Director Franco Zeffirelli did a castration job on Endless Love, reducing Scott Spencer’s 1979 best-seller about the nature of sexual obsession to a soggy teenage romance between a 17-year-old Chicago boy, David (Martin Hewitt) and a 15-year-old girl, Jade Butterfield (Brooke Shields).
Jade’s father, Hugh (Don Murray) cannot abide what is going on between the young lovers, especially when David all but takes up residence in his daughter’s boudoir, and banishes him from the house for a month.
Desperate to see his girlfriend, David sets fire to the house, planning to ‘rescue’ the family from the blaze. Things go wrong, the house burns to the ground, David confesses his crime and is sent to a correctional institute for a couple of years. He then unintentionally brings about Hugh’s death and is once again hauled off by the cops.
The brief love scenes between the youngsters were reduced to the level of a TV commercial for a body fragrance thus eliminating the key motivation from the novel in which the love scenes were graphically described.
The performances were mostly convincing, with Shields appearing suitably love-struck, although demonstrating an annoying trait of smiling too much.
Shirley Knight (as Shields’ mother, Anne) and Richard Kiley and Beatrice Straight (as Hewitt’s parents Arthur and Rose) were particularly good. Tom Cruise appears (in his first film role) in a small part, as Billy.
An inferior remake was produced in 2014.