Before the talent and production company came to Pittsburgh to start filming Flashdance and after it was opened in theaters around the country, people who knew about these matters felt strongly that this film was going to be a flash in the pan. The director, Adrian Lyne, turned the script down a couple of times before agreeing to work on this project. When the film was released, critics could not stop taking shots at this movie for its lack of realism. The only people that liked it were the movie goers who bought their tickets for this 97-minute roller coaster romantic fantasy.
The story is about an ambitious young lady that dances in a bar at night and works as a welder during the day. In her spare time, she dreams of making it as a ballet dancer. The movie deals with how this 18-year-old young woman and her 36-year-old boss become romantically involved while watching their dreams and the dreams of people they care about rise and fall and sometimes rise again.
The stars of the film were virtually unknown when cast. Actress Jennifer Beals showed off her dancing and acting skills on film for the first time, and Michael Nouri, who, at this point in his career, had a resume that encompassed working for ten years in television and movie industries. The performances were professional. I wonder if they knew (or even cared) how weak the plot was. They were there to do a job and they did it.
What drives this film is music and dancing. What a Feeling, Maniac, I Love Rock and Roll and Gloria are a few of the hit songs from the 80’s that are forever linked with this work and help to weave its tale. We always knew who was responsible for the film’s music, but when it came to the dancing, Beals did little of it. The artist responsible for the show-stopping steps didn’t even get a credit line. French actress/dancer Marine Jahan is the talent that delivered the great dance moves that continue to excite audiences still today. There are two stories that explaining how she came to be overlooked. It seems that she didn’t get credit for her work because the studio didn’t have to. It was either never required in the contract she signed, or they simply had to shorten their list of credits.
Scenes shot at the Carnegie Museum of Art, The University of Pittsburgh, and The Duquesne Incline will have some Pittsburghers thinking that some things never seem to change. As I watched this film recently, I felt a little embarrassed that the movie makers didn’t have to embellish the scenes showing the seedy side of Pittsburgh in the 80’s all that much in order tell their story.
The film is fun to watch, and the music and dancing keep you focused. The story was weak when the movie first came out, and it seems weaker today. Pittsburghers will realize that the routes they drive to get from one point to another are filmed for folks that aren’t familiar with getting around in Pittsburgh. I never like to rate a film by how much money it’s made, but this little gem cost $7 million to make and brought in $200 million at the box office. Locals Don Brockett and Vic Cianca have small parts. Folks familiar with who was who in 1983 will get a kick out of seeing them on film.
By Tom Pollard