The 1980s was the decade of raunchy teen comedies. Film franchises such as Porky’s and Revenge of the Nerds ruled supreme, alongside standalone efforts such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Private School. Unusual among the deluge of films in that vein was 1985’s Secret Admirer, starring C. Thomas Howell, Kelly Preston and Lori Loughlin.
The movie’s basic plot was simple enough: Loughlin’s Toni is the bookish friend to Howell’s Michael, and she sends him an unsigned love note. He convinces himself the letter is from Preston’s Debbie, who everyone in school goes gaga for – but she only dates college students, so he tries to win her over using love letters of his own, which the faithful Toni rewrites as she realizes they’re terrible. Howell, and to a lesser extent Preston, were huge stars throughout the decade, but their careers somehow fizzled out as they grew up and were no longer teenagers. Loughlin, meanwhile, found greater success on television the following decade.
Revisiting Secret Admirer and its production is fascinating today, as we examine a film that was unavoidably a product of the time in which it was made. Sure, it seems dated now, with its ridiculous eighties vernacular, but it has tons of heart and its characters – even the villains – are never one-note caricatures. Read on to discover how the stars have fared once the eighties were over, and how this unassuming teen comedy got someone into some very hot water in their home country.
[post_page_title]C. Thomas Howell – then[/post_page_title]
As the male lead, Michael first pines for his high school’s belle Debbie without seeing the treasure right in front of his eyes – his best friend Toni – until it’s almost too late. When he gets that first anonymous love letter, he believes – or hopes – it’s from Debbie and writes her back, only he’s not great at the whole writing thing. The role was perfectly cast with C. Thomas Howell bringing into the fold the right mix of wide-eyed innocence and boyish good looks. A champion rodeo rider at 12, Howell brought kinetic energy to his roles, as seen in his breakout turn on Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders alongside Tom Cruise and Patrick Swayze.