Part 2: And It Went Downhill from There!

In 1989, editor Marshall Harvey was flying high. He had just finished cutting the Tom Hanks comedy The ‘Burbs and—with that film now in the can—he began looking for his next project… 

MARSHALL HARVEY: My agent set me up on an interview with Malcolm Mowbray, the director. I had seen a film he did in England called A Private Function that starred Michael Palin from Monty Python and I really liked it. So I was excited to meet him. And we hit it off right away. Especially when he found out my film teacher in college was Alexander Mackendrick, who had done a lot of classic British comedies in the 50s (with Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness). Those were films that Malcolm had grown up with…

BJH: Right. What kind of stuff do you remember him saying about The Boyfriend School? Like: why was he excited to do it? How was he sort of pitching it to you? 

MARSHALL HARVEY: Who? Malcolm?

BJH: Yeah. 

MARSHALL HARVEY: I think he had a two or three picture deal with Hemdale Corporation. He had done a movie before called Out Cold—a black comedy with Jon Lithgow and Randy Quaid….I think he just loved kind of quirky, dark comedies; as do I. And so, you know, it was a gig. [laughs] He was trying to get a foothold in America as a director. But unfortunately, the first movie, Out Cold, made no money whatsoever. Hemdale, at that point in the late 80s—this is John Daly’s company: Hemdale Corporation—they were riding high on co-producing the first Terminator movie and winning the Oscar for Platoon. So they—like some other companies in the late 80s decided: well, we’ll distribute the movies we make. But, you know, the distribution is so much different than making movies. And like De Laurentiis had “DEG” in the 80s, that went belly-up and so did Hemdale; not long after Boyfriend School came out.

BJH: Ah, okay. That makes sense. 

MARSHALL HARVEY: Anyway, [Malcolm and I] we hit it off right away. So I got hired. We went to Charleston, South Carolina, which was beautiful. I enjoyed that. And it went downhill from there! 

BJH: [laughs] What do you remember about the title change…? 

Harvey excitedly pulls out an old newspaper ad for The Boyfriend School—mentioning that when he was hired and all throughout production the film had been called Don’t Tell Her It’s Me

MARSHALL HARVEY: But by the time the film was finished, I guess they had a test screening and people didn’t “cotton to” the title so much. I was long gone by then. And only found out about the title change when it was released in theaters. And I just thought: this is a terrible title. It just reeks of desperation, ya know? It’s one of those forgettable titles that…I never liked it. 

Harvey was not alone in feeling this way. In fact, the opening line of Variety’s review of the film says exactly that (and worse): “Don’t Tell Her It’s Me starts with an awkward, impossible-to-remember title and goes downhill from there. This grotesquely unfunny comedy, with Shelley Long as a romance novelist transforming shy brother Steve Guttenberg into a swaggering stud, should escape quickly from theaters.”

MARSHALL HARVEY: Yeah, it got bad reviews. It made no money. Partly because Hemdale didn’t have enough clout, or money, to really advertise enough. Or book the theaters. That was the trouble with a lot of these small companies making smaller movies. You know, a major studio can say to a theater chain: well, you want our next Back to the Future movie? Then you gotta book Don’t Tell Her It’s Me or yada yada yada. But a company like Hemdale: they have no clout. So it’s like: please take our movie!

BJH: What do you remember from the editing of the film? Any particular challenges stand out? 

MARSHALL HARVEY: It was a long time ago. We were still cutting on film. I was on location for the 6 [or] 7 weeks, whatever. Malcolm and I got along really well. There were really no problems until later in post-production over the final cut and whatnot. 

BJH: Gotcha. 

MARSHALL HARVEY: I don’t remember cutting too much out. But watching it last night I do recall there were at least a couple of short scenes with Kyle MacLachlan and Mädchen Amick that got deleted. And I think that set up kind of a subplot that MacLachlan was two-timing Jami Gertz and Mädchen had a rich father who was gonna put money into his business. Or something like that. There were a couple of scenes. And those got tossed. Probably for pacing reasons. And also in the last scene where we see them in the movie their dialogue kind of explains all that. But other than that I don’t recall any real problems. Sometimes a lack of coverage. Mostly with the little girl. But she actually came across really well. 

BJH: One final question: When was the last time you saw the movie? 

MARSHALL HARVEY: [excitedly] Oh! I did listen to the podcast. And I was pleasantly surprised by how much they liked it, actually! Mostly for the cast (which was great). I hadn’t seen it in 30 years. But I did find a VHS copy and watched it last night to refresh my memory. Because they talked about a lot of things that I completely forgot about. 

BJH: What did you feel watching it last night? 

MARSHALL HARVEY: That it has its moments. The running gag with the little girl always worked in screenings. We knew that was gonna work. The scene with Beth Grant as the sex teacher always worked. [But overall] it’s just one of those premises that…it’s a hard sell. 

BJH: Right. 

MARSHALL HARVEY: [after a moment of reflection] I felt bad for Jami Gertz because she has to play it real. But unless she was a complete idiot, how could she not see through this plot? But anyway…but the cast, for the most part, is good. And there’s some good moments in it. What happened in post-production, I think, is they said that Malcolm’s early movie made no money and the people at Hemdale (John Daly, specifically) really started getting cold feet when we were in post-production. And especially there were a lot of executives meddling—fighting with the director over god-knows-what. Stupid stuff. And most importantly: they kept cutting the post-production budget down. Which may be the reason I don’t remember going to the sound mix. I think they let me go early. To save money.

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