26. Fame


Movie: Fame

Release Date: May 16, 1980

Director: Alan Parker

Starring: Eddie Barth, Irene Cara, Lee Curreri, Laura Dean, Antonio Franceschi, Boyd Gaines, Albert Hague, Tresa Hughes, Steve Inwood, Paul McCrane, Anne Meara, Joanna Merlin, Barry Miller, Jim Moody, Gene Anthony Ray, Maureen Teefy.

Tag Lines: “If they’ve really got what it takes, it’s going to take everything they’ve got.”

“Remember my name…”

Relevance: In 1982, I was eleven years old and a huge fan of the TV show “Fame.” At that time, I had no idea that it was based on a popular movie of the same name. I just thought it was a fun show about high school kids dealing with drama through singing and dancing. It never dawned on me that the song from the radio I was singing two years earlier called “Fame” was in fact from that movie. (I never said I was the sharpest tool in the shed.) It wasn’t until I was flipping through the monthly HBO Guide did I run across it. I was definitely intrigued and the movie was quickly added to my mental must watch list. It had an R-rating, so it was only being aired after 8pm which meant I was either going to have to be sneaky about watching the movie or simply ask my mom if I could watch it with her. I took a chance with the latter and thankfully, she agreed.

‘Fame’ was released in theaters in May of 1980. It received mixed reviews but was a success at the box office. It went on to receive six Academy Award nominations, winning two and catapulted its star Irene Cara to, well, fame. Since then it has become a huge media franchise resulting in television shows, stage musicals and remakes. More importantly, it became a huge influence to a very shy pre-teenager in the early 1980’s.

I watched ‘Fame’ with my mom sometime in 1982 long after the song had faded from the radio. I was instantly pulled into the story of these high school kids which I was already vaguely familiar with thanks to the television show. Some actors were the same, some characters were different, but the vibe and feel of the movie was definitely in sync with its smaller screen counterpart. I loved the dancing, loved the music and was really taken by how much darker the film got as compared to the TV show which made me love the film even more. Even at an early age, the darker, grittier stories always were more interesting to me. And ‘Fame’ got pretty dark. With that said, it was also a huge celebration of life, love and the arts and it instantly became one of my favorite movies to watch over and over again.

Since the movie was rated-R, the film became one of our “recorded on blank VHS tape” movies in our collection. This way I was able to watch it whenever I wanted throughout the day. And I wanted to watch it a lot. I even convinced my mom to buy me the soundtrack to the movie on cassette, and let’s just say that cassette definitely got worn out. Not only was the title song fantastic, but there were so many other gems like “Out Here on My Own” and “I Sing the Body Electric” that I absolutely adored and belted out in my bedroom on a daily basis. In 1985, during one of my eight grade graduation events, my class sang “I Sing the Body Electric” for our parents. I proudly belted it out there as well.

When I went away to college, I took my copy of ‘Fame’ on that blank VHS tape and would watch it a lot over my first semester. I was quite shy and did not do much at school but study, stay in my room and watch movies on my tiny little TV and VCR. My roommate never stayed at school on weekends and since I didn’t know anyone else, I kept to myself most of the time. ‘Fame’ got me through many of those lonely weekends. The story and music would fill my head with delusions of grandeur of how I was going to be rich and famous and make it big as a music and movie star. Although those dreams never came true, it made my eighteen year old self smile at the time and fall asleep happy.

Eventually I started meeting more and more people through my theater classes and became more social. That didn’t stop me from watching ‘Fame’ though. It just meant that I was now watching it with other people. One friend in particular loved the movie as much as I did and we watched it quite often together. In fact, it was one of those viewings that led us to discuss and eventually go see ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ (see 114. The Rocky Horror Picture Show) at a theater. The movie and music stayed with me all through college and even Graduate school to boost my smiles and dreams.

I may have given up on the television show (I think I stopped watching when Janet Jackson’s character left), but ‘Fame’ the movie has remained one of my favorite musicals of all time. I had finally let go of that blank VHS tape and substituted it with the DVD. I have watched the movie so many times by now, I know it by heart, yet it still gives me that extra boost of self-confidence that I still need from time and time. Those songs remain on my iPhone and empower me every time they shuffle on. How can one not be empowered by lyrics like “And in time, and in time we will all be stars.” Eleven, eighteen or forty-nine, words like “don’t give up on your dreams” matter and more importantly art matters.

Today’s Thoughts: “I’m about as flamboyant as a bagel.”

‘Fame’ is beautifully directed by Alan Parker and is one of those movies that excites me every time I watch it. I love the energy, the grittiness and interwoven storylines of every single student and teacher. I am always moved to tears, I always tap my feet and I am always 100% entertained. Today was no different.

There is so much heart, love and joy in the film, it is difficult to not smile while watching it. I love all of the auditions as well as the growth of the characters throughout their four years at the High School for Performing Arts. That last scene is a huge celebration that always makes me want to stand up and cheer. There is also a fair amount of pain and heartbreak that punches me in the gut, but it only reminds me that when you take the good, you got to take the bad (and there you have the facts of life).

The cast, including Eddie Barth, Irene Cara, Lee Curreri, Laura Dean, Antonio Franceschi, Boyd Gaines, Albert Hague, Tresa Hughes, Steve Inwood, Paul McCrane, Anne Meara, Joanna Merlin, Barry Miller, Jim Moody, Gene Anthony Ray and Maureen Teefyis, is so wonderful. Even the toughest characters to love get a little bit of empathy from me as a viewer because they are so well portrayed. I see myself in so many of them, I can’t help but feel that way. Watching the film at forty-nine, I just want to hug them all and say, “Girl, get it together. Everything is going to be okay.”

‘Fame’ is a grand musical drama that is a must see for anyone that wants to pursue a career or life in the performing arts. (Just please, I’m begging you, don’t watch the 2009 remake.) It is done in such a non-traditional musical way, you can even sneak it by the movie goer who is not a fan of that particular genre. It is simply an entertaining movie that is pure happiness and joy.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, “Fame,” Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford (winner), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, Michael Gore (winner), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Christopher Gore (nomination), Academy Award for Best Sound, Michael J. Kohut, Aaron Rochin, Jay M. Harding, Christopher Newman (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Gerry Hambling (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, “Out Here On My Own,” Michael Gore, Lesley Gore (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, “Fame,” Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford (winner), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Irene Cara (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, Michael Gore (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Christopher Newman, Les Wiggins, Michael J. Kohut (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, Michael Gore (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Alan Parker (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Gerry Hambling, Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen, Christopher Gore.

Ways to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, DVD Availability.


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