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Little Darlings

Little Darlings promotional poster
Directed by Ronald F. Maxwell
Produced by Stephen J. Friedman
Written by Kimi Peck
Dalene Young
Starring Tatum O'Neal
Kristy McNichol
Cynthia Nixon
Music by Charles Fox
Cinematography Bedrich Batka
Editing by Pembroke J. Herring
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) March 21, 1980
Country United States
Language English
Budget Unknown

Little Darlings is a 1980 teen film starring Tatum O'Neal, Kristy McNichol, Matt Dillon and Armand Assante, directed by Ronald F. Maxwell. The screenplay is written by Kimi Peck and Dalene Young. The original music score is composed by Charles Fox. The film is marketed with the tagline "Don't let the title fool you," a reference to a scene in which Randy comments on Angel's name, to which Angel replies, "Don't let the name fool you."

The film was notable for having a contemporary pop soundtrack, with music by artists like Blondie, Rickie Lee Jones and Supertramp. Many songs in the film such as Supertramp's "School", John Lennon's "Oh My Love" and The Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow" were removed from home videotape and laserdisc releases due to licensing issues and replaced with sound-alikes.

"...Little Darlings somehow does succeed in treating the awesome and scary subject of sexual initiation with some of the dignity it deserves." -- Roger Ebert[1]


Plot summary

The story is about a group of teenage girls who go to summer camp, two of whom make a bet as to which one will lose her virginity first. The two girls then choose "targets", or guys they want to be the ones they lose their virginity with. Unbeknownst to the adults, all the girls in camp bet money on the contest and divide into two "teams," each rooting for and egging on either Ferris (O'Neal) or Angel (McNichol). At the same time, the girls engage in typical teenage behavior, such as food fights and other activities.

The girls involved in the contest are opposites and rivals: cynical, suspicious and streetwise poor girl Angel Bright (McNichol) and romantic rich girl Ferris Whitney (O'Neal). Both girls discover that "it" is not what they thought it was.

Ferris thinks of love as romance and wine and flowers. She imagines herself swept off her feet by Gary, the camp counselor. When she lies about "making love" with him, the biological side manifests itself in others' reactions to what she said she did. She discovers that, at least in the context of a camp counselor having sex with a fifteen year-old, sex can be hurtful and its consequences ugly. Her attitude is now more grounded in reality; she has become more like street-wise Angel.

Angel approaches the same issue from the other side. She views winning the contest as a mechanical, purely biological function, "no big deal" as her mother has told her. But when she tries to do "it" with Randy (Matt Dillon) in the boathouse, she becomes confused by feelings she did not know she had. She behaves very defensively, as if Randy is trying to force her to have sex. Randy, who could take it or leave it, is put off by her recalcitrance and leaves. She then must admit to herself that sex is not a mechanical function she can cynically turn on and off, but is something she deeply wants to do.

Angel reconnects with Randy later with a much improved attitude, one closer to Ferris'. This time she pays attention not to clothing removal procedures and condoms, but to her feelings for Randy. Then, as the novel describes it, "All her fear and resistance melted as they kissed, and soon she didn't know who was touching whom, only that it was wonderful and right and fine. The moon stared impenetrably through the window."

In the end, Ferris discovers that love involves sex (which is not always romantic), and Angel discovers that sex involves love, which deeply touches her and transforms her soul. They both grow up that summer.

Little Darlings was filmed in Hard Labor Creek State Park, 50 miles east of Atlanta, Georgia. The signs and props built for the film remain for visitors to see. The gas station men's room (condom) scene was filmed in downtown Rutledge, the town nearest the park. The meeting place for the buses at the beginning and ending were filmed in a parking lot near the offices of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When Ferris is driven into town, they pass the Swan House, indicating that her family lives in Buckhead, a wealthy part of town to the north of the city.

TV version

An alternate version of Little Darlings was made for TV which had all the sex-related scenes and dialogue removed, giving the impression that, instead of trying to lose their virginity, Angel and Ferris were merely trying to make a guy fall in love with them. The deleted scenes were replaced with leftover footage not seen in the film version, including a scene (from the more-complete book version) in which Angel rescues Ferris from drowning in the lake. Some additional music was also used in this version.

Awards and nominations

Nominee: Second Best Young Actress in a Major Motion Picture - Kristy McNichol

Main cast

Actor Role
Tatum O'Neal Ferris Whitney
Kristy McNichol Angel Bright
Armand Assante Gary
Matt Dillon Randy Adams
Margaret Blye Ms. Bright
Nicolas Coster Mr. Whitney
Krista Errickson Cinder Carlson
Alexa Kenin Dana
Cynthia Nixon Sunshine
Jenn Thompson Penelope


  1. ^ Little Darlings By Roger Ebert,, March 25, 1980

External links



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