They made us laugh and they made us cry. They made us cheer and they made us cringe. They gave us hope and they made us mad. They gave us soundtracks that thumped away in our Walkmans and we were privileged to see some of the movie stars move on to bigger and better things. These are none other than the Totally Awesome Movies of the 80s!
Aurora and Emma are mother and daughter who don't always see eye to eye. When they do agree on something, it's wonderful. When they don't, well... that can be summed up in one word: Drama. When her daughter Emma got married, Aurora not only distanced herself, but showed how difficult she could be to deal with. Over the span of a few years, time has softened hardened hearts and hardened softened ones. Emma has had children with her husband, Flap, and Aurora has shown some interest in Garrett, a retired astronaut living next door. Lives eventually intersect, especially when a particular something happens that will affect all of them.
"Terms of Endearment" made it's premiere in New York City on November 20, 1983. Three days later it would be released to a limited number of screens before making it broad US premiere on December 9. The film would then be released about a month and a half later to Brazil followed later on by Argentina, Australia, Japan, and then on into Europe and Asia. Interestingly enough, it did not premiere in Russia nor Africa.
The larger-than-life cast included Shirley MacLaine (Aurora), Debra Winger (Emma), Jack Nicholson (Garrett), and Jeff Daniels (Flap). "Terms of Endearment" also co-starred Danny DeVito (Vernon), John Lithgow (Sam), and Lisa Hart Carroll (Patsy). This was the first feature film for James L. Brooks who also wrote the screenplay based on the book by Larry McMurtry.
Nominated for an astounding 11 Academy Awards, "Terms of Endearment" went on to win 5: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), Best Director, and Best Picture. It should be noted that both Debra Winger and John Lithgow were nominated for Oscars as well. It should also be noted that James L. Brooks pulled off a rare feat in that he won 3 Oscars for one film. The film also won 4 Golden Globes: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Nicholson), Best Actress (MacLaine), and Best Picture.
Costing an estimated $8 million to make, "Terms of Endearment" raked in over $108 million, making it the second largest Box Office hit of 1983 behind "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi".
Filmed primarily in Nebraska and Texas, here are some other fine points of interest regarding this wonderful dramatic film...
1. Jennifer Jones originally owned the book rights and wanted to play the part of Aurora. That obviously didn't happen.
2. Louise Fletcher was considered for the role of Aurora.
3. Real life mother-daughter duo Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis were considered for the roles of Aurora Greenway and Emma Horton respectively.
4. Shirley MacLaine turned down the role of Diane Freeling in "Poltergeist" to play the role of Aurora Greenway, an Oscar-winning decision.
5. The role of Emma was originally written for Sissy Spacek. Sissy was originally scheduled to play the part, but was unable to for an unclear reason.
6. Jodie Foster turned down the role of Emma Horton, due to her commitment at Yale.
7. James Garner turned down the role of Garrett Breedlove.
8. The character of Garrett Breedlove does not appear in the novel and was written specifically with Burt Reynolds in mind by writer-director James L. Brooks. Reynolds loved the script but was already committed to star in "Stroker Ace". Paul Newman and Harrison Ford turned down the role before Jack Nicholson signed on. Nicholson talked with a number of real astronauts while in Houston in preparation for his role.
9. John Lithgow was called in to replace another actor and his part was filmed in only three days during a break from filming for "Footloose".
10. The role of Patsy was originally offered to Kim Basinger, who turned it down to star in "The Man Who Loved Women" instead.
11. This was the film premiere for Lisa Hart Carroll who played the role of Patsy. She hadn't been in any production of any kind before this one.
12. The voice of Aurora's husband in the film's opening scene is Albert Brooks (credited as A Brooks).
13. Debra Winger behaved erratically on the set of this film because she was trying to get over a severe cocaine addiction. At one point, she and Shirley MacLaine got into a shoving match.
14. The Kearney State College scenes were shot at the University of Nebraska, in Lincoln, due to major construction taking place at the Kearney campus (now known as the University of Nebraska at Kearney).
15. While shooting the movie in Nebraska Debra Winger began dating the Governor Bob Kerrey who told reporters, "she swept me off my foot," alluding to the fact that the lower part of one of his legs was amputated due to injuries sustained in his Medal of Honor action in Vietnam.
16. The Auguste Renoir painting given to Aurora by her mother is referenced throughout the movie, first when Aurora tells Emma she considered (but decided against) giving it to her as a wedding gift, again when Emma calls Aurora asking to borrow money, and once more when Aurora uses it as an excuse to invite Garrett to her bedroom. The exact value of a Renoir original portrait is difficult to pinpoint for a specific point in time due to the infrequency of transactions. However, it's safe to say that had Aurora sold the painting through a reputable auction house around 1980, it would have sold for well over $100,000 and possibly close to $1 million.
17. This was the second film Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito appeared in together, the first being "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," another Oscar-winning film for Best Picture and Best Actor for Nicholson.
18. James L. Brooks received a special gift at the end of production, to congratulate him for completing his first movie. This was a book of "Life in Hell" cartoons, drawn by Matt Groening. Brooks was so impressed with the comics that he asked Groening to create cartoon shorts for "The Tracey Ullman Show". This gave rise to incredibly popular animated TV series, "The Simpsons".
19. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) originally gave this film an "R" rating due to strong language. It was reduced to "PG" on an appeal (the PG-13 rating did not exist at the time), an achievement often repeated by writer-director-producer James L. Brooks on his later films.
20. Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger were both nominated for 1983's Best Actress Oscar, which went to MacLaine. On her way to the podium, she reportedly whispered to Winger, "Half of this belongs to you," to which Winger reportedly replied, "I'll take half."
And now you know.
One final tidbit, just in case you were wondering... The two boys who played Emma's sons were Troy Bishop who played the role of Tommy and Huckleberry Fox (Teddy). Not only was "Terms of Endearment" the film premiere for each of them, but they both continued on with their work in acting. Troy continued on up through 2012 and Huckleberry's (yes, that's his real name) last appearance was in 1996. Megan Morris played the role of Emma's daughter, Melanie. This film was her premiere also, but she only acted in one other film before quitting the Hollywood life.
Enjoy these picture stills from the film, including a B&W picture of James L. Brooks, Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson holding their Oscars...
Emma Horton: Momma, that's the first time I stopped hugging first. I like that.