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Hairspray is a 1988 comedy film written and directed by John Waters. The film starred Ricki Lake, Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, and Divine. Hairspray was a dramatic departure from Waters' earlier works, with a much broader intended audience. In fact, Hairspray's PG is the mildest rating a Waters film has received; most of his previous films were rated X by the MPAA. Set in 1962 Baltimoremarker, the film revolves around self-proclaimed "pleasantly plump" teenager Tracy Turnblad as she simultaneously pursues stardom as a dancer on a local TV show and rallies against racial segregation.

Hairspray was only a moderate success upon its initial theatrical release, earning a modest gross of $8 million. However, it managed to attract a larger audience on home video in the early 1990s and became a cult classic. Most critics praised the film, although some were displeased with the overall campiness. In 2002, Hairspray was adapted into a Broadway musical of the same name, which won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2003. A second film version of Hairspray, an adaptation of the stage musical, was released by New Line on July 20, 2007 — which included many changes of scripted items from the original. The film also ranks 444th on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.


Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) and her best friend, Penny Pingleton (Leslie Ann Powers), audition for The Corny Collins Show, a popular Baltimoremarker teenage dance show based on the real-life Buddy Deane Show. Despite being overweight, Tracy becomes a regular on the show, infuriating the show's reigning queen, Amber Von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick), a privileged, beautiful high school classmate whose pushy stage parents, Velma (Debbie Harry) and Franklin Von Tussle (Sonny Bono), own Tilted Acres amusement park (based on Baltimore's Gwynn Oak Amusement Park, where racial problems occurred). Tracy steals Amber's boyfriend, Link Larkin (Michael St. Gerard), and competes against her for the title of Miss Auto Show 1963, fueling Amber's hatred of her.

Tracy's growing confidence leads to her being hired as a plus-size model for the Hefty Hideaway clothing store owned by Mr. Pinky (Alan Wendl). She is also inspired to bleach, tease, and rat her big hair into styles popular in the 1960s. When a teacher brands her hairstyle as a "hair-don't" and sends her to the principal's office, Tracy is sent to special education classes, where she meets several black classmates who have been put there to hold them back academically. The students introduce Tracy to Motormouth Maybelle (Ruth Brown), an R&B record shop owner and host of the monthly "Negro Day" on The Corny Collins Show. They teach Tracy, Penny, and Link dance moves and Penny begins an interracial romance with Motormouth Maybelle's son, Seaweed (Clayton Prince). This horrifies Penny's mother, Prudence (Jo Ann Havrilla), who imprisons her daughter in her bedroom and tries to brainwash her into dating white boys with the help of a quack psychiatrist (John Waters).

Undeterred, Tracy uses her newfound fame to champion the cause of racial integration with the help of Motormouth Maybelle, Corny Collins (Shawn Thompson), his assistant Tammy (Mink Stole), and Tracy's slightly overbearing and overweight mother, Edna Turnblad (Divine). After a race riot at Tilted Acres results in Tracy's arrest, Franklin and Velma Von Tussle grow more defiant in their opposition to racial integration. They plot to sabotage the Miss Auto Show 1963 pageant by planting a bomb in Velma's bouffant hairdo. The plan literally blows up in Velma's face when the bomb detonates prematurely, resulting in the Von Tussles' arrest by the Baltimore police after it lands on Amber's head. Tracy, who had won the crown but was disqualified for being in reform school, dethrones Amber after the governor of Maryland pardons her. Then Tracy shows up at the competition and integrates the show.


Main characters

Special appearances

Council Members

  • Josh Charles as Iggy
  • Jason Downs as Bobby
  • Holter Ford Graham as I.Q.
  • Dan Griffith as Brad
  • Regina Hammond as Pam
  • Bridget Kimsey as Consuella
  • Frankie Maldon as Dash
  • Brooke Stacy Mills as Lou Ann
  • John Orofino as Fender
  • Kim Webb as Carmelita
  • Debra Wirth as Shelly

Other characters

  • Cyrkle Milbourne as Little Inez
  • Dawn Hill as Nadine Carver
  • Verna Day as Mrs. Carver
  • Brook Yeaton as Tough Guy #1
  • Jeff Gardner as Tough Guy #2
  • Toussaint McCall as Himself
  • John Waters as Dr. Fredrickson
  • Lydia Troy as Mrs. Malinski
  • Mary Vivian Pearce as Hairhopper Mother
  • Buddy Deane as Governor's Mansion Newsman
  • Doug Roberts as Paddy Pingleton


John Waters wrote the screenplay under the title of White Lipstick, deriving the film partly from real events. The Corny Collins Show is based on the real-life The Buddy Deane Show, and the film's climax is based on an actual event that took place on that show in the summer of 1963.

Filming for the school scenes occurred at "Perry Hall High School" with set locations including the library, a first-floor English class, and the principal's office. In the scene set in the principal's office, the Harry Dorsey Gough (see "Perry Hall Mansionmarker") coat-of-arms that once hung in the main lobby can be seen through the doorway..

The scenes set at Tilted Acres amusement park were filmed at Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Deleted scenes

  • Tracy breaking into the Von Tussles' home after Franklin and Velma leave, vandalizing Amber's bedroom, and bleaching her hair blonde (which is seen later, but never explained).
  • Before Amber turns on the TV to see Tracy dancing with Link, Franklin gives Amber a spanking for the vandalism of her room.
  • Nadine's refusal to let Penny and Seaweed into her basement after their escape from Penny's house.
  • A rumble that includes Tracy spraying hair spray into the eyes of toughs.
  • After Wilbur and Edna see Tracy on TV the second time, Prudence chases Penny around the Turnblad living room before going out the door.
  • Corny making an announcement at the record hop that Penny should call her mother immediately if she is in the dance hall.
  • Tracy having actual roaches in her hair.


Box office

Hairspray opened on February 26, 1988 in 79 North American theaters, where it grossed $577,287 ($7,307 per screen) in its opening weekend. On March 11, it expanded to 227 theaters, where it grossed $966,672 ($4,258 per screen) from March 11–13. It ended its theatrical run with $8,271,108. The film was nominated for six Independent Spirit Awards, and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Other works

Broadway musical

In mid-2002, New Line teamed with writers Marc Shaiman and Thomas Meehan to turn Hairspray into a Broadway musicalmarker production. The show opened on August 15, 2002 starring Marissa Jaret Winokur as Tracy and Harvey Fierstein as Edna. The show went on to win eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2003. The show closed on January 4, 2009.

2007 movie musical

In 2006, New Line joined forces with Adam Shankman to make the Broadway show into a movie musical. The film was released July 20, 2007, starring John Travolta as Edna, Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma, Christopher Walken as Wilbur, Amanda Bynes as Penny Pingleton, Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle, James Marsden as Corny, Zac Efron as Link, and newcomer Nikki Blonsky as Tracy. The film cost $75 million budget and earned $202.6 million worldwide.


After the movie musical's financial successes, director Shankman teamed back up with Waters and songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman to write a sequel taking place during the late '60s era of music and the British Invasion. The film will be titled Hairspray 2: White Lipstick (White Lipstick was a working title for the original film) and has a release set for mid-July of 2010 from Warner Bros. While no official casting has been announced, New Line has said that they hope to "snag much of the original Hairspray cast." However, John Travolta has said that he will return only if the script is funny.



The soundtrack was released January 27, 1995 by MCA Records. The CD featured one original song by Rachel Sweet and eleven other songs mostly from the 1960s by Gene Pitney, Toussaint McCall, among others.

Additional songs

Other songs appear in the movie, but are not on the soundtrack. They are:

Home release


The film was released on video in 1994 by Sony.


The film was released on DVD by New Line in 2003. The disc included an audio commentary by John Waters and Ricki Lake and a theatrical trailer.

See also


  1. Hairspray at Rotten Tomatoes; last accessed May 5, 2007.
  3. Box Office Mojo
  4. Hairspray (2007)

External links

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