Theatrical release poster
Directed by Adrian Lyne Produced by Don Simpson
Lynda Rosen Obst
Screenplay by Tom Hedley
Story by Tom Hedley Starring Jennifer Beals
Music by Giorgio Moroder Cinematography Donald Peterman Editing by Walt Mulconery
Studio PolyGram Filmed Entertainment Distributed by Paramount Pictures Release date(s) April 15, 1983 Running time 95 minutes Country United States Language English Box office $92,921,203 (USA)
Flashdance is a 1983 American romantic drama film that was the first collaboration of producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. Its presentation of some sequences in the style of music videos was an influence on other 1980s films including Top Gun (1986), Simpson and Bruckheimer's most famous production. Flashdance opened to negative reviews by professional critics, but was a surprise box office success, becoming the third highest grossing film of 1983 in the USA. It had a worldwide box-office gross of more than $100 million. Its soundtrack spawned several hit songs, among them "Maniac" performed by Michael Sembello and the Academy Award-winning "Flashdance... What a Feeling", performed by Irene Cara, which was written for the film.
18-year-old Alexandra "Alex" Owens (Jennifer Beals) works as a welder at a steel mill in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the day, and as a dancer at Mawby's bar in the evenings. She lives alone in a converted warehouse with her pet dog, Grunt. Despite a lack of formal dance training, she aspires to be accepted by a prestigious dance school, the fictional Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory. During one of her performances at Mawby's, she attracts the interest of Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), her boss at the steel mill, and he learns that Alex is one of his employees.
Alex's best friends also work at Mawby's, and they have their own aspirations to fame. Jeanie Szabo (Sunny Johnson) is a waitress who wants to be a professional ice skater, and Jeanie's boyfriend Richie Blazik (Kyle T. Heffner) is a cook who wants to be a professional stand-up comedian. Also prominent in the film is Johnny C. (Lee Ving), who runs the local strip club The Zanzibar, and is accompanied invariably by his strong but unintelligent bodyguard Cecil (Malcolm Danare). Johnny C. visits Mawby's to see the dancers, and tries to recruit both Alex and Jeanie to work at The Zanzibar.
Alex goes to the Conservatory to ask for an application form for an audition, but runs out of the building when she realizes that since she lacks formal training and professional experience, she would have to leave much of the form blank. Alex's dance teacher and mentor is a retired ballet dancer named Hanna Long (Lilia Skala), who encourages Alex to pursue her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer. After Jeanie falls twice while auditioning for an ice show, she loses confidence in herself and becomes a dancer at The Zanzibar, where she performs in the nude, and Alex goes to the strip club to rescue Jeanie.
Alex and Nick become lovers, but he has an ex-wife named Katie (Belinda Bauer), and they have a hostile encounter in a local restaurant. Nick uses his contacts at the Conservatory to secure an audition. Just before the audition, Alex goes to Hanna's house and learns that she has died.
At the audition, Alex falls at the beginning of her routine, but starts over and completes the routine successfully. In the final scene, Alex runs out of the Conservatory building with a smile on her face and is hugged by Nick, who gives her a bouquet of red roses. She gives a rose to him, and the film ends with a freeze frame. The ending of the film does not say directly whether Alex wins a place at the Conservatory as a result of her audition.
"Flashdance... What a Feeling" was performed by Irene Cara, who also sang the title song for the similar 1980 film Fame. The music for "Flashdance... What a Feeling" was composed by Giorgio Moroder, and the lyrics were written by Keith Forsey and Irene Cara. The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as a Golden Globe and numerous other awards. It also reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1983. Despite the song's title, the word "Flashdance" is not used in the lyrics. The song is used in the opening title sequence of the film, and is the music used by Alex in her dance audition routine at the end of the film.
Another song used in the film, "Maniac", was also nominated for an Academy Award. It was written by Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky, and was inspired by the 1980 horror film Maniac. The lyrics about a killer on the loose were rewritten so that it could be used in Flashdance. The song was disqualified from the Academy Award nomination when it was publicized that it had not been written specifically for the film. Like the title song, it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1983.
The soundtrack album of Flashdance sold 700,000 copies during its first two weeks on sale and has gone on to sell over 6,000,000 copies in the US alone. In 1984, the album won the Grammy Award for Best Album of Original Score Written for A Motion Picture or a Television Special.
Adrian Lyne, whose background was primarily in directing television commercials, was not the first choice as director of Flashdance. David Cronenberg turned down an offer to direct the film, as did Brian De Palma, who instead chose to direct Scarface (1983). Executives at Paramount were unsure about the film's potential and sold 25% of the rights prior to its release. The role of Alex Owens was originally offered to Melanie Griffith, who turned it down. Producers wanted an unknown for the part. The audition for the part of Alex Owens was narrowed down to a final shortlist of three candidates, Jennifer Beals, Demi Moore, and Leslie Wing before Beals won the part. Flashdance is often remembered for the sweatshirt with a large neck hole that Jennifer Beals wore on the poster advertising the film. Beals said that the look of the sweatshirt came about by accident when it shrank in the wash and she cut out a large hole at the top so that she could wear it again. The role of Nick Hurley was originally offered to KISS lead man Gene Simmons, who turned it down because it would conflict with his "demon" image. Pierce Brosnan, Robert De Niro, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks and John Travolta were also considered for the part. Kevin Costner, a struggling actor at the time came very close for the role of Nick Hurley, that went to Michael Nouri.
Flashdance was the first success of a number of filmmakers who became top industry figures in the 1980s and beyond. The film was the first collaboration between Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, who went on to produce Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and Top Gun (1986). Joe Eszterhas, the screenwriter of Basic Instinct (1992), received his second screen credit for Flashdance, while Adrian Lyne went on to direct 9½ Weeks (1986), Fatal Attraction (1987), Indecent Proposal (1993), and Lolita (1997). Lynda Obst, who developed the original story outline, went on to produce Adventures in Babysitting (1987), The Fisher King (1991), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993).
Much of the film was shot in locations around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:
- The ice skating rink on which Jeanie falls was filmed at Monroeville Mall. This was the same ice skating rink used in the George A. Romero horror film Dawn of the Dead (1978).
- The fictional Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory was filmed inside the lobby and in front of Carnegie Music Hall, a part of the Carnegie Museum of Art, located near the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland.
- Alex's apartment was located in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
- Alex is seen riding one of the Duquesne Incline cable cars when she goes to visit Hannah.
- Hannah's apartment is located at 2100 Sidney Street at the southeast corner of South 21st Street. The entrance to the apartment is from South 21st Street.
- The opening sequence of scenes with Alex riding her bicycle starts on Warren Street at its intersection with Catoma Street. She rides south on Warren Street to Henderson Street. She makes a hairpin turn from Henderson Street onto Fountain Street. She is next shown riding south on Middle Street. The last scene of the sequence shows Alex riding east over the Smithfield Street Bridge which is a continuity error.
Flashdance has seldom received favorable reviews from professional critics. Roger Ebert placed it on his list of Most Hated films, stating: "Jennifer Beals shouldn't feel bad. She is a natural talent, she is fresh and engaging here, and only needs to find an agent with a natural talent for turning down scripts". Halliwell's Film Guide gave it one star out of four while The New Yorker described the film as "Basically, a series of rock videos." The Guardian described it as "A preposterous success." Detractors of the film argue that in addition to the shallow plot, the film represents the worst excesses of 1980s film making with its emphasis on short sequences and rapid editing between shots. The screenplay of the film was nominated for a Razzie (Golden Raspberry) award. A common criticism is that Michael Nouri, who was thirty-six at the time of filming, seems too old to be the love interest of 18-year-old Jennifer Beals. Critics have also questioned whether an 18-year-old woman would have been given a job as a welder in an old-fashioned steel mill.
The dimly-lit cinematography and montage-style editing are due in part to the fact that most of Jennifer Beals' dancing in the film was performed by a body double. Her main dance double is the French actress Marine Jahan, while the breakdancing that Alex performs in the audition sequence at the end of the film was doubled by the male dancer Crazy Legs. The shot of Alex diving through the air in slow motion during the audition sequence was performed by Sharon Shapiro, who was a professional gymnast.
Although Flashdance has been compared to Saturday Night Fever (1977) with a female lead, the tone of the two films is very different. Saturday Night Fever takes a much more downbeat look at the world of people trapped in low-paid jobs, while Flashdance works best as a Post-disco/New Wave era retelling of the Cinderella story with all the implausibilities that this brings.
Like the original theatrical release of Saturday Night Fever (also from Paramount Pictures), Flashdance was rated R by the MPAA, which meant that audience members under seventeen years old required an accompanying parent or guardian to watch the film. This was due to some strong language, nudity and sexual content which were removed for the television version of the film.
There were discussions about a sequel, but the film was never made. Jennifer Beals turned down an offer to appear in a sequel, saying: "I've never been drawn to something by virtue of how rich or famous it will make me. I turned down so much money, and my agents were just losing their minds.
In July 2008, a stage musical adaptation Flashdance The Musical premiered at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, England. The book is co-written by Tom Hedley, who created the story outline for the original film, and the choreography is by Arlene Phillips.
Flashdance and the MTV connection
Flashdance is not a musical in the traditional sense as the characters do not sing, but rather, the songs are presented in the style of self-contained music videos. The success of this film is attributed in part to the 1981 launch of the cable channel Music Television (MTV), as it was the first to exploit the new medium effectively. By excerpting segments of the film and running them as music videos on MTV, the studio benefited from extensive free promotion, and thus established the new medium as an important marketing tool for movies. In the mid 1980s, it became almost obligatory to release a music video to promote a major motion picture — even if the film was not especially suited for one. An example from the era is the song and music video "Take My Breath Away" from Top Gun (1986), also from Flashdance producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. Giorgio Moroder composed Take My Breath Away and several of the songs for Flashdance.
- Suit against the filmmakers
Flashdance was inspired by the real life story of Maureen Marder, a construction worker/welder by day and dancer by night in a Toronto strip club. Like Alex Owens in the film, she aspired to enroll in a prestigious dance school. Tom Hedley wrote the original story outline for Flashdance, and on December 6, 1982, Marder signed a release document giving Paramount Pictures the right to portray her life story on screen, for which she was given a one-off payment of $2,300. Flashdance is estimated to have grossed $150 million worldwide. In June 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco affirmed a lower court's ruling that Marder gave up her rights to the film when she signed the release document in 1982. The panel of three judges stated in its ruling: "Though in hindsight the agreement appears to be unfair to Marder—she only received $2,300 in exchange for a release of all claims relating to a movie that grossed over $150 million—there is simply no evidence that her consent was obtained by fraud, deception, misrepresentation, duress or undue influence." The court also noted that Marder's attorney had been present when she signed the document.
- Suit against Jennifer Lopez and filmmakers over music video
In 2003, following the use of dance routines from the film by Jennifer Lopez in her music video "I'm Glad" (directed by David LaChapelle), Marder sued Lopez, Sony Corporation (the makers of the music video), and Paramount in an attempt to gain a copyright interest in the film. Although Lopez argued that her video for "I'm Glad" was intended as a tribute to Flashdance, in May 2003 Sony agreed to pay a licensing fee to Paramount for the use of dance routines and other story material from the film in the video.
- Films of a similar genre in 1980s
- Fame (1980)
- Footloose (1984)
- Purple Rain (1984)
- Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
- Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985)
- Dirty Dancing (1987)
- ^ Flashdance at Box Office Mojo
- ^ Roger Ebert's Most Hated list
- ^ 1983 Yearly Box Office Results
- ^ Litwak, Mark (1986). Reel Power: The Struggle for Influence and Success in the New Hollywood. New York: William Morrow & Co.. p. 91. ISBN 0-688-04889-7.
- ^ Maniac by Michael Sembello Songfacts
- ^ Flashdance (1983) - Trivia
- ^ Leslie Wing
- ^ Rob Salem (2011-02-16). "Jennifer Beals: From ripped sweats to dress blues - thestar.com". www.thestar.com. http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/television/article/940134--jennifer-beals-from-ripped-sweats-to-dress-blues. Retrieved 2011-02-27.
- ^ "Roger Ebert's review of Flashdance". Chicago Sun-Times. 2007-07-23. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F19830419%2FREVIEWS%2F304190301%2F1023&AID1=%2F19830419%2FREVIEWS%2F304190301%2F1023&AID2.
- ^ Dancer not getting credit for work in "Flashdance" The Ledger April 22, 1983
- ^ "Flashdance" by Kathryn Kalinak
- ^ Beals Turned Down Flashdance Sequel contactmusic.com, August 18, 2003.
- ^ Hofler, Robert (2001-03-22). "What a feeling: 'Flashdance' fever". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117795691.html?categoryid=15&cs=1.
- ^ Atkins, Tom (2008-02-08). "Flashdance Debuts in Plymouth, Sweeney Shouts". WhatsOnStage. http://www.whatsonstage.com/index.php?pg=207&story=E8821202487573.
- ^ Litwak, p. 245
- ^ Herel, Suzanne (2006-06-13). "SAN FRANCISCO / Inspiration for 'Flashdance' loses appeal for more money". The San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/06/13/BAGJSJD89U1.DTL.
- ^ Flashdance (1983) - News
- ^ D A V I D * L A C H A P E L L E
- Flashdance at the Internet Movie Database
- Flashdance at the TCM Movie Database
- Flashdance at AllRovi
- Flashdance at Box Office Mojo
- Flashdance at Rotten Tomatoes
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