Throw Momma from the Train

Last updated
Throw Momma from the Train
Throwmommafromthetrain.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Danny DeVito
Produced by Larry Brezner
Written by Stu Silver
Starring
Music by David Newman
Cinematography Barry Sonnenfeld
Edited byMichael Jablow
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date
  • December 11, 1987 (1987-12-11)(United States)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$14 million
Box office$57,915,972

Throw Momma from the Train is a 1987 American black comedy film directed by and starring Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal and Anne Ramsey, with Rob Reiner, Branford Marsalis, Kim Greist and Kate Mulgrew appearing in supporting roles. [1]

Contents

The title comes from Patti Page's 1956 hit song, "Mama from the Train (A Kiss, A Kiss)". The film was inspired by the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Strangers on a Train , [2] which is also seen in the film. [3]

The film received mixed reviews, but was a commercial success. Anne Ramsey was singled out for praise for her portrayal of the overbearing Mrs. Lift; she won a Saturn Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Plot

Novelist Larry Donner (Billy Crystal) struggles with writer's block due to his resentment towards his ex-wife Margaret (Kate Mulgrew), who took all the credit for his manuscript and received acclaim for it, whilst Larry, struggling to make ends meet, takes a job teaching literature at a community college. Owen Lift (Danny DeVito) is a timid, middle-aged man who still lives with his overbearing, harsh and paranoid mother (Anne Ramsey). Owen fantasizes about killing his mother but can't summon the courage to bring his desires to fruition. As a student in Larry's class, Owen is given advice by Larry to view an Alfred Hitchcock film to gain some insight into plot development for his murder stories. He sees Strangers on a Train , in which two strangers conspire to commit a murder for each other, figuring their lack of connection to the victim will, in theory, establish a perfect alibi. Having overheard Larry's public rant that he wished his ex-wife dead, Owen forms a plan to kill Margaret, believing that Larry will, in return, kill his mother.

He tracks Margaret down to Hawaii and eventually follows her onto a cruise ship she is taking to her book signing, where he plans to push her overboard. Owen returns from Hawaii to tell Larry of Margaret's death and that Larry now "owes" him the murder of his mother, lest he inform the police that Larry was the killer. After having spent the night drinking alone on a beach during the hours of Margaret's disappearance, Larry panics because he lacks a sufficient alibi. That, along with a news report announcing that the police suspect foul play, convinces Larry that he's the prime suspect. He decides to stay with Owen and his mother in an attempt to hide from the police. Larry meets Mrs. Lift, but despite her harsh treatment of him he refuses to kill her. Eventually, when Mrs. Lift drives Owen to the breaking point, Larry finally relents and agrees to go through with the murder.

After two unsuccessful attempts, Larry flees the Lift home when Mrs. Lift recognizes him as a suspect from a news broadcast about his ex-wife's disappearance. He boards a train to Mexico and, surprisingly, Owen and Mrs. Lift come along so as to avoid having to lie for him. During the journey, Larry's patience with Mrs. Lift finally runs out when she impolitely gives him the correct advice on writing. He follows her to the caboose with the intent of killing her, but Owen begins having second thoughts about having his mother killed and gives chase. In the ensuing struggle, Mrs. Lift hangs from the train but is rescued by Owen and a repentant Larry. Mrs. Lift is grateful to her son for saving her, but unappreciative of Larry's help and kicks him, resulting in him losing his balance, and falling off the train to the tracks below.

During his recovery in hospital, Larry discovers that Margaret is still alive; she had fallen overboard accidentally and was rescued by a Polynesian fisherman whom she has decided to marry. Much to his annoyance, Larry learns that Margaret plans to sell the rights of her ordeal for $1.5 million. On the advice of a fellow patient, Larry chooses to free himself of his obsession with his ex-wife and instead focus on his own life, and write about what recently happened to him, thereby freeing him of his writer's block.

A year later, Larry has finished a novel based on his experiences with Owen and Mrs. Lift entitled Throw Momma from the Train. Owen visits and informs him that his mother has died (albeit naturally) and that he's going to New York City for the release of his own book. Unfortunately for Larry, Owen reveals that his book is also about their experiences together. Thinking that his book has been scooped once again, an enraged Larry proceeds to strangle him, but stops when Owen shows him that his book is a children's pop-up book called Momma, and Owen, and Owen's Friend, Larry with the story drastically altered to be suitable for children. Months later, Larry, Owen, and Larry's girlfriend Beth (Kim Greist) vacation together in Hawaii, reflecting on the final chapter of Larry's book. Larry and Owen's books have now become best-sellers, making them both successful writers as well as close friends.

Cast

Farley Granger and Robert Walker appear via archive footage from Strangers on a Train as Guy Haines and Bruno Anthony, respectively. Oprah Winfrey also appears as herself in a fictional episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show .

Reception

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 63% based on reviews from 35 critics, with the consensus being that "Danny DeVito's direction is too broad to offer the kind of nastiness that would have made Throw Momma from the Train truly special, but DeVito's on-screen chemistry with co-star Billy Crystal makes this a smoothly entertaining comedy." [4] Audiences polled by Cinemascore gave the film a C+ grade on a scale from A+ to F.

Awards and nominations

AwardCategorySubjectResult
Academy Award Best Supporting Actress Anne RamseyNominated
Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress Won
Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Danny DeVitoNominated

Related Research Articles

<i>Shadow of a Doubt</i> 1943 film by Alfred Hitchcock

Shadow of a Doubt is a 1943 American psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. Written by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story for Gordon McDonell. In 1991, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film was also Alfred Hitchcock's favorite of all of his films.

Kate Mulgrew American actress

Katherine Kiernan Maria Mulgrew is an American actress. She is known for the roles of Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager and Galina "Red" Reznikov on Orange Is the New Black. She first came to attention in the role of Mary Ryan on the daytime soap opera Ryan's Hope. Mulgrew is the recipient of a Critics' Choice Award, a Saturn Award, an Obie Award, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and has also received Golden Globe Award and Primetime Emmy Award nominations. She is an active member of the Alzheimer's Association National Advisory Council and the voice of Cleveland's MetroHealth System.

Anne Ramsey American actress

Angelina "Anne" Ramsey was an American actress. She is best known for her film roles as Mama Fratelli in The Goonies (1985) and as Mrs. Lift in Throw Momma from the Train (1987), the latter of which earned her nominations for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.

Danny DeVito American actor, comedian, director and producer

Daniel Michael DeVito Jr. is an American actor, comedian, director, producer, and screenwriter. He gained prominence for his portrayal of the taxi dispatcher Louie De Palma in the television series Taxi (1978–1983), which won him a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award. He plays Frank Reynolds on the FX and FXX sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2006–present).

Rhea Perlman American actress

Rhea Jo Perlman is an American actress and writer. She played head-waitress Carla Tortelli in the sitcom Cheers (1982–1993). Over the course of 11 seasons, Perlman was nominated for ten Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress – winning four times – and was nominated for a record seven Golden Globe Awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series. She has also appeared in films, including Canadian Bacon (1995), Matilda (1996), The Sessions (2012), and Poms (2019).

<i>Matilda</i> (1996 film) 1996 American fantasy film by Danny DeVito

Matilda is a 1996 American fantasy comedy film co-produced and directed by Danny DeVito, from a screenplay written by Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord. Based on Roald Dahl's 1988 novel of the same name, the film stars Mara Wilson as the title character with DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz and Pam Ferris in supporting roles. The film centers on a young genius girl named Matilda Wormwood, who develops psychokinetic abilities and uses them to deal with her disreputable family and Agatha Trunchbull, the ruthless, oppressive and tyrannical principal of Crunchem Hall Elementary School. Produced by DeVito's Jersey Films and released theatrically in the United States on August 2, 1996 by Sony Pictures Releasing through TriStar Pictures label. Critics praised DeVito's direction and faithfulness to the spirit of the source material. The film grossed $33.5 million in the United States on a $36 million budget.

<i>Duplex</i> (film) 2003 film by Danny DeVito

Duplex is a 2003 American black comedy film directed by Danny DeVito and written by Larry Doyle. The film stars Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, Eileen Essell, Harvey Fierstein, Justin Theroux, and James Remar.

Pamela Voorhees Fictional character in the Friday the 13th series

Pamela Voorhees is a fictional character and the secondary antagonist of the Friday the 13th series of horror films. She was created by Victor Miller, and first appeared in Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th (1980), played by Betsy Palmer. Pamela is the main antagonist of the first film, in which she is known only as Mrs. Voorhees, and remains an antagonistic presence in its sequels, in which she is seen mostly as a severed head or a fragment of her son's imagiation. In Friday the 13th Part III (1982), the character appears as a reanimated corpse in a hallucination, played by Marilyn Poucher. Paula Shaw played Pamela in the crossover Freddy vs. Jason (2003); according to Palmer in Friday The 13th Reunion, she was asked to reprise her role in the film, but turned it down after reading the script. Nana Visitor played Pamela in the 2009 reboot.

<i>Screwed</i> (2000 film) 2000 film by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski

Screwed is a 2000 American comedy film written and directed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. The comedy of errors stars Norm Macdonald, Dave Chappelle, Danny DeVito, Elaine Stritch, Daniel Benzali, Sarah Silverman, and Sherman Hemsley. The film was released by Universal Pictures and has garnered a cult following in recent years.

<i>Strangers on a Train</i> (novel) 1950 psychological thriller novel by Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a Train (1950) is a psychological thriller novel by Patricia Highsmith about two men whose lives become entangled after one of them proposes they "trade" murders.

"Mama From the Train", also known as "Mama From the Train ", is a popular song written by Irving Gordon and published in 1956. The song is about memories of a now-deceased mother, whose Pennsylvania Dutch-influenced English leads to quaint phrasings.

<i>Dont Torture a Duckling</i> 1972 film directed by Lucio Fulci

Don't Torture a Duckling is a 1972 Italian giallo film directed by Lucio Fulci, starring Florinda Bolkan, Tomas Milian, and Barbara Bouchet. The plot follows a detective investigating a series of child murders in an insular village in Southern Italy whose residents are riddled with superstition and mistrust. The film's score was composed by Riz Ortolani and features vocals by Ornella Vanoni.

<i>Personal Property</i> (film) 1937 film by W. S. Van Dyke

Personal Property is a 1937 American romantic comedy film starring Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor and directed by W.S. Van Dyke. It is based on the play The Man in Possession by H. M. Harwood which had previously been made into a film The Man in Possession by MGM. It was the last film released with Harlow in it during her lifetime.

Danny DeVito filmography

American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter, Danny DeVito has been active in film since the 1970s. One of his early notable roles was as Martini in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1975 alongside Jack Nicholson. In the 70s and 80s, he appeared in Car Wash (1976), Terms of Endearment (1983), Romancing the Stone (1984) and its sequel The Jewel of the Nile (1985), Ruthless People (1986), Throw Momma from the Train (1987), Twins (1988), The War of the Roses (1989). In 1992, he was cast in the role of the villain Penguin with Michael Keaton's Batman in Batman Returns. In the 90's, he starred in Renaissance Man (1994), and co-starred in the films Get Shorty with Gene Hackman (1995), Matilda with wife Rhea Perlman, which he also directed and produced. He played George Shapiro in 1999's Man on the Moon opposite Jim Carrey, who played Andy Kauffman, a real-life friend of DeVito's.

<i>Night Must Fall</i> (1937 film) 1937 film by Richard Thorpe

Night Must Fall is a 1937 American film adaptation of the 1935 play by Emlyn Williams, adapted by John Van Druten and directed by Richard Thorpe. It stars Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell and Dame May Whitty in her Hollywood film debut at age 72. She reprised her role in the stage drama in London and New York City. A critical success, Night Must Fall was named the best film of the year by the National Board of Review.

<i>Strangers in the Night</i> (film) 1944 film by Anthony Mann

Strangers in the Night is a 1944 American film noir mystery film directed by Anthony Mann and starring William Terry, Virginia Grey and Helene Thimig.

Lawrence Ira "Larry" Brezner was an American film producer, most notable for producing films such as Good Morning, Vietnam, Throw Momma from the Train, and Ride Along.

Giorgio Lopez is an Italian actor and voice actor.

References

  1. Maslin, Janet (December 11, 1987). "Throw Momma from the Train". The New York Times .
  2. Gardner, Eriq (January 29, 2015). "Two Men Inspired By 'Throw Momma from the Train' Fail To Get Away With Murder". The Hollywood Reporter . Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  3. Bailey, Jason (January 14, 2015). "David Fincher, 'Strangers on a Train,' and the Tricky Business of Remaking Hitchcock". Flavorwire . Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  4. Rotten Tomatoes

Further reading