Fame (1980 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan Parker
Produced by David De Silva
Alan Marshall
Written by Christopher Gore
Starring Lee Curreri
Irene Cara
Paul McCrane
Maureen Teefy
Barry Miller
Debbie Allen
Music by Michael Gore
Cinematography Michael Seresin
Edited by Gerry Hambling
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
United Artists
Release dates
  • May 16, 1980 (1980-05-16)
Running time
133 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $21,202,829[3]

Fame is a 1980 American musical film conceived and produced by David De Silva and directed by Alan Parker. Its screenplay is by Christopher Gore, its choreography by Louis Falco and musical score by Michael Gore. The film follows a group of students through their studies at the New York High School of Performing Arts. The film is split into sections corresponding to auditions, freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. The film ranked #42 on Entertainment Weekly's 2006 list of the "50 Best High School Movies".[4]

The film has spawned a television series and spin-off, a stage musical that has played all over the world since 1988 when it premiered at the Coconut Playhouse in Florida, a reality competition series, and a 2009 film remake.


The original screenplay was titled Hot Lunch and this was the title for the film until part-way through shooting when director Alan Parker noted a pornographic film showing on 42nd Street with the same title. For the rest of the shooting schedule of 14 weeks the script was just labeled "title".[5] David De Silva noted that the porno film starred Al Parker so that confusion might ensue if the original title remained.[6]



We see the principal students auditioning alongside less successful applicants. In the drama department, Montgomery forgets his lines while auditioning, and Doris's nerves aren't helped by the presence of her pushy mother, who insists Doris should sing in her audition. In the music department, Bruno's father and uncle help haul Bruno's keyboards and equipment from their taxicabs to the audition. Bruno's electronics horrify the conservative music teacher, Mr. Shorofsky.

In the dance department, Lisa has been dancing since she was a little girl. Coco is sure she'll get in, thanks to a combination of all-around talent (not just in dance). Leroy isn't there for himself but to take part in a dance routine with an auditioning friend, but the dance teachers are rather more impressed by his talents than hers. After attempting to audition for both the music and dance departments, Ralph succeeds with his audition for the drama department.

Freshman year[edit]

Students learn on the first day of classes that academics are weighed equally with performance. Leroy clashes with Mrs. Sherwood in English class. Doris is overwhelmed by the energy and spontaneity in the lunchroom and flees, meeting Montgomery.

As the year progresses, Coco tries to convince Bruno to book performing gigs with her. Doris and Montgomery become friends, and Doris worries that she's too ordinary against the colorful personalities of the other students. Leroy and Mrs. Sherwood continue to clash over Leroy's refusal to do homework (Leroy is illiterate and ashamed to admit it). Bruno and his father argue over Bruno's reluctance to play his music publicly. Coco tells Bruno of her belief that she's "doing my last dance on this dark little planet" so it has to be spectacular. Miss Berg warns Lisa she is not working hard enough. Graduating senior Michael wins a prestigious scholarship and tells Doris that the William Morris Agency wants to send him out for auditions for television pilots.

Sophomore year[edit]

New student Hilary van Doren joins the school, and she and Coco clash over Leroy. Hilary seduces him. Bruno and Mr. Shorofsky debate the merits of traditional orchestras versus synthesized instruments. Bruno's father plays his music (the title song) outside the school, inspiring the student body to dance in the streets. As an acting exercise, students have to divulge a painful memory. Montgomery discusses discovering his homosexuality, in the process coming out to the school, for which he is teased by Ralph wearing The Rocky Horror Picture Show-style drag. Doris relates her humiliation at being forced by her stage mother to sing at a child's birthday party. Ralph tells of learning about the death of Freddie Prinze. Miss Berg drops Lisa from the dance program, and Lisa, after seemingly considering suicide, instead drops her dance clothes on the subway tracks and declares "Fuck it, if I can't dance I'll change to the drama department."

Junior year[edit]

Ralph and Doris discover their mutual attraction, but their growing intimacy leaves Montgomery feeling excluded. Hilary brings Leroy home to shock her father and stepmother. Ralph's young sister is attacked by a junkie and Ralph lashes out at his mother's attempts to comfort the child by taking her to the local Catholic church, instead of to a doctor. Doris also begins to question her Jewish upbringing, changing her name to "Dominique DuPont". She and Ralph attend a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the 8th Street Playhouse, and during the "Time Warp" Doris rips off her blouse and joins the stage show. She becomes giddy the next day as she realizes that as an actress she can put on any personality she wants, but is sobered upon running into Michael, struggling as an actor and waiting tables.

Senior year[edit]

Ralph follows in the footsteps of his idol Freddie Prinze and performs stand-up comedy at Catch a Rising Star and garners some initial success. He falls into a hard-party lifestyle and strains his relationship with Doris. Given a prime spot at a comedy club, he bombs after clashing with both Doris and Montgomery over his new lifestyle. Disgusted with himself, he believes his career is over, but Montgomery comforts him by telling him that bombing is part of the entertainment business. Hilary is offered a spot with the San Francisco Ballet and, to take it, has an abortion.(It is implied that the baby's father is Leroy.) Coco is approached in a diner by a man claiming to be a director. She naïvely goes to his apartment for a "screen test" where it becomes evident that he is not what he seems and is really an amateur pornographic director; manipulating her into taking her shirt off for the camera while she sobs. Leroy is offered a spot in Alvin Ailey's dance company, but to be accepted he must graduate. He finds Mrs. Sherwood outside her husband's hospital room and lashes out at her. She lashes back and, chagrined, he comforts her.

At graduation, the student body performs the finalé, "I Sing the Body Electric". The opening lines are sung by Lisa, Coco, and Montgomery. Intercut with the performance are scenes of Leroy dancing and Bruno playing with a rock band, finally sharing his music with others.




Principal photography took place between August and November 1979 in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, New York City.

The film was not shot at the actual High School of Performing Arts due to worries by the New York Board of Education over the content of the script. The then-principal of the New York High School of Performing Arts, Richard Klein, had minor concerns over a few details in the script, but overall had given his blessing, and had no objections to the school building being used for actual filming. However, the weight of the decision already made by the Education Board meant he had to concede to the majority ruling.

Alan Parker confirmed that he begged Nancy Littlefield, Head of the city's Motion Picture Office, to let him speak to the Board after hearing their original rejection. "'Please please please, let me talk to them,' I said. But then I got there and I was probably the most persuasive, sensible and honest I'd ever been in my entire life. And I looked at this row of faces and I realized it didn't matter one bit. Their minds were made up long, long ago."[7]

The exterior of the school was shot using the left wing of the then-abandoned Church of Saint Mary the Virgin[8] building almost directly opposite the real school on W46th Street in Times Square. The main doors of the church to the right of the entrance the students are seen using were covered with a marquee that read 'Hotel Remington'.

Two unused schools, Haaren High School (now John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Haaren Hall Building) on 10th Avenue between 58th Street and 59th Street in Hell's Kitchen, and Performance Space 122 at 150 1st Avenue at East 9th Street in the East Village, were converted as a replacement and used for all the interior scenes. Most of the audition scenes were shot at Haaren, except for the dance audition, and subsequent dance scenes in this same room (with the pillars) which used the second floor converted dance studio at P.S 122 which had been set up by choreographer Charles Moulton.[9][10] The narrow roomed dance class scenes and Sherwood's classroom were also filmed at Haaren. All Hallway and staircase scenes (except Leroy's skating scene),[11] the cafeteria scene and all rooms with brick walls were all filmed at P.S 122. The graduation scene used the auditorium at Haaren.


Fame soundtrack.jpg
Soundtrack album by Michael Gore
Released 1980
Genre Disco
Label RSO
Producer Michael Gore
Singles from Fame
  1. "Fame"
    Released: June 1980 (US), May 1982 (UK)

The original score was composed by Michael Gore. The score won the Academy Award for Best Music - Original Score. It was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music and a Grammy Award.

The songs "Out Here On My Own" and "Fame" were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, with the latter one winning the award.

  1. "Fame" (5:14) - Irene Cara (won the Academy Award for Best Original Song)
  2. "Out Here on My Own" (3:09) - Irene Cara (nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song)
  3. "Hot Lunch Jam“ (4:09) - Irene Cara
  4. "Dogs in the Yard“ (3:16) - Paul McCrane
  5. "Red Light“ (6:08) - Linda Clifford
  6. "Is It Okay If I Call You Mine?“ (2:42) - Paul McCrane
  7. "Never Alone“ (3:21) - Contemporary Gospel Chorus of the High School of Music and Art
  8. "Ralph and Monty (Dressing Room Piano)“ (1:50) - Michael Gore
  9. "I Sing the Body Electric“ (5:01) - Vocal Soloists: Laura Dean, Irene Cara, Paul McCrane, Traci Parnell, Eric Brockington
Preceded by
The Lexicon of Love by ABC
UK Albums Chart number one album
July 24, 1982 – August 6, 1982
Succeeded by
The Kids from "Fame" by The Kids from "Fame"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Academy Awards[edit]

The film won two Academy Awards and was nominated for four more:[12]

BAFTA Awards[edit]

Golden Globes[edit]

Franchise and spin-offs[edit]

Fame spawned a television series of the same name with Lee Curreri, Albert Hague, Gene Anthony Ray and Debbie Allen reprising their respective roles, a spin-off TV series, and a musical that opened in 1988 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, has played in London's West End since 1995.[13] MGM has since produced a remake of this film, released in 2009. The remake received generally negative reviews in contrast to the original. Debbie Allen appeared in this movie, but this time, she played the school principal, Angela Simms.


  1. ^ Copyright application for Fame, (PA0000076496 / 1980-07-28). United States Copyright Office.
  2. ^ "FAME (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. 1980-05-23. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  3. ^ Fame at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ "The 50 Best High School Movies", Entertainment Weekly #897, 15 September 2006.
  5. ^ Commentary by Alan Parker, Fame DVD release, 2007.
  6. ^ David De Silva
  7. ^ Rosenthal, David (26 May 1980). Chorus Line Goes To High School. New York. Google Books. Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  8. ^ "Fame Film Locations". On the set of New York. 1997-07-26. Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  9. ^ "Homecoming - a film by Charles Dennis - Charles Dennis Productions Videography NYC USA". Charlesdennis.net. Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  10. ^ "Performance Space 122 - About - Mission and History". ps122.org. Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  11. ^ fluido & franz No real name given + Add Contact (2008-10-19). "P.S.122 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  12. ^ "The 53rd Academy Awards (1981) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-07. 
  13. ^ http://www.famenetwork.com

External links[edit]