Divine Madness (1980)

Divine Madness (1980)

“I’ll never forget it, ya know.”

Bette Midler and her three Harlettes — Ula Hedwig, Diva Gray, and Jocelyn Brown — perform musical and comedic routines in Pasadena, California.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Concert Films
  • Michael Ritchie Films
  • Stand Up Comedy

Shortly after her Oscar-nominated breakthrough role in The Rose (1979), Bette Midler was filmed (by director Michael Ritchie) performing a live mixture of music and comedy at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. As noted in TCM’s article:

While the film appears to be an entire evening’s performance, it was actually made up of the best segments from four nights of Midler’s engagement at the Civic Auditorium from February 13 – February 16, 1980, captured by ten cameras shooting more than 1.5 million feet of film, and edited together seamlessly over seven months.

Midler’s material is hit-or-miss, and shifts gears quickly. While Midler herself is 110% invested — she knows her audience, and gives everything she’s got — your own enjoyment of the show will depend entirely on how much you appreciate her unique style of raunchy humor and pathos.

It’s not really my cup of tea, but I can see how this would be an invaluable living document for fans of “The Divine Miss M”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Midler’s obvious joy for her craft
  • Midler singing “The Rose”

Must See?
No, unless you’re a Midler fan. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Divine Madness (1980)

  1. Not must-see; only for Midler fans.

    In an interview at one point, Midler made a remark something to the effect that she wasn’t pleased with the recorded concert (or did she feel the need to apologize for it not being up to her standards?) and that a good part of the ‘blame’ was toward director Michael Ritchie. She said something like, “He hated music – who knew?” But the film doesn’t reflect that; it appears to be a conventionally / professionally filmed concert, showing everyone off mostly to their best advantage.

    Personally (and as a fan), I think the film is a mixed bag. Some terrific energy earlier on, a little too much emphasis on bad / corny jokes, and it all starts to lose steam near the end (esp. with some strange song choices).

    I saw Midler once – on Broadway; it was a Christmas Eve performance. Now *that* was a DYNAMITE show! At one point, she informed the crowd: “I’ve been singin’ my tits off for two hours – why don’t you sing to *me* for a change?!” So we did. Someone started up with ‘Silent Night’ and it slowly ‘caught fire’. Watching Midler’s face, the singer was clearly moved. At the end of the song, she did something unusual; she said, “That was so lovely! Sing it again…?” And we did. And it was lovely. And the ‘brassy, tough broad’ was reduced to being an appreciative, open-hearted child.

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