Buy Stuff

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guilty Pleasures: Grandview U.S.A.

One of the very first commercially recorded VHS tapes I ever purchased was this movie, Grandview U.S.A. (1984), which I had already seen several times in it's short-lived theatrical run. (I think it was also the last movie I ever saw at a drive-in theater.) Pre-recorded VHS tapes were very expensive back in those days, but even though $80 seemed like a lot of money,  I paid it. Why?  Seems pretty obvious: It starred C.Thomas Howell

Much more after the jump.

Directed by Randall Kleiser,  who had just had huge successes with Grease and The Blue Lagoon, Grandview U.S.A. is a small, slice-of-life comedy/drama about three people, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, Patrick Swayze, and the top-billed Howell, living in a small midwestern town, whose lives become intertwined at a demolition derby. Curtis wants to run her late father's dilapidated demolition derby in peace, Swayze wants his trashy wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to stop screwing a reptilian appliance salesman (Troy Donahue!), and Howell just wants to graduate high school and get the hell out of Dodge. It isn't a great movie, nor is it a terrible one. It has some lovely moments, and some profoundly strange ones,  but nothing much really happens, and the dramatic stakes are so low that the whole thing doesn't amount to a hill of beans. But still... I shelled out that $80,  and I was glad to do it.

I don't know if I can adequately explain the effect The Outsiders (1983) had on me when I first saw it.  I, like most people, had seen C. Thomas Howell (Tommy,  as all the teen mags called him) before. He had a nice little role in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. It was The Outsiders that made me, and the rest of my fellow twelve-year-old girls, sit up and take notice. There was no question about it. I was in love.  Tommy may not have gone on to the sparkling career that some of his Outsiders co-stars have had (although he has never stopped working) but the role of Ponyboy Curtis propelled him to the top ranks of teen idoldom in the mid-eighties. For about four years, his face was on the cover of every teen magazine. After The Outsiders, he took a supporting role in a short-lived TV series, and played James Garner's wrongly imprisoned son in the bad classic, Tank.

Recognize Tommy's shirtless sidekick?  It's John Cusack!
Grandview was the first movie Tommy was in that treated him as a sex object, and it would not be the last.  He was obviously cast more for his status as a teen idol than for his ability as an actor (some of his line readings in this are simply bizarre) or his appropriateness for the role.  He plays an eighteen-year-old, graduating from high school, but he was only sixteen at the time of filming, and looks it. More than anyone else in the cast, Tommy is filmed as object of beauty. His un-pumped-up, semi-naked teenaged body is presented for the audience's viewing pleasure as often as possible. Consider:  Patrick Swayze is fully shirtless in one scene, Tommy is shirtless in eight. Is it any wonder that I loved it?

Grandview U.S.A. went mostly unnoticed by the public, and was pulled from theaters after only two weeks. However, the film's box office failure didn't have a chance to adversely effect the careers of Howell and Swayze, who had previously played brothers in The Outsiders.  One week later, coinciding with the opening of the Los Angeles Olympics, (which, was boycotted by the Soviets and their minions, leaving the field wide open for the Americans to completely dominate the games)  their next co-starring film, Red Dawn, a notoriously fascist, jingoistic, domestic war fantasy, took advantage of a very special moment in cold war history and cleaned up at the box office. Tommy signed on to his next headlining vehicle, Secret Admirer.  But that's another story.

Enjoy the rest of the pictures.


  1. Wow~ SEXY!! GOOD picture!!!

    韓国 日本 ゲイ コミュニティ!

  2. I have to confess that I haven't seen Grandview , and what grandviews of pony boy you have posted . I may have to send this post to Gorgeous Greggs agents to show just how many shirtless scenes its possiable to do in a movie .

    I shall now be on the lookout for grandville to watch !

    Oh ' sceret admirer , i loved that - rented it in the first week . Our store was always full of pony boy and corey haim films - best store ever !

  3. I thought that C. Thomas Howell was the most beautiful guy alive. I for sure had a video of Grandview, but I don't think I bought it; I must have recorded it from a movie channel. I very much welcomed all the amazing shirtless scenes. It's interesting that you should bring him up; just yesterday, the owner of Artistry of Male posted a clip of the "Stay Gold" scene from "The Outsiders", so C. Thomas Howell is definitely in the air!

  4. I've just placed my order of that DVD. Thanks!