Swing Shift (1984, Jonathan Demme)

Yes, we celebrated the receipt of a Netflix Streaming disc for our Wii by spontaneously watching a Goldie Hawn movie. I thought it’d be a Jonathan Demme movie, but it turned out not to be – Demme has disowned this version. As he told The Guardian: “It turned out very poorly, yeah. We did a film and I hope that very few people here have seen it!”

In this, the Goldie version (Demme’s cut was reportedly available on bootleg VHS in the 80’s, but seems impossible to find now), Hawn goes off to work at the airplane factory when hubby Ed Harris goes to war to fight the dirty Japs who bombed the harbor. Hawn teams up, eventually and reluctantly, with rebel girl Hazel (Christine Lahti of Housekeeping, Running On Empty) and rebel boy Kurt Russell (lately of The Thing). Their friendship and her new self-sufficiency lead Goldie to redefine herself as a person. Then somehow she ends up back at home with hubby Ed, Kurt reading a wistfully-voiceovered note from Goldie as he rides away to tour with his new band.

Apparently it used to be more of an ensemble piece than a Goldie showcase, so side characters like coworker Holly Hunter (in what would’ve been her first major role if it had stayed major) and Fred Ward (as Hazel’s complicatedly sleazy ex) had beefier parts. Even in its diminished state, though, Katy and I liked it quite a bit.

Demme to The Guardian:

We had this hard-nosed feminist, all women together thing, and Kurt Russell was supposed to be a bastard, and suddenly all these scenes were being rewritten, and I found myself in a very awkward position because I had to co-operate with these new scenes. I actually had to shoot them, otherwise I would have been in violation of my contract, and so in order to protect the movie that I thought we were making I had to shoot these very bad scenes.

Demme doesn’t finger Robert Towne as the emergency rewriter, though he’s strongly rumored to be the one. Towne had once written Chinatown, but having just done the craptastic Deal of the Century he owed the studio a favor. Demme goes on to tell the story of how Ed Harris saved Stop Making Sense, for which we should all be forever grateful.

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