Filmsite Movie Review
Tootsie (1982)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Tootsie (1982)Practicing For Sandy's TV Soap Audition:

To console Sandy, Michael volunteered to walk her to her apartment rather than paying for an expensive cab fare. She began crying but said she was OK. Michael demanded an explanation: "Tell me what's wrong, or I'll kill you." He realized she was worried about her next day's soap-opera audition and felt she would fail: "I'm not gonna get it...because I'm completely wrong for it." Michael asked: "What kind of a part is it?" - she answered: "A woman!"

That night in Sandy's apartment, Michael coached the very insecure actress for her upcoming audition - he began by cueing her line as hospital administrator Dr. Brewster:

Michael: 'You don't have a man so you wanna act like one.'
Sandy: 'You're wrong, Dr. Brewster. I'm very proud of being a woman.'

Michael: All right, Sandy, wait a minute. Now this guy treats ya like dirt because you're a woman and he's a big doctor, right? But you don't have to take that. You can talk to him on his level.
Sandy: Show me what you mean.
Michael: 'You're wrong, Dr...' - What are you doin', a Southern accent? 'You're wrong, Dr. Brewster. I'm very proud of bein' a woman.'
Sandy: See, I can't do it as good as you.
Michael: Yes you can. Just turn the tables on him. Come on, now, will you?

Obviously, she was too genteel and mild, and he criticized her for not showing real rage: "I don't know what you're playing...This is rage?" She admitted: "I have a problem with anger." He encouraged her to be more forceful in her reading, because she would be facing very tough competition for the part:

Yeah, you certainly do. But I'll tell ya somethin', there's 100 other actresses reading for this part who don't have a problem with anger, who aren't afraid of working. Who aren't afraid to stick everything out on the line and do it!...Well, stop being a doormat...Act right now! Do it!...What do I have to do, hit you with a stick?...Have the anger, don't show it to me! Don't push....Don't lose it now...Don't whine like you're a second-rate actress!

He was able to motivate her to perform, and afterwards, he complimented her: "Not bad." When he was leaving, she became worried: "How am I gonna get it back tomorrow? How am I gonna get a total stranger to enrage me?"

Sandy's Recording Studio Audition:

The next morning's 10:00 am audition was held in the offices of the National Video Center Recording Studios (on W. 42nd St. in Manhattan), where Michael joined Sandy to attend her daytime TV soap-opera audition. One of the studio secretaries, Jacqui (Ellen Foley) announced for the auditioners to follow her with their resumes. A tour guide-page (Susan Merson) showed studio visitors a mural regarding the show, Southwest General: "Here you'll recognize some of your favorite characters from Southwest General, including John Van Horn, who has played the venerable Dr. Medford Brewster since the very first episode aired some twenty years ago. Now, if you'll follow me, we'll head into Studio B, where the episodes are actually taped."

[Note: The mural depicted a typical hospital scene, although above the characters was a female wielding a whip - the show's executive producer Rita Marshall.]

Almost immediately, Sandy was rejected and dismissed before even auditioning because she didn't fit the intimidating look or tough temperament required for the role of a middle-aged hospital administrator. She threatened to leave the city entirely and return to San Diego:

I didn't get it...They wouldn't even let me read....They said I wasn't right physically and that they want somebody tougher, so, I don't know, so I'm going home. I'm getting out of here. I hate it here. I'm 34 years old! I paid $24 for these glasses. All I do is buy things. I wanna be a waitress. I'll be anything. I'll be a wife...

Michael insisted on having Sandy read, and dragged her back into the lounge from the elevator: "I wasn't gonna resort to this, but you're gonna read." However, he was informed by the receptionist (Mary Donnet) that his only contact and ex-friend Terry Bishop no longer worked there, because he had been hired away to rehearse The Ice Man Cometh on Broadway. Michael was pissed that a less talented actor had landed the role: "That was my part. I was supposed to be up. I got to see somebody."

In Agent George Field's Office:

Incensed, Michael raced on foot out of the building onto busy 6th Avenue, and across to the imposing offices of CAA (Creative Artists Agency, Inc.), to storm in to see his agent George Fields (Sydney Pollack) - without an appointment. Michael burst into George's busy office after running the gauntlet through two secretaries. Exasperated by Michael's unannounced appearance that interrupted an important phone call to the "Coast," George had become increasingly tired of his demanding, narcissistic, and arrogant client, who was so difficult that he had alienated all potential employers. Antagonistic, Michael complained that Terry Bishop had been favored over him:

Terry Bishop is doing Iceman Cometh, right? Didn't you promise to send me up for that part. Am I wrong? Didn't you tell me I was gonna get a reading for that part? Aren't you my agent?

Fields explained that Terry Bishop was a bigger "name" soap-opera actor and would make more money for the Broadway show: "Millions of people watch him every day. He's known." However, Michael insisted that he was a better actor with great reviews: "You know I can act circles around that guy. You know I already played that part in Minneapolis." The unsympathetic Fields reminded Michael that he had only been involved in small-time, underground neighborhood community theatre, not the big leagues:

The Harlem Theater for the Blind? Strindberg in the Park? The People's Workshop at Syracuse?

Michael then brought up his roommate's play that he had sent to George: ("It had a great part in it for me. Did you read it?"). Fields repeatedly insisted that no one would hire him in any play or production (on either coast), because Michael had such a difficult personality and selecting him would hurt business prospects. Michael solely defended the the quality of his art as a great actor ("I bust my ass to get a part right") while ignoring the fact of his limited popularity:

George: Where the hell do you come off sending me your roommate's play for you to star in? I'm your agent, not your mother. I'm not supposed to find plays for you to star in. I'm supposed to field offers. And that's what I do.
Michael: Field offers? Who told you that, the agent fairy? That was a significant piece of work. I could be terrific in that part.
George: Michael, nobody's gonna do that play..because it's a downer, that's why? Because nobody wants to produce a play about a couple that moved back to Love Canal.
Michael: But that actually happened.
George: Who gives a s--t? Nobody wants to pay $20 dollars to watch people living next to chemical waste! They can see that in New Jersey.
Michael: Look, I don't want to argue about it, OK? (begging) I'm gonna raise the $8,000 myself so I can produce his play. And I want you to send me up for anything. I don't care what it is. I will do dog commercials on television. I'll do radio voice-overs.
George: Michael, I can't put you up for anything....Because no one will hire you.
Michael: Well, that's not true, man. I bust my ass to get a part right, and you know I do!
George: Yes, and you bust everybody else's ass too, that's what you do! A guy's got four weeks to put on a play. Do you think he wants to sit and argue about whether Tolstoy can walk when he's dyin' or walk when he's talkin', or sing when he's walkin'?
Michael: Oh please, that was two years ago, and that guy is an idiot!
George: They can't all be idiots, Michael. You argue with everybody! You've got one of the worst reputations in this town, Michael. Nobody will hire you.
Michael: Are you saying that nobody in New York will work with me?
George: Oh no, that's too limited. Nobody in Hollywood wants to work with you either. I can't even send you up for a commercial. Ya played a tomato. For 30 seconds, they went half a day over schedule 'cause you wouldn't sit down.
Michael: Yes, it wasn't logical.
George: YOU WERE A TOMATO. A tomato doesn't have logic. A tomato can't move.
Michael: That's what I said. So if he can't move, how's he gonna sit down, George? (bragging) I was a stand-up tomato. A juicy, sexy, beefsteak tomato! Nobody does vegetables like me! I did an evening of vegetables off-Broadway! I did the best tomato, the best cucumber! I did an endive salad that knocked the critics on their ass!
George: Michael, I'm trying to stay calm here. You, uh, are a wonderful actor.
Michael: Thank you.
George: But you're too much trouble. Get some therapy.
Michael: Okay, thanks. I'm gonna raise $8,000 dollars, and I'm gonna do Jeff's play.
George: Michael, you're not gonna raise 25 cents. No one will hire you.
Michael: Oh, yeah!

Michael decided to challenge his doubtful, wearied, and harried agent, after muttering "Oh, yeah" in his office. The scene cut from the agent's office to a crowded New York City street.

"Dorothy Michaels" - Audition and Screen Test:

Michael's cross-dressed female persona "Dorothy Michaels" slowly emerged from the pedestrian crowd in an extreme telephoto shot that came into focus. It was one of the greatest 'entrance' sequences in film history. He/she was wearing an auburn wig, oversized glasses, a frumpy high-necklined dress, and underneath were custom-fitted prosthetic breasts. The middle-aged female figure walked slightly unsteadily in high heels. The high neckline was designed to hide an Adam's apple and 16-inch neck.

At the National Video Center, "Dorothy" applied to audition for the role of the feisty hospital administrator on the daytime soap-opera Southwest General, and claimed that George Fields was her agent. Dorothy was introduced to the TV show's sexist director Ron Carlysle (Dabney Coleman) and producer Rita Marshall (Doris Belack). When Dorothy received the same once-over rejection that Sandy had been given from Carlysle ("you're not right for this role"), she objected and pressed him: "Why am I not right, Mr. Carlysle?" The director claimed he was looking for a "specific physical type," to which Dorothy asserted: "I'm a character actress. I can play this part any way you want." As she was being escorted out, she heard Carlysle say: "It's just that you're a little bit too soft and genteel, you're not threatening enough." Dorothy accepted the challenge, questioned both the director's and producer's view of the role (that portrayed women negatively), scolded them in anger, and stormed out:

Dorothy: Not threatening enough? How's this? You take your hands off me or I'm gonna knee your balls right through the roof of your mouth! Is that enough of a threat?
Carlysle: It's a start.
Dorothy: Yes, I think I know what you want. You want some gross caricature of a woman. To prove some idiotic point like power makes a woman masculine, or masculine women are ugly. Well, shame on any woman that lets you do that. On any woman that lets you do that. And that means you dear, Miss Marshall. (To Carlysle) Shame on you, you macho s--t-head.
Rita: Jesus!
Carlysle: What is idiotic about power making a woman masculine? Not that that was my point.

Rita hurried up to stop Dorothy from entering the elevator: "Was that for real in there, or were you auditioning for the part?" Dorothy answered: "Which answer will get me a reading, Miss Marshall?" She offered to give Dorothy a test, although Carlysle was skeptical: "You really think she's worth testing for this, huh?" Rita flattered Carlysle to get him to change his mind: "She told me no director had ever communicated a part to her so fast." Dorothy first met beautiful co-worker and the soap's leading star Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange) when they both stooped down to pick up dropped pages of the script. She calmed Dorothy's nerves about the camera and crew: "Just think of them as something friendly. Like a firing squad."

During Dorothy's first screen-test, camera shots were adjusted to view various left and right-side profiles on multiple monitors. Rita asked for the cameraman to back off: "I'd like to make her look a little more attractive. How far can you pull back?" and the cameraman responded: "How do you feel about Cleveland?" Dorothy was cued for her audition scene by production assistant Jo (Lynne Thigpen) (playing the character of 'Dr. Brewster'). First, Dorothy added a shocking ad-lib, and then launched into the script that she had already practiced for Sandy:

Jo: 'I know the kind of woman you are, Emily. You're getting older. You've never been married. You don't have a man, so you want to act like one.'
Dorothy: All right, just shut your mouth right now. When you talk to me, you talk to me professionally. You don't get personal. That is poorly inappropriate behavior. 'I'm very proud of bein' a woman, Dr. Brewster. I'm very proud of this hospital, and you should be too. And I must tell you, that before I let it be destroyed by your petty tyrannies, by your callous inhumanities, sir, I'm going to recommend to the board that you be turned out into the street. Good day, Dr. Brewster. I said good day, sir.

The reactions were varied to Dorothy's impressive audition, but she was instantly hired:

  • Technical Director Mel (Richard Wirth): Tough cookie.
  • Ron Carlysle: (taking credit) No, I gave her that direction.
  • Rita: Something more, though.
  • Ron: (To Rita) Oh, I don't know. It's your decision, but there's somethin' about her that bothers me. Does it bother you?
  • Rita: I like it.

The Russian Tea Room:

Outside on the street under the awning entrance to the famed Russian Tea Room on W. 57th St., Dorothy tested the approaching, unsuspecting George Fields, and asked for directions to the Tea Room. She then expressed embarrassment that she was standing in front of it. She followed him into the restaurant, insinuated herself into sitting at his table, and confounded him by coming onto him: "I'm new in town, and I'm awfully lonely. I wondered if you wouldn't mind buying me lunch?" When the dismayed George stood up to alert a waiter, Dorothy grabbed his buttocks - and then discreetly revealed her convincing masquerade - with an alternating deep voice change:

It's Michael Dorsey, OK? Your favorite client. How are you? Last time you got me a job was a tomato.

George was so flabbergasted that he could only respond: "Oh, God! I begged you to get some therapy." Dorothy/Michael then described how his undetected impersonation of a female had paid off with employment in a popular soap opera role, and no one was calling his disguise into question:

Dorothy/Michael: I got a soap, George. I'm the new woman administrator on Southwest General. Congratulate me! They almost didn't hire me because they thought I looked too feminine..
George: You're not gonna get away with this.
Dorothy/Michael: I got away with it. Look around.

The charade continued when Joel Spector (Tony Craig) and Broadway producer Phil Weintraub (Ronald L. Schwary) came over and introduced themselves. To cause George discomfort, 'Dorothy Michaels' snuggled up to him, put her arm around his shoulder, and stroked his leg under the table, calling them old friends ("We go back years"). After they left, George called Dorothy/Michael "psychotic," but he stressed his newfound success: "No, I'm employed." Dorothy/Michael then asked for a $1,000 loan until payday for her wardrobe: "I gotta have somethin' to wear besides this!"

Transforming Into 'Dorothy':

Dorothy exited from two posh woman's clothing stores, Pour Moi (on 2nd Ave., now closed) and Cachet carrying an assortment of packages. In a third store's dressing room at Bloomingdale's, Dorothy complained about the ill-fitting dress she was trying on: "I think it makes me look dumpy." Outside as she hailed a taxi with her female voice ("Taxi! Taxi! Taxi"), a man cut in front of her and jumped in. She reverted to her male voice as she angrily pulled him out: "What are you doing, I was here first!" and hit him with her bags.

In his apartment with roommate Jeff while eating take-out (and cottage cheese), Dorothy (without her wig, but with curlers) described the cut-throat shopping tactics of females he had encountered, and his lengthy and expensive routine of applying make-up

Those women were like animals. I saw this one beautiful handbag. It was on sale. But I was too frightened to fight for it. I mean they're vicious. They kill their own. The woman that finally bought this handbag, I know, did time. Now I don't have a decent handbag. See this lingerie? Do you know what it cost? And the makeup? I don't know how a woman can keep herself attractive and not starve these days?...I'm dieting...I gotta get up at 4:30, do a close shave. I already called the studio, and told them that I gotta do my own makeup because I have an allergy.

Jeff was skeptical of Michael's deception: "I appreciate your doing this, but it is just for the money, isn't it? It's not just so you can wear these little outfits?" Michael looked upon his impersonation as a personal challenge: "I'm not even gonna answer that. It also happens to be one of the great acting challenges an actor could have." He worried that Sandy would become "suicidal" if he told her the truth - that they had cast a man for the part she had failed to acquire. He speculated that maybe he could lie and say that he had conveniently inherited $8,000 (for Jeff's play) from a recently-deceased relative.

In the next breakaway scene in Sandy's apartment, Michael lied to Sandy about the coincidence of his inheritance - and she reacted quizzically: "I mean, your needing $8,000 and her dying and leaving you exactly that much." He encouraged her to start learning her lines for a part in Jeff's play, Return to the Love Canal. As Sandy showered to prepare for dinner and celebrate, Michael began reading Variety magazine, then posed with feminine stances before he decided to sneak into her bedroom's closet and try on some of her clothes. When she emerged from the shower, she caught him bending down and pulling his jeans off, revealing only skimpy black briefs before trying on one of her dresses. Michael tried to cover up and then blurted out that he just wanted to have sex with her ("Sandy... I want you") - she was very surprised. He shuffled over to her with his arms outstretched.

After having sex and while Michael dressed, she was worried about the consequences of first-time sex - that he might never call her now:

Sandy: Will I ever see you again?
Michael: What!? Sandy, we've known each other six years.
Sandy: I know. But sex changes things. I mean, I've had relationships where I know a guy, and then I have sex with him, and then I bump into him someplace and he acts like I loaned him money.
Michael: Yes, well that's not me, OK? I'll call you tomorrow.
Sandy: Michael, I know there's pain in every relationship. I would just like to have my pain now, OK? I mean, otherwise, I'll just wait by the phone and then if you don't call, I'll have pain and wait by the phone. It's a waste of time.

He promised her a "definite" dinner date the next day.

In a montage, Michael's routine of transforming into 'Dorothy' began early in the morning, on his first day of work:

  • the sounding of his alarm clock at 4:35 am
  • shaving his soapy legs with a razor in the bathtub
  • plucking stray eyebrow hairs with a tweezer
  • applying eyelash makeup and mascara
  • dabbing on a thick facial makeup base
  • applying false eyelashes
  • inserting false teeth
  • painting lipstick
  • combing out his wig
  • painting his fingernails

He awakened Jeff in his completely-transformed state to look him over ("What do you think?") - Jeff first responded: "Mom?" Jeff rated him: "You look very nice, nice," but criticized 'Dorothy's' hair: "You've got kind of a Howard Johnson's thing goin' on." He advised: "Don't play hard to get." Outside, Dorothy hailed a taxi, first with a falsetto ("Taxi, taxi"), and then with a demanding male voice ("TAXI!") - it brought the yellow cab to a screeching halt.

At the Studio: First Day on the Set

In the studio ready to work, 'Dorothy' was shuffled to the studio's TV2 area and shown dressing room # 4 by PA Jo, to prepare to be on set in 15 minutes. As she entered, young, slim soap actress April Paige (Geena Davis in her feature film debut) startled Dorothy by wearing nothing but a skimpy bra and panties. Embarrassed, Dorothy complimented the makeup counter with properly positioned plugs: "What a nice-looking table...yes, and it's very smooth." April was very accommodating: "Make yourself at home." Just before air-time, Dorothy was handed a last-minute revised script that called for him to kiss leading man co-star John Van Horn (George Gaynes) - playing the part of Dr. Medford Brewster. April confessed blithely about the lecherous Van Horn: "He kisses all the women on the show. We call him 'The Tongue.'" Dorothy was horrified by the prospect.

On the noisy set surrounded by crew members, director Carlysle set-up a hospital scene by instructing the actors about their blocking, roles and interaction. Julie played the role of Station Nurse Charles who had been alerted to delirious patient Rick Lacy (Peter Gatto), who had pulled tubes from his nose. He had been hospitalized after falling through thawing lake ice while playing his violin. On the side, Dorothy met the notorious actor John Van Horn, who sprayed Binaca into his mouth, and watched the sexist, demeaning treatment of Julie by the director (he patted her behind and spoke about his 'inflamed desire' for her). Dorothy was introduced to everyone as "the new hospital administrator" named Emily Kimberly - Julie reminded Dorothy that they had previously met, and that her character was the "hospital slut."

Carlysle announced that there would be no time for rehearsal - the show would go straight to tape, even though there was a new script, and Dorothy wasn't given time to ask questions or comment on the 'kissing' scene with Dr. Brewster. During taping, Dorothy thankfully saved one of inept actor Van Horn's premature, miscued lines by ad-libbing additional script with Julie to restore the scene's continuity - he caught her fainting in mid-air. [Note: Van Horn never memorized his lines, and continually relied on the teleprompter or on cue cards, disregarding timing and the action on the set.]

In the next hallway scene with Dr. Brewster, when the lustful doctor praised Dorothy as an example of "women in power" and leaned forward for a smooch, she again changed the script. She hit him over the head with her folders to prevent him from landing a kiss. The confounded, open-mouthed Dr. Brewster listened as Dorothy chastised him:

...and not consider it a threat. I'm afraid, Dr. Brewster, that you have underestimated me. If you want to win me over, you'll have to deal with my mind and not my lips.

Afterwards, Dorothy justified her deviation from the script to the director: "It was just an instinct. I just remember what you said to me about my character being more threatenin'?" Julie agreed knowingly: "It was a good instinct. It would've been mine." Carlysle butted in: "Wait a minute. I'll handle the instincts here. Now, it happened to be a good instinct, Toots. But the next time you want to change something, discuss it with me first, do you understand?" Dorothy humbly apologized for not asking to modify the script beforehand: "I was wrong not to." As an aside, Julie thanked Dorothy for quick thinking: "Thanks for catchin' me...You saved my ass, literally." And then the sex-crazed, horny Van Horn approached again with more approving words for Dorothy: "I just want to say I loved what you did in our scene. Welcome aboard!" - and kissed Dorothy full on the mouth!

Outside the studio, two excited fans requested autographs from Julie, as she emerged from the building arm-in-arm with Ron Carlysle. Dorothy emerged and thanked Julie: "That certainly was an exhilarating first day." Dorothy declined an invite from Julie for a lift or a drink ("I feel like walking"), and limped away on her unstable high-heels after watching Carlysle again pat Julie's rear in the taxi.

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