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On why Molly Ringwald never became a regular movie star

Michael Jennings tackles, albeit only in passing, one of the late twentieth century’s most enduring and to many most mysterious of questions: why did Molly Ringwald, given the excellence of her performances in such fine movies as Sixteen Candles and Pretty In Pink, never make it as big in the movies as she should have? Why, from the late eighties onwards, was the Ringwald career ride mostly down hill?

I think I can throw some light on this problem.

Molly then

Ms. Ringwald was a totally convincing and attractive teenager, certainly from where I was sitting. However, she did have one drawback. She was one of those females who, through no fault of her own, gives the impression of being just one misfortune away from bursting into tears. In a teenager this quality is tolerable, even endearing. Why can’t those bigger boys see what a fine and sweet girl Molly is? Why are those rich bitches from the posh side of the tracks being so nasty to Molly? Poor Molly. Somebody do something. You, handsome rich boy, dump your shallow girlfriend and give Molly a ride in your red Porsche. And as for you Andrew McCarthy, for once in your life show a bit of backbone!

Unfortunately for Molly, however, as teens turned into twenties, and then thirties, and then whatever the lady is now, she still gives off the same victimhood vibe, and whereas this used to tug at the heartstrings; now, on those rare occasions when we still witness it, it merely gets on the nerves. What had formerly seemed innocently melancholy – an artless appeal for aid and comfort – now seems frozen into a manipulative routine that ought to have been caste aside. Girl-girls are fine, one of nature’s greatest bounties. But girl-women? Let’s just say that this is the kind of thing that has to be done right. So when Molly the Woman hove into view, still with the exact same lacrimosity threat problem, the reaction was: Grow up woman. Stop your whining. This is not the stuff of which lady film stars are made.

Molly now

Please understand, Ms Ringwald (after all we’re talking about a woman who may now have time on her hands and could well be reading this – especially if she thinks she might learn from this posting how she could become a movie star), please understand that I am not offering a personal criticism of your personal qualities, which are probably not at all as I have described them. I am talking about your screen persona, the way you come across in the cinema, in front of the cameras. You come across, on screen, as one of life’s victims, and what is worse as a victim not so much of circumstances as of an inadequately developed character. Sorry, but there it is.

(It occurs to me that another bratpacker of that vintage and another would-be movie star, Rob Lowe, now to be seen in the political TV drama “The West Wing”, has suffered in recent years from a rather similar problem. Coming of age, beautiful. Come of age, not convincing. Not the finished article.)

But please understand also, Ms. Ringwald, just how fabulous you were in your all-too-brief years of glory. Sixteen Candles and Pretty In Pink are two of my all time favourite movies.

Remember the days when I was going on here about Brian’s Education Blog, but when there was no actual Brian’s Education Blog to go and look at. Well, now there’s another Brian Blog opening up Real Soon Now: Brian’s Culture Blog. I had been saving this posting or something like it for that. But when Michael opened up the Ringwald issue over at his place I decided that my analysis of this should be made public, now, and of necessity here. I hope that was the right thing to do. As for what’s holding up BCBlog, I won’t mention any real names but will say that the Atlas who carried the load so manfully when BEdBlog was getting started seems, temporarily, to be shrugging.

10 comments to On why Molly Ringwald never became a regular movie star

  • Dave Farrell

    Michael Jennings writes well, but he suffers from the same fault as David Thomson, also a fine but flawed film writer: he takes a kind of instinctual approach and avoids looking directly at the performances that prove him wrong.

    Molly Ringwald was a terrific femme fatale in the relatively unsuccessful Malicious; a redhaired scheming temptress from hell.

    What seems to have happened to her career is a Tv series that didn’t end well and a disastrous marriage to a Frenchman that took her to Paris and obscurity.

    I believe she is out of that now, and my hunch is
    we will find a redhead almost as electrifying as Nicole Kidman on our screens before too much longer.

  • Dave Farrell

    IMDB seems to think she’s still married to the French guy. Still, I don’t buy the one-note actress theory; bad choices maybe, not lack of versatility.

  • Dave Farrell

    My absolutely final Molly R update(sorry, research methods crackingup):

    She is divorcing the French novelist (cruel and inhuman …etc) and is to be seen early next year in a Peter Greenaway epic, a trilogy titled The Tulse Luper Suitcases, which is also expected to package a TV series and a couple of DVD-ROMS. Billed as “historical, erotic”. You can’t get much further away from Pretty in Pink than a Peter Greenaway
    movie …

    PS Her mom intercepted the offer to play the role Laura Dern eventually took in Blue Velvet and never passed it on because she was “disturbed” by the script …. What might have been.

  • I haven’t seen Malicious . (It doesn’t seem to be available on DVD, sadly. Maybe I can catch it on TV some time). My comments on Molly Ringwald not becoming an adult star didn’t stem so much from criticism of anything she has done as the simple fact that I haven’t seen what she has done. Her work has had a low profile. I made a point of going back and looking at the classic John Hughes movies a couple of years ago though, and I was really struck by how good she was. If her career now revives and she becomes a star again, I would be delighted to see it. Certainly I will be intrigued to see what Peter Greenaway does with her. (Interestingly enough, the people who saw Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles as teenagers have now reached the stage where a few of them are making movies in Hollywood. Hopefully some of them will still be fans and will write her some interesting parts.

  • Ilona

    Does anyone remember the TV movie The Stand? It had both Rob Lowe AND Molly in the movie. What a contrast. Rob played the character Nick extremely well, and true to the book. Molly played Fran as a whiny, spoiled JP, and it drove me nuts. One of my favorite films, and the way she plays her character sux. I don’t think divorcing the French guy will help unless she stops whining. Rob just needs some more of the right roles being offered. He was amazingly good in the film.

  • Janet

    Molly Ringwald is starring in Cabaret on Broadway and does a fabulous job! Yes, she can sing.

  • Molly

    In think I’m gonna cry…

  • John J. Coupal

    Michael Jennings makes a perceptive comment regarding director John Hughes’ films.

    For anyone who has seen Molly in his “The Breakfast Club”, one can only be impressed with the performances he drew from her and all of his young cast.

    From the simplest of plots came a movie of mind-boggling dimensions. Molly played her role to perfection. If she had such talent that many years ago, today’s directors should easily be able to bring about a stellar performance again.

    However, maybe today’s directors are not that good.

  • Brushes with fame (or fame’s knickers, as the case may be):

    A good friend of mine directs and writes movies. He lives in Berlin. A few years ago, he was staying at a friend’s house in California for a few days when he heard noises coming from the laundry room. When he opened the door, there was none other than Molly Ringwald. “Oh, hi. (Mr. House Owner) said I could come use the dryer, mine’s broken.”

    He nearly fell over.

  • I
    I just read another article on Miss Ringwald.
    As you know by now She is dong a t.V .series
    I do think she has grown up and lets just see how this turns out.. I wish her well.
    from Pacific Heights in San Francisco
    good luck to Miss Ringwwald, By the way I didn’t
    agree with you at all. She Just took a Break. so
    what… SNJ