Cher, left, and Nicolas Cage in “Moonstruck.” MGM photo

Writer John Patrick Shanley has enjoyed a long and fruitful career, that began in small off Broadway theaters and flowed up onto Broadway before his big hit “Doubt” brought him into national view.

It was “Moonstruck, ” a modern Brooklyn comedy drama brilliantly directed by Norman Jewison (“Fiddler on the Roof,” “In the Heat of the Night”), that won the 1988 Academy Award for best script by Shanley, and who stood beside him at those Oscars, but the magnificent, glowing super performer Cher, “Goddess of Pop,” who won her Oscar that night.

Cher becomes before our eyes, Loretta Castorini, floating on the edge of life as a Brooklyn widow and realist with a streak of gray in her hair and life, whose husband hit a streak of “bad luck” by getting hit by a bus.

Loretta, tied to a 10-year “engagement” with a bumbling, aging bachelor businessman Johnny Cammareri, lives in a big house in Brooklyn, with her father, a philandering plumbing supply owner, Cosmo (the great Vincent Gardenia, nominee for supporting actor) and mother (the astounding Olympia Dukakis who took Best Actress in a Supporting Role.)

Add the elderly Italian immigrant grandfather (a charismatic Feodor Chaliapin Jr.) who lives on the third floor with his six dogs. The house is full of Italian love, drama, disappointment, the aroma of hot bread and garlic, and happy endings.

It was Nicholas Cage as Johnny’s kid brother Ronny, who although nominated did not get an Golden Globe for what most critics considered his greatest film performance ever.


Cage as the erratic, choleric baker who, in this critic’s opinion, is the film’s bolt of electricity. Ronny lost the fingers on his right hand from the bread cutter, while arguing with his brother Johnny, an accident that split the brothers apart.

The movie ends, like all romantic Italian fairytales, with an oatmeal and Prosecco breakfast, and a borrowed engagement ring. Bravissimo.

But it was Shanley’s Brooklyn Italian fairy tale, written, cast and magically directed by Jewison, that cooked this simple, loving pasta into a great meal, and his greatest contribution to movies.

“Moonstruck” emerges from Hollywood’s archives to provide a pandemic viewing hit.

“Moonstruck” streams now on Hulu and AppleTV+.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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