25 Things You Never Knew About Beaches

Based on the novel by Iris Rainer Dart, 1988 comedy drama Beaches is one of the most beloved tear-jerkers of all time, and a key entry on the résumés of lead actresses Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. Centred on childhood friends who take very different paths in adulthood but never lose their bond, it’s never advisable to watch it without a dry handkerchief on standby. Here are some facts about Beaches which you might not have known.


25. Mayim Bialik didn’t get to do her own singing

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Credit: Buena Vista Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

In the supporting role of CC as a child, Beaches was a big break for young actress Mayim Bialik.

Aged 11 at the time, Bialik had the advantage of looking a lot like her adult counterpart Bette Midler.

Similar to Midler, Bialik also had skills as an actress, a dancer, and a singer.

Unfortunately for Bialik, her singing voice proved to be a bit of a sticking point.

The young actress’s singing voice was deemed too far removed from that of Midler, so all her vocals were overdubbed.

Nonetheless, the film proved a great launchpad for Bialik, who would later enjoy small screen success.

24. The film’s director makes a cameo (kind of)

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Credit: Louise Palanker via Flickr

At one point during Beaches, we see a poster for an upcoming production entitled Sizzle 76.

On the poster it states that it’s a Garry Marshall production; Marshall being the actual director of Beaches.

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Prior to his film career, Marshall was best known for creating the beloved 50s-set sitcom Happy Days.

After Beaches, Marshall enjoyed his biggest movie success with 1990’s celebrated rom-com Pretty Woman.

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Marshall later went on to direct such hits as Runaway Bride and The Princess Diaries.

Sadly, Marshall passed away in 2016 at the age of 71, following complications after a stroke.

23. Lainie Kazan only accepted the role for the chance to work with Bette Midler

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Actress Lainie Kazan (who’s since become better known for the My Big Fat Greek Wedding movies) co-stars in Beaches as Leona Bloom.

Kazan had a long history of stage work on Broadway and elsewhere, and made her film debut two decades before Beaches in 1968.

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However, initially the American actress was not particularly interested in taking the role of Leona, CC’s mother.

There was one key thing that changed Kazan’s mind: the fact that Bette Midler was playing CC.

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With this knowledge, Kazan happily accepted the part, as she was eager to work with Midler.

This was despite the fact that Kazan was in one key respect an unlikely choice for the part…

22. There wasn’t much difference in age between Kazan and Midler

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Lainie Kazan was born in May 1940, which means she was 48 when Beaches opened in December 1988.

Meanwhile, her screen daughter Bette Midler was born in December 1945, making her 43 at the time of the film’s release.

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You don’t need to be a skilled mathematician to note that this is an age gap of only five years.

This being the case, Kazan and Midler were unlikely casting as mother and daughter – but they made it work regardless.

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In any case, this is hardly the only time that a movie has cast actors of comparable age as parent and child.

Take TV’s The Golden Girls, in which Bea Arthur was actually older than her screen mother Estelle Getty.

21. Barbara Hershey underwent a cosmetic procedure to prepare for the role

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Beaches is set over the course of 30 years, following friends CC and Hillary from childhood to adulthood.

For the scenes in which the characters are youngest, Mayim Bialik and Marcie Leeds played CC and Hillary.

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Later on in the film, however, Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey needed to make themselves look a bit younger.

Hershey, who was 40 at the time, went to a perhaps unexpected length to get a more youthful appearance.

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The actress underwent collagen lip injections specifically for the scenes in the movies when she plays Hillary in her 20s.

Reportedly the whole cast were shocked when Hershey rocked up with new lips, but soon grew used to her new look.

20. Sets from another Midler film were reused in Beaches

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As well as playing the lead role, Bette Midler was also one of the producers on Beaches.

As well as giving Midler her first producing credit, Beaches also re-uses some sets from an earlier Midler movie.

Earlier in 1988, Midler starred alongside Lily Tomlin (as two sets of twins) in the comedy Big Business.

As production on the two films was close together, they wound up holding screen tests with Barbara Hershey on the Big Business set.

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On top of that, a key set from Big Business also winds up appearing in Beaches too.

This is the department store set in a scene around the middle of the film, when CC and Hilary fight in the store.

19. A cut storyline revealed CC’s husband was a paedophile

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Not everything from the Beaches book made it in the story’s transition to the big screen.

One particularly sensitive story thread from Iris Rainer Dart’s 1985 novel was left out of the movie.

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The plot line in question involves the character of John Pierce, husband of Midler’s CC.

The filmmakers opted to omit the novel’s shocking revelation that John, played by actor John Heard, was a paedophile.

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This would doubtless be a relief to many viewers who know and love Heard for his role in the Home Alone movies.

Heard (also known for Cutter’s Way, Cat People and The Pelican Brief) sadly passed away in 2017 aged 71.

18. Shelley Winters turned down the role of CC’s mother

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Lanie Kazan, being a mere five years older than Bette Midler, wasn’t the most obvious choice to play CC’s mother.

As it turns out, Kazan was not the only actress under consideration for the part.

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Another key contender for the role was the long-standing Hollywood actress Shelley Winters.

With a career dating back to the early 1940s, Winters was 68 at the time, so considerably more age appropriate for Leona.

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However, Winters turned the part down over concerns that she would fail the insurance exams needed to appear in the movie.

Winters would go on to appear in several more films before passing away in January 2006, aged 85.

17. One trailer for the film was guilty of false advertising

The theatrical trailer for Beaches promoted the film on the star power of its leading ladies.

And yet, whoever edited the trailer was either being liberal with the truth, or didn’t know much about the film’s stars.

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Midway through, that distinctive 80s movie trailer narrator guy tells us that Beaches stars ‘Academy Award nominees’ Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.

Midler was indeed a one-time Oscar nominee, having been up for Best Actress in 1980 for The Rose.

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Hershey, however, had never been Oscar-nominated at the time, making this a big fat lie.

Still, Hershey would get a nod from the Academy in 1997 for The Portrait of a Lady. By then, Midler had already earned her second nomination for 1991’s For the Boys.

16. The film was almost called Remember Me

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Sometimes, a movie title proves so iconic that it’s hard to imagine they ever considered calling it anything else.

There are some extreme examples, such as when Back to the Future was almost renamed Spaceman From Pluto.

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In the case of Beaches, the alternate title they almost went with is not nearly so inappropriate.

For some time, the film was set to be released under the title Remember Me.

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This would have made sense given the terminal illness storyline – but it also might have been a bit of a spoiler.

Ultimately, the filmmakers decided against this and kept the original title from Iris Rainer Dart’s novel.

15. Mayim Bialik and Marcie Leeds made a spoof remake as adults

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Young CC actress Mayim Bialik went on to enjoy a long and successful career as an actress, not to mention her impressive credentials as a scientist.

Marcie Leeds, meanwhile, went from Beaches to a recurring role on late 80s fantasy drama Beauty and the Beast.

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By the early 90s, however, Leeds gave up acting and went on to medical school, ultimately becoming a surgeon.

Both women, then, have gone on to achieve great things – but neither of them have forgotten Beaches.

The two reunited in August 2016, shortly after the death of director Garry Marshall, to honour his memory by re-enacting their scenes from the movie.

The resulting video, as you can see above, turned out suitably light-hearted and funny!

14. There was meant to be a sequel

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As you might expect, the success of Beaches the movie also boosted sales of the original novel.

Inspired by this interest, author Iris Rainer Dart penned a follow-up novel a few years later.

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Beaches II: I’ll Be There was first published in 1991, and followed CC in her new role as surrogate mother to Hillary’s daughter.

Originally, there had been plans for this novel to also be adapted for the screen, as a TV movie.

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However, Midler was not poised to return as CC, with the role instead earmarked for Barbara Eden (TV’s I Dream of Jeannie).

For reasons that are unknown, this adaptation of Beaches II: I’ll Be There never wound up being made.

13. The film had terrible reviews

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Earning $57 million off a $20 million budget, Beaches was a modest box office success.

Whatever success the comedy drama enjoyed was in no way down to the reviews it received.

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On release, the critics were almost unanimous in their disdain for director Garry Marshall’s tear-jerker.

Many reviews blasted the film as being sentimental and contrived, with its emotional moments feeling ‘unearned.’

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Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times said it was “shamelessly manipulative,” whilst Gene Siskel called it “too mechanical.”

None of this stopped the film from accruing an enthusiastic following, particularly once it hit home video and television.

12. The theme song was a huge hit

Like many well-loved films of the 80s, one of the most memorable elements of Beaches is its iconic theme song.

The film features Bette Midler performing the suitably emotional ballad Wind Beneath My Wings.

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Although the song is now synonymous with Beaches and Midler, you might not know it was written several years earlier.

Wind Beneath My Wings was written by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley in 1982, and had been recorded by a number of other artists beforehand.

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Midler’s recording was a number one hit single, and won the Grammy awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

It has since been re-recorded many more times, and became one of the most frequently played songs at funerals.

11. There is a stage musical version

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It’s become increasingly common in recent years for hit movies to be adapted into stage musicals.

Beaches, as Barbara Hershey herself noted, was a “natural” choice for such an adaptation, given the role music plays.

So it was that in 2014, Beaches: the Musical premiered at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.

The show was adapted from Iris Rainer Dart’s novel by playwright Thom Thomas and composer David Austin.

After opening in Virginia, the show played in Illinois in 2015, and has been poised for Broadway and London’s West End.

To date, however, the Beaches musical has yet to be performed in those famous theatrical destinations.

10. The song about Otto Titsling was written by Bette Midler

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Wind Beneath My Wings was not an original Bette Midler composition – but Beaches features one song that is.

The track in question is the somewhat less emotional and considerably more ribald Otto Titsling.

This vulgar comedy number is based around a popular urban legend about the invention of the bra.

The story is, of course, completely false, and was invented by British humorist Wallace Reyburn in 1971.

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Bette Midler co-wrote the track herself in collaboration with Jerry Blatt and Charlene Seeger.

It was first recorded on Midler’s 1985 live stand-up comedy album, Mud Will Be Flung Tonight!

9. The film foretold the future

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It’s not hard to note just how common ground the character of CC Bloom shares with Bette Midler herself.

Both women are larger-than-life, multi-talented performers who are most in their element on the stage.

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Credit: Alan Light via Wikimedia Commons

One scene sees CC and the doorman at her apartment building talk about winning a Tony Award.

For those who don’t know, the Tonys are basically the Broadway stage equivalent of the Oscars.

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As it happens, Midler had in real life already won a Tony, having been given a special award in 1974.

Midler would go on to win another Tony, being named Best Actress in a Musical for a 2017 production of Hello, Dolly!

8. Medical knowledge has come a long way since the movie first aired

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The emotional final act of Beaches sees Barbara Hershey’s Hillary meet a tragic demise from a terminal illness.

We’re told her character is suffering from a medical disorder known as viral cardiomyopathy.

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In 1988, when Beaches was first released, this was indeed a terminal condition with no effective treatment.

Happily, advances in medical science in the years since have significantly helped people suffering with the condition.

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Since 2005, thousands of people afflicted with viral cardiomyopathy have had their lives saved.

The use of beta blockers and implantable cardio defibrillators can help alleviate symptoms and increase life expectancy.

7. The cottage is now a Beaches museum

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Near the end of the film when Midler visits the dying Barbara Hershey, we are introduced to cottage number 13.

This is a real location in Crystal Cove State Park in California, where it still stands.

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons

We can also see this very same eye-catching location on the Beaches movie poster and video cover art.

The cottage quickly became famous for its association with Beaches, which has since been capitalised on.

Today, the building is officially known as Cottage #13: The Beaches Film and Media Center.

It has become a museum dedicated to the movie, and regularly attracts visits from fans.

6. It wouldn’t be the last time Bette Middler and director Gary Marshall would work together

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Beaches would not be the last time that Bette Midler and director Garry Marshall worked together on film.

Six years later, the duo reunited in a somewhat different capacity on a very different movie.

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The movie in question was Midler’s 1994 Halloween-set family comedy adventure Hocus Pocus.

Midler played one third of wicked witch sisters the Sandersons, alongside Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy.

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Garry Marshall didn’t direct Hocus Pocus (Kenny Ortega called the shots), but he does make a memorable appearance as an actor.

Marshall plays the middle-aged man dressed up as the Devil for Halloween, in an uncredited cameo. His wife is played by Marshall’s real-life sister, Penny Marshall (who was also a successful actor and filmmaker).

5. The character CC Bloom was actually based on Midler

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We’ve remarked already that the character of CC Bloom is highly reminiscent of the real life Bette Midler.

It probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, that the role was written with Midler in mind.

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Mary Agnes Donoghue wrote the screenplay adaptation of Iris Rainer Dart’s novel, envisaging Midler as CC.

Beaches was Donoghue’s second credit as a screenwriter, and she followed it with 1991’s Paradise, which she also directed.

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Donoghue went on to write the screenplays for Deceived, White Oleander and Veronica Guerin.

She also wrote the stage play Me and Mamie O’Rourke, which was performed in London’s West End by Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

4. It was a breakthrough role for Mayim Bialik

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For younger versions of CC, the producers were looking for a sassy redhead. Mayim Bialik, although a brunette, was perfect for the role.

 

She was cast as the part when she was just 11, after four long months of auditions.

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Her physical resemblance to Bette Midler was key to her casting, although reportedly Midler herself didn’t think Bialik looked like her.

Although Beaches didn’t get great reviews, Bialik earned a lot of praise, with Variety calling her ‘extraordinary’.

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Three years later, Bialik landed the lead role in hit sitcom Blossom, which established her as a big star.

After Blossom, she stepped away from acting to study neuroscience, but she later returned to TV as Amy on The Big Bang Theory.

3. The whole crew cried at Barbara Hershey’s death scene

Today, the mere mention of the title Beaches is synonymous with terms ‘weepie’ and ‘tear-jerker.’

This is because of the film’s tragic emotional climax, and its knack for reducing viewers to blubbering wrecks.

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It turns out this wasn’t only true for viewers of the movie, but those making it as well.

On the day they shot Hillary’s death scene, Barbara Hershey recalls “When it finished and I opened my eyes, the whole crew was crying.”

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Credit: Gage Skidmore

In an amusing twist, it just so happened that this was a day on which Hershey had brought her teenage son along to watch her work.

On seeing all these tearful faces, Hershey says her child “basically thought everyone had lost their minds.”

2. The film made the Disney executive cry

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Making regular viewers and crew members cry is one thing, but studio executives are another breed entirely.

Such high-ranking film industry figures are infamous for their cut-throat attitudes and emotional detachment.

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This means that filmmakers are often wary of dealing with executives, given the power they wield to make-or-break careers.

When the finished cut of Beaches was ready to screen for the top brass at Disney, nerves ran high.

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It turns out they needn’t have worried, because even those hardened studio figures proved susceptible to the emotional power of Beaches.

Producer Margaret South reflects, “David Hoberman, who was our [Disney] executive, a tough guy, fell on the floor and burst into tears at the end of the movie.”

1. It was remade for TV in 2017 with Idina Menzel and Nia Long

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You might not have known it, but Beaches is yet another 80s classic which has since been remade.

A new version of Iris Rainer Dart’s story was produced as a TV movie in 2017.

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As CC Bloom, the film cast Frozen and Wicked actress Idina Menzel – a fitting choice, given her Broadway musical credentials.

Meanwhile, the role of Hillary was taken by Nia Long, with co-stars including Antonio Cupo and Colin Lawrence.

Directed by Allison Anders for TV network Lifetime, the Beaches remake was met with a largely negative response.