The Rose (1979) from Tuna

Director Mark Rydell was offered "The Rose" several years before the film was ever made, and decided Bette Midler was the only performer equal to the role. The studio had never heard of her and said no, so Rydell bowed out of the project. Several years later, the film had still not been made, and the studio had finally heard of Midler, so they reached an agreement.

Originally, it was to be the life of Janis Joplin, but Rydell argued that it be a fictional blues/rock star with some of the same elements of Janis's life, because that gave him more freedom to create a story. The net result is the story of the last few concerts of a rock superstar who has been driving herself too hard for years, and drinks way too much, although she is finally off heroin and has found true love, or at least great sex and a willing arm to lean on, in a chauffeur who is also an AWOL soldier.


Midler shows cleavage and pokies on and off through the entire film, and may show the top edge of a nipple.

She is realizing that she is nearing her limits, but her manager has $3M worth of concert dates already booked. The film builds toward a concert in her home town that is very important to her because she wants to return home triumphant. 

What Rydell created was essentially a musical, and it is no wonder that the concert footage feels so authentic. They created a band, and put them in a studio with Midler to work out an authentic show. When it came time to film, they filled a real venue with extras, and Rydell told the hired crowd not to respond if Midler didn't impress them. She came out and did the concert for a live audience which had never heard of her and, with 9 cameras for coverage, they shot the concert in one take. Midler had to win the audience, and did. This was Midler's first acting job, and I agree with Rydell that she was the ideal choice for this role.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic transfer

  • full-length commentary by director Mark Rydell

It's a superior genre effort, and rather daring for its time,  but while it is a very well made film, it is one of those that is hard for me to watch, for the same reason that I usually don't enjoy "drugs suck" films. Ultimately, its a 125 minute story with a self-destructive leading character that we root for, but who doesn't survive. I probably admired it this time more than I did on VHS, because the DVD did justice to the outstanding camera work of Vilmos Zsigmond. 

The Critics Vote

  • Oscar nominations included Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Sound, and Editing. It also won Golden Globes for Midler and the song, the Rose.

The People Vote ...

  • A money winner at the box office. It grossed a solid $29 million in 1979. Production costs were only about nine million dollars.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, C+. Superior genre offering.

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