The film was released in July 1981 and received negative reviews, with critics comparing it unfavourably to the novel. Spencer disliked it, believing the filmmakers to have missed the point of the book. The film was a moderate box-office success, and its theme song, performed by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie and also called "Endless Love", became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It spent nine weeks at #1 and received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for "Best Original Song," along with five Grammy nominations.
In suburban Chicago, teenagers Jade Butterfield and David Axelrod fall in love after they are introduced by Jade's brother Keith. Jade's family is known in their community for a bohemian lifestyle, allowing them to develop an all-consuming and passionate relationship; including allowing the two to make love in Jade's bedroom. In contrast to the openness of her family, David's home life is dull; his parents are wealthy political activists who have little interest in their son's life.
One night, Jade's mother Ann sneaks downstairs, and upon seeing Jade and David make love by the fireplace, starts living through them vicariously. Jade's father Hugh, however, watches the couple with increasing unease. Jade's nightly trysts begin negatively impacting her grades and her ability to sleep. She attempts to steal one of her father's prescription sleeping pills but is caught in the act. This is the last straw for Hugh and he insists David stop seeing Jade until the end of the school term in 30 days. Although David initially causes a scene, Ann gently coaxes him into agreeing, telling him not to let Hugh "do something he'll regret".
Back at school, David's friend Billy tells him that when he was eight years old he tried burning a pile of newspapers and after he became scared, put the fire out, only to find his parents think he was a hero for saving the house from burning. Inspired by this story, David starts a fire on the Butterfields' front porch and walks away briefly but by the time he returns, the flame has spread too far. He rushes to warn the family but he is too late, the entire house is lost.
Following the trial, David is convicted of second-degree arson, sentenced to five years probation, sent to a mental hospital for evaluation, and is forbidden from ever going near Jade or her family again. Nevertheless, he continues to write her daily, but his letters are not sent due to the court order to not contact Jade. His parents pull strings to have him released early, much to Hugh's chagrin. David receives his many letters upon his exit, and upon realizing why Jade never wrote back, decides to pursue her even though he knows full well that it will violate his parole.
In the meantime, following the loss of their home, the Butterfield family has moved from Chicago to Manhattan, and Ann and Hugh divorce. In Manhattan, Ann tries to seduce David, but he refuses which leaves her rather nonplussed. When Ann isn't looking, David thumbs through her address book to see where Jade is. On his way over, Hugh sees David on the street and while chasing him, is hit by a car and killed. Hugh's new wife Ingrid Orchester, catches up to the scene just in time to witness David flee.
Later, Jade goes to David's apartment to say goodbye but he pulls her back as she tries to leave, throwing her on the bed and forcefully holding her down until she admits she loves him, which she eventually does. Keith comes home to find the pair together again and angrily informs Jade that David is at fault for their father's death. Jade refuses to believe it at first but when David confirms it she becomes horrified and hides behind Keith, whom David then shoves out of the way in a desperate bid to grab her. Keith fights him off until the police arrive and arrest David.
Sentenced to prison, David seems doomed never to see Jade again. Jade tells her mother at her father's lakeside funeral that no one will ever love her the way David does, and Ann speaks her understanding and approval. The final scene shows David watching Jade walk towards him through his barred cell window.
Endless Love is based on Scott Spencer's 1979 novel of the same name. The film is directed by Franco Zeffirelli and written by Judith Rascoe. The film stars Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt in the two leading roles. It is also the film debut of Hewitt, Tom Cruise, Jami Gertz, Jeff Marcus and Ian Ziering. The film was shot in 1980 on location in Chicago, New York City, and Long Island.
The MPAA awarded the initial cut of Endless Love an X rating. Director Franco Zeffirelli subsequently made several cuts in the love scenes between Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt to achieve a lower rating. The film was re-submitted to the MPAA five times before they awarded it an R rating.
The novel and film differ in several respects. The novel begins with David burning down the Butterfields' house in 1967. The death of Hugh takes place near the end of the film, but only in the middle of the novel. After that, in the novel Jade and David reunite and live together in Vermont for several months before he is re-arrested. Then David is held in psychiatric hospitals for several years, during which time Jade marries and moves to Europe and David has sexual relationships with several other women. At the end of the novel, it is 1977 and David is released and living with an unnamed woman while Jade remains married and in Europe.
The film's theme song, written by Lionel Richie and performed by Richie and Diana Ross and also called "Endless Love", became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and was the biggest-selling single in Ross' career. Billboard magazine chose it as "The Best Duet of All Time" in 2011, 30 years after its debut. It spent 9 weeks at #1 and received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for "Best Original Song", along with 5 Grammy nominations. The soundtrack peaked at #9 on the Billboard Top 200 and was certified platinum. It also featured a second duet between Ross and Richie, "Dreaming of You," that received considerable airplay but was never released as a single.
The film received mostly negative reviews on release. Roger Ebert compared the film unfavourably with the novel, describing Martin Hewitt as miscast and criticising the narrative, though he did praise Brooke Shields performance. Janet Maslin in The New York Times wrote: "There are two sorts of people who'll be going to see Endless Love - those who have read the richly imaginative novel on which the movie is based and those who have not. There will be dismay in the first camp, but it may be nothing beside the bewilderment in the second."
In 2014, Scott Spencer, the author of the novel on which the film was based, wrote, "I was frankly surprised that something so tepid and conventional could have been fashioned from my slightly unhinged novel about the glorious destructive violence of erotic obsession". Spencer described the film as a "botched" job and wrote that Franco Zeffirelli "egregiously and ridiculously misunderstood" the novel.
The film premiere for Endless Love took place on 16 July 1981 at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City. The film was released the next day. Despite the poor critical reception, the film was a box office success. It made $4,163,623 on its opening weekend and went on to gross $31,184,024 in total, becoming the twenty-second highest earning film domestically in 1981. Internationally, the film took in a further $1,308,650 bringing its total worldwide gross to $32,492,674.Main awardsWinner:
1981 ASCAP Award, Lionel Richie, Endless LoveNominee:
1982 Academy Award for Best Song, Lionel Richie, Endless LoveWinner:
1982 American Movie Award, Marquee Award, Lionel Richie, Endless LoveNominee:
1982 Golden Globe Award, Best Original Song - Motion Picture, Endless LoveYoung Artist AwardsNominee:
Best Young Motion Picture Actor - Martin HewittNominee:
Best Young Motion Picture Actress - Brooke Shields1981 Golden Raspberry AwardsNominee:
Worst Actress - Brooke ShieldsNominee:
Worst Director - Franco ZeffirelliNominee:
Worst New Star - Martin HewittNominee:
Worst Picture - Dyson LovellNominee:
Worst Screenplay - Judith RascoeNominee:
Worst Supporting Actress - Shirley Knight
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – Nominated2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:"Endless Love" – Nominated