BetteBack March 8, 1979: Midler plays drug* riddled Rose

Winnipeg Free Press
March 8, 1979

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HOLLYWOOD—”I think she’ll paralyse everyone with her performance,” says Mark Rydell. “She’ll just take your breath away.”

In an industry continually bending its knee before the Great God of Hype, you’ve heard all that before. But Rydell, who directed The Rose, is not the only one knocked out by Bette Midler‘s debut.

The Rose cost $9 million. And 20th Century-Fox is so sure it’s got a winner it’s talking of spending that much again promoting the picture.

The Rose, which also stars Alan Bates, is the a story of the last eight days in the life of a ’60s rock star, a woman riddled with drugs, drink and tension. It was to have been the Janis Joplin story but in that form Midler turned it down. Only when the script was made more general did she say yes.

It’s raw stuff. The movie opens with Midler reeling off an airplane, hair dishevelled, eyes bleary, clutching a bottle of booze. The film chroniclea her disintegration until her death before an audience of thousands.

Says Rydell, whose film Cinderella Liberty convinced Midler that he was the director to mastermind her film debut: “It’s really an extraordinary performance. What fascinated me is that Bette is a shy girl who doesn’t smoke or drink or swear. Yet in the film she, has to use the most vile language. She hated saying it but she knew it was valid.”

Rydell came up with some of Hollywood’s greatest cameramen to photograph her Los Angeles concert scenes — Vilmos Zsigmond, Haskell Wexler, Laszlo Kovaks and Conrad Hall among them.

Midler has seen the film three or four times.

“She’s pleased with it,” says Rydell. “She knows she’s acquitted herself well. But she’d still like to make improvements. She keeps following me around, wanting to change things.

The film won’t be seen before the end of the year.

But Midler wants to do more.

“Why didn’t someone tell me that making movies was so much fun?” she says

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