The octopus view on Toronto’s Queen Dufferin graffiti wall:
This view of university was first shown on stage and then was interpreted for the big screen: Educating Rita.
Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London from Willy Russell, the play debuted at The Warehouse in 1980 starring Julie Walters and Mark Kingston.
Walters played Rita, a Liverpool hairdresser who begins a relationship with Dr. Frank Russell played by Kingston, a university lecturer. Rita initially takes a class in literature and Frank becomes her tutor.
As the two grow closer, their relationship reveals the prejudices and beliefs of each other and how their judgments and assumptions start changing each other.
In 1983, Lewis Gilbert, produced and directed the screen adaptation of the play, debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine, the film follows the same path, showing how both grow and change, overcoming social class and society constrictions.
Although the film received mixed reviews, it won three BAFTA Awards, two acting awards at the Golden Globes for Walters and Caine as well as was nominated for three Academy Awards, including an adaptation nomination for Willy Russell and best actor and actress nominations.
Made for a small budget of just over US$6 million at Trinity University in Dublin, the film went on to gross over US$14 million, as viewers appreciated the story of Rita and Frank, and how they learn from one another.
As a commentary on the world of university, this play and film showed how assumptions and prejudices can be overcome, and everyone can become better, no matter where they think they currently stand.
This story hit three mediums in this decade – novel, film and tv series: The Paper Chase.
Written by John Jay Osborn Jr., the story is focuse on a first year Harvard Law student named Hart, who has one nemesis – Professor Charles Kingsfield, a tough teacher who isn’t letting anyone get through his class easily.
And of course, Hart has a love interest, the fascinatingly contrary Susan Field, a fellow student and Kingsfield’s daughter.
Published in 1970, Osborn Jr. completed the novel while a third year student at Harvard. The story was adapted for the screen in 1973, with Timothy Bottoms as Hart, John Houseman as Professor Kingsfield and Lindsay Wagner as Susan.
“Mister Hart, here is a dime. Call your mother. Tell her there is serious doubt about your becoming a lawyer.” – Kingsfield
Although not received with open arms by movie critics, Houseman’s portrayal of Kingsfield earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film.
In 1978, the novel was interpreted again into a tv series starring John Houseman as Kingsfield and James Stephens as Hart. Cancelled after one year, the series was re-aired on PBS and then picked up by Showtime in 1983, where it was relaunched and aired another additional three seasons.
The crux of the series lay within the original story of the relationship between Hart and Kingsfield – challenging each other to be better and do better.
“The study of law is something new and unfamiliar to most of you, unlike any other schooling you have ever known before. You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush and, if you survive, you leave thinking like a lawyer. – Kingsfield.
As this story lured readers and then viewers, the revelation of a student’s maturity and his growth is the key to the story – although he resents his instructor, he’s glad for the experience and so were we.
In the 1980s, tv viewers were treated to a Thanksgiving special from one of their favourite sitcoms, and its become a classic, viewed over and over: the Thanksgiving Orphans episode of Cheers.
First aired on November 27, 1986, this season five was the ninth episode of the year, and was centered on the classic American tradition of Thanksgiving.
In the episode, Carla gets convinced to invite the gang to her new house – Sam, his girlfriend Wendy, Coach, Norm and his mysterious wife Vera and Cliff to her house for a dinner of frozen turkey and overcooked green peas.
Diane turns up unexpectedly after first gloating about being invited to dinner at a professor’s house, to realize she’s there to be a servant to the other guests, like her fellow graduate students.
So with her pilgrim grab intact, Diane’s silly drunken presence, undercooked food and crazy conversation results in a food fight – and one of the funniest episodes of Cheers of the year, as well as a Thanksgiving classic.
And perhaps the biggest revelation – the voice of Norm’s wife Vera.
Definitely a memorable Thanksgiving episode of the 1980s.