Bette Midler has enough exuberant energy for three starring roles. She plays Dixie Leonard, a singer who teams up with song and dance man Eddie Sparks (James Caan). Together, they entertain the troops through three wars. Their love/hate relationship spans 50 years.
Their story is told by using flashbacks. A young T.V. assistant is sent to pick up Dixie to attend an awards dinner honoring her and Sparks. She takes out her photo albums, while puffing on cigarettes and spewing obscenities; telling the young fan about the duo's glory days.
From the first time they meet on stage during World War II, there's fireworks. Sparks is furious with Dixie's bawdy retorts to his one liners, but when she starts to sing and the audience is thrilled, all is forgiven.
George Segal nicely underplays the part of Dixie's uncle and Sparks' comedy writer, who keeps telling Sparks that he and Dixie are "gonna be bigger than Hope and Crosby".
The setting moves from Europe, Korea, and Vietnam, with a T.V. variety show in between. This is a big movie with a big budget, which makes it harder to understand the cheap, phony make-up job. The stars are supposed to look old, not embalmed. Midler's neck and chest look like hard rubber and Caan's eyes are so blackened and sunken, he could double as Lurch in The Addams Family.
Director Mark Rydell, who also directed Midler in her Oscar-nominated film The Rose, treats his star with a loving hand. Whenever Midler sings, she's lit from behind so she radiates. The camera loves her. Caan holds his own with Midler, which is no easy task. When they're on stage singing and trading zingers, the movie has its best moments. The film bogs down when the drama moves offstage, but Midler is so great, you can forgive little flaws.
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