At the New York City High School for the Performing Arts, students get specialized training that often leads to success as actors, singers, etc. This movie follows four students from the time when they audition to get into the school, through graduation. They are the brazen Coco Hernandez, shy Doris Finsecker, sensitive gay Montgomery MacNeil, and brash, abrasive Raul Garcia.
Eddie Barth ... Angelo
Irene Cara ... Coco
Lee Curreri ... Bruno
Laura Dean ... Lisa
Antonia Franceschi ... Hilary
Boyd Gaines ... Michael
Albert Hague ... Shorofsky
Tresa Hughes ... Mrs. Finsecker
Steve Inwood ... François Lafete
Paul McCrane ... Montgomery
Anne Meara ... Mrs. Sherwood
Joanna Merlin ... Miss Berg
Barry Miller ... Ralph
Jim Moody ... Farrell
Gene Anthony Ray ... Leroy
A recent survey of children in the UK re-enforced the notion put forth by this film 27 years ago. That being more than anything else, young people want to grow up to be somebody famous. It used to be doctors and firemen that kids wanted to be. Now, everyone wants to be famous. Fame is a story of a group of kids accepted into the High School for Performing Arts in New York City. We seen them first audition, then take classes and learn about life for the next four years. The film has a lot of fine qualities, but ultimately leaves you feeling a little unsatisfied.
Alan Parker's bold directorial style fits the story pretty well. The film has been classified as a musical, but more than anything it is a drama. Musical numbers and dance routines break out here and there, and Parker keeps them as close to realistic as they really could have been filmed. The acting is for the most part top-drawer with a few exceptions. The pacing is a little off, particularly toward the end of the film, but by that point, the story has already taken a few wrong turns anyway.
First off, the auditions at the beginning of the film should have weeded a couple of the principle characters out. It seems unlikely that anyone would show up and audition for one department, then stumble their way through admissions to another. Some of these people just don't look that talented or interested to begin with. Once the first year of classes gets going, the film settles into a nice groove. The interaction between students and teachers is very well handled, and it leaves you wanting more. The film begins to lose itself later on as we see more and more of the students' lives out of school. Some of these people just aren't worth caring about.
The film's biggest mistake is making the Ralph Garcy character so prominent. This guy is a boorish; self-centered jerk. A "professional a-hole" as he proudly declares on stage during his comedy routines. The audience is supposed to somehow feel for this guy and his tragic personal situation, but I was just hoping they'd throw his butt out of school. Irene Cara, Maureen Teefy, Paul McCrane and the late Gene Anthony Ray are the people you'll care about by the time this film is over. Try as I might, I still can't develop abs like Gene Anthony Ray had in this film.
Overall this film is good. It is memorable, interesting, and full of daring scenes and performances. It runs maybe a little too long, and perhaps some of the wrong characters get fully developed while others kind of hover in the background. The musical numbers are great, and there is even a surprise or two waiting to be discovered by the time the film is over. Though not perfect, Fame will be a film that lives on in one way or another for many years to come.
'Fame' (1980) is brilliant. It's got all these qualities that made the late 70's movies so great. It is proud of its directness and not ashamed of being over the top.
What really matters here, is the journey, not the destination. Ignorant idiots with soap opera mentality, will never realize that 'Fame' is about the struggles, anxieties and triumphs of these young people, not about their careers.
Ironically enough, none of the very talented actors of 'Fame' made it in Hollywood. 'Fame' marked the end of an era. The end of artistic freedom and experimentation and the beginning of commercialization and political correctness. It's the last statement of a generation that had a voice of its own.
I truly hate musicals because music numbers just start out of the sudden and usually spoil scenes, but this one is completely different - it's simply brilliant. Plot perhaps isn't any challenge for the viewers, but the simplicity of people life stories makes this movie great.
I've seen it at least dozen times and still I'm not tired with the plot, characters or music (I just love the soundtrack - it's the only soundtrack that I've really wanted to have and most probably will remain the only one that I owe).
For me it's a must-seen kind of movie, great characters compiled with entertaining songs and a lot of things to think about after the movie end.
* The character of Ralph Garcey worships Freddie Prinze. In the course of the film, we find out that "Ralph's Garcey's" real name is actually Raul Garcia. When Prinze died, his character on "Chico and the Man" (1974) was replaced by a character named Raul Garcia.
* Four of the film's stars - Gene Anthony Ray, Lee Curreri, Albert Hague and Debbie Allen - went on to reprise their roles in the follow-up smash hit TV series of the same name, "Fame" (1982).
* Albert Hague was an actual teacher at Laguardia when he was hired almost on a whim by the producers to play Benjamin Shorofsky, a role that resurrected his acting career.
* Director 'Alan Parker' wanted a scene that showed Doris overcoming her fear and becoming an actress. He heard of the audience participation at the local screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and went to check it out. He loved it so much that he not only decided to use it in the film, he had many of the "cast" from the local screenings appear in the film, as the people doing the time-warp on stage when Doris runs up and joins them.
* The school is based on the real-life Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan. It is a public school, and therefore available to any New York City high school student who successfully auditions.
* One of the first films to employ digital audio in the soundtrack. Much of the music was recorded in New York on a digital system that digitally encoded two channels onto a video signal, then recorded it to 3/4 inch video tape. The final mix was analog on the standard six channel 70mm Dolby surround. The compact disk (CD was just a prototype in those days. CD's became available in 1982). The dub began on 3 March 1980.
* This was the first film in the history of the Academy Awards to have two songs nominated in the Best Song category. The nominated songs were the title song, written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford and "Out Here On My Own" written Michael Gore and Lesley Gore. The title song won. It has since happened several times.
* Sal Piro, the president of the Rocky Horror Picture Show fan club, makes an appearance as the host during the Rocky Horror Show scene.
* Madonna screen-tested for a role. She later did the same for the TV series version of the film.
* Debbie Allen commented in interviews that the role of Lydia was originally bigger in the movie, written as a star dance student always competing for roles with Irene Cara's Coco. So the role would not outshine Cara and the other young cast members, the role was then drastically cut down and made into the audition judge that you see in just the first ten minutes of the film. The character of Lydia, of course, was carried over to and made the star of the TV version of "Fame" (1982).
* Original title for the movie was to be "Hot Lunch," but because an X-rated movie on release at the time had the same title, the production opted for "Fame" instead.