FILM / Tying up the loose ends: Fatal Attraction is back - and this time it all goes horribly wrong. John Lyttle on the revenge of the original ending

Hollywood worships the happy ending. No matter the darkness that has gone before, the happy ending works its old white magic, invoking the promise of a better tomorrow. The symbol of the Feel Good ethos that fuels mainstream film, the happy ending is: Romance Rewarded, The Family Reunited, Virtue Triumphant, Villainy Defeated. The happy ending is proof positive of the American Dream. You do not question the American Dream.

As the director Adrian Lyne knows. The video re-release of his Fatal Attraction, complete with original ending, provides a rare opportunity to assess the pressures that keep the happy ending alive and sickening. Here is the way his Fatal Attraction was supposed to wrap: Michael Douglas has survived a big confrontation scene with Glenn Close in the latter's kitchen. The morning after, Douglas, wife Anne Archer and adorable child are sweeping up leaves. The police arrive. Douglas is taken aside and told Alex Forrest is dead.

'You think I did it,' he says.

Indeed they do. Clever Alex has cut her throat with a butcher's knife. Douglas's fingerprints are all over the handle like a bad rash. Off he's driven, presumably to fry. It would have been interesting to see how feminist critics, angered by the notorious alternative ending - lunatic interloper Alex is despatched and the nuclear unit reconstituted - would have reacted to this even-handed yet ambiguous finale.

Test audiences - and Paramount Studios - hated it. Both parties loathed the next ending even more; Archer discovers Alex Forrest's threatening audio tape inside her husband's Filofax. She plays the tape - and damned if Alex doesn't broadcast her intention to commit suicide. 'Thank God,' gasps Archer. 'Oh hell' moaned the masses.

Lyne favoured scriptwriter James Dearden's first impressions. But, as in the case the end-changing writer played by Richard E Grant in Robert Altman's The Player, self-preservation carried the day. 'When I read Dearden's script I thought, this is wonderful. This is black. It's Hitchcockian. But I think if you spend two hours getting an audience to sympathise with and enjoy a family, to then abandon that family at the end of the movie and say 'That's it', it just doesn't work . . . I think the ending that we went with in the end was the best way of going. It was the most satisfying dramatically for the movie.' As Grant explains in The Player, justifying the elimination of 'reality' from his wannabe blockbuster thriller: 'What about the way the ending tested in Kanoga Park? They hated it. We re-shot it. Now everybody loves it. That's reality.'

Lyne is not the first director to bow to the inevitable. Hollywood history is littered with examples of re-edited endings, from the earliest flirtations with preview cards to the present-day dominance of the marketing departments. As far back as the Thirties, MGM's Irving Thalberg could declaim, 'Movies are not made. Movies are re-made.' The movies were re-made in the image of the Russian-Jewish immigrant moguls who ruled the studio system. The ex-furriers, junkmen and shoemakers who made it big, as the author Neal Gabler records in An Empire of Their Own, 'created an image of their adopted country out of their own idealism, a vision that proved so powerful that it shaped the myths, values, traditions and archetypes of America itself'.

Such wishful thinking, harnessed to the Draconian strictures of the Motion Picture Production Code - 'the sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld' - soon trained consumers worldwide to believe that the best invariably happens.

Even for Frankenstein. Universal's original conclusion had the Baron burnt alive along with his creation. Too downbeat. The new ending, calculated to spread a little sunshine, had the mad scientist's father toasting the rescue of his heir: 'Here's to a son to the House of Frankenstein]' Continuity, like sequel- potential, counts. Not even genius was spared trite moralising. Orson Welles's masterpiece, The Magnificent Ambersons, the sombre story of a wealthy family losing its fortune and influence, was re-cut by RKO so the clan accepted its fall from grace and extracted a life-lesson from ruin.

RKO was 'protecting' its investment. It was likewise 'protecting' Cary Grant's image when it wooed the star back for re-takes on Hitchcock's Suspicion. Eager to portray a cold-blooded killer, Grant had agreed to poison Joan Fontaine and then, whistling cheerfully, to post her last letter, unaware that it names him as her murderer. Exhibitors' protests dictated otherwise. Turns out Joan's been imagining that her co-star's a sociopath. He's loved her all along, the big goose.

And then there's self-censorship: no one protested about Billy Wilder's big Double Indemnity pay-off - except Billy Wilder. Having spent dollars 150,000 of Paramount's money building a replica of Folsom prison's gas chamber to asphyxiate Fred MacMurray, Wilder decided the scene was 'too strong'. MacMurray would instead stagger from Edward G Robinson's office, bleeding to death. Not exactly happy, true, but at least MacMurray didn't actually croak on screen. 'I don't think audiences would have stood for it,' Wilder said. 'That sort of thing wasn't acceptable until the Sixties.'

Vietnam, political assassination, the Permissive Society and Watergate brought the temporary triumph of the crappy ending. Bonnie and Clyde went down in a hail of bullets and blood. So did The Wild Bunch and Easy Rider's counter-culture heroes. The American Dream as American Nightmare.

But old habits - and cultural imperatives - die hard. By the dawn of Reagan's New Morning in America, the happy ending was back, cinema devoting itself once again to Entertainment, with High Priest Steven Spielberg presiding at the altar. Come 1982 the sci-fi sentimentality of ET held sway, one reason why Ridley Scott's chilly Blade Runner, released the same year, flopped. Test audiences detested Scott's first ending: Harrison Ford realises he too is an artificial life form, doomed to perish in four years, like his beloved Sean Young. Suddenly, this: Ford, a 'replicant' no longer, relates that Young is - wait for it - the latest replicant model, complete with normal life-span (something the creatures' creator has already said is impossible). 'I should think our alternative ending will be accepted,' Scott predicted. Wrong.

And a decade later? The recession echoes the mood of the Great Depression, the hey-day of twinkling Shirley Temple. Despite of, or maybe because of, Aids, race conflict and a rocketing divorce rate, the US's appetite for Happy Endings has never been more voracious. In fact, even if the movie is called Dying Young, audiences are sure to complain that it's about, gee, dying young. Which is why Julia Roberts assented to a 'fresh' ending to her first 'adult' romance, research having revealed that ticket-buyers didn't want Julia leaving her leukemia-stricken boyfriend for a healthier suitor. So Roberts staggered back and stood by her man.

No matter. Dying Young was Julia Roberts' first box-office failure. Variety reported that she was 'not happy'.

'Fatal Attraction', with original ending, was released on CIC Video on Tuesday. 'Blade Runner', with original ending, will be shown at the National Film Theatre on 22 November as part of the London Film Festival (071-928 3232)

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
artVoted for by the public, artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried