner in 1982 so I finally had a reason to watch it!

Ponch's Rating:


  1. I don't understand how people did not see how much "she" looks like a "he." Come on...seriously...dude [doesn't] look like a lady.

  2. Yeah... I think the character was well-developed, but the look wasn't quite up there...