Mermaids (1990)

PG-13 | 110 mins | Comedy-drama | 14 December 1990

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HISTORY

The film includes voice-over narration by “Charlotte Flax,” who refers to her mother as “Mrs. Flax,” although others call the character by her first name, “Rachel.”
       The following acknowledgements appear in end credits: "Special thanks to Melissa Lloyd"; “The ‘Singing Nun’ performing ‘Dominique’ courtesy of Sullivan Productions, Inc. JFK footage with Frank McGee, Bill Ryan, Chet Huntley and eyewitness Charles Brehm and ‘Today’ show footage with Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters courtesy of Michael Sosler, Diana Chu and the NBC News Video Archives. Additional Kennedy footage and sound courtesy of Allan Goodrich and James Cedrone of the John F. Kennedy Library of Boston. ‘Plymouth Colony: The First Year’ footage courtesy of Coronet/MTI Film and Video. New Year’s Eve footage courtesy of 20th Century Fox/Movietone News, Inc.” End credits also include the statement: “The Producers wish to thank: Mary Lou Crane, Michael Dick, and the Massachusetts Film Office; The Residents of Rockport, Massachusetts; Martha Sullivan and the Charles Hotel; Joey Violante.”
       In 1987, producer Lauren Lloyd was introduced to Patty Dann’s debut novel, Mermaids, by her sister Melissa, who, at the time, worked for publisher Houghton Mifflin Company, according to production notes in AMPAS library files. Lloyd was a former casting director who had formed Nicita/Lloyd Productions in Jan 1987 with fellow casting director, Wallis Nicita. After both Lloyd and Nicita read the book, the pair “optioned it immediately” and hired June Roberts to write the first thirty pages of the script. The partial screenplay elicited interest from singer-actress Cher, who signed on to play Mrs. Flax. Cher’s participation prompted Patrick Palmer, with whom she had collaborated on Moonstruck (1987, see entry), to sign on ... More Less

The film includes voice-over narration by “Charlotte Flax,” who refers to her mother as “Mrs. Flax,” although others call the character by her first name, “Rachel.”
       The following acknowledgements appear in end credits: "Special thanks to Melissa Lloyd"; “The ‘Singing Nun’ performing ‘Dominique’ courtesy of Sullivan Productions, Inc. JFK footage with Frank McGee, Bill Ryan, Chet Huntley and eyewitness Charles Brehm and ‘Today’ show footage with Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters courtesy of Michael Sosler, Diana Chu and the NBC News Video Archives. Additional Kennedy footage and sound courtesy of Allan Goodrich and James Cedrone of the John F. Kennedy Library of Boston. ‘Plymouth Colony: The First Year’ footage courtesy of Coronet/MTI Film and Video. New Year’s Eve footage courtesy of 20th Century Fox/Movietone News, Inc.” End credits also include the statement: “The Producers wish to thank: Mary Lou Crane, Michael Dick, and the Massachusetts Film Office; The Residents of Rockport, Massachusetts; Martha Sullivan and the Charles Hotel; Joey Violante.”
       In 1987, producer Lauren Lloyd was introduced to Patty Dann’s debut novel, Mermaids, by her sister Melissa, who, at the time, worked for publisher Houghton Mifflin Company, according to production notes in AMPAS library files. Lloyd was a former casting director who had formed Nicita/Lloyd Productions in Jan 1987 with fellow casting director, Wallis Nicita. After both Lloyd and Nicita read the book, the pair “optioned it immediately” and hired June Roberts to write the first thirty pages of the script. The partial screenplay elicited interest from singer-actress Cher, who signed on to play Mrs. Flax. Cher’s participation prompted Patrick Palmer, with whom she had collaborated on Moonstruck (1987, see entry), to sign on as a third producer.
       A 25 Jan 1989 HR item announced Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallström would make his American directorial debut with the picture, then titled Mermaid. Emily Lloyd was cast as Charlotte Flax, and filming was expected to begin in Apr 1989 in Vancouver, British Columbia. However, as stated in a 28 Apr 1989 LA Weekly brief, the project was postponed and Lasse Hallström left to direct Once Around (1991, see entry). Although Orion cited Cher’s health as the reason for the delay, rumors circulated that the actress did not get along with Hallström. Emily Lloyd was forced to leave the project due to another film commitment, and was replaced by Winona Ryder, as reported in the 30 Jul 1989 LAT. Frank Oz came on as Hallström’s replacement, but disagreements between Oz and the two lead actresses, Cher and Winona Ryder, were reported in the 10 Dec 1990 Var. At the start of production, Oz was replaced by Richard Benjamin. According to the 6 Oct 1989 LAHExam, Oz had been “working a bit too slowly for Cher’s taste.” Producer Patrick Palmer stated that both Hallström and Oz had wanted a darker tone for the film, and at one point, Hallström’s version included Charlotte committing suicide.
       According to a 6 Jan 1991 LAT item, Cher took inspiration from her mother, Georgia Holt, for the role of Mrs. Flax. Costume designer Marit Allen was said to have sourced Holt’s closet for Cher’s wardrobe.
       Principal photography began 25 Sep 1989 and was scheduled to be completed on 15 Dec 1989, as noted in a 27 Oct 1989 HR article. Although a 26 Jul 1989 Var brief reported the film would be shot entirely in Massachusetts, a 24 Oct 1989 HR production chart listed New Hampshire and Rhode Island as additional locales. According to production notes, Massachusetts locations included: Coolidge Point near Manchester-by-the-Sea, where the Flax house was built; Rockport, where two blocks of “upscale” storefronts were altered to look like a 1960s “working-class village”; and an area near North Easton, which doubled as the convent grounds. There, a sixty-foot bell tower, a shack, and “Mother Superior’s” cottage were erected, and a hundred-year-old barn was covered in a stone façade. Additionally, a third of the film, budgeted at $20 million, was shot in a Malden, MA, warehouse which had been converted into a soundstage. Filming was suspended for one day, on 13 Oct 1989, when DV reported Richard Benjamin had to fly to Los Angeles, CA, for a test preview screening of his recently completed film, Downtown (1990, see entry).
       As noted in a 30 Dec 1990 LAT item, Benjamin was forced to cut an eight-minute scene between Jan Miner’s “Mother Superior” and Charlotte Flax, in which Charlotte came to the nun seeking advice. Benjamin claimed the scene, in which Miner’s character divulged her “painful life story,” was very emotional and elicited tears from some of the crewmembers, but ultimately derailed the story and had to be removed. The director sent Miner a copy of the edited scene as a consolation.
       According to a 31 Dec 1990 Var item, John W. Kluge and Stuart Subotnick formed Met Mermaids, a joint venture which would receive a percentage of the film’s proceeds in exchange for an investment of $23 million. Orion retained copyright ownership and control over marketing and distribution, while Met Mermaids was entitled to “a security interest in certain gross receipts of the film” and possible “advances against its future interest in Mermaids from certain proceeds derived from Orion’s upcoming The Silence of the Lambs ” (1991, see entry). An article in the 28 Dec 1990 LAT noted the arrangement suggested “further trouble” at Orion, which was being eyed as an acquisition by foreign investors.
       A 5 Dec 1990 DV item announced Cher had recorded two songs for the soundtrack, including “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss).” A music video for the latter debuted on the MTV network earlier that month. A shopping mall promotion was launched around the same time, as stated in an 18 Dec 1990 HR brief, with 1963-themed events, signage in malls in twenty-five markets, and preview ticket giveaways at Macy’s department stores in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, PA. Orion initially planned a limited release on 21 Dec 1990 in Los Angeles, New York City, and Toronto, Ontario. However, based on four successful preview screenings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, CA, and New Jersey, the studio moved the release date to 14 Dec 1990 in 800 theaters nationwide.
       Despite tepid critical reception, Winona Ryder was named Best Supporting Actress by the National Board of Review and received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. The 28 Dec 1990 LAT reported the film had grossed only $8.3 million, to that time, and predicted it would soon leave theaters. However, a 23 Sep 1991 Newsday article cited the final box-office gross as roughly $35 million.
       Actress Emily Lloyd, originally cast as Charlotte Flax, sued Orion Pictures and Mermaid Productions Inc. for $5 million, citing their refusal to pay a guaranteed $435,000 salary, which she claimed she was owed whether or not she appeared in the film. Although Orion and Mermaid Productions claimed their agreement with the actress was never binding, an undisclosed settlement was reached, as noted in a 1 Aug 1991 LAT brief.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Aug 1987
p. 6, 10.
Daily Variety
20 Sep 1989.
---
Daily Variety
13 Oct 1989.
---
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1990
p. 1, 17.
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1990.
---
Daily Variety
10 Dec 1990
p. 2, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1989
p. 1, 81.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 1990
p. 10, 29.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 1990.
---
LA Weekly
28 Apr 1989.
---
LAHExam
6 Oct 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Jul 1989
Calendar, p. 35.
Los Angeles Times
14 Dec 1990
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
28 Dec 1990.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 Dec 1990
Section D, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
30 Dec 1990
Calendar, p. 30.
Los Angeles Times
6 Jan 1991
Section E, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
1 Aug 1991
Calendar, p. 2.
New York Times
14 Dec 1990
p. 14.
Newsday
23 Sep 1991
p. 33.
Variety
26 Jul 1989.
---
Variety
10 Dec 1990.
---
Variety
17 Dec 1990
p. 43.
Variety
31 Dec 1990.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Orion® Pictures Release
a Nicita/Lloyd/Palmer Production
a Richard Benjamin Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Cam trainee
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Video playback op
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
Graphics
Art dept asst
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Set des
Asst dec
Leadman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Const coord
Const foreman
Const foreman
Const foreman
Prop master
Asst props
2d asst props
Scenic charge
Painting foreman
Painting foreman
Standby painter
Paintings of "Sophia" created by
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Costumer
Costumer
Seamstress
Cost asst
Mermaid cost built by
Mermaid cost built by
of the Boston Ballet Company
Mermaid cost milliner
MUSIC
Mus score prod by
Mus arr by
Electronic keyboards and piano performed by
Scoring eng
Mus clearance
for Fricon Entertainment
Soundtrack album consultant
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
1st asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Supv re-rec mixer
Eff mixer
ADR ed
Asst ADR ed
Apprentice ed
ADR voice casting
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals by
MAKEUP
Cher's makeup artist
Makeup artist
Cher's hairstylist
Cher's wigs des by
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod controller
Asst prod accountant
Financial representative
Accounting asst
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Office prod asst
Office intern
Loc mgr
Loc casting
Loc casting asst
Casting asst - N. Y.
Scr supv
Asst to Mr. Palmer
Asst to Mr. Benjamin
Asst to Ms. Lloyd
Asst to Mr. Nicita
Asst to Cher
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Post prod asst
Transportation coord
Teamster capt
Unit pub
Projectionist
Tutoring provided by
Tutor, On Location Education, Inc.
Picture vehicles provided by, Motion Picture Vehic
Picture vehicles provided by
Dial coach - Boston
Dial coach - N. Y.
Dial coach - L. A.
Catering, All Star Catering
Catering asst
Craft service
Loc projection systems
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stuntplayer
Stuntplayer
Standin, "Mrs. Flax"
Standin, "Lou"
Standin, "Kate/Charlotte"
Standin, "Kate"
Standin, "Charlotte"
Standin, "Joe"
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Mermaids by Patty Dann (New York, 1986).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Dominique," written by Soeur Sourire and Noel Regney, performed by Soeur Sourire, courtesy of Sullivan Productions, Inc.
"Fever," written by John Davenport & Eddie Cooley, performed by Peggy Lee, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Blame It On The Bossa Nova," written by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, performed by Edyie Gorme, courtesy of GL Music, Inc.
+
SONGS
"Dominique," written by Soeur Sourire and Noel Regney, performed by Soeur Sourire, courtesy of Sullivan Productions, Inc.
"Fever," written by John Davenport & Eddie Cooley, performed by Peggy Lee, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Blame It On The Bossa Nova," written by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, performed by Edyie Gorme, courtesy of GL Music, Inc.
"Baby Workout," written by Jackie Wilson & Alanzo Tucker, performed by Jackie Wilson, courtesy of Brunswick Records, Inc., by arrangement with Butterfly Entertainment Corp.
"Johnny Angel," written by Lyn Duddy & Lee Pockriss, performed by Shelley Fabares, courtesy of MCA Records
"Big Girls Don't Cry," written by Bob Crewe & Bob Gaudio, performed by The Four Seasons, courtesy of Bob Gaudio & Frankie Valli, DBA The Four Seasons Partnership
"I've Found A New Baby," written by Jack Palmer & Spencer Williams, performed by Django Reinhardt, courtesy of GNP Crescendo Records
"The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)," written by Rudy Clark, performed by Betty Everett, courtesy of Vee-Jay International, Inc., by arrangement iwth Celebrity Licensing, Inc.
"Just One Look," written by Gregory Carroll & Doris Payne, performed by Doris Troy, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Sugar Shack," written by Keith McCormack & Faye Voss, performed by Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs, courtesy of Norman Petty Studios & Vi Petty, Clovis, New Mexico
"You've Really Got A Hold On Me," written by William Robinson, performed by The Miracles, courtesy of Motown Record Company L. P.
"Mambo Italiano," written by Bob Merrill, performed by Rosemary Clooney, courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Department
"It's My Party," written by Wally Gold, John Gluck & Herb Weiner, performed by Leslie Gore, courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, PolyGram, Inc.
"Oklahoma," music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
"Stubborn Kind of Fellow," written by George Gordy, William Stevenson & Marvin Gaye, performed by Marvin Gaye, courtesy of Motown Record Company, L. P.
"Sleepwalk," written by Farina, Farina & Farina, performed by Santo & Johnny, courtesy of Dischi Ricordi
"If You Wanna Be Happy," written by Frank J. Guida, Carmela Guida & Joseph Royster, performed by Jimmy Soul, courtesy of Frank Guida Productions/Legrande-SPQR Records
"Love Is Strange," written by Sylvia Robinson, Mickey Baker & E. McDaniel, performed by Mickey & Sylvia, courtesy of RCA Records
"The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)," written by Rudy Clark, performed by Cher, courtesy of Geffen Records.
+
PERFORMERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Mermaid
Release Date:
14 December 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 14 December 1990
Production Date:
25 September--15 December 1989
Copyright Claimant:
Orion Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
6 December 1990
Copyright Number:
PA495687
Physical Properties:
Sound
Spectral Recording® Dolby Stereo SR in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras & lenses
Prints
Prints by Deluxe®
Duration(in mins):
110
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30297
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1963 Oklahoma, Rachel Flax changes into a sexy dress to go on a date with Fred, her married boss. Meanwhile, Rachel’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Charlotte Flax, senses that her mother, whom she calls “Mrs. Flax,” will soon move her and her younger half-sister, Kate, to a new city. After Rachel and Fred have a falling-out, Rachel and her daughters move for the nineteenth time. Charlotte resents her mother’s nomadic ways, and despite her Jewish heritage, has become a Catholic zealot bent on maintaining purity in the face of her burgeoning sexuality. However, when they arrive at their new home in Eastport, Massachusetts, she is instantly smitten with Joe Peretti, the twenty-six-year-old caretaker at a neighboring convent. Invigorated by the change of scenery, Rachel lands a secretarial job and meets Lou Landsky, a jovial shoe-store owner whose wife recently left him. They begin dating, and Lou warms to Charlotte and Kate, a star swimmer who is determined to beat the Guinness World Record for holding one’s breath underwater. On her first day of school, Charlotte discovers Joe Peretti is the school bus driver. She chats with him on the ride home and they make plans to go fishing together. Later, she eavesdrops as Rachel asks a makeup saleswoman named Carrie about Joe. Carrie tells her Joe was a “golden boy” football player in high school, but his demeanor changed dramatically when his girl friend abruptly left town, sparking rumors that the girl was pregnant. Charlotte determines Joe took the job at the convent as penance and becomes even more infatuated with him. After their fishing date, Rachel warns Charlotte to take it easy with Joe, reminding her that ... +


In 1963 Oklahoma, Rachel Flax changes into a sexy dress to go on a date with Fred, her married boss. Meanwhile, Rachel’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Charlotte Flax, senses that her mother, whom she calls “Mrs. Flax,” will soon move her and her younger half-sister, Kate, to a new city. After Rachel and Fred have a falling-out, Rachel and her daughters move for the nineteenth time. Charlotte resents her mother’s nomadic ways, and despite her Jewish heritage, has become a Catholic zealot bent on maintaining purity in the face of her burgeoning sexuality. However, when they arrive at their new home in Eastport, Massachusetts, she is instantly smitten with Joe Peretti, the twenty-six-year-old caretaker at a neighboring convent. Invigorated by the change of scenery, Rachel lands a secretarial job and meets Lou Landsky, a jovial shoe-store owner whose wife recently left him. They begin dating, and Lou warms to Charlotte and Kate, a star swimmer who is determined to beat the Guinness World Record for holding one’s breath underwater. On her first day of school, Charlotte discovers Joe Peretti is the school bus driver. She chats with him on the ride home and they make plans to go fishing together. Later, she eavesdrops as Rachel asks a makeup saleswoman named Carrie about Joe. Carrie tells her Joe was a “golden boy” football player in high school, but his demeanor changed dramatically when his girl friend abruptly left town, sparking rumors that the girl was pregnant. Charlotte determines Joe took the job at the convent as penance and becomes even more infatuated with him. After their fishing date, Rachel warns Charlotte to take it easy with Joe, reminding her that she has half her mother’s genes. Lou and Rachel’s relationship progresses, and one day, Lou invites the Flax girls to sleep over at his house. In his attic, he paints a portrait of Rachel as Cleopatra. Charlotte awakens in the middle of the night and finds her mother still in her Cleopatra costume, asleep on the attic couch. As Charlotte covers her mother up, she ponders how she often feels like she is Rachel’s mother and cannot fathom having spent nine months in her womb. When John F. Kennedy is assassinated, Charlotte wishes she could talk to her estranged father and seeks out Joe at the convent’s bell tower. She embraces him, and they kiss. However, she sees religious statues staring at her in disapproval and runs away. Charlotte fears God will punish her for the sin of kissing Joe by making her pregnant. Rachel asks her what is wrong, but Charlotte refuses to tell her and steals the car instead, driving it to New Haven, Connecticut, where the car breaks down. She knocks on a door and is taken in by a family who seems perfect in her eyes. In a manic state, Charlotte introduces herself as “Sal Val” and regales them with false anecdotes about living in Brazil with her father, mother, and two siblings. Learning of her whereabouts, Lou Landsky goes to pick her up. Rachel is livid when Charlotte returns home, but Charlotte still refuses to admit her secret fear that she is pregnant. She goes to a gynecologist’s office, and, much to her relief, the doctor assures her she is still a virgin. One night, while Rachel runs an errand for her boss, Lou takes care of Charlotte and Kate. Rachel returns to Lou’s house to find he has painted his guest bedroom blue and decorated it like the ocean at Kate’s request. They sit down for a home-cooked meal, unlike the cold hors d’oeuvres Rachel normally prepares, and Kate and Charlotte excitedly chat with Lou. Irritated by their chumminess, Rachel later accuses Lou of using her daughters to get closer to her, and claims the Flax women are an impenetrable unit. On New Year’s Eve, Rachel dresses up as a mermaid for a costume party. Charlotte and Kate stay home, while Rachel meets up with Lou at the party. Suggesting it is time for their relationship to move forward, Lou asks Rachel to move in with him, but she refuses. He leaves the party, and a tipsy Rachel gets a ride home from Joe. Charlotte observes through the window as Joe helps her mother out of his car, and Rachel kisses him. Charlotte rushes out and reprimands them both. Soon after, Charlotte dresses up in Rachel’s clothes, puts on makeup, and gets drunk on red wine, allowing Kate to drink, too. The girls walk to the convent, and Rachel leaves a drunken Kate at the bottom of the bell tower as she heads upstairs to find Joe. Kate sets out to collect rocks and walks along a waterfall, slipping and falling into the water. At the top of the bell tower, Charlotte does not hear Kate’s screams as she and Joe make love. A group of nuns come to Kate’s rescue, instructing Joe to call for an ambulance. Rachel angrily ignores Charlotte when she arrives at the hospital, and Rachel’s friend, Carrie, suggests Joe take Charlotte home. Hours later, Charlotte awaits news, and is relieved to learn that Kate is going to be okay. Rachel returns home to retrieve Kate’s clothes and tells Charlotte to start packing, since the rumors of her whorish behavior have already begun circulating. Charlotte apologizes for her mistake, but reminds Rachel of the many mistakes she has made. Rachel, who was only one year older than Charlotte when she became pregnant with her, wonders why Charlotte would repeat her mistakes if she hates her so much. Charlotte confesses she thought she loved Joe and feared Rachel would steal him away. She asks if Rachel loved her father, and Rachel says she did, describing him as a charming man who left her without warning. Charlotte begs Rachel to stay in town for at least another year, and Rachel considers it. Three months later, Lou and Rachel are still together. Thanks to her new reputation, Charlotte enjoys increased attention from boys at school, and corresponds with Joe, who has moved to California to open a nursery. Her interest in Catholicism has been replaced by Greek mythology, while Kate, fully recovered, has regained her love for swimming. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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