Tag Archives: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Classic films and storylines left open: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Some movies end with what you see as a clean ending. Some movies end with aspects of the story still open for speculation when you care about the characters involved. I usually end up thinking of 1993’s The Fugitive and wondering what happens next with Dr. Richard Kimble and Deputy Sam Gerard. Yeah, they drive off and it looks like Kimble will be freed, but that’s a story unto itself (due process) as well as the story of Kimble vs. Gerard playing out directly in a non-hunt fashion.

But a 24 year old movie isn’t the focus of this post… No, no, I’m going back further into film history with a teen classic. It’s comedy goodness and teen angst mixed into one utopian ball of Chicagoland adventure and hilarity.

You ever seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Of course you have… or at least you damned well better consider it in the immediate future. The 1986 film is dated but the basic point is teens skipping school.

While Ferris is the focus, there is another storyline that is not resolved on screen with the movie’s end (“Life moves pretty, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” Repeated by Bueller to end the flick… Well, at least the main movie. It’s actually Ferris telling you, post credits, the film is over and you should go home now). Ferris’ best friend, Cameron Frye, has a mess to deal with: A 1961 Ferrari GT, the love and passion of his father Morris Frye.

It’s Cameron who epitomizes teen angst mostly in the film. He holds strong contempt toward his father to say the least. In fact, it’s the climax of the film where Cameron explodes and it results in the demolition of the Ferrari:

And while Ferris vows to take the blame (and the disaster that would come with it for his personal life), Cameron accepts responsibility himself. It’s his confrontation to have and he’ll deal with the consequences. (Side note: Sloan, Ferris’ girlfriend, thinks this was part of Ferris’ scheme for the day off from start to finish. I’ll leave it to you to judge if that’s what the deal was or not).

So, Ferris and Sloan leave, everyone’s returning home… And what happens with Cameron Frye in his confrontation with his father???

The first conclusion someone could draw from this is, “whatever it was, it wasn’t film worthy or John Hughes would have put it in the flick.” That is a good way to dismiss the confrontation but it doesn’t tell you the story of that evening for Cameron. It’s too loaded and too baited in the climax to truly be something to just brush off.

Yet, I think about the confrontation of Cameron and his father (I picture Morris Frye as actor Terry Kiser who you may know better as Bernie Lomax among other roles – no, I don’t imagine he’s dead) and what I see is an unexpected reaction. Cameron is in the garage, stern, strong willed, ready for war, and a suited Morris Frye, fresh home from work, has walked in on the open garage.

“What are you doing in here? I thought you were sick?” He’s walking in and doesn’t see the car… but sees the smashed rear window. He slows down and approaches without saying a word. He looks down and sees his beloved, classic automobile smoldering in the hilly ravine behind the garage and starts a mix of crying and laughing.

I can see Cameron stepping up immediately and taking responsibility in one way or another – perhaps by attacking over love for the car by dad; loving the car and generally hating the family… And yet, Morris’ reaction isn’t out of heartbreak, anger and disgust, it’s that cracking up aspect. He stops Cameron not by yelling, but by putting his arm around him while keeping up his hysterics. The incident rings Morris Frye just as much as it scares and stings Cameron… But I see it as a message that Cameron has grown up. I see it as a message for Morris that his material dream is done and it’s back to reality.

Does Cameron get in trouble? Oh, yeah, yeah, but it’s a whole different situation than what you’d expect. It’s not a war between the Frye family members. I just can’t picture how that goes. I can’t picture how Cameron’s mom (who is in Decatur, Illinois during the movie) plays into things.

Maybe I’m dead wrong, but I just see everything twisting at this critical non-film climactic moment. What’s built up as hate and angst in the movie deflates with Morris’ reaction to the end of his love affair. Cameron’s not the sickly boy any more, and my car isn’t where I can invest myself in full.

That’s drawing conclusions on my part, and the point is that there are times in cinema where things are left to have that happen. What happens with Cameron Frye is a big angle as he is a big angle.

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Film memories, lasting legacies, and songs from forgotten films

John Travolta is not the subject of this entry, but he is the starting point to get to what I want to speak about. It’s the way I tend to write – to segue into the point/subject. The subject is tied to Travolta and his work but Travolta isn’t supposed to be the main topic.

I got introduced to Travolta with “Look Who’s Talking” in 1990. I was a kid and the film got a lot of exposure in pop culture by way of the cutesy aspect and the fact stars Kristy Alley (Cheers among other things) and Bruce Willis had their hands in the film (among others). John Travolta was considered an also-ran at that point, or at least that’s how things seem to reflect now. It was a long way from Saturday Night Fever as well as his TV role in Welcome Back, Kotter. If there’s other stuff that was a large success for Travolta between those 70’s entries and his late 80’s/early 90’s stuff… well, I fail there (Urban Cowboy is an exception, I think). I just know Staying Alive was forgettable and we’ll leave it at that.

Between Look Who’s Talking and its sequels, Travolta found himself back in film culture. This ruffled feathers, which is actually my second memory of Travolta that stands out: Quentin Tarantino talking down about Travolta being in “a baby movie” either after his casting for Pulp Fiction or after the film aired at one film festival or another. It was repeated a few times, Tarantino couldn’t believe someone like Travolta had been in a baby movie! How could this happen?! It’s a quirk of cinema in general, for actors to be brushed off or working in roles that seem beneath them because of a lack of offers form the high. Heck, actor Dom Ameche was working dinner-acting jobs because no one would call him and offer work opportunities. It was what he’d already achieved professionally that got him cast as one of the Duke Bros. in Trading Places without even having to read for the role… But it was the first role in a feature film in 13 years.

Travolta had roles though. One of them, his pre-Look Who’s Talking film, is what I’m trying to segue to. I don’t recall exactly when I got exposed to The Experts, but I did catch it on HBO and it’s a quirky spy-comedy that has one immense quirk driving me nuts lately: an intangible soundtrack.

To summarize the movie: Two (Travolta and Arye Gross as Travis and Wendell) unlucky hipsters who keep failing at starting a club in New York agree to trying to launch a club in a small town. They find themselves in a reclusive, socially stunted (read: 1950’s down-home style) place without a lot of normal, modern aspects of society. They don’t find out until much, much later it’s actually a spy town within the Soviet Union. It’s a play on the Cold War and a contrast of culture. The flick didn’t exactly set any precedence but it’s not bad either. Maybe now it seems extra dated – Travolta had a mullet, which should tell you enough – because the Cold War isn’t a driving factor in society.

All of this leads to that aspect about the soundtrack that is driving me nuts: how you can’t find it. While I say the movie comes off dated now, one song promoting Americana can stand the test of time as it’s a nationalism/pop culture ditty called “Hometown U.S.A.”. The song was part of the closing of the film, I’m not going to give spoilers on that… It was quite fitting for when it was played, I’ll just say that.

Yet you can’t find the song in digital music stores. The lyrics aren’t posted anywhere that can be found on a Google search. The song itself is posted on YouTube but the quality of the copy is suspect (at least from my hearing). The artist, for the curious, is credited as David Morgan, with writing credits going to Harold Payne, Pete Luboff, and Pat Luboff. It got posted on July 4th, 2011 – 22 years after the film’s release and yet again fitting as it was the 4th of July.

How common is this in film, where songs just disappear? Ones that stand out to you and yet you can’t find them anywhere besides in the film itself?  I’m not talking about Matthew Broderick’s clarinet playing during Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; I mean specifically songs crafted for films that just slip away. Another 1980’s film song that I was searching for in the last year (just to find the full performance of it) was “Paradise” by Kaylee Adams, which you can hear a snippet of in the movie White Water Summer. The only thing I had luck in finding was the movie clip itself and some employ pages / other Kaylee Adams songs.

A song is something that lasts in your mind if you connect to it or what images it’s tied to, or what feelings are around when you hear it. Songs tied to movies are especially going to leave a mark with you if you like the scene they’re part of… And that’s a fact even if the film is a bomb in cinema – the music can still leave a mark and a memory, which can still draw interest (and make the entertainment industry a dime) years and years later.

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