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Tagline: On stage, Harry Crystal is sheer magic. In the wings, Artie Shoemaker is learning his tricks!

Cool Dialogue: “Good enough isn’t good enough. You gotta care enough. And I don’t.”

Pizza: Domino’s




Before he would wig out as Mozart in AMADEUS, Tom Hulce starred in a sleeper called THOSE LIPS, THOSE EYES (1980). His co-star was Frank Langella, fresh off his performance as Dracula to Olivier’s Van Helsing in the John Badham film. You’d think the Hulce/Langella pairing would satisfy the critics, but it didn’t. Roger Ebert said Hulce was “disastrously miscast” and Vincent Canby called him an “unbelievable hero.” But this is why you shouldn’t listen to critics, or anyone for that matter. Even me. Because, with his boyish enthusiasm and wide-eyed optimism, I think Hulce is perfect. He plays Artie Shoemaker, a college student who is the polar opposite of Kroger, the student he played in the movie he made before this, ANIMAL HOUSE (he’s in a frat here too, though we never see it).

It’s 1951, a smallish town in Ohio. Artie’s pre-med, and he’d better do well. If not, his future lies in auto parts, the family business run by his dad, played by Jerry Stiller (before he played cantankerous grandfathers, he played cantankerous fathers). But will his summer gig as propmaster on a local summer stock production shake things up? Umm, yeah, of course. That’s our movie.


It’s not that he meets the savvy yet jaded Ramona (Glynnis O’Connor), a chorus girl in the troupe. Sure, that’ll unravel him at some point, but the heart of this movie is his relationship with the show’s lead actor Harry Crystal, played by Langella. I can’t really articulate what makes Langella so phenomenal here. The best I can say is that he finds that sweet spot between low-key and over the top, without leaning too far towards one side. Not easy. His choices are always fun (Langella’s eyes follow Hulce as he walks by, without turning his head). He’s also sexy as hell. Make no mistake, though it’s Artie’s story, it’s very much Harry’s movie. Langella doesn’t steal the scenes, he simply owns them, the way Peter O’Toole did to Mark-Linn Baker in MY FAVORITE YEAR.

The first thing we see in THOSE LIPS, THOSE EYES is Harry backstage, applying a greasepaint foundation. When trying to light his Camel, he picks up a small pack of condoms instead of matches, then chuckles. Before a word is spoken, we know so much about him. Moments later, he takes an “I love you” note that he received from one chorus girl and passes it on to a different chorus girl. Smooth. Pathetic. He exploits the fact that he’s the star, mouthing off to the show’s director Sherman (sadly, a clichéd character here) and anyone else who crosses his path.

But here’s the fun part, the complex part. Harry’s actually a good guy. When Artie’s neophytism gets called on the carpet by the pompous Sherman, it’s Crystal who saves Artie. Crystal even lends money to a co-star so he can leave the show to audition for a radio soap (it’s all the rage) in another town. So then why’s Harry so angry? Because, like Ramona, he’s beaten up from doing roadshows. It’s not a physical toll, it’s mental and it’s eating away at him. Each year that goes by is a year viewed as unfulfilling at the very least, failure at most. He’s frustrated and angry, as you would be. And that makes him real. It would be so easy to render him as a prick instead of simply bitter.


Like so many in showbiz, Harry’s biding his time while waiting for The Call that may never come. Sort of like I’m doing right now as I write this. In one scene, Harry literally waits by the phone. He’s waiting for Broadway producer Mickey Bellinger (Kevin McCarthy…what a cast!) to call, then see him in the show, then place him back on Broadway. Something has to get him out of this no-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel life, where his name is written in pen on a piece of colored paper taped to his dressing room door.

Tom-Frank Bar
While Harry waits for his call, Artie has his sights on Ramona. And she’s looking back. As it turns out, props isn’t the only thing Artie is new at. It’s also not the only thing Harry helps him with. Artie’s an eager learner, and not just on the stage. And for a while, all the world’s a stage for Artie, until his grades start falling, his father starts yelling, Artie decides to drop out of school, a bully bullies him, and maybe worst of all, Ramona spills a secret.

So the dreams of the college boy finding love and the actor finding his way back to Broadway run on parallel tracks, but will either arrive at their stations or will they be relegated to auto parts and summer stocks the rest of their lives? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out. But you’ve probably figured out that they help each other along the way.

Here’s a curiosity. Playing the part of Artie’s kid brother’s tutor is renowned acting coach (Pacino, De Niro…) Herbert Berghof . It’s a great inside joke when he lights up when he hears that Artie is working in the theater and says to himself: “A theater! I haven’t been to a…theater…” (trails off…) And later, “I am also summoned by the mysteries of the theater.” Yep, he gets a job in Artie’s theater. In a moment alone, he recites some MACBETH.


I was fascinated by moments in THOSE LIPS, THOSE EYES that they’d never put in a movie today, like Harry’s speech to Artie explaining how to trick out props, or the two minutes of the stage crew striking the set. Aside from being a metaphor to break down walls, it’s actually one of the most amusing moments in the film, as we get to see the joy on the faces of otherwise bored kids backstage. And of our hero, who certainly has motivation for getting the work done quickly (looks like Artie may get lucky tonight). This movie is what I call “relaxed” – it takes its time, yet never manages to bore you, mostly because of the great acting and great characters. Yet, as lo-fi as it is, the movie manages to cover a lot of territory. It even has a bully named Cooky, whom Harry one-ups with his tour-de-force acting abilities, lapsing into ROMEO & JULIET to take Cooky down. Bravo. (You don’t have to pay royalties to use Shakespeare).


THOSE LIPS, THOSE EYES is not a totally unknown film. In fact, a search on IMDB reveals close to a dozen hits from TV shows referencing the title (see picture at right). I have to assume they are referencing the title, as it comes from one of the shows the troupe puts on - the hardly seen 1925 show THE VAGABOND KING (“…and to swear allegiance to your lips your eyes your hair. Beneath your feet, what treasures I would fling if I were king.”). You’ll find puns on the title from L.A. LAW, CHEERS, MOONLIGHTING and ALLY MCBEAL. It seems to me that showbiz people have affection for this little movie about love and the theater, and how they both get into your veins.

I really enjoyed THOSE LIPS, THOSE EYES. It’s sweet and real. I liked how Artie saw everything as a challenge, and Harry as a chore. I like how the movie was bookended with Harry putting on stage make-up before a performance and removing it at the end of the show (and movie). Yes, there are clichés. And yes, I do have extra love for coming of age and slice of life movies. So maybe this movie isn’t for everyone. But maybe it’s for you, you old softie.


When MTV launched in 1981, its studios were in NYC. But if you lived in NYC, you couldn’t watch MTV. I’d have to visit my parents in Florida to see all those Journey and REO Speedwagon videos. Anyway…

This is the first hour complete with technical difficulties. The first 12 minutes is NASA’s first launch of the Columbia Space Shuttle – in real time. It was goofy, yet cool. Coverage was slow and not very good, so we sat and talked while we watched. But as the countdown got closer to zero, it got exciting.

And then, it cut from the Shuttle before it actually lifted off, to the now iconic shot of the rocket launch and moon landing with the MTV flag. The nostalgic and familiar theme went on, and presto - MTV. The VJs did their best to look casual (“casually” holding coffee mugs or sitting cool…but not really), and it was silly. Mark Goodman bopping as he watched the TV was especially comical.

I do believe they switched up the order of the videos, witnessed by Goodman intro-ing Styx after we saw the Styx video…unless that was part of their “technical difficulties”), but here’s the order they ran:
  • The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star”
  • Promo explaining MTV and how cable TV and stereo would come together
  • Pat Benatar “You Better Run” (originally a Rascals song)
  • Rod Stewart “She Won’t Dance With Me”
  • The Who “You Better You Bet”
  • PH. D. “Little Susie’s on the Up”
  • Cliff Richards “We Don’t Talk Anymore” (I still hate this song)
  • The Pretenders “Brass In Pocket”
  • Todd Rundgren “Time Heals” (YAY!!!)
  • Styx “Rockin’ the Paradise”
  • Robin Lane and the Chartbusters “When Things Go Wrong.”
Included were the original commercials, one for The Bulk (a 3-ring binder), one for SUPERMAN II, one for Dolby noise reduction, Mountain Dew, Chewels (sugarless gum), Andron by Jovan (“pheromone-based fragrances scientifically created to attract”) and Atari. There was also a spot where Goodman told us to send away for the MTV Dial Position Sticker, so when you hook your stereo up to your TV, you know what station to tune it to.

“You’ll never look at music on television the same way again,” they told us over and over. Now they could run that and just cut the words “the same way.”

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