Hoffman Blows Childhood Favourite Creation Out of The Water

Long before the late Robin Williams did his best drag impression in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’(1993) Dustin Hoffman arguably played it more convincingly in ‘Tootsie’ (1982: AFI 1996 #62, 2007 #69). Sure Williams had the advantage of superior make-up to effectively disguise his identity, but Hoffman’s character was better developed and it always bugged me that Mrs Doubtfire introduced herself as English rather than Scottish (those darn Americans!) in the 1993 film set in San Francisco based on a book by British author Anne Fine (those darn Americans!).

When I sat down to watch the 1982 Oscar Winning movie for my AFI 100 movie challenge I definitely had my favourite childhood film to compare it to, but to be honest the only similarities are that the protagonists dress up as women to deceive people close to them with hilarious consequences. That’s where the comparison ends.

In ‘Tootsie’ Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey an out of work actor who has a reputation of being difficult so no one in the industry wants to work with him. He hears of a upcoming role in a soap opera and auditions for the part of ‘Dorothy Michaels’ disguised as a woman and wins the part.  Much to Dorsey’s shock his creation becomes an overnight sensation because of ‘her’ feisty and no nonsense attitude. But things get a bit awkward when Dorsey falls for his co-star Julie Nichols played by innocent and timid Jessica Lange. There is even a really cringy scene where Michaels who is meant to be a middle-aged feminist tries to kiss Lange.

Lange and Hoffman get cosy

Although the movie is entertaining and Hoffman is brilliant as the eccentric Michael Dorsey and equally nuts Dorothy Michaels I wondered if the flick was good enough to make it on AFIs list of 100 movies of all time. What separates it from all the other comedies where the main character cross-dresses to trick people? Firstly the script is sharp and punchy and unlike family friendly ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ this film is for the adults. The supporting cast is terrific, Teri Garr (Phoebe’s mum in Friends) plays the ditsy and hopeless romantic acting student of Hoffman and I think she should have taken the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress rather than wooden Jessica Lange.  Bill Murry brings in his typical dry wit dry humour as Hoffman’s roommate in his pre-Ghostbuster superstardom days.

Dustin Hoffman, Terri Garr & Sydney Pollack on the set of ‘Tootsie’

But most importantly Michael Dorsey /Dorothy Michaels is believable and more likable than William’s creation in this Sydney Pollack classic. There are a few flaws in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ that I’ve come to realise as I’ve grown older. Firstly Robin Williams character is pretty much a loser, he lives off his wife, behaves likes a big kid and we are supposed to feel empathy for him when she throws him out? In real life a character like that wouldn’t have the intelligence or guts to pull of Mrs Doubtfire. In fact he would probably break down in tears the moment he steps into his old family home again. Hoffman’s character is a go-getter, a perfectionist who knows what he wants and is ruthless in his pursuit which makes the movie more realistic than the similar plots made before and after the 1982 classic flick. Although one can argue Williams complete and utter dedication towards his children gives him the courage and determination to succeed in his trickery.

Robin Williams On Dustin Hoffman’s ‘Tootsie’ Performance

Dustin Hoffman is perhaps the most underrated performer of his generation. In the 1970s only he and Jack Nicholson were able to immerse themselves in completely different roles in a believable manner. So it’s sometimes frustrating that De Niro and Pacino gets all the praise when most of the time they often played one dimensional characters (but brilliantly nevertheless). For the shear genius of Hoffman who despite having a stellar supporting cast can carry this movie by himself I give ‘Tootsie’ a 4.5 out 5.

How The Prototype For ‘White Chicks’ Became The Greatest Comedy Of All Time

I shouldn’t really be admitting this but ‘White Chicks’ (2004) is probably my biggest movie guilty pleasure – it’s predictable, crass and pretty offensive to caucasian people, but I can’t help but chuckle when clueless Terry Crews pursues Marlon Wayne’s character. Despite its massive cult following and box office success, the movie, unsurprisingly was a critical disaster and was nominated for five Razzies (the awards for the year’s worst films) which, is a far cry from the legacy ‘Some like it hot’ (1960, AFI 1998 # 14, 2007 #22), the movie it ‘borrowed heavily’ from has garnered over the years.

It was my second time watching the Billy Wilder classic which is featured in The American Film Institute’s 100 movies of all time this Sunday – I was actually geared up to view ‘The Searchers’ (1956 AFI #96, #12) which was the John Wayne western that has been in my Sky Player for the last three months but, I’ve been dreading to watch so I put off selecting the play button for as long as I can. This weekend I had no excuse so got up early before anyone at home was awake and before they had the chance to roll their eyes at me for ‘hogging the TV with ancient movies’. But when I finally got round to starting the film the TV box recorded only the title credits and stopped. Damn you Sky Player! I probably deserved that – nevertheless I was wide awake and didn’t quite fancy watching an ex-member of JLS plugging his new music to the disinterested presenters on ‘Sunday Brunch’ so I thought I’d again familiarise myself with Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic movie.

I was certain I saw ‘Some like it hot’ with my Dad when I was younger, but forgot some of the plot and the small details which made the film so memorable and iconic. The movie which is set during the prohibition era stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon who are musicians that go on the run from the mob after witnessing a murder – they disguise themselves as ladies and join an all-female band who are travelling to Florida. There they both meet and fall head over heels for the beautiful and flirtatious Sugar played by legendary Monroe who has no idea they are actually men.

Despite colour films becoming increasingly popular in the late 50s Wilder shot ‘Some like it hot’ in black and white

The plot is pretty straight forward and pretty tame by today’s standard, but the homosexual undertones throughout the movie along with Monroe’s blunt sex appeal makes it hard to believe it was certified a U in 1959. It was definitely a bold move by Wilder which paid off – I can imagine cinema goers raising their eyebrows during film’s initial screening when Sugar and Joe in drag share a passionate kiss. This is probably Monroe’s best performance (for which she won a Golden Globe, her only major acting accolade) and although she plays the same ditsy blonde – she displays a genuine talent for comedy and has perfect timing.

                 Monroe wins Golden Globe for her portrayal of Sugar in ‘Some like it hot’

Tony Curtis is impressive as Joe and “Josephine”, however he shows his true comedic flair when he plays ‘millionaire’ Shell Oil Junior to woo Sugar – His awkward British accent alone is genius and is much more likeable then Shawn Wayne’s Miami vice, LL Cool J ‘lick your lips’ like stud character he plays in ‘White Chicks’ to court Denise. But the real star for me is Jack Lemmon who I would say is perhaps the greatest comedian film star off all time. His ‘romance’ with Osgood Fielding played Joe E Brown (the equivalent to Terry Crews character in White Chicks) is pure comedy gold. It’s a shame that Lemmon was overlooked for an Oscar for his comedic roles such in this, the magnificent The Apartment (1960, AFI #93, #80)’ and ‘The Odd Couple’ (1968) where he shines rather than serious drama ‘Save the Tiger’ (1973). The two of the movies funniest characters are responsible for perhaps the most memorable ending in a film movie:

‘Some like it hot’ is perhaps one of the rare movies on the AFI’s top 100 movies of all-time list that you can watch over again and again without feeling the need to concentrate, it’s light hearted fun that is done well – I give this 5 out 5. The only thing that left a bad taste after watching it is that it gives a clear reminder how unoriginal and lazy Hollywood has become in recent years and that plots are recycled with gimmicks to make it appear new. My sister, Nicky asked how the movie was when she got up – I tried to tell her my frustration on how similar the Wayne brother’s movie was to the Wilder one, she replied: ‘Oh really that’s really cool they remade it – so what are we eating for breakfast?’