Beaches, the emotional tale of friendship through the years, celebrates its 35th anniversary this month, and the movie and its cast still manages to make us cry now just as much as it did back then. The 1988 drama featured powerhouse performances from Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey and introduced us to the beautiful ballad “Wind Beneath My Wings,” which would become one of Midler’s signature songs.
While Beaches wasn’t particularly well-reviewed (many critics found the story to be cliche), it became a big hit with audiences, and many women saw their struggles and joys reflected in Midler and Hershey’s onscreen friendship. Beaches is the kind of movie you can watch over and over. Whenever you need a good cry, it’s there for you, in all its ’80s glory.
Beaches cast then and now
Here’s a look at what Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, along with their young onscreen counterparts and co-stars, have been up to in recent years.
Bette Midler as C.C. Bloom
Bette Midler played Cecilia Carol “C.C.” Babcock, an actress and singer. “Wind Beneath My Wings” became her biggest hit. Surprisingly Midler was hesitant about singing it at first because she thought it was too sentimental, but over time she developed a new appreciation for the ballad, saying “As the years have gone by, I revised my opinion because I could see how moving it was.”
Midler first came onto the scene as a stage actress, and performed in the Broadway production of Fiddler On The Roof from 1966 to 1970. She then built up a following performing at the Continental Baths, an infamous gay hangout, and released her debut album in 1972.
The multitalented singer/actress/comedian then broke into the movie world, starring in The Rose as a Janis Joplin-inspired rock star. She received an Oscar nomination for the role. In the ’80s, she acted in films like Jinxed!, Down and Out in Beverly Hills and Ruthless People. The ’90s brought roles in perennial favorites like Hocus Pocus and The First Wives Club, and she had a short-lived sitcom, Bette, in 2000.
Now 78, Midler has won Grammy, Emmy and Tony awards, and continues to delight audiences on stage and screen. In 2022, she starred in the long-awaited sequel to Hocus Pocus. She most recently acted in the 2023 movie Sitting in Bars With Cake, which has a similar premise to Beaches.
Mayim Bialik as young C.C. Bloom
Mayim Bialik was fated to play a younger version of Bette Midler’s character. In an interview, she revealed that when she first started acting as a child in the ’80s, her parents sent out a letter to prospective talent agents likening her to Bette.
Prior to her Beaches breakout, the young actress appeared in episodes of Beauty and the Beast and The Facts of Life. She worked steadily through the late ’80s and early ’90s, appearing in Webster, Murphy Brown, Molloy, MacGyver and Doogie Howser, M.D. From 1990 to 1995, she starred as the title character in the popular teen sitcom Blossom. After the show ended, she continued to be a TV regular, showing up in 7th Heaven, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bones and more.
Outside of acting, Bialik, now 48, received a doctorate in neuroscience in 2007, and her impressive smarts led to her role as neuroscientist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory and her former gig as host of Jeopardy! along with Ken Jennings.
Barbara Hershey as Hillary Whitney in the Beaches cast then and now
Barbara Hershey played Hillary Whitney, a lawyer and C.C.’s lifelong BFF. Hershey had a fascinating career trajectory from counterculture hippie to acclaimed mainstream actress, and began acting with TV appearances in the late ’60s, and roles in movies like With Six You Get Eggroll, Last Summer, The Baby Maker and Boxcar Bertha (one of the great director Martin Scorsese‘s early films) early on.
Hershey acted in a selection of TV movies in the ’70s, and her profile rose in the ’80s with roles in acclaimed films like The Right Stuff, The Natural, Hannah and Her Sisters, Hoosiers and The Last Temptation of Christ (also directed by Scorsese, she memorably played Mary Magdalene).
In the ’90s, she appeared on TV in Return to Lonesome Dove and the last season of Chicago Hope, and acted in movies like Falling Down, A Dangerous Woman, The Pallbearer, The Portrait of a Lady (which earned her an Oscar nomination) and Breakfast of Champions. Her success continued into the ’00s, with supporting roles in Black Swan and Insidious. Now 75, Hershey most recently appeared in a 2023 episode of the sci-fi series Beacon 23.
Marcie Leeds as young Hilary Whitney
Marcie Leeds had her best-known role as the young version of Hillary. Prior to Beaches, the child actress appeared in the movies Near Dark, Heaven and Earth and Out of the Dark. She then acted in seven episodes of Beauty and the Beast and appeared as a young Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend on an episode of Parenthood in 1990.
Her final acting credit came that same year when she acted in the miniseries Vendetta: Secrets of a Mafia Bride. After that, she left acting behind and ultimately pursued a career in the medical field. Now 46, Leeds currently works as a surgeon.
John Heard as John Pierce in the Beaches cast then and now
John Heard played John Pierce, an experimental theater director and the love interest of both C.C. and Hillary. Heard worked steadily from the ’70s to the ’00s, racking up nearly 200 screen credits.
Starting out in the theater, Heard then made his film debut in Between the Lines in 1977. A few years later, he received acclaim for his performance as a physically and psychologically wounded Vietnam veteran in the 1981 film Cutter’s Way. He also appeared in popular films like Cat People and Big prior to Beaches. In the ’90s, Heard became known for playing Macauley Culkin‘s dad in Home Alone and its sequel. Other noteworthy credits include Awakenings, In the Line of Fire and The Pelican Brief, and an Emmy-nominated five-episode run as a detective in The Sopranos.
Sadly, Heard died at age 71 in 2017.
Lainie Kazan as Leona Bloom in the Beaches cast then and now
Lainie Kazan played C.C.’s mother, Leona Bloom. She first made her mark as an actress and singer with her Broadway debut in the 1961 musical The Happiest Girl in the World. With her wonderful tonality, she became Barbra Streisand’s understudy for the lead role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl.
Kazan has appeared in a long list of film and TV projects over the decades, including One From the Heart, My Favorite Year, St. Elsewhere, The Nanny, Will & Grace and Touched by an Angel, to name just a few.
In the ’00s, Kazan had a string of noteworthy roles including appearances in the Adam Sandler comedy You Don’t Mess With the Zohan and the Jennifer Lopez/Ben Affleck vehicle Gigli. Her role as the hilarious mom in My Fat Greek Wedding and its sequels brought her a new legion of fans. Now 83, Kazan has recently acted in shows like Fuller House, Chicago Med and Young Jedi Adventures. She’s also taught acting at UCLA.
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