Soapdish is a 1991 comedy film which tells a backstage story of the cast and crew of a popular television soap opera. The film is a send up of the silly plots and characters on daytime dramas and of backstage shenanigans. The film was a success, bringing in $86 million worldwide.
The central character, a vain aging actress, was played by Sally Field. Also in the cast were Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr., Elisabeth Shue, Cathy Moriarty, Whoopi Goldberg, Garry Marshall, Teri Hatcher, Kathy Najimy and Carrie Fisher.
Kevin Kline was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
Sally Field portrays Celeste Talbert, the long-time star of a popular daytime drama The Sun Also Sets. Her pal is the show's writer Rose Schwartz, played by Whoopi Goldberg. The show's producer, David Seaton Barnes, is played by Robert Downey, Jr. Supporting player Nurse Nan, bombshell Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarty), connives to replace Celeste Talbert as the lead. Toward that end, she promises sexual favors to the producer. Meanwhile, twenty years before, Talbert had a falling out with fellow actor and boyfriend Jeffrey Anderson (Kevin Kline), who was discharged at Talbert's request. He is reduced to playing roles such as Willy Loman before crowds of clueless elderly people at a Florida dinner theater.
Talbert's niece, Lori Craven (Elisabeth Shue) wrangles a role on the The Sun Also Sets as a destitute deaf-mute. The two meet on the set playing a scene where Talbert serves soup to a queue of homeless people. Anderson is called back to the show under dubious circumstances (his character had been decapitated in a motor wreck), to needle Talbert. He and Craven spark up a relationship which Talbert unaccountably finds offensive. It turns out that Craven is actually her daughter by Anderson, not her niece. The ensuing fallout leads all three actors - Talbert, Craven and Anderson - to demand "They go or I go!"
In a dramatic conclusion, the actors head into an episode aired live where, to keep the script secret until the last minute, they must read their lines from a teleprompter. Craven's character is set to die because of 'Brain Fever'. The actors begin to ad-lib after Nurse Nan arrives and suggests a brain transplant. Talbert's character chooses to save Craven via the proposed brain transplant. Craven's character speaks at the last minute and requests Talbert not leave the show. Craven chooses to allow Talbert and Anderson be her parents in more than biology. A Dr. Franz Brau, played by Schwartz, from the 'Sex Change Clinic in Maryland' arrives and reveals that Nurse Nan was formerly Milton Moorehead of Long Island. The film ends with Craven, Talbert and Anderson winning daytime soap awards, and with Milton Moorehead performing Death of a Salesman at the same dreary dinner theater shown earlier in the film.