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TomJH

Moonlighting and All Those Old Hollywood References

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I'm sure that many of you may recall Moonlighting, the popular ABC series of the '80s, which co-starred Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis. It was this series that first put Willis on the map before the movies (in particular Die Hard) brought him greater popularity,

 

It was a quirky show to say the least, part detective drama, part comedy, part romance, with some genuinely original and witty writing, at times. I was a big fan of the show at the time, though most agree that the five season series went downhill in quality after the first three seasons.

 

Shepherd, always a bit of an ice queen who had never really clicked in the movies, brought, as Maddie, glamour and sophistication to the show, and an engaging willingness to play comedy, Willis's smart **** character of David showed the actor to be brilliant at fast banter. I've often bemoaned the fact that Die Hard would type him as an action star in the minds of many though he has been in a variety of other films as well. His finesse at comedy seems, to me, to have primarily flourished during his Moonlighting years.

 

What struck me about the series, though, was a certain affection that it showed, at times, for the Hollywood of the studio system days. Just look at some of the titles of their shows, for example - Witness for the Execution, My Fair David, North By North Di Pesto, Cool Hand Dave.

 

An episode called The Bride of Tupperman opens with David (Willis) watching The Bride of Frankenstein on television. It's the sequence in which the Bride is created, and rejects the Monster. Willis watches with a few wise cracks but seems to be into the movie. When the Monster blows up the castle after being rejected by the Bride, Shepherd, who has just entered the room, has a good line: "I'm not surprised. You just can't say no to some guys."

 

Another episode, called Knowing Her, opens with Gene Kelly's rendition of Singin' in the Rain playing on the soundtrack as you see numerous shots of people walking and scurrying in the rain. There is then a counterpoint to this well beloved happy song as a decidedly unglamourous Cybill Shepherd, looking like a drenched wet hen and not particularly happy about it, shows up at her detective agency office.

 

It's been years since I saw it but the most special episode of them all for me came in the second season, The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice, in which (if memory serves me correctly) Willis falls asleep and has a dream which turns into a film noir tribute. The dream sequence, which makes up most of the show, is filmed in a shimmering black and white. I recall being struck by what a lovely singing voice Shepherd had as she sang "Blue Moon" in a '40s era nightclub, doing real justice to the song.

 

Orson Welles introduced the episode. Sadly, this Moonlighting intro was almost the last time Welles stood before a camera prior to his sudden heart attack death. The producers of the episode dedicated it to him.

 

Here are a couple of stills from The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice:

 

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Anyone else with any Moonlighting memories?

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Moonlighting did have a lot of old Hollywood references. And so did Remington Steele, which hit the airwaves earlier. In that series, Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan solve crimes because the murderers do things that mirror plots in old movies. While chasing down bad guys, the main characters often say things like "NORTH BY NORTHWEST...Alfred Hitchock 1959" with a knowing look and wink at the audience.

 

These programs were part of a wave of nostalgia for classic film in the mid-80s, largely because VHS was helping audiences rediscover "old" movies.

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Count me in as a MOONLIGHTING fan.

 

I was always struck by Willis' singing 60's-70's songs from my childhood. He made oldies cool again! I loved the film references too. The writers of MOONLIGHTING were very clever and they had a great cast to implement it. 

My favorite episode (still have it on VHS) was the TAMING OF THE SHREW one- "I hate iambic pentameter!"

 

I always thought MOONLIGHTING paved the way for MST3K in that respect-knowing your audience's shared childhood experiences to pop culture. 

 

I was very sad Willis went on to star in un-romantic movies, I lurved him. Cybill went on to her own show which I also very much enjoyed. I am such a Cybill fan, I own all her CDs, she's an excellent singer. (I even have an old LP with her face on the cover back from her early modeling days)

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I was very sad Willis went on to star in un-romantic movies, I lurved him. Cybill went on to her own show which I also very much enjoyed. I am such a Cybill fan, I own all her CDs, she's an excellent singer. (I even have an old LP with her face on the cover back from her early modeling days)

 

The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice (Season 2, Episode 4), to which I had made reference, is the only episode that I can recall had Cybill singing, and I thought she was very impressive, as well as looking incredibly sexy and sophisticated in those '40s era nightclub dresses. Pure class.

 

Moonlighting was a quirky bit of everything, at times, sometimes romantic, sometimes even a bit of slapstick comedy, with some marvelously original writing. It was announced that the series would be cancelled during the fifth season, and what an original final episode it turned out to be! There was a standard mystery story line but at one point Maddie and David return to their detective agency office to find that it is being dismantled, and they are then informed that Moonlighting has been cancelled. The two of them rush around the studio sound stages on which the show was filmed to find out if there is a way for their characters to get married before they sign off the air.

 

The originality of the series was in full blossom in that last episode, called Lunar Eclipse.

 

Here's a shot from that Taming of the Shrew episode you like, Tiki. Very, very clever spoof that I suspect Mr. Shakespeare might have loved.

 

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Here's the Moonlighting theme song that started the episodes, as sung by Al Jarreau. Always loved the arrangement.

 

 

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I liked the opening song for Moonlighting.  Al Jarreau has a distinctive voice that's easy on the ears, at least to me.

 

I enjoyed Moonlighting too, but as is often the case, the show 'jumped the shark' so-to-speak, after the sexual tension between David and Maddie was resolved.

 

It is too bad about Bruce Willis getting type-cast because of all those Diehard movies, but hey, it pays the bills if there's an audience for those kinds of films, right?  It's funny that Willis' persona went from happy-go-lucky to dead serious roles after the series ended, while Cybill Shepherd was, somewhat, just the opposite.  I liked the song she sang in one of the dream sequence-montages that had the line, "I told you I loved ya, now get out!"  Shepherd's series on CBS was pretty good too.  It helped put Christine Baranski on the map as a pretty versatile actress.

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I liked the opening song for Moonlighting.  Al Jarreau has a distinctive voice that's easy on the ears, at least to me.

 

I enjoyed Moonlighting too, but as is often the case, the show 'jumped the shark' so-to-speak, after the sexual tension between David and Maddie was resolved.

 

It is too bad about Bruce Willis getting type-cast because of all those Diehard movies, but hey, it pays the bills if there's an audience for those kinds of films, right?  It's funny that Willis' persona went from happy-go-lucky to dead serious roles after the series ended, while Cybill Shepherd was, somewhat, just the opposite.  I liked the song she sang in one of the dream sequence-montages that had the line, "I told you I loved ya, now get out!"  Shepherd's series on CBS was pretty good too.  It helped put Christine Baranski on the map as a pretty versatile actress.

 

With regards to his action films; While the roles  \ situations Willis was placed in were  'dead serious' his screen persona was still that of the happy-go-lucky, wise cracking guy and this was what made him and those films appealing.

 

The Cybill show is on LAFF T.V. and I really like it.  Funny but  I don't recall ever watching it in the 90s (too much into music at the time).     Well made show and Cybill and Christine have great chemistry.      Last night the show had the two renting a movie and they mentioned they were going to watch Davis in Now Voyager.     Her shows often had references to classic Hollywood.  

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It is too bad about Bruce Willis getting type-cast because of all those Diehard movies, but hey, it pays the bills if there's an audience for those kinds of films, right?  It's funny that Willis' persona went from happy-go-lucky to dead serious roles after the series ended, while Cybill Shepherd was, somewhat, just the opposite.  I liked the song she sang in one of the dream sequence-montages that had the line, "I told you I loved ya, now get out!"  Shepherd's series on CBS was pretty good too.  It helped put Christine Baranski on the map as a pretty versatile actress.

 

I just re-watched The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice for the first time in almost 30 years, and I agree with you, midwestern. Cybill is terrific when she sings "I Told You That I Loved You, Now Get Out!" one of the real highlights of the episode.

 

I was able to re-appreciate the cleverness of the episode once again. Shepherd and Willis's characters have contrasting black and white dreams of the same event, a romance in a 1940s nightclub that leads to the murder of her husband. Shepherd's version has her sympathetic and Willis as a cold blooded manipulator. Willis's version has, in true film noir tradition, Shepherd as an aggressive seductress and Willis as a guy intoxicated by her allure but wanting nothing to do with murder.

 

At one moment while Shepherd sings that song she bends her head forward then flings it back, her hair tossling, a moment that is pure Rita Hayworth right out of Gilda.

 

Judge for yourself, folks. Here it is. Take a look at this YT clip (wish the visuals were better) of Cybill singing "I Told You I Loved you, Now Get Out!":

 

 

 

This is one sexy lady!

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With regards to his action films; While the roles  \ situations Willis was placed in were  'dead serious' his screen persona was still that of the happy-go-lucky, wise cracking guy and this was what made him and those films appealing.

 

 

 

While Willis's skillful facility with humourous dialogue was utilized to a limited degree (very successfully) in the first Die Hard, it seems to me that the action films have him playing it largely stoically macho (sometimes with a touch of vulnerability). I bemoan that fact that Willis's ability to play comedy has been largely lost with many (make that most) of his film roles. He has increasingly evolved into a minimalist actor over the years, often with very limited dialogue. Moonlighting saw him as a glib performer who could adroitly handle streams of fast patter.

 

I just watched a 2006 actioner he made, 16 Blocks, in which Willis played a paunchy, alcoholic cop, clearly tired of life, who is drawn into an unexpected (for him, not the audience) situation in which he is on the run for his life, along with a prisoner, from bad cops that don't want that prisoner to testify. A fine, taut actioner, directed by Richard Donner, I highly recommend it.

 

One of the reasons I found it to be a most satisfying film is because it also works as a character study, not just an explosive mindless action film (unlike some of the Die Hard sequels). Willis is very credible, showing what a fine actor he can be with the right material.

 

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Bruce Willis has gained a reputation in the last decade or more of his career of being one of the laziest, most uncooperative stars in Hollywood. There are many stories about, in print and online, detailing his on-set antics and general disdain for the whole process. He was so disagreeable on the set of the latest Woody Allen film, Cafe Society, that he was fired mid-shoot and replaced (with Steve Carell). All people change as they age, and apparently Willis has decided to stop trying, as long as the checks keep clearing. It helps explain his descent into the realm of C-list, virtually direct-to-video dreck. 

 

I personally believe he has talent, and the film Tom mentions, 16 Blocks, is a good example, but he's decided to quit caring or trying, at least for the time being.

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Bruce Willis has gained a reputation in the last decade or more of his career of being one of the laziest, most uncooperative stars in Hollywood. There are many stories about, in print and online, detailing his on-set antics and general disdain for the whole process. He was so disagreeable on the set of the latest Woody Allen film, Cafe Society, that he was fired mid-shoot and replaced (with Steve Carell). All people change as they age, and apparently Willis has decided to stop trying, as long as the checks keep clearing. It helps explain his descent into the realm of C-list, virtually direct-to-video dreck. 

 

I personally believe he has talent, and the film Tom mentions, 16 Blocks, is a good example, but he's decided to quit caring or trying, at least for the time being.

 

Yes, I was sorry to hear that Willis was fired from the Woody Allen project because I hoped they might have a hit together (even though they seem like an odd couple).

 

The most recent Willis films made that I've seen, Catch .44, Vice and The Prince all have him playing supporting role villains and, quite frankly, he wasn't putting much effort into his performances, particularly in The Prince. I've wondered if his star status is in trouble because he has been accepting such roles. His disdain does seem to be reflected in those performances.

 

Looper, which came out in 2012, is, at least, a fairly intriguing sci fi film, but, again, with Willis getting second billing to Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who?).

 

Going back to 2005, I thought Willis was terrific in Sin City. Interestingly, he played himself in What Just Happened as a difficult, tempermental film star who is murder for producer Robert de Niro to deal with. It was interesting that Willis was ready to poke fun as his own real life image with that 2008 film. Boy, was he convincing as a prima donna.

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It was interesting that Willis was ready to poke fun as his own real life image with that 2008 film. Boy, was he convincing as a prima donna.

 

He was convincing as a prima donna in MOONLIGHTING.

 

Sad to hear all these negative stories about Willis. I also think he is an excellent actor, when given a real part to play. I can only wonder if he's disgruntled about how his career has gone-taking the money in return for typecasting himself. Plus the zillion ways the Hollywood machine tears you down.

 

Glad some are rediscovering the CYBILL show-I watched it religiously on re-runs. Her autobiography CYBILL DISOBEDIENCE is quite good too. "Classy" truly describes her, and that's hard to maintain in the Hollywood machine I referred to earlier.

 

I briefly dated an actor who bore a striking resemblance to Bruce:

MV5BMjE5Nzg3NTQ0MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU4

 

Super nice guy; extremely talented, natural, photographs well & a professional all the way. (plus, a hunk!)

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Tiki, I LOVED MOONLIGHTING and THE CYBILL SHOW and never missed an episode of either show. I've been a fan of Cybil's since she first started modeling. Beautiful and bright and she became a good actress as the years passed. CYBILL, MURPHY BROWN, DESIGNING WOMAN all were important shows for women. CYBILL was such a funny show with Christine Baranski, a wonderful actress and Alicia Witt as Cybil's daughter was great. 

 

MOONLIGHTING was such a funny, romantic show. Such a shame about Bruce Willis, he showed so much promise when he first started out in his career.

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Loved Moonlighting, I taped Dream Sequence episode on VHS and kept it for years - no YT then. Here is another favorite clip - thought this was very "hollywood musical" in tone, and well choreographed:

 

 

 

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He was convincing as a prima donna in MOONLIGHTING.

 

 

I really can't agree that Willis's character, David Addison, was a prima donna in Moonlighting, Tiki. Quite the opposite, it's fun to watch Willis playing an irreverent, fun loving guy with a disrespect for authority, certainly in the series' early episodes.

 

The first three seasons of Moonlighting were the golden years of the series.

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I really can't agree that Willis's character, David Addison, was a prima donna in Moonlighting, Tiki. Quite the opposite, it's fun to watch Willis playing an irreverent, fun loving guy with a disrespect for authority, certainly in the series' early episodes.

 

The first three seasons of Moonlighting were the golden years of the series.

 

To me Addison was a fun loving,  irreverent prima donna and that is what made the character fun to watch.

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To me Addison was a fun loving,  irreverent prima donna and that is what made the character fun to watch.

 

I don't equate fun loving and irreverant with being a prima donna. A prima donna is a tempermental person with great self importance. Addison had an ego, no doubt about that, and he could get angry. But that doesn't make him a prima donna by my definition.

 

In What Just Happened, Willis playing himself, definitely met that definition.

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I don't equate fun loving and irreverant with being a prima donna. A prima donna is a tempermental person with great self importance. Addison had an ego, no doubt about that, and he could get angry. But that doesn't make him a prima donna by my definition.

 

In What Just Happened, Willis playing himself, definitely met that definition.

 

While Willis was parodying himself as well, the "character" he played in What Just Happened was based on Alec Baldwin, and Baldwin's antics while filming the movie The Edge (1997) with Anthony Hopkins, produced by Art Linson, whose memoir was the basis for What Just Happened (DeNiro played Linson in that film).

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I don't equate fun loving and irreverant with being a prima donna. A prima donna is a tempermental person with great self importance. Addison had an ego, no doubt about that, and he could get angry. But that doesn't make him a prima donna by my definition.

 

In What Just Happened, Willis playing himself, definitely met that definition.

 

You still don't understand my POV regarding Addison.   It is NOT "either \ or" like you are making it.   Instead the way the character was written by the writers and played by Willis,   the fictional character Addison was fun loving and irreverent,  then a prima donna,  then fun loving and irreverent,  then,  etc..... 

 

I.e. Addison wasn't one dimensional (which is always more interesting IMO).

 

 

What is funny about this entire discussion of a fictional character is that the last time we had a similar discussion it was about Biff Grimes in The Strawberry Blonde.    It was also Tiki that made the initial comment about the character.     

 

In the case of Addison I can understand how one could interpret  "He was convincing as a prima donna in MOONLIGHTING" as 'black in white',  but my comment was that he was much more than that (I.e. more of a combination of the two POVs presented).

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You still don't understand my POV regarding Addison.   It is NOT "either \ or" like you are making it.   Instead the way the character was written by the writers and played by Willis,   the fictional character Addison was fun loving and irreverent,  then a prima donna,  then fun loving and irreverent,  then,  etc..... 

 

I.e. Addison wasn't one dimensional (which is always more interesting IMO).

 

 

 

Your definition of prima donna is obviously different from mine. He was self important and tempermental in the series? I can't think of any episodes in which that happened.

 

At least we agree that Willis was fun in the show.

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Your definition of prima donna is obviously different from mine. He was self important and tempermental in the series? I can't think of any episodes in which that happened.

 

At least we agree that Willis was fun in the show.

 

I have a lower bar for prima donna when it comes to a fictional character.   In addition I don't view this character trait as a negative but instead just a plot device created by writers to add juice.    

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It was also Tiki that made the initial comment about the character.     

 

Ouch. Am I to understand that you find my opinion is always "off"?

 

It's been so many years since I've seen MOONLIGHTING (I just requested season one from the library)

 

I just recall David Addison as being a frat boy type. He was cute, smart, funny but not the sort of guy Maddie would be interested in, she thought she was too "good" for him. 

 

Addison struck me as being pretty full of himself, c 0 c k y would be the term I'd use. A perfect foil for a gal who feels superior.

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It was interesting that Willis was ready to poke fun as his own real life image with that 2008 film. Boy, was he convincing as a prima donna.

 

He was convincing as a prima donna in MOONLIGHTING.

 

Sad to hear all these negative stories about Willis. I also think he is an excellent actor, when given a real part to play. I can only wonder if he's disgruntled about how his career has gone-taking the money in return for typecasting himself. Plus the zillion ways the Hollywood machine tears you down.

 

Glad some are rediscovering the CYBILL show-I watched it religiously on re-runs. Her autobiography CYBILL DISOBEDIENCE is quite good too. "Classy" truly describes her, and that's hard to maintain in the Hollywood machine I referred to earlier.

 

I briefly dated an actor who bore a striking resemblance to Bruce:

MV5BMjE5Nzg3NTQ0MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU4

 

Super nice guy; extremely talented, natural, photographs well & a professional all the way. (plus, a hunk!)

willis wuz such a primadona next to cybil. agreed your rite, tikisoo

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