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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Bodyguard - Whitney Houston's Finest

February 11, 2012 was a very sad day in the music industry, as we said goodbye to Whitney Houston, who died at the age of 48.

Although we don’t know the exact cause of death, we do know that at around half past three on the afternoon of February 11, she was found submerged in a bathtub in a Beverly Hills, California hotel room.  Paramedics tried to revive her, but were unsuccessful, and just before four in the afternoon, Whitney Houston was pronounced dead at the scene.
There has been a lot of speculation surrounding her death.  It was no secret that she had a lot of personal demons inside her life.  A tumultuous and stormy marriage with New Edition singer Bobby Brown, as well as repeated drug and alcohol abuse certainly tarnished Whitney’s later life and career.  A lot of people are convinced that these addictions ultimately caused her death.  I admit that as far as I know, it's a definite possibility.  However,  I don’t really want to use this blog to speculate on something that I don't know the facts on.  There are other gossip blogs and news outlets that will do that for us.  I really want to use this space to talk about Whitney in a positive sense.  I’d rather remember her back when she was at her prime, with a voice that most could only dream of having, and not for the bad choices she made in her later years.

I have always enjoyed Whitney Houston’s music.  Right from her self-titled debut album that came out in 1985, I always seemed to remember growing up with her music.  “The Greatest Love Of All” has always been my favourite Whitney Houston song, but there are so many others to choose from.  “So Emotional” was also a decent track back in the day, as was “Saving All My Love For You”.  And, I readily admit that “I’m Your Baby Tonight” remains my favourite Whitney Houston guilty pleasure.

It’s unfortunate that in later years, her music took a backseat to the scandal and pain that she faced.  I know that everyone has to die sometime in this world, but for her to die in this way...while some believed it was inevitable, I don't think anyone wanted her life to end this way.
Today is Monday, and Monday is the day of the week when I feature a movie in a theme day I call the Monday Matinee.  And I can’t think of a better way to honour the life of Whitney Houston by selecting a movie that she starred in.  The film I’ve chosen to spotlight is a film which marked Whitney Houston’s debut in a motion picture as an actress.  Although the film received mixed reviews, and earned some Razzie nominations, the film’s soundtrack remains the highest selling movie soundtrack of all time. We’ll get to that a bit later, but for now, have a listen to one of the songs from that soundtrack, to get us in the mood.

The movie for today is the 1992 film “The Bodyguard”.  The film starred Whitney Houston as Rachel Marron, an Oscar-nominated actress/singer who happens to have a stalker, threatening to kill her.  She is assigned a bodyguard named Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner), who attempts to protect Rachel at all costs. 

The screenplay for “The Bodyguard” was drafted by screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan.  It was originally written back in the mid-1970s, and plans to turn the screenplay into a motion picture began as early as 1976.  The film was supposed to star Steve McQueen and Diana Ross in the roles of Frank and Rachel respectively, but the film project fell apart after McQueen refused to take second billing to Diana Ross.  A second attempt at starting up the film project took place three years later in 1979.  Diana Ross was still considered for the role of Rachel, but this time Ryan O’Neal was cast as Frank.  But again, the project fell through because O’Neal and Ross reportedly did not get along with each other.
The project was again resurrected in late 1991/early 1992, and according to the Internet Movie Database, Madonna was initially considered for the role of Rachel.  However, since Madonna’s sole film credit in 1992 was “A League Of Their Own”, one can assume she chose that film instead. 

But that was fine.  Whitney Houston was chosen to play alongside Kevin Costner, and she managed to make quite an impact in the role of Rachel right from the beginning.  And, from the first impression that we got of Rachel, we could see that she really was a ‘Queen of the Night’.

But, as successful and talented as Rachel Marron was, she was not invincible or immune from danger.  She had a stalker, and the stalker was getting scarier and more threatening with each passing week.  Hence the reason why Rachel needed a bodyguard.

Enter Frank Farmer, a former Secret Service agent during Ronald Reagan’s presidency who now makes a living as a bodyguard.  He is assigned to protect Rachel, who is initially not receptive.  After all, she was a big star in the middle of a huge tour, and she thought that a bodyguard would get in the way of all that.  But after a couple of instances in which Frank successfully protects Rachel from harm, Rachel changes her tune.

In fact, Rachel starts developing feelings for Frank.  And, although Rachel didn’t know it at first, Frank began to feel the same way about her.  But, unfortunately, this made Frank’s job a lot more complicated.  He tried to stay as professional as possible, but temptation gave way to professionalism, and Frank and Rachel made love.  Frank makes the decision to end the affair, believing that his feelings may have the potential to compromise Rachel’s safety.  Suffice to say, Rachel does not take this rejection very well.  She deliberately defies Frank’s orders, breaks routines, and even attempts to hit on Greg, a former co-worker of Frank’s.  But after receiving a threatening phone call from her stalker, Rachel decides that she has no choice to put her trust in Frank.  She cancels the rest of her tour dates, and the possibility of her attending the Academy Awards (where she is nominated for the Best Actress award) is in limbo.

TRIVIA:  The song up above was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, as was “Run To You”.  Both ended up losing to the song “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.  Talk about life imitating art somewhat!
Fearing for her own life, as well as the life of her son, Fletcher, Frank decides that he needs to take Rachel and hide her away until they can find out the identity of the stalker.  Rachel’s sister, Nikki, comes along to keep an eye on Rachel.

Well, at first, Nikki tries to keep an eye on Frank, openly seducing him.  Alas, Frank’s heart belongs only to Rachel, and this infuriates Nikki.  But before anyone can react, the stalker strikes again, this time placing a bomb inside of a boat that Fletcher was riding in.  Luckily, Fletcher was not injured in the blast, but Rachel is deeply shaken, especially after Nikki discovers footprints around the cabin that the group was staying at, indicating that her stalker was in the area.
The decision is made to stay at the cabin overnight, and then head off somewhere else in the morning.  However, this decision would end up spelling doom for one of the key players, as Nikki ended up getting a little too drunk and confessed her role in the stalking of Rachel.  She was the one who sent the threatening letters, and she was the one who made the scary phone calls.  But, Nikki wasn’t the one who was guilty of blowing up the boat.  It turns out that Nikki was always jealous of Rachel’s success, and in a drug-induced rage, she called up a hitman, and hired him to kill Rachel.  Everyone is shocked at Nikki’s admission, and Rachel feels incredibly betrayed.  But Nikki explained that she only hired the hitman to scare Rachel.  She never intended for anyone else to get hurt...especially Rachel’s son, Fletcher, whom Nikki adored.  But Nikki could not do anything to stop the hitman, because she didn’t know his name or what he looked like.  It was only a matter of time before the hitman came by the cabin to dispatch Rachel.  But this time, Nikki attempted to stop the man from hurting Rachel, losing her own life in the process.  

So, Rachel and Frank knew that Nikki had set the chain in motion.  Nikki was dead, but the man she hired to kill Rachel was still out there.  And with the Academy Awards fast approaching, and Rachel determined to go to the ceremony despite the danger, it becomes a race against time for Frank to discover the identity of the man Nikki hired to kill Rachel before he strikes again. 
With that, I will be ending this plot synopsis, because I never reveal movie conclusions.  But there’s a surprise twist when it comes to the reveal of our killer, and it’s an Academy Award ceremony that nobody would ever forget.  That’s all I’m going to say.

You know, I’ve seen “The Bodyguard” a couple of times, and yes, I can see why some film critics panned the movie.  There were a couple of wrinkles in the plot that could have been smoothed out, and sometimes the plot did sort of drag on.  At the same time, I thought that Whitney Houston did a fantastic job in the role.  She took what she was given and certainly delivered.  It really was a treat to watch Whitney in action on “The Bodyguard”.  It was like watching her at her very best.

And now, she's gone.  With her death comes people sharing their memories of Whitney, much like I'm doing with this blog entry.  
When the 54th Grammy Awards ceremony aired on February 12, 2012, host LL Cool J opened up the show with a tribute to Whitney Houston, as well as a prayer for her.  It was very poignant, and it really showed just how much of an impact that Whitney really had in the world of music.  Between LL Cool J's opening monologue, and the special tribute performed by Jennifer Hudson, it was simple, but memorable.

Through the number of albums and singles she has released over the years, she continues to inspire and influence future artists, and I am sure that years after her death, she will still be cited as one of the most influential female artists of all time. 

After all, as I eluded to earlier at the beginning of this blog entry, the soundtrack album for “The Bodyguard” remains the best selling soundtrack for a major motion picture.  Ever.  Since the soundtrack's release in late 1992, it has sold more than 44 million copies worldwide.
Whitney Houston recorded six songs for the album (some of which you have heard throughout this blog entry).  Five were released as singles, three were Top 5 singles (of which one hit the top position), and two received Oscar nominations.  The soundtrack album also netted Houston several awards, including three Grammy awards, and a slew of American Music Awards.  And that is only scratching the surface of how successful the soundtrack was.

Other artists featured on the soundtrack included Lisa Stansfield, Curtis Stigers, The S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M., Kenny G, Joe Cocker, and Sass Jordan.  And, I’m sure that each of those artists must also have felt some joy in being a part of the biggest selling soundtrack of all time.

But, really, Whitney Houston was the driving force behind the success of “The Bodyguard”, both the film and the soundtrack.  And, I guess if I had to pick one song that represents the success of the movie and film, it would be the one song that I am closing this blog entry with.

It was a song that wasn’t a Whitney Houston original.  The original artist to sing this song was country singer Dolly Parton, way back in 1974.  It was a huge hit on the country charts that year, and in 1982, a new version was recorded for Dolly’s movie “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas”, which also did well on the charts.

And, here was Whitney’s version, recorded in November 1992.

ARTIST:  Whitney Houston
SONG:  I Will Always Love You
ALBUM:  The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album
DATE RELEASED:  November 3, 1992

By the end of November, it had reached #1 on the Billboard charts.  The song stayed on the top of the charts for fourteen weeks total, from November 1992 to March 1993, and it became Whitney Houston’s most successful single. 
But did you know that it wasn’t initially considered to be a part of “The Bodyguard” soundtrack at first?  Initially, the plan was for Whitney to re-record the song “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted”, originally recorded by Jimmy Ruffin.  Problem was that the song had just been recorded by Paul Young for the 1991 film “Fried Green Tomatoes”.  So, “I Will Always Love You” was substituted in place, and know the rest of the story. 

And, you know...I think it’s the perfect song to demonstrate what many of us must be feeling about the legacy, songs and talent that Whitney Houston brought us in her 48 years on this earth.  Regardless of all the questionable choices and self-destructive tendencies that plagued her, people still love her for the gift of music that she provided to fans all over the world for nearly three decades.
Even Dolly Parton had this to say about Whitney Houston just hours after her death had been announced.  “I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song, and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart...Whitney, I will always love you.  You will be missed.”

I think that just goes to show just how much of an impact that she really had in the recording industry, for so many to speak so fondly of her.

Whitney Elizabeth Houston

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