Bruce Willis At The Movies: BLIND DATE - A First Foray Into Leading Man Territory - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Bruce Willis At The Movies: BLIND DATE - A First Foray Into Leading Man Territory

The 80s were a time of big hair, big personalities, and in the world of cinema, big stars. Amidst the glitz and glamour of Hollywood's golden age of blockbusters, Bruce Willis, who would go on to be known to many as the iconic, sardonic action hero, took a first foray into leading man territory via the alley of romantic comedy. And where did this adventurous journey land him? Straight into the midst of a delightful disaster of a date in the 1987 film "Blind Date."

Our story revolves around Walter Davis (played by Bruce Willis) who requires a date for an important evening, a company function. Desperation makes Walter lean on his brother, Ted, who recommends Nadia Gates, with a singular caveat – "she's lovely, but don't let her drink." As movie fate would have it, Walter allows Nadia a taste of alcohol, and what ensues is a chaotic tumble of events, unfolding hilariously over the course of a single evening. Add in the dashing Kim Basinger as Nadia, and a John Larroquette as her jealous ex, and the scene was set for a chaotic, slapstick rendezvous that only the 80s could deliver. A glance at the supporting cast and we find the then up-and-coming Phil Hartman, who made a small appearance, solidifying this film as a canvas of talent.

Directed by Blake Edwards, a man no stranger to comedy with classics like "The Pink Panther" series under his belt, "Blind Date" was a tapestry of the classic tropes he had become synonymous with. As with much of Edwards' work, the comedy comes not just from slapstick, but from situations that escalate with such ferocity it’s hard not to laugh, even as you cringe.

"Blind Date" pre-dates Willis' explosive success with "Die Hard" by a year. It was his first credited big screen role (after uncredited extra roles in The First Deadly Sin, Prince of the City and The Verdict), and it was a chance for Willis to showcase his range, breaking free from his 'David Addison' mold he’d crafted in the television show "Moonlighting." Being new to the cinematic universe, Willis once quipped in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, "I remember being on set and thinking, 'I'm working with Kim Basinger and Blake Edwards... What's a TV guy like me doing here?'" Finding himself amidst seasoned artists, this sometimes led to tensions, especially between Willis and Edwards. Rumors floated about Willis’ improvisations not being well received, though in later interviews, Willis often brushed off such comments, hinting at creative differences being a natural part of any project. Yet, it was this very tug-of-war, this vibrant dynamic, that brought "Blind Date" its eclectic energy.

On its release on March 27, 1987, in the US, "Blind Date" was met with mixed reviews. While some praised the chemistry between Basinger and Willis, others felt the film relied too heavily on predictable antics and slapstick humor. A review from the Los Angeles Times stated that the film was "a crazy quilt of a movie that's frequently in stitches,” while Variety chimed in by declaring it "a tiresome romantic comedy."

However, regardless of its critical reception, the film was not a failure by any box office standards. In the US alone, it grossed over $39 million, and globally the figure stood impressively around $65 million. This was an age where rom-coms like "When Harry Met Sally" and "Working Girl" were raking in the moolah, and "Blind Date" certainly held its own.

But beyond the numbers and the plot, the film's background music had its own story to tell. Composed by Henry Mancini, a frequent collaborator of Edwards, the soundtrack included the memorable, jazzy tune "Manhattan Rhapsody," which added a whimsical flavor to the narrative. Mancini, an illustrious name with credits such as "Breakfast at Tiffany's," sprinkled some of his magic over "Blind Date," giving it an audial identity as distinctive as its visual quirks.

But beyond its playful narrative and memorable music, where does "Blind Date" stand in terms of legacy? Surprisingly, it holds a place in the hearts of many 80s aficionados, those who relish in revisiting a simpler time of comedic storytelling. While it may not have spawned any merchandise or spin-offs, it remains a testament to a time when cinema was not just about larger-than-life action sequences but was also about making the audience laugh and leaving them with a smile.

In conclusion, "Blind Date" was a mishmash of unpredictable romantic twists, classic 80s humor, and a young Bruce Willis trying his hand at making people laugh, rather than dropping snappy one-liners post-explosion. And while not all experiments result in monumental success, "Blind Date" remains an essential piece in the ever-evolving jigsaw puzzle of Willis' diverse filmography.

View all our Bruce Willis filmography retrospectives here.

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