|A Chorus Line|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Attenborough|
|Produced by||Cy Feuer|
|Screenplay by||Arnold Schulman|
|Based on||A Chorus Line|
by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante
|Edited by||John Bloom|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
(theatrical and North American TV)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (via Nelson Entertainment)
(North American current)
Universal Pictures (via StudioCanal)
|Box office||$14.2 million|
A Chorus Line is a 1985 American musical drama film directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Michael Douglas. The screenplay by Arnold Schulman is based on the book of the 1975 stage production of the same name by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante. The songs were composed by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban.
The film was released theatrically on December 13, 1985 by Columbia Pictures. It received mixed to negative reviews from critics and was a box office bomb, grossing only $14 million from a $25 million budget.
This article needs an improved plot summary. (December 2017)
A group of dancers congregate on the stage of a Broadway theatre to audition for a new musical production directed by Zach (Michael Douglas). After the initial eliminations, sixteen hopefuls remain. Arriving late is former lead dancer Cassie (Alyson Reed) who once had a tempestuous romantic relationship with Zach but left him to take a job in Hollywood. Now she hasn't worked in over a year, and is desperate enough for work to even just be part of the chorus line. Whether he's willing to let professionalism overcome his personal feelings about their past remains to be seen.
As the film unfolds, the backstory of each of the dancers is revealed. Some are funny, some ironic, some heartbreaking. No matter what their background, however, they all have one thing in common: a passion for dance.
The songs "And...", "Sing!", and "The Tap Combination" from the stage version are eliminated in the film, as well as most of "The Montage" ("Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love")
Before the show had premiered, Hollywood producers expressed interest in a motion picture version of the musical. Universal Pictures acquired the rights for $5.5 million plus 20% of the distributor's gross rentals above $30 million with the stage musical's director Michael Bennett hired as producer and director. Bennett declined to participate when his proposal to present the film as an audition to cast the movie version of the stage play, instead of a literal translation of the play, was rejected. Many directors turned down the project, insisting that not only was A Chorus Line too beloved, but it would not translate well to the screen. When Attenborough accepted the project in 1984, there was some apprehension as to the treatment the British director would give the musical's quintessentially American story.
The decision to tamper with the score disappointed fans of the show. "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love," "Sing!," and "The Music and the Mirror" were deleted (the first was touched on briefly) and new songs "Surprise, Surprise" and "Let Me Dance For You" were added. The show's breakout tune, "What I Did for Love," was originally performed by Diana as a paean to dancers and their dedication to their craft, but in the film it becomes a wistful love song by Cassie about Zach as she leaves the stage.
The stage musical was one of the first productions to address the subject of gay actors within the theatre. The film version opted instead to make a more "family friendly" film by dealing less with the experiences of gay actors.
The dance numbers were choreographed by Jeffrey Hornaday.
Audrey Landers could move well but was not a trained dancer as was the rest of the cast. Attenborough cast her in the film despite her lack of formal dance training. She is absent from some of the more difficult choreographed dance numbers.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. In his review in The New York Times, Vincent Canby observed, "Though it was generally agreed that Hair would not work as a film, Milo? Forman transformed it into one of the most original pieces of musical cinema of the last 20 years. Then they said that A Chorus Line couldn't be done--and this time they were right...Mr. Attenborough has elected to make a more or less straightforward film version that is fatally halfhearted."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated, "The result may not please purists who want a film record of what they saw on stage, but this is one of the most intelligent and compelling movie musicals in a long time--and the most grown up, since it isn't limited, as so many contemporary musicals are, to the celebration of the survival qualities of geriatric actresses."
Variety said, "Chorus often seems static and confined, rarely venturing beyond the immediate. Attenborough merely films the stage show as best he could. Nonetheless, the director and lenser Ronnie Taylor have done an excellent job working within the limitations, using every trick they could think of to keep the picture moving. More importantly, they have a fine cast, good music and a great, popular show to work with. So if all they did was get it on film, that's not so bad."
Kelly Bishop, the original stage Sheila, noted, "It was appalling when director Richard Attenborough went on a talk show and said 'this is a story about kids trying to break into show business.' I almost tossed my TV out the window; I mean what an idiot! It's about veteran dancers looking for one last job before it's too late for them to dance anymore. No wonder the film sucked!"
As of March 2019Rotten Tomatoes from 35 reviews with the consensus: "On stage, A Chorus Line pulled back the curtain to reveal the hopes and fears of showbiz strivers, but that energy and urgency is lost in the transition to the big screen."A Chorus Line currently holds a 40% rating on
The film was nominated for the following awards:
A Chorus Line was released to DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on April 15, 2003 as a Region 1 widescreen DVD, with a re-release in new packaging on January 14, 2014 and a Blu-ray release on the same date.