Those Lips, Those Eyes (1980) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Cleveland 1951. Pre-med student Artie Shoemaker dreams not so much of a medical career but a life in the theater, against the wishes of his working class parents. Despite having no experience in the theater whatsoever, he is hired as the props man at the Kempton Hills Park Theater, an open air venue that is part of the summer stock circuit. The resident leading man at Kempton Hills is Harry Crystal who, along with some of the other more experienced company members, is working toward more lucrative and higher profile acting jobs. For most, including Harry, the goal is back to Broadway. For some, that Broadway dream is more a delusion than a true possibility. Despite being a bit of a divo, which grates on many of the other crew members, Harry takes inexperienced Artie under his wing both in terms of guiding him through his current position in props, as well as a general life in the theater. Part of that general life includes romantic couplings, the person who Artie ultimately chooses, and she too chooses in return, is the lead dancer named Ramona. Artie's experiences with both Harry and Ramona over the course of the summer stock season shows him if he really wants a life in the theater and if Ramona truly is someone who will be part of his future as he initially envisioned.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The Kempton Hills Park summer theatre in Ohio is in full swing in the summer of 1951, and Harry Crystal {Frank Langella} is applying his makeup and getting into costume for the evening's production of "The Red Mill." As he prepares to put on his hat, he plucks a love note from it, slipped inside by an admiring member of the dance troupe. During a musical number, he chats with the dancer who sent the note, then as she takes the stage, he slips the note to another dancer.

    Also watching the action onstage rather than off is Artie Shoemaker [Thomas Hulce], and he has stars in his eyes. A job opening for a prop man has come up, and Artie has promised Mr. D'Angeli [Anthony Mannino] that he'll let him know for sure the next day if he'll accept the position. At home, his kid brother can't believe that Artie would take a job for which he isn't qualified. Besides, Artie is starting summer school to take his second--and last--shot at passing pre-med comparative anatomy before he might actually need to think about another career instead of becoming a doctor as his parents hope, but Artie thinks the morning course won't interfere with the rest of his day.

    On the first day of anatomy class, the students are introduced to the fish which will be their guide to learning anatomy, and receive a hefty first night of homework. Still Artie accepts the job, D'Angeli gives him the tour of the backstage storage and happily hands the duties over. Unfortunately Artie's first attempt at furniture building is a disaster, so D'Angeli tells Artie to gather the hand props for the actors to use during rehearsal.

    The backstage crew, run by jock Cooky [Marshall Colt] let Artie join them while they watch the rehearsal and gawk at the dancers warming up nearby. The directer, Sherman Sprat [George Morfogen] stops the script reading the minute one of the actors produces Artie's prop pencil and calls Artie to task. The prop list said a pencil, Artie explains, but Sprat says he doesn't want a "pencil" but a PENCIL. Artie is clueless, and he follows Sprat back to the prop room where the director verbally rips apart all of Artie's work. Harry steps in and manages to win the new kid a reprieve from being fired, then gives him a crash course in Stagecraft 101. First, there are 3,500 people who need to see the props, Harry advises, so a pencil should be an oversized dime store version or even a ball bat with a point on it, just as long as it is big. Harry goes over some other pointers (use ginger ale for champagne, put water in ashtrays to douse cigarettes onstage), then assures Artie that he is qualified enough for the job since he doesn't know what he's doing.

    Artie meets a dancer, Ramona [Glynnis O'Connor] when she comes to him looking for a lost part of her costume. He mentions that he has seen her hanging with Cooky, but she tells him to not believe everything he sees. During the performance, the stagehands pull a trick on Harry when Artie is occupied with other props, and glue a wine bottle and glass to a table before it's brought onstage. Artie finds the crime, but he can't clue Harry in on time. Harry still covers the joke up by ripping the items from their places to finish the scene, then smiles at a panicked Artie back in the dressing room, telling him the actors and crew are always at odds. After the show, Harry asks Artie if he has picked up a dancer, since it's a known fact that they all boff, but Artie goes home alone and sits with his brother in the kitchen. Before he can crack his anatomy book, the phone rings and Harry tells him to come to Caruso's, the local bar; Cooky and Ramona have broken up, so at Harry's urging, Artie strikes up a conversation with her

    Cooky is steamiing mad and picks on Harry for wanting the public phone in the bar to be kept open for an incoming call he is expecting. Harry's agent, Mickey Bellinger {Kevin McCarthy], should be calling soon to come see Harry in the show and possibly send him to a bigger gig in New York, but Cooky snidely notes that the phone calls from Harry's agents over the years never seem to come. Harry calmly responds by asking Cooky and the guys what their dreams are, then he starts talking passionately about the great actors he has seen and admired. Suddenly he clutches his chest, and the others watch with concern as he quotes Shakespeare in what may be his dying words. . .until he pops back to life and flips Cooky the bird.

    Artie and Ramona have left the bar and he drives them to a make-out spot behind his fraternity house, but she backs out, apologizing that she just feels too old for such things, but there may be a better time later. The next morning Artie falls into a sleepy stupor at anatomy class and can't respond to a basic question from the teacher. At his father's job, Artie sorts delivery tickets and tells the old man (Jerry Stiller) his class is a breeze. How can he breeze by classes without opening a book, his dad asks. Artie says that when he finds he can't handle both jobs, he will quit. Meanwhile, his brother is receiving help with Latin, and his tutor Dr. Fuldauer [Herbert Berghof] has taken a job at Kempton Hills as a night watchman after learning about Artie's theatre job. While the dancers rehearse, Spratt insults Ramona as she works to perfect a step that is troubling her, remarking on her being from New York and supposedly above the summer stock crew. She braves the verbal assault, and the rehearsal continues.

    During the performance of "Rose Marie," Harry hides behind some scenery and breaks out a screwdriver while Cooky and the crew aren't looking; when it's time to move the set they hook up tow ropes to the hardware, and when they pull they fall flat on their backs because the screws have been loosened. Just before Harry takes the stage for his song, he hands Cooky the tool and then taunts the guys at every opportunity while onstage. After the show, Artie presents Ramona with a giant paper flower to cheer her up, and they spy Dr. Fuldauer sitting in a prop throne reciting his own favorite Shakespeare lines.

    Fibby Geyer [Joseph Mayer], an aging actor whose career is on the downswing, comes to Harry's dressing room and asks for a loan so he can go to Cleveland to audition for a role in a radio soap. Harry happily writes him a check, then locks himself in his room for a self-pity party rather than join the others at Caruso's that night. Artie and Ramona take a walk outside the bar, and Ramona confesses that she doesn't care enough to allow Sprat to get under her skin. Artie is smitten with her, and she asks when he can find them a place where she can make him a "man of the theatre."

    The next day everybody is waiting for Harry to appear so rehearsal can start, and Sprat is furious. Artie finds Harry at Caruso's by the pay phone, having found Bellinger in the office and determined to get a callback. Harry angrily tells Artie that he has already wasted precious time in his career having served in the Army, and he doesn't want to wind up like Fibby or living out his best years doing road show tours. Artie begs him to not get himself canned, and Harry realizes the kid has gotten lucky: he passes Artie the key to his place to flop after "strike night" when the entire crew takes down the sets for the ending production and build for the new one to open the following night.

    At the set striking, Artie helps the crew with abundant enthusiasm, knowing Ramona is waiting in his dad's truck for him outside, so he is shocked when his folks come to see him and find out what will keep him away from home all night. Harry again comes to the rescue, sweet talking Artie's mother. Dad, however, spots Ramona in the truck as they leave.

    The couple enter Harry's place, and when he glances at the mail on the kitchen table, Artie is surprised that Harry has somebody else living with him named Harold Krebs. Ramona sets him straight, telling him that Harry obviously changed his name for stage purposes and is taken aback to see how shocked he is by the revelation. Ramona undresses. As they prepare to make love, the phone rings: it's Bellinger, who plans to come to Thursday's show.

    Harry rehearses with the pianist, nervous about the pending visit, but Artie assures him that he will do well. As he leaves the theatre, his father pulls up in the truck and tells Artie to get in: he has gotten a letter from the dean that Artie is flunking out, and Artie confesses that he has dropped the course to get his parents a refund. He wants to go to New York to write plays instead, quitting school with one year left. He feels he understands people, and that is all he'll need. His dad is beside himself but tells Artie he hopes his son wins the Nobel Prize: he'll need it if he doesn't finish school first.

    Harry is congenial to everybody on Thursday night, stopping to greet Dr. Fuldauer a, whose granddaughter has visited backstage. At the performance of "Vagabond King," Harry waits to spot his agent and becomes more depressed as the show goes on. Bellinger arrives at the last minute, and Harry spots him while his character is kissing the female lead, rejuvenating the end of his performance. As Harry prepares to find his entrance onstage for his big solo, there is none, so he takes a shortcut. Sprat yells at D'Angeli and the crew for not having an entrance, and Artie grabs a utility knife to cut a makeshift hole for the dancers to enter the stage, telling Sherman he's a prick.

    Backstage after the show, Bellinger tells Harry he will have second lead in a Shubert tour of "Student Prince." Harry asks him about a role back in town, but Mickey says there is nothing this season for him. He is, however, interested in meeting the lead dancer: Ramona. After Bellinger leaves, Harry goes on a rampage. Fuldauer is showing his granddaughter a cape, and Harry yanks it from her as he yells that nobody should be hanging around the backstage when somebody is trying to give a decent performance. Back in the dressing room, Harry sulks until Artie arrives, disheartened and disillusioned about his mentor. Harry puts on a flippant attitude and Artie leaves. He waits for Ramona in the truck, and she comes out in a daze, telling him she met with Bellinger and he has promised her a part in a Cole Porter show on Broadway. When he asks if the agent made a pass at her, since she was gone for a while, she says yes, but that he was just a sweet old man looking for a little life. He yells at her about the fact that he was going to quit school and go to New York to be with her, and she blurts out that she is a married woman and thought he really knew that already.

    Heartbroken, Artie returns home and tells his dad that he will quit the theatre at the end of the season. The next day, he refuses to even look at Ramona and is cool toward Harry, but when he realizes that Harry has moved on and will accept the new part Bellinger offered, he wonders about everything he has witnessed. Harry tells Artie that even Barrymore didn't do well every night, and he will keep trying. In fact, he has a new agent lined up already who can get him into places Bellinger can't. Artie is hooked on the theatre, Harry says, and if he quits now he will regret it the rest of his life.

    Onstage, while Harry sings, Artie stands backstage next to another dancer. They lock eyes as Harry brings another summer stock production to its conclusion.

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