I realized, this very morning, that we have never spoken here of The Fan.
Do you know what that is? Do you? Do you? Because it’s an Important Film.
As it happens, it’s also basically Lauren Bacall’s farewell to stardom. Never again would she be the lead in a film—and certainly never again would she be the object of obsessive desire. (On film, at least.)
In it, she stars as a Broadway star about to make her debut in a musical comedy. And she’s terrified! Compounding her insecurities are her ex-husband, James Garner (he has one scene, but try to prove that to him), and the creepy letters she’s getting from an admirer (dare I say a fan?). And her assistant got slashed up in the subway! And oh my god, these dance routines!
Needless to say, Bacall’s fan is a homosexual. Shocking, I know. Even more shocking is that, in this 1981 motion picture, homosexuals were not portrayed as pleasant people! This one, for instance, kills a man in the YMCA pool, then kills another gay who looks like him, sets his body on fire, and leaves a suicide note. That’s all it takes for a jittery Bacall to say, “To hell with fear! My stalker is dead, on with the show!”
What follows is the climactic moment of the musical, the big production number “Hearts, Not Diamonds.” The metaphors are as labored as Bacall’s navigation of the notes (plural is a generous way of phrasing it), but by god, she sells it! Almost. Mostly. Who the hell cares, it’s Lauren Bacall croaking a tune in black sequins, carried around stage by chorus boys, while her fan watches from the audience.
Later that night, after all the guests have left and the star of this apparently hit Broadway musical is alone in the theater, that fan will go backstage and… but why ruin it for you?