The Front Row View: Tootsie

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man. 


One of the best comedies to roll off of the Hollywood assembly line was Sydney Pollack’s 1982 Tootsie. A boatload of scriptwriters worked on it over an unusually long shooting schedule, but it came together beautifully and sounds as if one great comedy writer had put it together. Dustin Hoffman gives one of his best performances (he should do more comedies!) as Michael Dorsey, a struggling actor who can’t get a job in either New York or Hollywood due to the fact that he’s too much trouble to work with. He’s trying to get the money together to produce and star in his roommate’s play, so he disguises himself as a woman to land a leading female role on a daytime soap. Michael’s alter ego, Dorothy Michaels, isn’t a simple impersonation (throw on a dress and speak in a high-pitched voice for laughs). The highly skilled Hoffman creates a separate personality for Dorothy. She’s soft and genteel, but tough as nails when she needs to be. She contrasts with Michael, who is aggressive, neurotic and self-centered. Tootsie is made up of one of the finest casts ever to grace a comedy. Teri Garr is Hoffman’s high-strung girlfriend—she gooses the movie along. Jessica Lange, in her first Oscar-winning performance, is Julie, an actress on the soap. She offers strong support and has never looked more radiant. Charles Durning is in top form as Julie’s father who takes a shine to Dorothy. And an uncredited Bill Murray, as Hoffman’s roommate, cracks up the audience every time that he shows up (it’s said that he improvised most of his lines). Tootsie is a welcome reminder of a time when Hollywood comedies weren’t made up of strings of toilet jokes.


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