Touchstone and Beyond: A History of Disney’s “Beaches”

Touchstone and Beyond: A History of Disney’s “Beaches”

Summertime means it’s time to heat the beach. The beach is a place to forget your troubles and to relax. In 1989’s Beaches the sandy shore would have a prominent place at the beginning and end of the tearjerker hit film.

The Plot

CC and Hillary meet on the shores of Atlantic City when they are eleven. A short afternoon adventure leads to a lifetime of friendship. Corresponding by letter for most of their teenage years the two friends are reunited in New York in their twenties.

Their friendship deepens as they struggle to pay the rent and to make something with their lives. As the years go by, Hillary is called back to California to attend to her dying father, while CC stays in New York trying to build a career in show business.

CC becomes a talented actor while Hillary settles into married life. The rift between the friends deepens and though CC tries to maintain the friendship by writing, Hillary ignores her letters. When Hillary catches her husband cheating on her, she makes a bold decision to leave him and rekindles her friendship with CC.

Hillary is pregnant and CC helps her friend through childbirth. The years pass and after Hillary learns that she is dying from a rare heart condition, CC helps Hillary bring her daughter Victoria to the beach house for one more summer. When her condition worsens it will be the beach house that CC brings Hillary to die at, and not some hospital room.

A friendship that started by chance ends with Hillary entrusting her best friend to look after her daughter. As CC and Victoria leave to start their new lives together, CC talks about how she met her mother which comforts the grieving daughter.

Cinematic Compliments

Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey are excellent in this film. They play off each other well, and the two characters are given depth and humanity by these two incredibly talented actors. CC and Hillary are an excellent example of how opposites attract. How their friendship starts and grows throughout the film is not something we see enough of on screen today.

Beaches is a very personal movie about two friends and how they survived in the world. Their connection has lasted through the good times and bad. In thinking about how films have grown and changed since Beaches was released in 1989, I struggle to come up with a film that stars two women who succeed by their own accomplishments and don’t fall into the damsel in distress motif that so often plagues many leading lady characters. The most recent film that I think showcases the dynamics of CC and Hillary in today’s cinema is Frozen. Not all films need to be about explosions and terrorists. Sometimes a good story can just be about the friendship two people share.

Cinematic Complaints

The 80’s fashion, hairstyle, and background music is very noticeable while watching this film. In some instances, it can be a little distracting from the story.

If you are a fan of explosive action-packed edge of your seat thrillers, Beaches isn’t your cup of tea.

Fun Film Facts

  • The film was nominated for a Best Art Direction Oscar at the 1989 Academy Awards.
  • Mayim Bialik played CC Bloom as a kid but did not do the singing.
  • Bialik would also win a Best Young Actress Award at the Young Artist Awards for 1989.
  • Director Garry Marshall has a cameo in the film and can be heard offscreen as an audition director at one of CC’s auditions.
  • Hector Elizondo has an uncredited role as a priest.
  • The film was originally titled Remember Me.
  • A planned sequel for television was going to star Barbara Eden in the CC role. It never happened.
  • Lainie Kazan, who plays CC’s mother in the film, is only five years older than Bette Midler.
  • The beach cottage in the film is now a museum that celebrates the movie. There is even a docent on hand to answer any questions visitors might have.
  • The film is an adaptation of the 1985 book of the same name by Iris Rainer Dart.
  • There was a 2017 remake of Beaches for the Lifetime Network starring Idina Menzel and Nia Long. It was not well received by critics.
  • Bette Midler’s song from the film “Wind Beneath My Wings” won a Grammy award for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1990.
  • “Wind Beneath My Wings” was included on AFI’s 100 Years . . .  100 Songs list.

The Golden Popcorn Bucket Award

Beaches gets 3 Golden Popcorn Buckets. At the time of it’s release the film was lambasted by movie critics for being a retread of overused story arcs that were the mainstay of the 1940’s. Looking at the film now, I think most critics have missed the mark on this picture. This is a movie from 1989 that was about the friendship of two women. They didn’t require the man in their life to help them or save them, CC and Hillary charted their own course and did things their way.

The fact that we see the highs and lows of CC’s career, and that we see how Hillary raises her child on her own without the father and is still a lawyer is unique to the film. Yes, there are some stereotypical moments, like when Hillary falls back into the role of a stay-at-home wife, because as her husband says it would be too much to have two lawyers in one household. However, this antiquated way of thinking is just a small moment that fuels the character development of Hillary.

What makes Beaches stand out is that this is a film about friendship and how it endures over the test of time. There are not many movies that would devote two hours to explore how two women’s friendship evolves.

Coming Attractions

In celebration of Steve Martin’s return to television with Only Murders in the Building, we look back at his 2005 film Shopgirl.

Production Credits

Directed by Garry Marshall

Produced by Touchstone Pictures / Silver Screen Partners IV / All Girl Productions

Starring:

  • Bette Midler as CC Bloom
  • Barbara Hershey as Hillary
  • John Heard as John
  • Spalding Gray as Dr. Richard Milstein

Release Date: January 13, 1989

Budget: $20 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $57,041,866

Bill Gowsell has loved all things Disney since his first family trip to Walt Disney World in 1984. Since he began writing for Laughing Place in 2014, Bill has specialized in covering the Rick Riordan literary universe, a retrospective of the Touchstone Pictures movie library, and a variety of other Disney related topics. When he is not spending time with his family, Bill can be found at the bottom of a lake . . . scuba diving

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Touchstone and Beyond: A History of Disney’s “Beaches”