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

Tootsie (1982)Growing Popularity of TV Soap Southwest General - But with Problematic Complications:

That night in his apartment, Michael attended to his wig as he recalled the first day's shoot and his growing attraction for co-star Julie, but also denounced the chauvinistic and condescending behavior of the director toward Julie. Michael told how he had changed 'Dorothy's' lines of dialogue to be more forceful, but then humbly apologized, in character, to the director. He was beginning to merge or morph more into his female's character, and to understand 'Dorothy's' motivations and personality:

She's really a very, very attractive girl. And she's no dummy either. But for the life of me, I cannot understand what she's doin' hangin' around with that director. He treats her like she's, just nothin'!...I don't like the way he condescends to me either. He calls me 'sweetheart.' He calls me 'honey.' He doesn't even know my name. He calls her 'baby.' He pushed me around today, I'm tellin' ya, if I didn't have the dress on, I'd have kicked his arrogant ass in....He told me what he wanted. I didn't agree with him. I didn't say anything. I did it the way I wanted to. He bawled me out. I apologized to him. That was that. I think, I think Dorothy's smarter than I am. I just wish I looked prettier, you know. I look in the mirror and - maybe I can just get a softer hair or somethin', because she, she deserves it.

When the phone rang, Michael worried that if either he or Jeff answered, it might blow his character's cover if it was the studio calling, or even if it was his girlfriend Sandy or Jeff's girlfriend Diane: "I don't want them to think Dorothy's livin' with a man! It's wrong for her. She lives alone." The phone remained unanswered. Michael promised to arrange for an answering service the following day. Jeff was upset about the whole charade, headed for the door and proposed staying with Diane: "I don't see any reason why I should just sit here pretending I'm not home just because you're not that kind of girl. That's weird."

Michael spoke to Sandy on the phone - feigning illness and a fever - because he had ignored his promise to take her to dinner. She believed him and proposed lots of helpful remedies:

Go right to bed and take two aspirin, and bundle up and sweat, and drink plenty of liquids, and above all, take 1,000 units of vitamin C every hour with milk only.

A montage illustrated the growing popularity of the daytime soap, Southwest General, and the rise of some very problematic issues:

  • Outside the studio, Julie was besieged and surrounded by numerous autograph seekers, while Dorothy was virtually ignored
  • While typing at work, George Fields' secretary watched with a TV earpiece attached to a small portable TV screen (perched in her desk drawer) to watch the show (the scene of Dorothy hitting Dr. Brewster)
  • April was questioned by some fans about the storyline of the show: "Did you give Melanie White an overdose on purpose?" - she answered: "I don't know. I don't write the s--t, you know."
  • Dorothy was starting to attract a following and field demands from two fans: "Don't be so hard on Dr. Brewster. He's so insecure" - she answered: "I can't be - I have to be tough because he just wants my body."
  • Julie introduced her widower father Lesley "Les" Nichols (Charles Durning in an against-type role) to Dorothy, who warmly stated: "I just love your daughter to pieces"
  • A group of card-playing older ladies turned to a TV screen when Dorothy's image appeared
  • While walking along the sidewalk with Jeff, Michael spotted Julie under The Sherry-Netherland Hotel awning, a luxury hotel (located on the Upper East Side on 5th Avenue and East 59th St. near Central Park), awaiting a cab ("That's her!"), and momentarily (and foolishly) ducked behind Jeff.
  • Michael received a phone call - Sandy called for a dinner appointment for 8:30 pm, Thursday, and he firmly promised: "I will not forget." To prepare, Sandy expectantly bought flowers and a bag of groceries in the local market.

In their dressing room, Dorothy made a funny Freudian slip when practicing script lines with scantily-clad co-star April, who was preening and doing sexy half-twist and bending exercises in front of their make-up mirror:

April: Things have been so much better since you came to Southwest General. We're all so grateful to you - for your help and advice.
Dorothy: Well, I really think of you all as my daughters, and what kind of mother would I be if I didn't give my girls tits - tips? It's tips, tips.

In the studio during the taping of a scene with Dorothy (as Miss Kimberly), Van Horn (as Dr. Brewster) was unnaturally glancing toward the teleprompter to read his lines:

Dr. Brewster: I think you'll find you picked the wrong man to challenge, Miss Kimberly.
Miss Kimberly: It was you who - look at me when I talk to you! Look at me when I talk to you, Dr. Brewster. (She took his face in her hand, jerked it away from the teleprompter, and ad-libbed) I don't trust a man who won't meet my eye. I don't trust it in a bank teller. I don't trust it in an insurance salesman. And I certainly don't trust it in a chief surgeon. Now, it was you who provoked this confrontation, sir.
Dr. Brewster: You're an incredibly insensitive woman, Miss Kimberly.
Miss Kimberly: (turning his face away from the teleprompter again) Stop thinkin' of me as a woman, Medford, and start thinkin' of me as a person. That's what Southwest General is made of: people....And have Nurse Charles see me immediately.

After the scene, Van Horn congratulated Dorothy for her domineering, no-nonsense control of the scene ("You controlled me completely. I felt your power"). Unfortunately, Rita announced that the "brilliant engineers" had accidentally erased an entire reel of the show, so 14, 15, and 16 had to be redone, or the scenes had to be performed live on the next day's show. When the show wrapped, Dorothy walked off the stage and saw unfaithful director Carlysle, in the space between sets, cheating on Julie. He was pressed up against April as he kissed her. As Dorothy passed Julie's dressing room, they began to talk about re-tapings, and Julie remembered how Van Horn had panicked during one rare live show ("We had to shoot him from the back").

An Invitation to Julie's Apartment:

Julie requested that Dorothy join her in her apartment to socialize over dinner ("I'm a born defroster") and go over 26 pages of script for the next show. Dorothy accepted the invitation, but while dressing in his loft apartment, Michael struggled with what to wear to the casual dinner. He criticized one of his outfits as a female might: ("I hate the way the horizontal lines make me look too hippy and it cuts me across the bust"). Jeff noted: "I think we're getting into a weird area here." Michael turned serious: "This may seem silly to you, but this is our first date. I just want to look pretty for her."

When single-mother Julie opened her door, holding baby clothes and a bottle, Dorothy presented her with flowers, and then was startled by the deep voice of grim-sounding nanny Mrs. Crawley (Anne Shropshire), who had just put her 14-month old daughter Amy to bed and was leaving. Julie admitted: "She scares the s--t out of me...and she hates me." Dorothy related her marital status - but was actually referring to his own predicament:

I haven't been that fortunate. I was engaged once, though, to a brilliant young actor whose career, unfortunately, was cut short by the insensitivity of the theatrical establishment....Sutton, uh, gave up acting, and me as well. He's workin' now as a waiter in a disreputable restaurant. I don't want to talk about it.

When Julie asked about Dorothy's heavy make-up and its harmful effects on her skin, Dorothy admitted she had a "little mustache problem...Probably just too many male hormones or somethin'." Julie turned it positive: "Some men find that attractive," but Dorothy disagreed: "I just don't like the men that find it attractive." Julie's revelation that she had never been married caused Dorothy to pour herself a glass of wine for "one little drink." Meanwhile, Sandy was in her apartment preparing a candle-light dinner for Michael.

Dorothy inquired about her relationship with Ron, and Julie divulged how talented but difficult their director really was. She first complimented him: "Ron is, hands down, the best director of daytime drama," and then claimed the "nighttime drama" was interesting also. Julie began to casually call Dorothy "Dotty," and then added: "Ron's smart and he's funny. We got some things in common" - she described their similarly unusual work schedules. Over more wine, Julie claimed she had "a plan" and was "selective" about men - but had made many mistakes in her choices:

There are a lot of men out there. I'm selective. I look around very carefully. And when I find the one I think can give me the worst possible time, that's when I make my move.

On the living room couch, Julie was helped in the delivery of her lines, and then admitted that she drank too much ("It's not good for me"). Dorothy realized that she had been asking too many personal questions and hadn't been minding her own business. Julie opened up about her vague unhappiness in life and the importance of being truthful:

Julie: It's all so complicated, isn't it?...All of it. Don't you find being a woman in the '80s complicated?...You know what I wish, just once?...That a guy could be honest enough just to walk right up to me and say, 'Hey, listen. I'm confused about this too. I could lay a big line on you, we could do a lot of role-playing but the simple truth is, I find you very interesting and I'd really like to make love with you.' Simple as that. Wouldn't that be a relief?
Dorothy: Heaven, sheer heaven.

A Late Dinner Date with Sandy:

When Julie mentioned that Ron had stood her up for a dinner date the previous evening, Dorothy/Michael sprung up - remembering his dinner date with Sandy, but it was already 10:30 pm. He hastily rushed off, took a cab home, transformed back into Michael, and meekly showed up at Sandy's door with her favorite ice-cream flavor (chocolate chocolate chip) about three hours late. She soberly and spitefully told him: "The dinner is burned." She was instantly suspicious and didn't believe Michael's obvious excuses about being late. She told him she had stalked his apartment earlier: "When you were so late, I went by your place....tonight, and I waited outside and I saw that fat woman go into your apartment."

Michael explained that the "fat woman" was a friend of Jeff's, an excellent typist and collaborator, who came over to help him with the play. He vowed: "Look, Sandy, I'm not having an affair with the woman that came into my apartment, all right? It's impossible." The self-hating Sandy blamed herself and apologized for causing so many problems: "I don't want to make trouble. I never should have people over for dinner. They never show up. I'm sorry. I feel guilty. You feel guilty. I'm sorry." Michael suggested that she be more critical of him: "Don't apologize to me because I'm three hours late. You should be furious!" And then, Sandy mentioned her failed 'soap' audition that he had so graciously helped her with. She denounced the new 'Dorothy' character that had been hired - astonishing Michael with her negative opinion:

Did you see that cow they hired?...They must've gone a different way. She is awful....She's supposed to be tough, right? She's not tough. She's a wimp!

Dorothy's Transformational Change:

During the filming of a hospital scene, Dorothy (Miss Kimberly) spoke to a battered and bruised female patient and spontaneously changed her script mid-filming: "Do you know what I'd do if somebody did this to me? Why, if they came around again, I'd pick up the biggest thing around and I'd just take it, and I'd bash their brains right through the top of their skull before I'd let them beat me up again." During her rant, Dorothy picked up a potted plant and smashed it into the hospital room wall. Dorothy defended her script variation:

May I say in my own defense, Miss Marshall, that to tell a woman with two children, no money and a husband that beats her up like this, with a broken arm and a bashed-in face, to move out of her house into a welfare center in order to get therapy is a lot of horses--t! Excuse me. I wouldn't do it, would you?

At an outdoor promotional event, Dorothy and other cast members were serving food and drinks to fans. Julie's father Les courteously brought Dorothy a cup of coffee.

Another scene was being filmed in the studio - an office scene between Dorothy and Julie (as Les watched from the studio audience). Julie was sobbing about Dr. Brewster's inappropriate sexual advances towards her late one night. Dorothy had heard other nurses' accusations, and Brewster's excuse that he was "in the throes of an uncontrollable impulse." Again, Dorothy improvised and changed her lines - and again exasperated the crew in the control room:

I think I'm gonna give every nurse on this floor an electric cattle prod and instruct them to just zap him in his 'badubies.'

Although Dorothy was varying from the script, her spunky and refreshing attitude toward men struck a chord with viewers, and fan mail began to pour in to support her. Dozens of letters addressed to her were sent to the studio - a clip showed them hitting a desk top (one letter had a "LOVE" stamp on it). Dorothy's popularity (as Miss Emily Kimberly) began to soar as an emerging celebrity, evidenced in a graphics-montage (to the tune of the title song "Tootsie" - lyrics by Alan Bergman & Marilyn Bergman, music by Dave Grusin, sung by Stephen Bishop):

  • Posing for a fashion photographer (Greg Gorman) in front of a white screen in various costumes, including a cowgirl outfit, and a red sequined dress
  • Appearing on the cover of Cosmopolitan, featuring an article titled: 'COSMO's In-depth Survey of the Man-less Life With DOROTHY MICHAELS'
  • On the cover of Ms. Magazine, featuring an article on Exercise
  • On the cover of Woman's Day, featuring an article on "Vary Your Wardrobe"
  • Interviewed by Gene Shalit (as Himself) on the cover of TV Guide
  • Posing with Andy Warhol (as Himself) on the cover of People Weekly, featuring an article titled: "TV's Small Miracle: Pop Art, Soap Art"
  • On the cover of New York magazine, featuring an article titled: "The Real Dorothy Michael's Story"

One day while walking along 57th Street, Michael told his agent George:

Michael: I am Dorothy. Dorothy is me. Nobody's writing that part. It's coming out of me.
George: You are Michael. You're acting Dorothy. It's the same thing.
Michael: There's a woman in me. I'm experiencing these feelings. Why can't you get me a special? Please, I could sing as Dorothy. I feel I have something to say to women.
George: Listen to me, Michael. You have nothing to say to women.
Michael: That's not true. I have plenty to say to women. I've been an unemployed actor for 20 years, George! You know that. I know what it's like to sit by the phone, waiting for it, waiting for it to ring. Then, when I finally get a job, I have no control! Everybody else has the power and I got zip! If I could impart that experience to other women like me --
George: You gotta listen to me, Michael. There are no other women like you. You're a man!
Michael: Yes, I realize that, of course, but I'm also an actress.
George: Michael, I don't think we should argue about this. I mean, really.
Michael: I'm a potentially great actress. I can do Medea, I could do Ophelia, I could do Lady Macbeth, just like they did in Shakespeare's day. Why don't you get the writers at the agency? - I could do a great Eleanor Roosevelt. We can do the Eleanor Roosevelt story!

George invited Michael to attend Phil Weintraub's Friday night party - and he (as Michael) attended the posh, high-society penthouse celebration with his girlfriend Sandy, and was shocked by the entrance of Julie with her boyfriend Ron. While ordering drinks for Julie and himself, womanizing Ron flirted with a female acquaintance - party girl Suzanne Von Schaack (as Herself). Out on the open-air terrace, Michael awkwardly introduced himself to Julie, and then delivered a very-forward come-on line to her - the one she had earlier suggested that she would ideally like from a man

You know, I could lay a big line on ya and we could do a lot of role-playing, but the simple truth is, is that I find you very interesting. And I'd really like to make love to you. You know? It's as sim... (she hurled her drink into his face) as simple as that.

Back on the set during filming, Julie's character had become inspired by Dorothy's anti-sexual harrassment sentiments. She confronted Dr. Brewster in his office and threatened to file charges against him with the AMA:

I understand who you really are. And I'll no longer submit to your petty insults and humiliations. It's not necessary now that Emily Kimberly is here, now that someone who sees the truth is your equal. Listen, doctor, I've filed charges against you with the AMA. You'll be notified tomorrow.

When the scene wrapped, Ron cooly dismissed Dorothy and called her Tootsie. Upset by the continual sexist name-calling, Dorothy was irate:

Ron? My name is Dorothy. It's not Tootsie or Toots or Sweetie or Honey or Doll....No, just Dorothy. Now, Alan's always Alan, Tom's always Tom and John's always John. I have a name too. It's Dorothy, capital D-O-R-O-T-H-Y. Dorothy.

The Upstate Visit to the Farm of Julie's Dad:

Shortly later, Julie invited Dorothy to join her during the holiday to visit her Dad's farm in upstate New York, adding: "You know, since my Dad met you, he's your biggest fan." Dorothy was relieved that Ron wouldn't be able to attend. Julie expressed her views about female friendships:

If it matters, I've always hated women who treat other women as stand-ins for men. It's not that, really. I'd just like you to come.

After lying to Sandy that he was sick, Michael packed for the holiday weekend trip with his other 'girlfriend', as Jeff warned: "Stop packing. Don't do this...You should not do this...How can you keep lying to Sandy like this?...I'm just afraid that you're gonna burn in hell for all this."

Les picked up Dorothy and Julie (and her baby) from the local train station in upstate NY, and brought them to the farm in his pickup truck. 'Dorothy' forgot to be a lady and refrain from carrying her own bags. She easily hoisted her own bags out of the back of the pickup, but Les offered to be a gallant gentleman and carry them for her ("Wait, let me get those"). However, he could barely lift them - "Strong little thing, aren't ya?".

Dorothy was surprised to be sharing an old-fashioned bedroom (and a canopy bed) with Julie. A montage showed weekend activities (to the tune of "It Might Be You," lyrics by Alan Bergman & Marilyn Bergman, music by Dave Grusin, sung by Stephen Bishop), with 'Dorothy' observing Julie and falling more and more in love with her, while Les was also falling for 'Dorothy':

  • Riding on a tractor behind Les
  • Being instructed in how to hand-milk a cow by Les
  • Julie horse-back-riding
  • Caring for Julie's baby
  • Preparing a meal in the kitchen with Julie
  • Singing "Mary, Mary" together as 'Dorothy' played the piano

Once Julie went to bed, Dorothy was left with Les in the living room. She admitted she wasn't the feminist she portrayed on the show, and Les rambled on about his conservative view of the sexes as he held his own wedding photo, causing Dorothy to become extremely nervous about his strong liking for her:

Dorothy: You know, I'm not really like the woman you see on the show. I mean, that's just a part. I'm not all that militant.
Les: Don't get me wrong. I'm all for this equal business. I think women oughtta be entitled to have everything and all, et cetera. Except sometimes I think what they really want is to be entitled to be men. Like men are all equal in the first place, which we're not....You know, I can remember years ago there was none of this talk about what a woman was, what a man was. You just were what you were. And now they have all this stuff about how much you should be like the other sex, so you can all be more the same. Well, I'm sorry, but we're just not, you know?...Not on a farm, anyway. Bulls are bulls, and roosters don't try to lay eggs....You know, my wife and I, we were married a lot of years. People got it all wrong, you know. They say your health is the most important thing. But I can lift this house off the ground. What good is it? Being with someone. Sharing. That's what it's all about.

When Les asked about Dorothy's marital status, she decided it was time for bed and politely extended her hand for a goodnight shake. In the bedroom, Dorothy quietly donned a night gown and a wig with curlers, and slipped into bed next to Julie. Her bed-mate awoke and talked about her kindly, simple-minded dad, who hadn't dated since his wife passed away:

Daddy's a little out of touch, isn't he?...He sees things pretty simply. You're either happy or unhappy. Married or not married. There's nothing in-between.

A touching scene occurred before they fell asleep, when Julie described her mother's preferred suggestion of wallpaper for her room, as Dorothy listened next to her:

I don't remember her very well. I remember her helping me pick out this wallpaper. I'd chosen one with great big, purple flowers on it. And she said to me, 'Just remember that once you choose it, it's gonna cover the walls of your room for a long, long time.' So I tried to imagine what those big, purple flowers were goona look like on all the walls of my room every night when I was falling asleep and every morning when I was getting dressed. So I said to her, 'Which one would you choose, Mom?' And she said, 'The one with the daisies and the little rosebuds because daisies are such homey flowers and rosebuds are so cheerful and always waiting to bloom.'...I made a million plans looking at this wallpaper. I was always waiting for these rosebuds to open....

Dorothy reached out to gently stroke Julie's hair, and she responded: "That's nice. My mother used to do that too, sometimes."

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