Following in the footsteps of On Golden Pond, Terms of Endearment tells the story of the relation between a mother (Shirley MacLaine) and a daughter (Debra Winger) with a retired astronaut in the mix for good measure (Jack Nicholson). 15 years of difficult interaction between the two women with a sad denouement, a cocktail of laughs and tears which the audience found irresistible.
Written and directed by James L. Brooks, based on Larry McMurtry's novel, Terms of Endearment won four Globes: Best Film – Drama, Best Actress (MacLaine), Best Supporting Actor (Nicholson), and Best Script (Brooks). Brooks didn't win for Best Director (he was nominated): Barbra Streisand did for Yentl. Debra Winger was also nominated for Best Actress, along with MacLaine.
The 41st Golden Globe Awards were held on January 28, 1984. Richard Widmark presented the award for Best Motion Picture Drama to Brooks' film, which prevailed over Reuben, Reuben, The Right Stuff, Silkwood, and Tender Mercies. Terms went on to win five Oscars (including Best Movie, MacLaine, Nicholson and Brooks for both direction and screenwriting). At the Globes the whole cast and Brooks went on stage to celebrate their film's triumph.
The character of Garrett Breedlove (Nicholson) does not appear in the novel and was written specifically with Burt Reynolds in mind by Brooks. Reynolds loved the script but was already committed to star in Stroker Ace (1983). Paul Newman and Harrison Ford turned down the role before Nicholson signed on. To prepare for the role Nicholson talked with several real astronauts while in Houston.
Critics loved the movie, despite its label as a tearjerker, “but a good one,” wrote Roger Ebert. "There isn't a thing I would change, and I was exhilarated by the freedom it gives itself to move from the high comedy of Nicholson's best moments to the acting of Debra Winger in the closing scenes." Leonard Maltin gave the film a four-star rating, calling it a "wonderful mix of humor and heartache," adding that the film was "consistently offbeat and unpredictable, with exceptional performances by all its star actors."