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Flashdance is a musical/romance film released in April . The film was the first collaboration of producer Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and 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 bad reviews by professional critics but was a surprise box office success, becoming the third highest grossing film of 1983 in the USAmarker. 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.


Blue-collar worker, eighteen year-old Alexandra (Alex) Owens (played by Jennifer Beals) is a dancer in a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker, tavern at night and a welder at a steel mill during the day.She lives by herself in a converted warehouse with her pet dog Grunt. Her aspiration is to become accepted by a prestigious dance school, the (fictional) Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory. During one of her performances at Mawby's, the bar where she works, she attracts the attention of Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri) who is the boss of 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 of fame. Jeanie Szabo (Sunny Johnson) is a waitress who aspires 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 walks out when she realizes that she lacks any formal dance training, and will have to leave that section 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 over twice at an audition 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 she later learns that he has an ex-wife called Katie (Belinda Bauer), and they have a hostile meeting in a local restaurant. Nick uses his contacts at the Conservatory to secure an audition for Alex , and just before the audition she goes to Hanna's house and learns that Hanna died the previous night.

At the audition, Alex falls over at the start of her routine, but starts again 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 bunch of red roses. The ending of the film does not say directly whether Alex wins a place at the Conservatory as a result of her audition.



Cover of the 1983 single "Flashdance...
What a Feeling".
"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.

Other songs in the film include "Lady, Lady, Lady", performed by Joe Esposito, "Gloria" and "Imagination" performed by Laura Branigan, and "I'll Be Here Where The Heart Is", performed by Kim Carnes.

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 TV 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 to 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). She is currently producing and writing Interstellar, the next Steven Spielberg project, tentatively scheduled for release in 2011.

Flashdance was executive producers Jon Peters and Peter Gruber's follow-up to Endless Love (1981), another PolyGram Pictures release.

There were discussions about a sequel to Flashdance, but plans were abandoned. In March 2001, a Broadwaymarker musical version was proposed with new songs by Giorgio Moroder, but this also failed to materialize. In July 2008, a stage musical adaptation Flashdance The Musical premiered at the Theatre Royalmarker in Plymouthmarker, Englandmarker. The book is co-written by Tom Hedley, who created the story outline for the original film, and the choreography is by Arlene Phillips.


Most of the movie was filmed on locations around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker.

Critical response

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 eighteen year-old Jennifer Beals. Critics have also questioned whether an eighteen 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 Jennifer Beals does virtually none of the dancing in the film. Her main dance double is the Frenchmarker 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.

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 phenomenal success of this film is attributed in part to the 1981 launch of the cable channel Music Television , 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.

Legal action by Maureen Marder

Suit against filmmakers
Flashdance was inspired by the real life story of Maureen Marder, a construction worker/welder by day and dancer by night in a Torontomarker strip club. Like the character of 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 Franciscomarker 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.

See also

Films of a similar genre in 1980s


  1. Roger Ebert's Most Hated list
  2. 1983 Yearly Box Office Results
  3. Maniac by Michael Sembello Songfacts
  4. Flashdance (1983) - Trivia
  5. Leslie Wing
  6. Movie & TV News @ - WENN - 12 April 2004
  7. What a feeling: 'Flashdance' fever - Entertainment News, Legit News, Media - Variety
  8. "Flashdance" by Kathryn Kalinak
  9. Litwak, p. 245
  10. SAN FRANCISCO / Inspiration for 'Flashdance' loses appeal for more money
  11. Flashdance (1983) - News
  12. D A V I D * L A C H A P E L L E

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