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Tootsie and Dustin Hoffman: His Realization of High Expectations

Updated on November 11, 2013

Who Can Forget Tootsie?

Every time I watch this comedy with the family we all crack up with laughter. It's one of those movies that you can watch over and over again and never tire of it. It has to be because of the terrific script writing by Larry Gelbart (of M*A*S*H fame) combined with a host of talented actors and actresses

About the Movie

Made in 1982, the movie was directed by Sydney Pollack and starred Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray, Geena Davis and Teri Garr. The comedy tells the story of an unstable but talented actor who is renowned for being difficult and so is forced to look for work elsewhere by adopting a new identity as a woman to find a job.

The Plot

This is one of those movies that move along at a good pace then suddenly fall into chaos, and that's what movie-goers like. Dustin Hoffman plays the two leading characters Michael Dorsey and also his alter ego Dorothy Michaels.

Director Sydney Pollack also plays the role of Michael's agent, George Fields. Poor fellow, as he has to put up with Michael and his fussy and difficult ways when he plays his roles in commercial work. Always wanting to be perfect and dragging out sessions whilst alienating all around him, it's not long before nobody wants to work with him - can't blame 'em, can you?

Michael has been out of work for some time and hears that a part has come up in a soap opera, Southwest General from his friend Sandy Lester played by Teri Garr. Sandy has just auditioned for the role of hospital administrator Emily Kimberly but was unsuccessful. Michael is so desperate for work that he hatches a plan to audition himself - though as a woman. This is where the fun and games begin, as men who dress up as women lack that... 'je ne c'est quoi' - if you know what I mean! Anyhow, dress, wig and high-heels on he sets off for the audition for the part of "Dorothy Michaels". And of course, he gets it!

Here we go, the deception starts...

Michael uses the job as a way to raise a load of money to help produce a play, entitled Return To Love Canal, written by his buddy Jeff Slater played by Bill Murray. Michael plays his character as a gutsy, feminist administrator rather than the intended gentle soothing female as written for, and this really surprises cast and crew members. However, Dorothy Michaels soon becomes a TV super star. Sandy catches Michael trying on her clothes in her bedroom as he's looking for ideas for his character's outfits - and, by the way, she doesn't know yet he got the part that she didn't get. He covers up, like most men would by saying that he wants to have sex with her, which he does. This goes very much against his better judgement about her issues of self-esteem.

...and now the attraction of another

Michael becomes attracted to one of his co-stars Julie Nichols played by the omnipresent Jessica Lange, who herself is in a bad relationship with the show's director, Ron Carlisle played by Dabney Coleman. Sandy is beginning to get her knickers in a twist and develops a huge resentment of Dorothy. This combined with Michael's deception, puts their relationship under further strain. In time, Julie packs it in with Ron - yes, you've guessed it - following advice from Dorothy, and then confesses that she has feelings for Dorothy. It's complicated, but that's what makes good movies!

Admirers ahoy!

As time goes on Dorothy picks up many admirers, one is fellow actor John Van Horn played by George Gaynes, another is Julie's widowed father Les played by Charles Durning. Les gets very interested in marriage and proposes to Dorothy, Michael panics and heads home, only to be confronted by an ultra amorous John. This is getting too much for Michael/Dorothy especially when Jeff walks in on them! Jeff and George watch in amazement as the situation goes from bad to worse.

Soon, due to Dorothy's massive popularity, she is offered an extension to her contract by the show's producers for another year. Michael has other ideas, and when the cast are forced to perform live, he lets rip on stage and launches into a big speech whilst on air, pulling off his wig and revealing that he's actually the character's twin brother. The remainder of the cast who are all watching from home are stunned into silence, except Jeff, who just remarks, "That is one nutty hospital."

All's well that ends well

Much later on, Michael meets Julie outside the studio, where she resists talking to him for a while, then finally admits that she really misses Dorothy. Michael comments, "I was a better man with you as a woman, than I ever was with a woman as a man." She forgives him, and as they walk off while Julie asks to borrow a dress from him!

Dustin Hoffman tells us about his role as Dorothy Michaels and if he met his character anywhere he would not talk to her.

He reckons he was 'brainwashed' about female beauty after dressing up as a woman.

In 2012, Dustin Hoffman was interviewed by the American Film Institute. The 75 year old actor admitted that playing the role of Dorothy in 'Tootsie' had opened his eyes to the unrealistically high expectations that are placed on a woman's physical appearance.

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    • chrisilouwho profile image

      chrisilouwho 4 years ago

      Thanks for reminding me of this!

    • allpurposeguru lm profile image

      allpurposeguru lm 4 years ago

      Somehow I had forgotten that one. Hilarious and thought provoking at the same time.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 4 years ago

      Oh, I loved this movie . . it made me think that all men should have to dress up (for just one week) to go to work (and in heels) to know how it feels to be a woman in this world. Unrealistic expectations . . yeah.