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The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • The Fabulous Baker Boys, a Seattle-based duo piano lounge act performing cheesy jazz renditions of pop standards, is comprised of thirty-something brothers Frank and Jack Baker. Older Frank, married with two children, is the controlling business manager, front man and sole programmer of the playlist. Younger Jack is the carefree one without commitments to anything or anyone, including women, he who has had a long string of one night stands, most specifically with cocktail waitresses. Jack's strongest commitments are to his aging dog, Eddie, and to Nina, the lonely adolescent who lives in the apartment above his with her single, constantly dating mother. Jack's commitment to Nina is because of her unwavering commitment to him. The Baker Boys' act is becoming stale and outdated, and as such their ability to hold onto what gigs they are able to get is getting more difficult. So Frank comes up with the idea of hiring a singer to beef up the act. After thirty-seven failed auditions, they finally hire the last, the thirty-eighth auditioner, Susie Diamond, a woman one step above white trash. Despite Susie having no formal singing experience, she has just a strong enough vocal talent of the music they perform, and can sell a song largely on her stage presence and sex appeal. She is able to turn off her outward tough girl demeanor once she's on stage. Susie is initially an uneasy addition to the act, but becomes an integral part of it as the act begins getting more gigs, more lucrative ones at that. But Susie's presence not only threatens the new act, but threatens the interrelationships between all three. Frank believes the biggest threat is any sexual tension, perceived or real, between Jack and Susie. However, the biggest threat is how Susie is able to expose the fundamental rifts between the brothers, Frank whose primary goal is to put food on his family's table, while Jack's is his true musical dreams which are being stifled by the act.

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  • Frank and Jack Baker are professional musicians who play in small clubs. They perform cover tunes of music standards and have never needed a day job. Times are changing and dates are becoming more difficult to get so they interview female singers. They finally decide on Susie Diamond, a former 'escort' who needs some refinement, but the act begins to take off again. While the act is now successful, both Frank and Jack have problems with their life on the road. Susie becomes the agent that makes them re-evaluate where they are going, and how honest they have been with each other.

  • Brothers Jack and Frank Baker have been playing lounges as a piano duo for many years but decide they now need a female vocalist to keep the act going. They are lucky to come across Susie Diamond, who can really put a song over, and the act takes off. But when the relation between Susie and Jack - younger, less committed, but more talented than Frank - briefly becomes more than professional, tensions surface between all three.

  • Frank and Jack Baker are two piano players and brothers. Moreover, they play together in small pubs and clubs all over the country for 15 years. But when their business is not doing so well, they decide to join a woman to their shows. After the auditions, the best candidate they could find was Susie Diamond, and from now on their shows become very successful. But when Jack and Susie are having an affair, the fabulous Baker brothers are not getting along anymore, and the little band is about to break down.

  • The lives of two struggling musicians, who happen to be brothers, inevitably change when they team up with a beautiful, up-and-coming singer.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The film opens with Jack Baker getting dressed while a brunette, who was a one night stand, lies in bed. He is dressing in a tuxedo. She asks, "Will I see you again?" When he answers "No," she doesn't seem particularly moved one way or the other. As he leaves, she says, "You got great hands." Then, as Jack walks through the streets of Seattle, the opening credits scroll across the screen. He arrives at work with two minutes to spare. Frank, Jack's brother, is in a restroom where Jack sprays his hair with Crowning Glory's Miracle Hair to conceal his age. The brothers are a duo piano team who are currently performing at the Starfire Lounge. They have been professional performers for the past fifteen years. The first number they perform is "People." After their performance, Frank collects their pay from the hotel's young and very condescending, assistant manager, Lloyd. Jack doesn't trust Lloyd, so he tells Frank to count the money. When Jack returns to his apartment, Nina, a young girl from upstairs whose mother is always out with some guy, is attempting to play "Jingle Bells" on his piano. At the brothers' next engagement at the Capri Hotel Luau Lounge, wearing Hawaiian shirts, they play the bossa nova classic, "The Girl from Ipanema." After their performance, the club's manager, Charlie, suggests they break up. He can't use them again, he says, because they have class and most people don't want class. He needs something that will draw customers, something more up-to-date. Those comments, or criticisms, cause the brothers to consider adding a female singer to their act. At auditions to find the right singer, Monica Moran sings "Candy Man." She is clearly not what they are looking for, nor are several other auditionees who sing excerpts of "My Way," "Up, Up and Away," "Tiny Bubbles," "I Go to Rio," and "I'm So Excited." After auditioning thirty-seven girls, they are packing up when Susie Diamond stumbles in an hour and a half late. At first Frank has no intention of auditioning her, but he finally gives her a chance. She sings a soulful performance of "More Than You Know," which Jack accompanies with lush harmonies on the piano. Afterwards, she asks, "So?" (Neither Jack or Susie seem to recognize each other or remember they have slept together.) The brothers obviously were impressed because she is hired. The next scene shows Frank nervously pacing because Susie is late for their first performance together. When she arrives, Frank doesn't like the way she is dressed, so he and Jack quickly buy her a dress and shoes that they deem more appropriate. They rush back to the Hilton Hotel Ambassador Lounge, where Susie, after some microphone problems and the brothers getting her started by singing the verse, sings "Ten Cents a Dance," which is a very appropriate song for Susie considering some of her former jobs. Next a montage shows Susie and the boys performing "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" in one lounge after another. The crowds are more enthusiastic at each venue. By the end of the montage, we see a new cardboard stand-up with Susie's name and picture added to that of the brothers. When Jack goes to a club alone to get away from his brother, he hears a jazz trio play "Lullaby Of Birdland." By Christmas, when Jack asks to walk Susie home, she tells him a relationship would not work with them having to work together every night. The trio gets a booking at a swanky resort hotel. The first night, Frank is awakened at 2 a.m. by the blare of big band music coming from Susie's side of the suite ("Perdido"). At their first performance at the hotel, Susie sings "The Look of Love" for dancing. Later that evening, the three performers celebrate their success on the terrace of their suite. Frank, who is getting drunk, hears a recording of "Moonglow," which causes him to reminisce about Jack teaching him to dance. As a result of Jack's dance lessons, he got a wife and children. When Frank finally goes to bed, Jack and Susie dance to the song. Soon friction arises. Frank complains about Jack's incessant smoking, but he is really upset because of his brother's growing relationship with Susie. Frank warns him to leave her alone. Later, they argue about what music to play. Frank gets a call from his wife that Little Frank is ill and he is needed at home. Before he leaves, he gives explicit instructions about what Jack and Susie are to perform while he is away. Once he leaves, while Jack is on the balcony smoking, we hear a recording of the Duke Ellington Orchestra playing "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me." During this time, Susie is seen smelling his aftershave lotion in his bathroom. Then a little later, she sees him checking out her perfume (there is also a bubble bath scene where Jack catches Susie when she slips on the sudsy floor, but that was omitted from the version viewed). Their next performance is New Year's Eve. Susie and Jack perform "Makin' Whoopee" (Eddie Cantor's original version was much more sarcastic than Miss Pfeiffer's). She sings the song, which warns about the dangers of married life, from on top of Jack's grand piano and sings part of the lyric directly to Jack. She ends the number by sitting on the piano bench beside him. After the countdown to midnight, she kisses him. Later that evening (or early morning), Susie and Jack are the only ones left in the room. As she talks about her former job as an escort, he begins to massage her shoulders, then, unzips her dress and rubs her back. After a passionate kiss, he lays her on a table (sexual activity is certainly implied, but not seen). Back home from their engagement at the resort, Frank, Jack and Susie meet at a diner to discuss future bookings. While Susie and Frank argue about potential places to play and song selections, Jack sits silently. When Susie walks out, Jack suggests that Frank loosen her leash. Later, Susie finds Jack playing jazz in a dingy night club. He never notices her; he is lost in the music and is playing much more expressively. When he returns to his apartment, Susie is sitting on the steps waiting for him. Early the next morning, Susie is dressing to sneak out, but Nina comes through the window to take Jack's dog out for his morning walk. Susie finds an old photograph of Jack and Frank. The photo was taken when they were much younger and they are holding a bottle of liquor towards the camera. By this time Jack is awake and tells her the photo was taken at their first professional gig. She says she came by to tell him she has been thinking about leaving the act. Some guy wants her to sing commercial jingles. Showing no feelings at all, Jack encourages her to take the job. He says they can always find another girl. At their next performance at the Hilton Old America Lounge, they perform "Feelings." Susie quits in the middle of the song; she says she just can't sing it anymore. Later, when she tells Jack she quit, just like before, he seems unfazed. She accuses him of being cold and uncaring about anything. She also tells him she saw him playing jazz at the dingy night club; "dusting off his dreams," she called it. As she turns to walk away, she calls him a coward. Frank booked the piano duo for a telethon because, he said, it would be good publicity. However, the telethon is on a small station and they are performing at 3 a.m. Just as they start to play, the telethon M.C. interrupts to announce an updated total. Jack explodes, charges the M.C. and walks out of the studio. Frank accuses him of being unprofessional and lauds himself as being the responsible one. They also argue about Susie, especially that Jack and she slept together (more explicit language was used). Their argument escalates into a fight where Jack almost breaks Frank's finger. Then before Frank can protest, Jack turns away and disappears into the night. On the way back to his apartment, Jack stops in a diner. The waitress is Monica, who sings a bit of "Candy Man" to remind Jack of who she is. Jack almost propositions her, but a Susie thought makes him change his mind. Once Jack gets home, he is in such a foul mood that he takes it out on Nina. She runs out of his apartment up to the roof, where Jack finds her. He apologizes and also offers to teach her something else to play besides "Jingle Bells." After a few days, Jack goes to see Frank at his home to tell him he isn't coming back to the duo. He says he can't play the same songs the same way every night anymore. They open the bottle of booze they had received at the first professional engagement and drink. Then at the two pianos they started on many years before, for old times sake, they play and sing "You're Sixteen." The film's final scene shows Jack waiting outside Susie's apartment. She's progressed from cat food jingles to vegetables. They both apologize for the way they acted when she left the act. She asks if they found a new girl singer. He says they didn't look for one. As she leaves to record a new jingle, he asks, "Am I going to see you again?" Not giving in easily, she asks, "What do you think?" He answers, "Yeah, I think Im gonna see you again." Then, after a pause, he says, "Intuition." As she walks away down the street "My Funny Valentine" is sung by Susie (or Michelle Pfeiffer) over the final credits.

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