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Racing with the Moon

Racing with the Moon DVD cover
Directed by Richard Benjamin
Produced by Alain Bernheim
John Kohn
Written by Steven Kloves
Starring Sean Penn
Elizabeth McGovern
Nicolas Cage
John Karlen
Rutanya Alda
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography John Bailey
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) March 23, 1984
Running time 108 min.
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $5,400,000

Racing with the Moon is a 1984 comedy-drama film starring Sean Penn, Elizabeth McGovern, and Nicolas Cage. It was directed by Richard Benjamin and written by Steven Kloves. The original music score was composed by Dave Grusin.


The film is set in 1942 California, in and around Mendocino and WWII. Penn plays Henry 'Hopper' Nash, a seventeen year-old small town boy who has been drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps and is about to be shipped overseas. He is close friends with Nicky (Cage), who is also on his way to the fight. They have approximately six weeks before shipping out and the film shows their remaining time as civilians.

Henry and Nicky work together at the bowling alley setting pins, buffing lanes, and working the front counter. Henry sees Caddie Winger (McGovern) at the movie theatre taking tickets. He is immediately smitten and conspires with a younger boy to give her flowers. Caddie comes to the soda shop where Henry and Nicky are hanging out. Henry jumps over the counter and pretends that he is working. He follows Caddie to her home and discovers that she lives in an elaborate mansion. He assumes that she is a "Gatsby girl" and is therefore rich. As it turns out, Caddie lives there because her mother is a maid. Later, Henry sees Caddie working at the library. He attempts to get her name but she rebuffs him. At the soda shop, Caddie sets Henry up with one of her friends. Henry meets the others at the skating rink and pretends that he knows how to skate. He ends up crashing but in doing so is able to steal some time with Caddie. She agrees to go on a date with Henry and the two quickly become an item.

Meanwhile, Nicky has run into trouble by getting his girlfriend, Sally Kaiser, pregnant. He attempts to get $150 from Henry for an abortion. Henry asks Caddie whom he assumes can easily afford it. Caddie, in an effort to avoid letting Henry down, attempts to steal a pearl necklace from Alice, a young woman who lives at the house that Caddie is staying at. She is caught and confesses the reason she needs the necklace. She ends up borrowing the money from Alice. Sally has her abortion and Henry berates Nicky for not being more of a gentleman for his girlfriend. This causes a brief rift that is mended when each realizes that they need each other in order to handle the difficult transition they are about to make.

Trains play a major role in the film. It opens with a shot of Henry walking along a train track and a train rushing by. Nicky and Henry have a long history of racing trains by diving away off the tracks at the last minute. They would then run after the train and jump on the side rails and ride it. The film closes at the boys prepare to get on the train taking them away to the war. They wait for the train to go by before racing after it and jumping on.

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