This movie chronicles the life and times of a USO singer and partnership with another entertainer. At a movie set some employees are concerned about Dixie Leonard (Bette Midler). They are concerned but not surprised that she is not on set yet. Jeff Brooks (Arye Gross) is in a limo on his way to retrieve the guest of honor at the dinner in question. In the car he receives a call from Stan (Steven Kampmann) telling Jeff that he needs to be careful. Apparently Mrs. Leonard eats kids like him for breakfast. When he arrives and knocks on the door no one answers. Jeff takes the liberty of going in uninvited. Pretty soon he is met with a very wrinkled, very old, and very rude woman. She tells him that she isn't going to the event because she doesn't like Eddie Sparks (James Caan), the other honoree. Jeff offers to fix her record player and she reluctantly allows it. Jeff is successful in fixing the record player. Dixie tells Jeff to cut the charming act because she still has no plans to go to the event. The record on the player begins to play and the scene changes over to a the mid-1940's. A younger Dixie is singing with two other women. The session is interrupted by an officer with a message for Dixie. Dixie is concerned that the message is bad news about Michael (Arliss Howard), her husband. On the contrary it is good news. The message is an invitation to be a USO tour header in London. The message was sent by Dixie's Uncle Art (George Segal). Dixie drops everything, leaves her son with a friend, and travels to London to go on tour. Before she leaves Dixie sings her son to sleep.
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The next scene is of a warehouse full of servicemen cheering for Eddie Sparks. Dixie is late for the performance and Eddie decides to go on instead of waiting longer. While Eddie is performing Dixie is getting off a plane. On the tarmac a man is giving Dixie the run down of the show. The shows goes on while Dixie discusses her concern about doing comedy extemporaneously on stage without any rehearsal. Finally Dixie arrives backstage at the warehouse. She is met by her Uncle Art. Dixie is nervous as she is being made up for the show. Meanwhile Victoria Lee (Karen Martin), a pretty blonde, does a dance number with Eddie Sparks. After the first few minutes Sparks leaves Victoria and goes off stage. While Victoria does her number Dixie talks Eddie's ear off. It is revealed that her son, Danny (Jameson Rodgers), is four and Michael Leonard is a combat photographer. Dixie is clearly nervous. Behind her back Eddie voices a few concerns to Art. Eddie is convinced by Art that Dixie will do a good job. Meanwhile, Dixie is given a drink to calm down. As she stands to go on stage she rips a large hole in her dress. Victoria finishes her number and Eddie is told to buy time. Eddie stretches his act until Dixie appears wearing a borrowed military jacket which shows of her legs. Eddie and Dixie do a skit together and the people off stage are watching anxiously. Dixie is funny and she improvises well. After the skit Dixie sings a song. Offstage, Eddie tells Art that he wants Dixie to be put on the next plane out of the there. Eddie says she has too much of a dirty mouth
Dixie's performance is great but a bit provocative. Eddie watches offstage. In the middle of the performance the electricity cuts out. Dixie continues to entertain the crowd regardless. The crowd encourages her continue singing. The men produce flashlights so she won't have to sing in the dark. Dixie descends into the crowd and sings a ballad. The crowd loves her. She makes the men feel special. Dixie even signs an injured soldiers' cast. Just as she finishes her song the electricity comes back on. The men want an encore and she obliges passionately. She is received backstage with excitement. Eddie Sparks is the only one who isn't excited. He tells her she is vulgar and she isn't cut out for the job. He fires Dixie. Eddie, Victoria, and Dixie all take a bow on stage. Outside after the show, Eddie and Victoria sign a very few autographs. It is revealed that Eddie and Victoria have are in a relationship. Inside Dixie is talking to Art. It is revealed that Eddie fires people all the time but it doesn't carry much weight. She is suppose to apologize to him but she does not agree. The next scene takes place in a bar. Art is talking to Eddie trying to convince Eddie that Dixie is indispensable. Dixie and Eddie are essentially lied to. Eddie is told that he and Dixie will be the next big thing. Dixie is told Eddie is sorry and feels terrible and vice-versa. The two involved parties talk. Both parties are stubborn and neither one wants to apologize. Dixie turns to leave and Eddie sings a song. He uses the song to apologize to Dixie. Dixie and Eddie dance and talk. He tells her about how big they could get. Just then an air raid horn goes off. Dixie is concerned but Eddie convinces her she will be alright as long as he is around.
The scene switches over to the older Dixie as she is telling Jeff the story. The camera pans over a collage of black and white photos of Dixie and Eddie. She clearly admires Eddie but her feeling are mixed. The conversation changes to Michael Leonard. The scene switches back into the past. Dixie and Eddie are rehearsing. Eddie is called away momentarily. Eddie arranged for Michael to arrive later that day as a surprise for Dixie. Art wants to tell Dixie but Eddie wants the reactions to be authentic on camera. Later Dixie and Eddie are performing. Meanwhile Michael arrives. He recognizes her voice and goes to her. He sees her dancing from the crowd and he calls out to her. She stops the number. Eddie says “Merry Christmas” in her ear. Michael and Dixie come together amid cheers. Michael becomes part of the act as Dixie sings an emotional love song to him.
The next scene is of Michael being laid to rest. Danny doesn't want to leave his father's casket but Eddie convinces him to go. Later on Eddie and Dixie are doing a television show. Dixie is changing the lines of the script. She is told that the censors don't like her lines and she is advised to read the script as it is written. She say ,“screw the censors,” and she jokingly invites the censor to a hotel room. Dixie and Eddie talk afterward. Apparently Danny (Brandon Call), now a preteen, is entering a rebellious phase. Eddie tries to give advice but Dixie will not take it. Just then the sponsor shows up and Dixie hilariously addresses them. Meanwhile Eddie is told his family is in the greenroom. His wife is drinking and smoking and his daughters are perfectly groomed. He visits with them momentarily before stepping back out of the room. On the way out he runs into Danny who wants to visit with Eddie's daughters. The girls are taken with Danny and they talk about him after their father takes Danny out of the room. Eddie gives Danny advice on women. Danny visits his mother as she is getting prepared for the show. She is left alone with him. She wants to speak to him about his recent behavior. She asks him what he does when he cuts school and Dixie chastises him for cutting class. Dixie tells Danny he has to go to school. He doesn't understand why he had to go to school. He states that Eddie dropped out of school in fifth grade and turned out alright. Before they can talk about it further Dixie is called away to do the show. Everything is going smoothly on stage and behind scenes except between Eddie and Dixie. Dixie wants Eddie to stop filling Danny's head with nonsense and Eddie wants Dixie to loosen up and let Danny have a bit of freedom. When asked why he doesn't impart this wisdom on his daughters Eddie says his wisdom is for a son. Dixie is not amused. Eddie says Danny needs a father but Dixie doesn't want Eddie's help or his advice. On stage Eddie and Dixie forget their disagreement and sink perfectly into their roles. Art and Dixie have a conversation in her dressing room later. He encourages Dixie to do the script as it is as written because renewal of contracts is coming soon. She doesn't do what she is asked. Also it is revealed that the war in Korea is raging. Eddie publicly invites Dixie to do another tour, this time in Korea. This upsets Dixie. Before answering his question Dixie announces that Eddie has generously made a contribution of $100,000 to the Red Cross. This second announcement is to get back at Eddie. The shows ends with a song and Dixie and Eddie leave the stage smiling. Once the curtains are pulled and Eddie and Dixie can be seen fighting.
In Dixie's dressing room she tells Eddie she isn't going to Korea and Japan. Eddie is also upset because she announced a contribution he did not intend to make. Danny knocks on the door but is told to wait. Eddie continues to try and convince Dixie to go. It is clear that Eddie is attracted to Dixie but she is not interested. Just then everyone comes into the dressing room including Eddie's family. Dixie announces that all of them will be joining Eddie and Dixie in Korea.
Now in Korea, Eddie and his wife are walking through a squalid area where people are begging and crowding together. Luanna Trott (Rosemary Murphy) is complaining that the country has no character. Art says that the people have no shoes and they are starving and hungry. Art express his views favoring communism. He says that the whole war is a joke. Eddie takes Art to the side and tells him that his wife is too well connected to be antagonized. Eddie wants Art to keep his yap shut. It is soon revealed that the base they were going to was over taken by the enemy. On the way to a base the truck is stopped by a frantic soldier. There was an ambush and the truck is being used to transport wounded men even though there are “VIP's” on board. Dixie is exposed to a gruesome scene where a man is severely injured and bleeding heavily.
Dixie tries to help and is squirted with blood in the process. In the truck the injured man meets Eddie Sparks and is impressed. Eddie tries to talk to the guy and keep him calm. When the truck finally arrives to its destination the injured soldiers are removed from the truck. The man Dixie was tending to is D.O.A. Dixie is highly upset and enters a state of detachment. The bloody and saddened performers are taken to their tents. It is clearly their first time seeing the real face of war. They hug and talk in the snow. Eddie asks Dixie to stay with him because he does not want to be alone. Dixie reluctantly agrees. The next morning Eddie is up early. When Dixie wakes up she asks him what he thought about last night. He evades the question and says his wife will be up soon. Dixie gets dressed in silence. Dixie is upset but she tries to hide it. He finally tells her that last night was special but she does not want to hear it. Later that day while everyone is having dinner Eddie and Dixie are toasted to. In the bathroom a representative of one of the sponsors talks to Eddie. The representative is concerned about Art's communist views. Eddie doesn't want to hear it but the representative says that it is the sponsor or it is Art. If Eddie doesn't fire Art the renewal for the show won't go through. The man says Eddie cannot afford to keep Art. Just then one of Eddie's producers walks into the bathroom. The producer is seen talking to Art later in his bedroom as Art dresses on a Santa suit. The producer is again seen telling Eddie “it's done.” Art enters the dinner hall where everyone is eating and he joyfully gives out gifts. When Art reaches Eddie they whisper to each other. Eddie says they will work it out under the table but Art doesn't want to do that. Eddie is given a typewriter with a note. The note says that the type writer is the one on which Art wrote the his joke for Eddie. It is clear that Dixie did not know Art had been fired. Eddie and Dixie have a heated conversation and Dixie makes a scene. She doesn't understand why Art had to be fired. Dixie goes on a rampage asking who is responsible. Dixie eventually tells Danny to come because they are going home. Danny refuses and clings to Eddie for comfort. Dixie insults Eddie and calls him a monster and Danny tells Eddie everything will be okay. Eddie also tells Danny the same thing. Dixie tells Eddie that he needs to keep away from her son. In a final explosion of rage Dixie pushes Eddie into the cake and storms off.
Danny (Christopher Rydell) is now a soldier and he is giving a speech. Eddie and Dixie are there listening to the speech. They are not sitting together, however. In the present, Dixie is talking to Jeff. Dixie reveals that she was too controversial and was dropped from the network. She did what she could to survive. She saved money and bought a bistro. Jeff asks what happened to Danny. The next scene is of Dixie watching a something about a war on television. She leaves the room she was in and is seen talking to her Art. Art tells her that Eddie called. Eddie recently did an interview about Art being blacklisted because of his views. Art wants to let go of the emotions he has been carrying around for 15 years. It is revealed that some people want to do a special. The old group would get together and do two weeks of performances in Vietnam. Art wants Dixie to do it as a favor to him. Art reveals that Eddie is waiting outside. Art also says that Eddie's wife left him, his girls are gone, and Eddie is alone. Just then Eddie Sparks comes in looking for Dixie. When he finds her he sits with her. Eddie tries to convince her to do the show with him. He tells her she could see Danny and reveals that Danny writes to him all the time. He uses Danny as a bargaining chip and it works. Eddie and Dixie are now in a helicopter in Vietnam. Eddie is talking to a soldier. The soldier doesn't like how exposed they are and says that their safety cannot be guaranteed. Eddie and Dixie have one hour to do what they have to do and then they have to go. The base is alive with music and wildly dancing soldiers. Eddie and Dixie are waiting for Danny who is out on patrol at that time. A sick looking Danny meets the pair in a room. The reunion is emotional. Danny says he is fine though he is clearly not. He implies that the enemy is hard to find. It is clear this war is different than the others. The soldiers are different too. Danny shows his mother around and they talk. Danny thinks Eddie is clueless to what is truly going on. When Danny wrote to Eddie he wrote what Eddie wanted to hear not the truth. Danny also expresses that the he does not like the cameras. He tells his mother the brutal truth about the war and the soldiers. Danny also tells his mother about the affects of the war. Dixie tells him that Eddie has a lot of friends and could get him out of the war zone. Danny wants to honor his responsibilities and he knows not doing so would break Eddies heart. Meanwhile Eddie is preforming and he is being booed. The crowd only wants to see girls. Eddie obliges sending a young girl out on stage where she does a provocative dance. The girl is almost mauled by the men. Eddie breaks it up before the dancer gets hurt. Eddie invites Dixie to sing. Dixie chastises the crowd for treating the girl the way they did. While she is chastising them the men are also vulgar to Dixie. She brushes it off and sings them a song. While Dixie is singing Eddie asks the camera man to get some footage of Danny listening to his mother sing. The camera man is reluctant but does as he is told. The men seem mesmerized by the song. Danny seems far away as Dixie is singing. When she is done Dixie makes a peace sign with her hand. The soldiers respond in kind. Just then the base is attacked. Eddie and Dixie are taken into a building where is is suppose to be safe. Danny is seen running amid the explosions, gun fire, and carnage. The dancer is killed by an explosion. Danny is seen stopping in mid stride and falling down as his mother watches. She runs to him but finds him unresponsive and limp. After the smoke clears the older Dixie is heard saying she flew back with Eddie, buried Danny, and never spoke to Eddie again. It has been 25 years. In the present Jeff tries to comfort Dixie. Jeff says he will be right back. Dixie tells Jeff that the thing he wants to avoid is outlasting everybody. Jeff is talking to Stan at the at the station. Stan is upset and wants Jeff to get Dixie to the station where the event is taking place as soon as possible. Jeff says Dixie doesn't need to be on stage with Eddie right now. He also says she needs to be with someone. Jeff is going to stay with Dixie against Stan's wishes. When he returns to the room Dixie is gone from the piano at which she was sitting. Meanwhile, Stan prepares to have someone else fill her place. Jeff is concerned but is relieved and surprised to find Dixie dressed and ready to go. Dixie arrives at the station with a lot of ceremony and fuss. Everyone behind the scenes is also relieved that she has come. On the way to makeup she is briefed on what will happen during the show. Jeff goes will Dixie to Eddie's dressing room against Stan's wishes. She thanks Jeff who implies that he has likely lost his job. Jeff leaves her at Eddie's door. A photographer takes a few pictures of her in Eddie's dressing room. Dixie politely asks the photographer for the camera and she destroys the film. Everyone it asked to leave. Dixie wants to talk but Eddie doesn't. She tells Eddie about a dream she in which she died and went to heaven. In heaven she was allowed to ask God one question. She asked why God took her husband and her son. God told her it was the price for her successful career and her partnership with Eddie. Eddie is not amused. He tells her not to continue but she goes on. She implies that it is their fault her son was killed. Eddie says he didn't kill Danny and it isn't his fault. He is proud of their show and what they did over the years. They argue about the loss of Danny until they receive a call to go to the stage. Eddie says he doesn't need the argument or her and he leaves the room. Eddie Sparks and Dixie Leonard are introduced but Eddie is the only one who appears on stage. He receives the Medal of Honor. He gives an acceptance speech and make an excuse for Dixie's absence. He stalls when he is talking about Vietnam. He seems far away and he repeats the name, Vietnam, several times before he goes on. While Dixie watches, Eddie talks about the loss of Danny. He tells the truth. He hasn't been sleeping well and he says he loved Danny like he was his own son. Eddie gets choked up and he stalls again. Just then Dixie appears on stage and is applauded. Dixie tells jokes and brings Eddie back to reality. After he gets himself together they do a skit like old times. They also do a song and dance number. The movie ends when the pair walk off stage together hand in hand.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like how the story illustrates how times have changed. During World War II the soldiers are respectful, they do their jobs, and they know what they are fighting for. By the time the Vietnam War rolls around everything is different. The soldiers are rude, they do drugs, and they don't know where their enemy is or how to fight them. It seems to be a metaphor for the main characters and their lives. Dixie and Eddie no longer seem to have a clear direction in their lives.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene comes at the end. Eddie and Dixie are on stage and it seems they have reconciled after everything they have been through together. The pair walk off stage hand in hand after their performance.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Dixie gave as good as she got. She was unwilling to be walked all over by Eddie and she upheld her principles. I also like that she was loyal to her family.