What the Hell Happened to Molly Ringwald?
Molly Ringwald defined a specific period in pop culture history. She didn’t win a lot of awards or work with a lot of legendary directors and co-stars. But Ringwald’s cultural impact was far greater than her filmography would suggest. If you were in high school in the early-to-mid eighties, Molly Ringwald was IT. There was Ringwald and there was everyone else.
But just a few short years after appearing on the cover of Time Magazine, the moment passed. Ringwald went from IT-girl to has-been practically overnight.
What the hell happened?
Ringwald started acting on stage at age 5. She played the Dormouse in a production of Alice in Wonderland. The next year, she recorded an album with her jazz musician father and his band, the Fulton Street Jazz Band.
At age 10, Ringwald was cast in the West Coast Production of Annie in 1978. You might expect that the red-headed actress would have played the title role. But no, Ringwald was Orphan #5.
A casting director spotted Ringwald in Annie which lead to roles on TV. The show, Diff’rent Strokes, was a ratings-winner for the hit-starved NBC. They ordered a spin-off centered around Charlotte Rae’s character, Edna Garrett.
The show was The Facts of Life. The first season, which ran from 1979-1980, featured a much larger cast of students. After appearing in Diff’rent Strokes, Ringwald made the cut for the first season of The Facts of Life.
But the first season was not a ratings success. So the show was retooled around a smaller cast. Ringwald was among the students who did not return for the second season.
In 1980, Ringwald recorded songs for two Disney albums. She sang on the patriotic Yankee Doodle Mickey as well as a Christmas album.
In 1982, Ringwald appeared in her first motion picture, Paul Mazursky’s modern-day take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Ringwald played John Cassavetes’ teenage daughter. When her parents separate, they leave New York for Greece where her father begins an affair with Susan Sarandon. Raúl Juliá also appears as an eccentric hermit living on the island.
Reviews for The Tempest were mixed and the movie was not a success at the box office. But Ringwald was nominated for a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year – Female. She lost to Sandahl Bergman who was nominated for Conan the Barbarian.
In 1983, Ringwald appeared in the Avatar of it’s day, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone in 3-D.
In the early 80′s, there was a brief 3-D revival. Spacehunter was billed as “the first quality 3-D film backed by a major studio”. Peter Strauss played a Han Solo wannabe hired to save women from the villain, Overdog, played by Michael Ironsides.
Of course the reviews were bad. It’s a cheesy 80′s sci-fi flick in 3-D. Spacehunter barely broke even at the box office so audiences were spared any further adventures in the Forbidden Zone or anywhere else for that matter.
In 1984, Ringwald put science fiction and 3-D behind her with the movie that would define her career, John Hughes’ directorial debut, Sixteen Candles.
If we’re going to discuss Ringwald, we have to also discuss the man behind her rise to fame, John Hughes. Hughes was a gag writer who came to write for the comedy magazine, National Lampoon. After the success of National Lampoon’s Animal House, Hughes found work writing for the TV spin-off, Delta House.
Although the TV show didn’t last long, Hughes continued to work as a screen-writer. After writing scripts for Mr. Mom and National Lampoon’s Vacation (both in 1983), Hughes was ready for his chance to direct.
Hughes asked for headshots of young actresses. Ringwald’s picture was among those Hughes reviewed. He put Ringwald’s picture over his writing desk for inspiration and wrote Sixteen Candles in one weekend specifically for Ringwald.
Sixteen Candles received mostly positive reviews and was a hit at the box office. But more important than that, it was the start of something big. And Ringwald was at the center of it.
Posted on January 20, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened? and tagged brat pack, entertainment, john hughes, molly ringwad, movies, pretty in pink, sixteen candles, the breakfast club. Bookmark the permalink. 67 Comments.