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For the Boys is a 1991 American musical comedy-drama film which traces the life of Dixie Leonard, a 1940s actress/singer who teams up with Eddie Sparks, a famous performer, to entertain American troops.

For the Boys
For the Boys (1991 film) poster.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed byMark Rydell
Produced byBette Midler
Bonnie Bruckheimer
Margaret South
Screenplay byMarshall Brickman
Neal Jimenez
Lindy Laub
Story byNeal Jimenez
Lindy Laub
Music byDave Grusin
CinematographyStephen Goldblatt
Edited byJerry Greenberg
Jere Huggins
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 22, 1991 (1991-11-22)
Running time
138 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million
Box office$23.2 million

As in The Rose, Midler's first starring role and also a blockbuster quasi-biopic, the film is fiction. However, actress and singer Martha Raye believed that Midler's character was based on many widely known facts about her life and career with the USO and pursued legal action based on that assumption. After a protracted legal engagement, Raye ultimately lost the case. The Caan character was generally believed to be based on Bob Hope.

The film was adapted by Marshall Brickman, Neal Jimenez and Lindy Laub from a story by Jimenez and Laub. It was directed by Mark Rydell and the original music score was composed by Dave Grusin. It stars Bette Midler, James Caan, George Segal, Patrick O'Neal, Arye Gross and Norman Fell. A then-unknown Vince Vaughn made his film debut as a cheering soldier in a crowd.

For her performance, Midler won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. The soundtrack features covers of many classic songs, including "Come Rain or Come Shine", "Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Frank Loesser, "P.S. I Love You", "I Remember You" and the Beatles' "In My Life". Many of these have lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The soundtrack's first single, "Every Road Leads Back to You," was an original written by Diane Warren.

Despite a mixed critical reception and box office failure, the film was adapted for the musical stage in 2011 by Aaron Thielen and Terry James and debuted at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Illinois.[1][2]



In the early 1990s, retired entertainer Dixie Leonard (Midler) has a commitment to attend a Hollywood ceremony being televised live to honor her and her longtime show-biz partner Eddie Sparks (Caan). When a young man from the TV show comes to pick her up, Dixie balks and explains what brought Eddie and her together, as well as what drove them apart. The majority of the film is an extended flashback.

Dixie's story begins during World War II when she receives an offer to entertain the troops overseas as part of Eddie's act. Dixie is an instant hit with the boys in uniform, but Eddie wants her gone, ostensibly because he finds her kind of humor too coarse, but in actuality because she stole the show by topping his jokes. Dixie doesn't care for him much, either, but fellow entertainers and her joke-writer uncle Art (Segal) persuade her to stay.

Eddie wins her over, particularly by reuniting Dixie with her soldier husband on stage. However, later in the war, Dixie's husband dies in battle.

Despite her distaste for Eddie, Dixie continues working with him back in the States...mostly to support herself and her son Danny. Eddie is married with daughters, yet he becomes a proud surrogate father to Danny.

As the Korean War breaks out, Eddie announces on stage that he and Dixie will be performing for the US troops there, without having told Dixie of his plans first. In revenge, Dixie announces that Eddie made a $100,000 donation to the Red Cross. Reluctantly, she travels to Korea with him. On their way to the camp, they encounter a unit of soldiers which has been ambushed. Dixie cares for a wounded soldier but cannot save him: he is pronounced dead on arrival at the field hospital. Dixie and Eddie appear to spend the night together. At the Christmas dinner, a fight ensues after Art announces to everybody that Eddie has fired him for being a communist sympathizer.

In the meantime, Danny (Rydell) has grown up to be a soldier like his father, and is deployed to Vietnam. Dixie eventually agrees to perform there for Christmas with Eddie. On their way to the camp, the performers are warned of the camp possibly being attacked, because of which they are to be flown out immediately after their performance. Before going on stage, Dixie and Eddie meet Danny, who reveals to them the barbarity which is spreading among his comrades. The show begins with the performance of a dancer, who starts getting harassed by the soldiers, and only Eddie's intervention prevents the situation from getting out of control. Dixie comes on stage and makes some cynical remarks about the soldiers, then sings “In My Life”. While she is still on stage, the camp is attacked in a mortar barrage. Dixie and Eddie find shelter, but Danny is killed right in front of them; both mourn deeply for him.

Dixie has not forgiven Eddie for his part in all this, and they have another heated argument in the dressing room. Eddie goes out on stage alone. But, at the last minute, because he speaks of their joint loss in Vietnam, Dixie joins him on stage for one last song and dance, before appearing to accept their mutual love for one another.


Many of the U.S. Marines from Camp Pendleton, California, were going to be used as extras in some scenes but Operation Desert Shield started and many of them had to be shipped to the Middle East. Producers had to hire clean-cut civilians to fill the ranks.[citation needed]

Awards and nominationsEdit


For the Boys: Man of the Year (William Knudson) Man of the Year Runner Up (Geoffrey Berger)



The soundtrack album is composed largely of popular standards from the era, although several were written after the time period in which the film takes place.

  1. "Billy-a-Dick" (Bette Midler)
  2. "Stuff Like That There" (Bette Midler)
  3. "P.S. I Love You" (Bette Midler)
  4. "The Girl Friend of the Whirling Dervish" (music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer)
  5. "I Remember You/Dixie's Dream" (Bette Midler and James Caan)
  6. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (Bette Midler and James Caan)
  7. "Dreamland" (score by Dave Grusin, Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman)
  8. "Vickie and Mr. Valves" (written by Lenny LaCroix)
  9. "For All We Know" (Bette Midler)
  10. "Come Rain or Come Shine" (Bette Midler)
  11. "In My Life" (Bette Midler)
  12. "I Remember You" (Bette Midler)
  13. "Every Road Leads Back to You" (Bette Midler)

Two Bette Midler singles were issued from the soundtrack, although neither performed particularly well on the U.S. singles charts. "Every Road Leads Back to You" peaked at #78 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #15 on the Adult Contemporary chart, while "In My Life" reached #20 on the Adult Contemporary chart while failing to register at all on the pop side.


The film received mixed reviews from critics, holding a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 14 reviews.[3]

Produced on a $40 million budget, For the Boys was a commercial disappointment upon its original release, returning just $23 million in box office receipts worldwide. However, the film continues to enjoy cult status among aficionados of musicals, bio-pics and events for which one or more wars serve as a backdrop.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Hetrick, Adam (August 26, 2011). "Stage Musical For the Boys, With Michele Ragusa and Timothy Gulan, Opens at Marriott Theatre". Playbill. Archived from the original on December 1, 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-01.
  2. ^ "For the Boys". Marriott Theatre. Archived from the original on November 16, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  3. ^ For the Boys at Rotten Tomatoes, accessed 11 August 2018.

External linksEdit