December 6, 1980
This must have been the dreariest movie week of Ihe year, but there’s a shining light at the end of the tunnel in the person of the Divine Miss M. Bette Midler.
If you’re a fan of Midler you’re going lo love Divine Madness, probablv one of the best “concert” films to hit Ihe screen. Midler has been seen occasionally on television. In cleaned-up versions of her act she scored a great hit last season with The Rose, but this film gets nearest to her incredible talent.
No common or garden “chantoosey,” Midler is into “trash with flash,” ribald comment and ballads belted from Ihe gut. To catch the essence of her performance practically straight on is the challenge of this film.
And it succeeds because there’s no cutaway for backstage “bumpf,” no singer on the road documentary footage. This is a concert and you’re put right into front row centre for the happening.
Filmed at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Ihe movie opens wilh the head usher lining up his staff and very funny that is. There’s the chanting of the fans, the sound of The Harlcltes and the eye-popping entrance of Midler herself singing Big Noise from Winnetka. From that moment she has us in the palm of her hand and she’s dynamite.
As Dolores Delago, the Toast of Chicago, taking on “Her Heinie Tha Kaween,” lulling you with Shiver My Timbers or sending up the tackiness of Chapel of Love, Midler never lets up, never lets go of her audience.
And because she never puts us down, we become her willing slaves. Not lo be manipulated but brought up into her generous bosom and loving arms, sometimes lo rear back at her raunchiness, yet to weep on her shoulder when she touches deepest emotion with a ballad.
Midler has real generosity of spirit, with her audience and her stage. The wonderful Harlettes are never upstaged, they’re part of the whole fabric of the show. If you are easily offended by ribaldry, Midler is not for you, but if you want to see •a great concert filmed possibly for the first time, really well then you’ll have a great night at Ihe movies.