In 1998 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The theme song to the film, "It Might Be You" by singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop, was a Top 40 hit in the U.S.
Michael thinks it is just a temporary job to pay the bills, but he proves to be so popular as a feisty hospital administrator that, to his dismay, the producers sign him to a long-term contract. Dorothy is such a hit that she is even featured on the covers of a number of well-known magazines.
Complicating things even further, he is strongly attracted to one of his co-stars, Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange), a single mother and already in an unhealthy relationship with the show's amoral, sexist director, Ron Carlisle (Dabney Coleman). When Michael (at a party as himself) approaches Julie with a line that she had previously told Dorothy she'd be receptive to, she instead throws a drink in his face. Yet when he makes tentative advances (as Dorothy), Julie is shocked to think Dorothy might be a lesbian and later tells “her” that she likes her, but not in a romantic way.
Meanwhile, Dorothy has her own admirers to contend with: older cast member John Van Horn (George Gaynes) and Julie’s widowed father Les (Charles Durning), both of whom fall for Dorothy, Les even proposing marriage. Michael’s roommate, writer Jeff Slater (Bill Murray), and his agent, George Fields (Sydney Pollack), are in on the masquerade and watch in amazement as the situation barrels out of control.
Michael finds a clever way to extricate himself. When the cast is forced to perform a scene live, he improvises and reveals that he is actually the character’s twin brother who took her place to avenge her, just the sort of weird plot twist for which soaps are noted (in particular the General Hospital “Sally Armitage is really Max Hedges!” storyline). The revelation allows everybody a more-or-less graceful way out. Julie is so shocked and outraged, she slugs him in the stomach (after the cameras are turned off).
Some weeks later, Michael, having made amends with Julie's father, waits for her outside the studio and touchingly confesses that “…I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man” and she forgives him.
Tootsie is the kind of Movie with a capital M that they used to make in the 1940s, when they weren’t afraid to mix up absurdity with seriousness, social comment with farce, and a little heartfelt tenderness right in there with the laughs. This movie gets you coming and going.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 89% fresh rating.
Its opening weekend gross in the United States was $5,540,470. Its final gross in the United States was $177,200,000, making it the highest grossing comedy of 1982.