Happy Birthday, Tess!
Working Girl, the delicious workplace romantic comedy starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver, is 30 years old, and what better way to celebrate this ode to making it in cutthroat New York City business than a free screening of the film at Staten Island’s St. George Theatre tonight. And to sweeten the deal: there’s going to be an ’80s hair-teasing station!
Griffith plays Tess McGill, a secretary who commutes to Manhattan from Staten Island to a finance firm full of sleazy men. When she starts working for a WASPy female executive (Weaver) who promises to help her succeed, Tess discovers the opportunity isn’t what it seems and takes her career into her own hands.
Tess also has a terrible boyfriend (played by Alec Baldwin), an amazing, supportive best friend, played by the inimitable Joan Cusack, and an intrigued new work colleague, in the form of Harrison Ford.
In the Hollywood Reporter’s oral history about the making of Working Girl, costume designer Ann Roth revealed that the secretary fashion that Griffith’s and Cusack’s characters wear was very authentic:
Tess lives in Staten Island, and if you sat at the foot of the ferry when it dumped everybody off, that’s what it looked like. We did not tone it up or tone it down. We did the real thing, not a Hollywood version. Some of Melanie’s wardrobe I bought in the ground floor of the World Trade Center. There were shops down there. I knew what kind of salary she had, so the clothes were secretarial in that way. It represented the New York working class in the ’80s, plus a little bit of Wall Street with Sigourney’s character.
Cusack also revealed that director Mike Nichols “gave such brilliant direction, like when we got off the ferry, he said, ‘Be thinking something in your head. That’s what people do as they walk off a boat, they think about their day or their life.'”
She added, “We worked with Roy Helland, the hair and makeup artist who has been Meryl Streep’s artist forever and ever. He bleached the ends of my hair so it looked like it was burnt. It was so creative. He also said the teasing should take only as long as the ferry ride, so it took 20 minutes and that was my real hair. I always felt like it was like a Kabuki mask — it came on and instantly you were transformed.”
The movie also features a brief appearance from up-and-coming actor of the time Kevin Spacey, playing a coke-snorting, handsy bro:
“It’s a strange coincidence that Kevin’s now ostracized because of his actions, his sexual proclivity or whatever,” Grffith told the Hollywood Reporter. “In Working Girl, I jump out of the car because of his [character’s] sexual advances. There are millions of women who had that experience, and that’s why so many women love that movie and to this day tell me how we changed their lives.”
There’s a Working Girl musical in the works, and Cyndi Lauper has been working on the music for it.
Working Girl is screening at the St. George Theatre (just two blocks from the St. George ferry terminal) at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m. Admission is free.