The Literary Roles of Bette Midler

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

Photo by Nathan Engel from Pexels

We just love Bette Midler so much. Not only is she responsible for being the wind beneath our collective wings, she’s also the star of many a literary adaptation. This powerhouse performer famously brought some of our favorite fictional characters to the big screen and we’re celebrating every single role. Darling, everything’s coming up Midler.



Oliver and Company (1988)

We’re starting off with a shuffle down memory lane – or should we say Fifth Avenue? Bette Midler plays Georgette, a prize-winning poodle with purple fur, in this off-center adaptation of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Instead of orphans pleading for seconds of gruel in London, this Dickens adaptation relies on the street smarts of New York dogs. (Yes, actual dogs.) It’s 1980s Disney at its finest and we’re thrilled to see the birthday girl herself smearing on eyeshadow (again, she’s a poodle) and belting the show stopping “Perfect Isn’t Easy.” She’s a welcome comedic element in this deceptively dark children’s movie and we wouldn’t have it any other way.



The First Wives Club (1996)

Who could forget Bette Midler’s hilarious performance in The First Wives Club, an adaptation of the Olivia Goldsmith novel of the same name? Bette Midler stars alongside Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton in this ensemble comedy about three women whose husbands have left them for much younger women. (Talk about an incredible cast!) It’s our dream to come up with our own version of the iconic “You Don’t Own Me” scene, matching suits and all. (Thank you, Lesley Gore!) It’s the most joyful of movie endings – one that wouldn’t be possible without Bette Midler’s talent and Olivia Goldsmith’s book.



Gypsy (1993)

There have been many versions of Stephen Sondheim’s adaptation of Gypsy Rose Lee’s autobiography, but our favorite is the 1993 made-for-TV movie starring (you guessed it) Bette Midler as Mama Rose. Curtain up, light the lights. Bette Midler performs this domineering and obsessive mother like she was born to play this role – and only this role. This was a legacy role long before she stepped into the part, but Bette Midler’s performance rivals every Mama Rose before and after her. It’s a musical about her daughter, but Bette Midler’s performance will have you saying, “Gypsy Rose who?”



The Stepford Wives (2004)

Bette Midler stars in the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives, an adaptation of Ira Levin’s 1972 novel of the same name. This satiric thriller imagines a town where heterosexual women are replaced by lifelike robots – a sinister takeover orchestrated by the men of Stepford, Connecticut. Our gal plays Bobbie Markowitz, a writer and recovering alcoholic who quickly befriends Nicole Kidman’s character. If you’re looking for something to watch between seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale, give this literary adaptation a try. Or better yet, pick up Ira Levin’s book. It’s speculative fiction gold.



The Women (2008)

Our final throw of confetti goes to Bette Midler’s performance in The Women, an adaptation of Clair Booth Luce’s 1936 play. This commentary on the privileged lives of New York socialites was revolutionary for its time, but the 2008 remake was universally panned. We have a soft spot in our hearts for Bette Midler’s cameo as Leah Miller. Plus, we’re total suckers for a woman-penned movie with an all-female cast. When’s the last time that happened?