Little Darlings is a 1980 American teen comedy-drama film starring Tatum O'Neal and Kristy McNichol and featuring Armand Assante and Matt Dillon. It was directed by Ronald F. Maxwell. The screenplay was written by Kimi Peck and Dalene Young and the original music score was composed by Charles Fox. The film was marketed with the tagline "Don't let the title fool you", a reference to a scene in which Randy comments on Angel's name, to which Angel replies, "Don't let the name fool you."
|Directed by||Ronald F. Maxwell|
|Screenplay by||Kimi Peck|
|Story by||Kimi Peck|
|Produced by||Stephen J. Friedman|
|Edited by||Pembroke J. Herring|
|Music by||Charles Fox|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|March 21, 1980 (US)|
A group of teenage girls from Atlanta go to summer camp, and, unbeknownst to the adults, two of them make a bet as to which one will lose her virginity first, with all the girls in camp betting money on the contest. The girls involved in the contest are opposites and rivals: cynical, suspicious and streetwise poor girl Angel Bright (played by Kristy McNichol) and naive, prissy and romantic rich girl Ferris Whitney (played by Tatum O’Neal). The rest of the girls divide into two "teams", each rooting for and egging on either Ferris or Angel. The two girls then choose guys they want to lose their virginity with. Angel targets Randy, a boy from the camp across the lake, and Ferris attempts to seduce Gary Callahan, the (much older) camp counselor.
The girls also engage in typical teenage camp behavior, like food fights and singing around a campfire. Both girls discover that sex is not what they thought it would be. Ferris thinks of sex as love and romance and wine and flowers and poetry. She imagines herself swept off her feet by Gary. When she lies about "making love" with him, Gary gets in trouble for having sex with a fifteen-year-old. She discovers that physical sex can have ugly consequences. Her attitude is now more grounded in reality; she has become more like street-wise Angel.
Meanwhile, street-wise Angel approaches the same issue from the other side and learns the opposite lesson. She views winning the contest as a purely biological act, "no big deal" and "nothing," as her mother told her. But when she tries to do "it" with Randy in a boathouse, she becomes confused by scary feelings she did not know she had. She behaves defensively, like she doesn't want it. Randy, now also confused, is put off by her recalcitrance and leaves.
Angel sees that sex is more than just a mechanical function she can cynically turn on and off. It involves feelings and caring and love. Sex is important, and something she deeply wants. As Randy leaves, she tearfully protests, "But I like you!"
She meets Randy a few days later with a much improved attitude—one closer to Ferris's. This time she pays attention, not to condoms and clothing, but to Randy and her feelings about him. As the novel describes it, "All her fear and resistance melted as they kissed. Soon, she didn't know who was touching whom, only that it was wonderful and right and fine."
Angel has sex in the boathouse, but doesn't tell the other girls. Ferris remains a virgin and lies about an evening of romantic passion ("We had chilled Chablis; the darkness enveloped us.")
In the end, Ferris discovers that sex is not just a fantasy of poetry and flowers and moonlight or something from a novel, that the biological aspect is not necessarily romantic, while Angel discovers that biological sex involves powerful emotions that touch her deeply and transform her soul. Neither girl is quite ready for the emotional aspects that sex brings: When Randy seeks her out, Angel admits that while she likes him, and she is not ready for that kind of a relationship (he says they can start over, but Angel observes that it's too late and wouldn't be enough), while Ferris apologizes to Gary. Together, the girls talk with the Camp Director and confess the situation, saving Gary's job.
Angel and Ferris, the two outsiders, discover they are more alike than different, and as they return home to their parents, they become best friends.
- Tatum O'Neal as Ferris Whitney
- Kristy McNichol as Angel Bright
- Armand Assante as Gary Callahan
- Matt Dillon as Randy Adams
- Maggie Blye as Ms. Bright
- Nicolas Coster as Mr. Whitney
- Marianne Gordon as Mrs. Whitney
- Krista Errickson as Cinder Carlson
- Alexa Kenin as Dana
- Mary Betten as Miss Nichols
- Abby Bluestone as Chubby
- Troas Hayes as Diane
- Cynthia Nixon as Sunshine Walker
- Simone Schachter as Carrots
- Jenn Thompson as Penelope Schubert
The film was made by Stephen Friedman's King's Road Productions. Paramount agreed to provide $5.3 million to make it in exchange for $14.3 million to market and develop the film.
Little Darlings was filmed in Hard Labor Creek State Park, 50 miles east of Atlanta during the summer of 1979. The signs and props built for the film remain for visitors to see. The gas station men's room (condom) scene was filmed in downtown Rutledge, the town nearest the park. The meeting place for the buses at the beginning and ending were filmed in a parking lot near the offices of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the old Omni Coliseum can be seen in the background including in the last scene of the movie. When Ferris is driven into town, they pass the Swan House, indicating that her family lives in Buckhead, a wealthy part of town to the north of the city.
Soundtrack and licensing issuesEdit
The film was notable for having a contemporary pop soundtrack, with music by artists like Blondie, Rickie Lee Jones, Supertramp, The Cars, and Iain Matthews. The original video release—on blue box VHS and laserdisc—kept the soundtrack intact; however, many songs in the film such as Supertramp's "School", John Lennon's "Oh My Love" and The Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow" were removed from the second round of home releases—VHS red box—due to licensing issues, and were replaced with sound-alikes.
As of 2019, the film has not been released on DVD or Blu-ray, but was briefly available for digital video rental on iTunes and Amazon with the original soundtrack. Currently, it's been made available once again on Amazon Prime, while Turner Classic Movies also aired the original theatrical version, letterboxed, and with all original music and credits intact. Canada’s Hollywood Suite aired the original theatrical version on June 22, 2021, with a replay scheduled for the following day. It is currently available for streaming on Paramount Plus, as well as iTunes.
The film made $19.4 million domestically. It sold to network TV for $2.7 million and ancillary markets for $1.2 million meaning it made a profit.
Little Darlings was shown on television in a heavily edited version which had all the sex-related scenes and dialogue removed, giving the impression that, instead of trying to lose their virginity, Angel and Ferris were engaged in competition simply to make a guy fall in love with them. The deleted scenes were replaced with alternate footage not seen in the theatrical version, including a scene in which Angel rescues Ferris from drowning in the lake during a thunderstorm. Some additional music was also used in this version. Director Ron Maxwell has stated that he had no participation in this TV version and does not approve of it.
Awards and honorsEdit
- Nominee: Second Best Young Actress in a Major Motion Picture - Kristy McNichol
- Loser at Box-Office, Often Lucrative on the Box: Pay TV, Videodiscs and In-Flight Film Deals Leading Investors to the Movies Moreland, Pamela. Los Angeles Times 12 July 1981: g1
- The New York Times, Little Darlings (1980) Overview
- Little Darlings By Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com, March 25, 1980
- Moreland, Pamela (12 July 1981). "Loser at Box-Office, Often Lucrative on the Box: Pay TV, Videodiscs and In-Flight Film Deals Leading Investors to the Movies". Los Angeles Times. p. g1.
- "Little Darlings". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2020-01-25.