Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Delicious look at Zeffirelli's ENDLESS LOVE proves that when young love is concerned, where there's smoke, there's fire - literally!

Combatting the ruins of a recent house fire (caused when my Madame Trousseau electric hairdyer 6000 decided that life had finally become unbearable and decided to go out, not with a whimper, but with a bonfire), meant dinner and dancing with husband Jim was utterly out of the question. But romance will not be damned. If we could not make sparks on the dance floor, we would make sparks in front of the dvd player. 

A recent remake of ENDLESS LOVE had me nostalgic for my younger days when I saw the original version in theaters and swooned with delight over the acting eyebrows of Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt. While there has never been an official US dvd release of the film, yours truly has her ways, and I trundled into my secret stash to find the old 1981 chestnut with the promise to Jim that getting my way was the only way that he would have his.

Filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli, hoping to reignite his lukewarm career with a swoony, romantic teen tragedy (aping his earlier smash Romeo and Juliet) only pulled off the swoony part with this misguided, hooty attempt to launch ‘70s prepubescent pinup Shields into adult stardom. Saddled with Brooke Shields and newcomer Martin Hewitt - two dreamy-looking dead weights who’d make better bookends than film stars - Zeffirelli tries, hilariously, to divert our attention from their inability to act by encouraging the film’s other players to overact up a storm. "Too much self-dramatizing around here!" snaps Beatrice Straight as if (1) she’d just come from watching the rushes, and (2) she weren’t guilty as sin herself.

The movie, a yarn about star-crossed Chicago teens who go mad when torn apart (already laughably preposterous when Splendor in the Grass was filmed twenty years earlier), throws together the son of two politically aware do-gooders with the daughter of two "free-spirits." whose home "is the joke of the neighborhood - into drugs, into everything - a relic of the ‘60s."

Earth mama Shirley Knight likes that Hewitt is spending the nights in fifteen-year-old Shields’ bedroom; she asks hippy hubby Don Murray, "Aren’t you happy that someone has the courage to wake up Sleeping Beauty?" (Shields looks to us like she’s been sleepwalking from beginning to end.) Knight explains, "He hides in the house till they think we’re asleep and he scuttles away at dawn. They’re rather sweet - like bats."

Bats is the word, all right, for the sequence where Zeffirelli whips up a veritable operatic quartet of Bad Acting: Murray screams at Shields, "I don’t want him in your room!" Shields wails, "You’re just jealous!" Knight shrieks at Murray, "You’re a hell of a doctor - she’s hysterical!" and Shields’ brother James Spader shouts "There’s something wrong with that guy!" - all at the same time.

Forbidden to see Shields (or even her nude body double), Hewitt goes off the deep end, takes the advice of arson enthusiast Tom Cruise, and sets fire to Shields’ house - taking the notion of "carrying a torch’ a tad far. Hewitt’s sent to a psychiatric hospital (where he has "visions" of Shields in earlier scenes) and, as is so often the case when a teen torches a house, the marriages of both families fall apart.

"Get me out of here!" Hewitt rages to his folks - a sentiment you’ll share before the movie’s over - so (get this) they do, and Hewitt hotfoots it to Manhattan, where he gets vamped by the divorced Knight, chased by Murray (who mercifully for us, is hit by a taxi and killed), and reunited with Shields, who hasn’t learned one single thing about acting in all the years they’ve been apart. What any of this has to do with love is anybody’s guess, but it’s certainly endless.

Needless to say, husband Jim did get lucky that evening - it was the least I could do.



  1. I (unfortunately) saw the remake and felt the same way--just watched this again very recently. What a cast! Shirley Knight is unforgettable...and Beatrice Straight is one of my favorites. Plus Tommy Cruise and Jimmy Spader in all their youthful glory...Too bad Mr. Hewitt is so bad, though, very cute but not too convincing, and Brooke is not much better. Still the film is moody, atmospheric, romantic and very sexual, full of Zeffirelli touches. I love the fireside love scene and the opening scene in the planetarium.

    I Just found your wonderful blog. Your layout and photos are indeed Delicious. Look forward to reading EVERYTHING.

    1. The film is indeed Zeffirelli gorgeous from the set design to the cinematography to the young actors that he cast. It is (unfortunately) not a great representation of the highly regarded Scott Spencer novel upon which it is based. (although that would truly be difficult for any director, I think.) All that being said, I do enjoy it (for all the wrong reasons) and it stands head and shoulders above the recent remake which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original novel.


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