Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 21
Working Girl Dec. 21, 1988
Working Girl Opens

With Carly Simon's anthemic "Let the River Run" scoring Melanie Griffith's Monday-morning commute from Staten Island to Wall Street, Mike Nichols' Working Girl, which opened December 21, 1988, is an upbeat fantasia celebrating female empowerment, class mobility, and the underlying soundness of our financial system. Melanie Griffith, in a delightful, star-making performance, plays a secretary in a Wall Street investment bank who, frustrated by her inability to bust out of the typing pool, impersonates a higher-level executive when her boss, played by Sigourney Weaver, has a skiing accident.  When Griffith changes her hair and adopts a more professional (i.e., more upper class) demeanor, she's accepted by other executives and her once dismissed ideas are heard. The film was a big hit, with Nichols smoothly adapting his actor-sensitive style into the mainstream of American commercial cinema.  Seen today, Griffith and the film still charm, but can such a story, in which Wall Street is the backdrop for transformational mobility, ever truly resonate again?


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December 21, 1988
Working Girl, a fable of money

Just days before Christmas, director Mike Nichols delivered Working Girl, a new brightly wrapped present of the American dream. If Oliver Stone’s 1987 Wall Street showed the greed and cruelty behind that fueled America’s financial professionals, Nichols' Working Girl gave that same capitalist dream a positive––and feminist––spin. A downtown secretary (Melanie Griffith) steals the identity of her investment banker boss (Sigourney Weaver) in order to sell a sure-fire marketing idea. But rather than being a political fable of the Man––er, Woman––keeping the hero down, like the 1980 feminist comedy Nine to Five, Working Girl was a fable of class mobility. In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin commented, "One of the many things that mark Working Girl as an 80's creation is its way of regarding business and sex as almost interchangeable pursuits and suggesting that life's greatest happiness can be achieved by combining the two," In some ways, the film serves as a counterpoint to Pretty Woman, the 1990 film that should have perhaps switched titles with Nichols' comedy. The film proved a feelgood hit, with the Carly Simon anthem "Let the River Run" going on to win the Academy Award for Best Song in 1989. Significantly, the original title to this stirring track was “The Wall Street Hymn.” While the big hair to big money story hit box office gold, the 1990 TV sitcom spun from the story was fired soon after its broadcast premiere.

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