Only the Lonely 1991

Stills From "Only the Lonely"" Courtesy of
 Twentieth Century Fox.  All rights reserved.

A 20th Century Fox Production Starring:   John Candy, Maureen O'Hara  & Ally Sheedy
with Kevin Dunn,  Milo O'Shea, Bert Remsen, Anthony Quinn, and  James Belushi

Music Composed & Directed by: Maurice Jarre, Costumes: Mary E. Vogt, Editing: Raja Gosnell, Production Designer: John Muto Directory of Photography: Tarquin Gotch, Produced by: John Hughes & Hunt Lowry, written & Directed by: Chris Columbus

(Synopsis taken from master website at

The title "Only the Lonely" definitely describes the main characters of this film. Maureen O'Hara plays an Irish widow, Rose Muldoon who possesses a "not-so- endearing' personality. She is sharp of tongue, and just a trifle bigoted. It is easy to see why Rose would be lonely and even downright unpopular! Her life consists of mothering her youngest son, Danny, a Chicago police officer, dodging the romantic advances of an old amorous neighbor, Nick, and Bingo..every Wednesday night. Patrick, the oldest son, is married and a successful lawyer. Patrick feels most comfortable having Danny there for his mother, thus taking the major burden from his shoulders. However, a very lonely Danny reaches a point where he wants to have what his brother has, a wife and children.
As Danny's Irish luck would have it, he meets a lovely, but shy and equally lonely young woman, Theresa, and they begin dating. After a rather shaky beginning, with Rose trying to break them up at every step, Danny and Theresa fall in love. Confident that Danny's romance will not blossom, mama Rose blatantly begins making plans for her and Danny to move to a condominium in Florida. Patrick's influence with the Police Commissioner is supposed to ensure a transfer for Danny to a precinct in Florida. Unfortunately, Rose and Patrick haven't bothered to consult Danny about these plans.

It would appear that Rose has lost the battle to keep her son at home with her as Danny and Theresa become engaged and lavish wedding plans unfold. Even visiting the Polish Priest prompted some cute lines when the Priest says, "I know you know it's the 90's Rose, you just don't know it's the 19-90's"! However, things do progress well, right up to and including the lively rehearsal dinner at their favorite Irish pub. It appeared Rose was ready to accept it all after making a heart-stopping toast to the couple that included..."I will not accept Theresa Luna as my daughter-in-law!.." (an astonished hush falls over the room)..Rose continues... "I will only accept her as my daughter!" With an approving hug, it would appear that all was now well.

However, after the rehearsal dinner, Danny takes Theresa home and he feels compelled to call his mother to check to see if she got home safely from the rehearsal dinner. This gives Theresa serious second thoughts wanting to compete with this kind of mother/son relationship. She questions Danny about this and then leaves, in tears. There is much anguish now for Danny and Theresa and as church and guests wait on the wedding day - both bride and groom do not show - no wedding takes place.

The conclusion of the film finds the Muldoon house empty with moving vans ready to take their belongings to Florida and Danny and Rose ready to go to the airport. A charming scene involves the romantic Nick boldly approaching Rose for a goodbye kiss. Next Danny declares his independence as he tells Rose he isn't going to Florida with her. At first she is enraged and says hurtful things to Danny. But the soft side of Rose's heart is revealed as she returns to the room in tears to hug him goodbye. (This is an incredibly nostalgic scene and very similar to a scene in "Wings of Eagles" at flight school graduation when she pins wings on Duke and then hugs him). When those huge O'Hara eyes well up with tears, there isn't a dry eye in the house.

Those tears turn to laughter, however, as director Chris Columbus decides to end the film on a note of humor. A very surprised Rose gets a traveling companion after all. The persistent Nick sneaks onboard the plane and happily takes a seat next to the love of his life. Rose is angry at first, but softens and then happily accepts his presence. Suddenly this mellow scene gives way to havoc as terrorists try to take over the plane. It is obvious that Chris Columbus wanted the legendary spirit of Maureen O'Hara to prevail. It was both Rose Muldoon
and Maureen O'Hara who capably punch out and disarms the terrorists, with Nick cheering from his seat. Alas, all is well at 30,000 feet. Even better, back down on earth Danny and Theresa are reunited and are off to New York together to be married and begin their life together.

Candid Comments:

Maureen O'Hara had been absent from the screen for over 20 years when she was coaxed out of retirement by the gifted young writer/director, Chris Columbus to do "Only the Lonely" in 1991. In fact, Columbus had so admired Maureen that he actually wrote the screenplay for her. At first, he had no idea
where she could be located, but wisely contacted her brother, Charles FitzSimons, Executive Director of the Producers Guild. Charles read the script and loved it. He quickly mailed it to Maureen who was then in Ireland.(Maureen is constantly receiving offers to make appearances and read scripts for possible production, but there are very few she will even consider worth her time). Charles was quite candid about this one. His advice to his sister? "This you do!" Maureen read the script and confirmed - "This I do!" She flew back to Los Angeles and met with the producers. She wouldn't sign on the dotted line, however, until she met John Candy. They subsequently met in Chicago and Maureen was immediately enchanted with him. Some of you may have seen her promotional appearance for the film on the Johnny Carson Show May 17, 1991. John Candy was completely in awe of Maureen and obviously very excited
about working with this film legend.

When I chatted with Maureen about the making of "Only the Lonely" she explained that the weather in Chicago was freezing which was perhaps the roughest part of the shoot. She did, of course, enjoy working again with her dear friend Anthony Quinn. Variety's review gave the film to O'Hara and Quinn because they were simply so very special they captivated their audience. Unfortunately, because of the length of the film, some really great scenes were cut. There was a moving scene where Maureen, distraught over her falling out with Danny, goes to the cemetery to ask forgiveness for ruining her son's life. Another delightful scene that didn't make the final cut was Maureen and Anthony Quinn dancing. Apparently she begins by being curt and unfriendly and slowly she warms up to him. Oh how I'd love to see the director's cut of this film.

Note: We all mourn the recent loss of actor John Candy.  Our sympathy to his family and friends. He will be missed.  He has brought us many a moment of laughter with his own special John Candy chuckle and personality.

                Essay Copyright 1998, June Parker Beck

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