Splash (film)

Splash is a 1984 American fantasy romantic comedy film directed by Ron Howard, written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, and starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, John Candy and Eugene Levy. The film involves a young man who falls in love with a mysterious woman who is secretly a mermaid. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byRon Howard
Produced byBrian Grazer
Screenplay byLowell Ganz
Babaloo Mandel
Bruce Jay Friedman
Story byBruce Jay Friedman
Brian Grazer
Music byLee Holdridge
CinematographyDonald Peterman
Edited byDaniel P. Hanley
Mike Hill
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • March 9, 1984 (1984-03-09)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million[1]
Box office$69.8 million[2]

The film is notable for being the first film released by Touchstone Pictures, a film label created by Walt Disney Studios that same year in an effort to release films targeted at adult audiences, with mature content not appropriate for the studio's flagship Walt Disney Pictures banner. Splash had received a PG-rating for including some profanity and brief nudity.


In 1964, eight-year-old Allen Bauer (David Kreps) is vacationing with his family near Cape Cod. While taking a sight-seeing tour on a small boat, he sees something below the ocean surface that fascinates him, and jumps into the water even though he cannot swim. Underwater, he encounters a mermaid girl (Shayla Mackarvich) and inexplicably finds himself able to breathe under water. However, Allen is pulled back to the surface, and the two are separated. Since no one else has seen the girl, Allen comes to believe the encounter was a near-death hallucination, but his subsequent relationships with women fail as he subconsciously seeks the connection he felt with the mysterious girl.

Twenty years later, Allen (Tom Hanks) is now co-owner of a wholesale fruit and vegetable business in New York City with his womanizing brother Freddie (John Candy). Depressed after his latest breakup, Allen returns to Cape Cod, where he encounters eccentric scientist Dr. Walter Kornbluth (Eugene Levy), who is determined to discover legendary sea creatures. When a motorboat fails, Allen falls into the sea and is knocked out when the boat hits his head. He wakes up with a headache on a beach, where he encounters a beautiful naked woman with long blonde hair and the inability to talk (Daryl Hannah). After kissing him, she dives into the sea, where she transforms into a mermaid. While swimming underwater, she is sighted by Kornbluth.

The mermaid has Allen's wallet, and uses the charts of a sunken ship to find New York. She comes ashore naked at the Statue of Liberty, where she is arrested for indecent exposure. Using information from Allen's wallet, the police contact Allen, and the mysterious girl gets released into his care. She learns how to speak English from watching television, and is eager to see a big city for the first time in her life. Unable to say her real name in human language, she selects "Madison" from a Madison Avenue sign. She tells Allen that she will be in New York for "six fun-filled days when the moon is full", but if she stays longer, she can never go home again (the reason for this is unexplained). Despite Madison's occasional unusual behavior, she and Allen fall in love. Allen proposes to Madison, but she declines and runs away. After pondering her reason for coming to the city in the first place, Madison returns to Allen and agrees to marry him, with the added promise of telling him the truth about herself at an upcoming dignitary dinner to welcome the President of the United States.

Meanwhile, Kornbluth, realizing that the naked woman at Liberty Island was the mermaid he had encountered, pursues the couple, trying to expose her as a mermaid by splashing her with water. His first attempts are unsuccessful, and Kornbluth ends up with multiple injuries. He finally lies in wait with water tanks at the dignitary dinner, splashing Madison with an attached hose and successfully proving the existence of mermaids. Madison is seized by government agents and taken to a secret lab, headed by Kornbluth's rival Dr. Ross (Richard B. Shull), for examination. Kornbluth learns that the scientists are planning to dissect Madison: he completely regrets his actions, as he just wanted to prove that he was not crazy, not get her killed.

Allen is shocked by Madison's secret, but when he voices his disillusionment to his brother, Freddie lashes out at him, telling his brother how unbelievably happy he was with her. Realizing he still loves Madison, Allen tries to make contact with government officials to let him see Madison, but to no avail. He then confronts a guilt-ridden Kornbluth, who agrees to help him rescue her.

Impersonating Swedish scientists, Freddie, Allen, and Kornbluth enter the lab and smuggle Madison outside. Freddie decides to be arrested in Allen's place, while Kornbluth unsuccessfully tries to stop United States troops from catching the couple. Despite being under hot pursuit, Allen and Madison make it back to the docks at the New York harbor. Madison tells Allen that he can survive under water as long as he is with her, causing Allen to realize she was the young mermaid he had met so long ago. Madison warns him that if he comes to live in the sea, he cannot return. She jumps in the water when the troops close in on them. When other troops attempt to arrest Allen, he jumps into the water after her, forsaking his life on dry land. The troops dive in the water to go after the couple, but they fight them off to escape. The credits roll as the loving couple swims along the ocean floor toward what appears to be an underwater kingdom.



Screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel both make cameo appearances in the film. Ganz plays Stan the Tour Guide in the scene set at the Statue of Liberty. Mandel plays the man in charge of ice skate rentals who tackles Tom Hanks' character when he tries to run out with his skates still on. Director Ron Howard's father, actor Rance Howard, can be seen early in the film as Mr. McCullough, an unhappy customer screaming at Allen about his cherries. Howard's brother Clint Howard can be seen as a wedding guest, identified by Candy's character as the bride's brother and yelled at by Hanks.


The film was initially set up at United Artists but Grazer decided to take the film elsewhere and took it to The Ladd Company but Alan Ladd Jr. eventually passed on it.[3] According to the documentary on the Splash: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD in 2004, producer Brian Grazer had pitched the film to numerous studios but was turned down repeatedly until Walt Disney Productions, then headed by Ron W. Miller, agreed to produce the film. The key to the proposal's success was that Grazer changed the premise description from the idea of a mermaid adjusting to life in New York City to that about a love story about an ordinary man in New York City meeting a mermaid.[4] An issue at the time of production was the competition between Splash and another announced (but unnamed) mermaid film from Warner Bros. that had lined up Warren Beatty as its star. Director Ron Howard promised the studio that Splash would be filmed more quickly and cheaply than the other film, which eventually fell through. Many big name actors such as Jeff Bridges, Chevy Chase, Richard Gere, Kevin Kline, Bill Murray and John Travolta were all considered for the lead role before the producers decided on the then lesser known Tom Hanks. Before Daryl Hannah was cast as Madison, it had already been turned down by Tatum O'Neal, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lynne Frederick, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Genie Francis, Melanie Griffith, Fiona Fullerton, Diane Lane, Kathleen Turner and Sharon Stone.

Principal photography began on March 1, 1983 and completed on June 30, 1983 in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York. The beach where Tom Hanks first encounters the nude Daryl Hannah is on the former Gorda Cay in the Bahamas, which now is known as Castaway Cay, the private island of Disney Cruise Line.

Darryl Hannah's mermaid tail was designed and created by Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Robert Short.[5] The tail was fully functional. Hannah swam with the mermaid tail so fast that her safety team could not keep pace with her. According to the DVD documentary, Hannah had been swimming "mermaid" style with her legs bound together since she was a child, due to her fascination with Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" story. However, the exceptionally detailed film tail was difficult to remove. For the sake of efficiency, Hannah at first kept it on while the cast had lunch. In the documentary contained on the 20th-anniversary Splash! DVD, Tom Hanks recalled how the other cast members would drop French fries over the side of the tank to her as though she were a trained sea mammal, because she couldn't leave the water while her legs were "shrink-wrapped".


The film was successful. Produced on a $11 million budget,[1] it grossed $6.2 million in its opening weekend and finished its run with a gross of $69.8 million in the United States and Canada,[2] making it the tenth highest-grossing film of 1984.[6] The movie was also well received by critics and is considered to be one of the best films of 1984.[7][8][9][10] It earned a 90% "Fresh" rating from the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews.[11] A negative review came from Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times who gave the movie 1.5 stars out of 4 and thought the film's biggest failing was casting then-unknown Hanks as the lead rather than the established comedy star John Candy: "They should have made Candy the lover, and Hanks the brother. Then we'd be on the side of this big lunk who suddenly has a mermaid drop into his life."[12]



American Film Institute Lists

Soundtrack releases

A soundtrack album of Lee Holdridge's music for the film was released on both vinyl LP and cassette in the United Kingdom by Cherry Lane Records Ltd in 1984, with the music re-recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer. Both have been out of print for many years. The catalogue numbers for these releases were PIPLP 710 and ZCPIP 710 respectively. In 2000, the original music was released on a twenty-six track CD in the United States by Super Tracks Music Group. The back cover states that this product is "For Promotional Use Only" and that it has been "Manufactured for the composer...". Although this release is very hard to find brand new and may in fact be out of print, it is still obtainable from certain movie soundtrack specialist retailers and also occasionally used from certain online stores. This CD has every track that the LP and cassette have but has a considerably longer running length due to the twelve extra tracks. These extra tracks include more of the original music from the film, the theme song (by Lee Holdridge and Will Jennings) sung by Rita Coolidge and alternate versions of some of the tracks which appear on the LP and Cassette. The catalogue number for this release is LH CD – 02.

Cherry Lane album track listing

  1. "Love Came For Me (Love Theme)" (2:34)
  2. "Madison in Bloomingdale's" (1:37)
  3. "Mermaid On the Beach" (2:32)
  4. "Underwater" (2:20)
  5. "Reflection" (1:03)
  6. "Rainy Night" (2:40)
  7. "Face to Face" (1:25)
  8. "Escape and Chase" (2:54)
  9. "Madison and Allen" (3:04)
  10. "Moonlit Night" (2:56)
  11. "Daydream" (:55)
  12. "Raid On a Museum" (:50)
  13. "The Leap to Freedom" (3:35)
  14. "Return Home" (1:23)

Super Tracks album track listing

  1. "Main Title" (1:51)
  2. "First Meeting" (1:33)
  3. "The Boat/Mermaid On the Beach" (2:34)
  4. "Underwater – Version No. 1" (1:29)
  5. "Underwater – Version No. 2" (1:25)
  6. "Daydream" (:57)
  7. "Madison At Bloomingdale's" (1:09)
  8. "In the Bar" (2:12)
  9. "Late At Night" (2:35)
  10. "Watching TV" (1:24)
  11. "I Love You" (1:41)
  12. "Rainy Night" (2:38)
  13. "All Wet" (1:07)
  14. "Sneak Attack" (1:03)
  15. "Raid On a Museum" (:43)
  16. "Reunion" (1:21)
  17. "Escape and Chase" (2:55)
  18. "The Leap For Freedom" (2:20)
  19. "Return Home" (2:14)
  20. "Love Came to Me (Love Theme) – Rita Coolidge" (4:30)
  21. "End Title" (3:07)
  22. "Rainy Night – Version No. 2" (2:37)
  23. "Escape and Chase – Film Version" (2:54)
  24. "The Leap For Freedom – Film Version" (2:20)
  25. "Love Came For Me – Solo Sax Version" (2:36)
  26. "Love Came For Me – Solo Guitar Version" (3:48)


Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's book Freakonomics (2006) credits the film with popularizing the name "Madison" for girls, as does Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought (2007). In the film, Daryl Hannah's character takes her name from Madison Avenue after walking past a road sign. Hanks' character comments that it is not a real name as, at the time, it was a rather unusual name for a woman. However, in the years since the film was released in theatres and re-released on VHS and then DVD, the name's popularity has skyrocketed.[17]

According to the Social Security Administration, the name "Madison" was the 216th most popular name in the United States for girls in 1990, the 29th most popular name for girls in 1995, and the 3rd most popular name for girls in 2000.[18] In 2005, the name finally cracked the top 50 most popular girls' names in the United Kingdom, and articles in British newspapers credit the film for the popularization. In a 2014 interview, Hannah commented on the irony of the name's popularity and subsequent acceptance as a standard first name given its origins as joke based on Madison being primarily known as a street name at the time:

It's funny because no one understands the irony, because the whole point of me choosing that name was because it [was such a] silly name...Obviously everyone knew it as the name of the street. No one really saw it as a first name and that was a joke. And now, of course it's not funny at all. It's just like, Oh, what a beautiful name!'…It was funny at the time and now it's not even ironic.[17]


  • Splash, Too (directed by Greg Antonacci), was a television film released in 1988 (contradicting the first movie's finale revelation that if Allen goes to live in the sea, he can never return) starring Todd Waring as Allen Bauer, Amy Yasbeck as Madison, and Donovan Scott as Freddie Bauer. Only one member of the original cast, Dody Goodman, the Bauers' slightly deranged assistant Mrs. Stimler, reprises her role.
  • A novelization of the film, written by Ian Marter (under the pen name Ian Don), was published by Target Books in the United Kingdom.


In 2016, producer Brian Grazer said he was working on a remake of Splash, only with a twist. Grazer said "there's a movie star that's going to be involved", it would most likely be from the point-of-view of the mermaid and would be closer to an earlier draft of Splash.[19] Jillian Bell and Channing Tatum were set to star with Bell as a female human and Tatum as a merman. Tatum was also set to produce the remake through his production company, Free Association, along with Reid Carolin and Peter Kieran, while Howard and Grazer will also produce from Imagine Entertainment with Anna Culp as the executive producer and Marja-Lewis Ryan writing.[20]

See also


  1. Loyn. (February 23, 1984). "Film Reviews: Splash". Daily Variety. p. 3.
  2. "Splash (1984)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  3. Splash at the American Film Institute Catalog
  4. O'Reilly, Terry. "Small Move, Big Gain". Under the Influence (04 February 2016). Canadian Broadcasting Organization. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
  5. Mayo, Michael (September 1984). "How to Make a Mermaid". Cinefantastique. 14 (#52): 92–99.
  6. "1984 Domestic Grosses". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  7. "The 10 Best Movies of 1984". Film.com. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  8. "Was 1984 the Greatest Year in Movies Ever?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  9. "Best Films of 1984". listal.com. Archived from the original on July 17, 2010. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  10. "The Best Movies of 1984 by Rank". Films101.com. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  11. "Splash Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  12. https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/splash-1984
  13. "Splash: Award Wins and Nominations". IMDb.com. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  14. AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees
  15. AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees
  16. AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  17. "How a 'Splash' Joke Lead to the 'Madison' Baby Name Boom". Yahoo! Movies. March 7, 2014. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  18. "Popular Baby Names". Social Security Administration. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  19. Add 1984's Splash to the List of Upcoming Remakes, The Mary Sue. June 6, 2016.
  20. Fleming, Jr, Mike (August 1, 2016). "'Splash' Remake Hooks Disney; Channing Tatum, Jillian Bell Star; Grazer & Howard, Free Association Producing". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
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