Hairspray (1988 film)

Hairspray (1988 film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Waters
Produced by John Waters
Robert Shaye
Rachel Talalay
Written by John Waters
Starring Ricki Lake
Debbie Harry
Sonny Bono
Jerry Stiller
Leslie Ann Powers
Colleen Fitzpatrick
Michael St. Gerard
Clayton Prince
Ruth Brown
Shawn Thompson
Mink Stole
Music by Kenny Vance
Cinematography David Insley
Editing by Janice Hampton
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) February 16, 1988 (1988-02-16)
Running time 91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million
Box office $8,271,108

Hairspray is a 1988 comedy film written and directed by John Waters, and starring Ricki Lake, Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, and Divine. Hairspray was a dramatic departure from Waters' earlier works, with a much broader intended audience. In fact, Hairspray's PG is the mildest rating a Waters film has received; most of his previous films were rated X by the MPAA. Set in 1963 Baltimore, Maryland, the film revolves around self-proclaimed "pleasantly plump" teenager Tracy Turnblad as she pursues stardom as a dancer on a local TV show and rallies against racial segregation.

Hairspray was only a moderate success upon its initial theatrical release, earning a modest gross of $8 million. However, it managed to attract a larger audience on home video in the early 1990s and became a cult classic.[1][2] Most critics praised the film, although some were displeased[citation needed] with the overall campiness.

In 2002, the film was adapted into a Broadway musical of the same name, which won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2003. A second film version of Hairspray, an adaptation of the stage musical, was also released by New Line Cinema in 2007, which included many changes of scripted items from the original. The film also ranks #444 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[3]



Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) and her best friend, Penny Pingleton (Leslie Ann Powers), audition for The Corny Collins Show, a popular Baltimore teenage dance show based on the real-life Buddy Deane Show. Despite being overweight, Tracy becomes a regular on the show, infuriating the show's reigning queen, Amber Von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick), a privileged, beautiful high school classmate whose pushy stage parents, Velma (Debbie Harry) and Franklin Von Tussle (Sonny Bono), own Tilted Acres amusement park (based on Baltimore's Gwynn Oak Amusement Park, where racial problems occurred). Tracy steals Amber's boyfriend, Link Larkin (Michael St. Gerard), and competes against her for the title of Miss Auto Show 1963, fueling Amber's hatred of her.

Tracy's growing confidence leads to her being hired as a plus-size model for the Hefty Hideaway clothing store owned by Mr. Pinky (Alan Wendl). She is also inspired to bleach, tease, and rat her big hair into styles popular in the 1960s. At school, a teacher brands her hairstyle as a "hair-don't" and sends her to the principal's office where Tracy is sent to special education classes, where she meets several black classmates who have been put there to hold them back academically. The students introduce Tracy to Motormouth Maybelle (Ruth Brown), an R&B record shop owner and host of the monthly "Negro Day" on The Corny Collins Show. They teach Tracy, Penny, and Link dance moves and Penny begins an interracial romance with Motormouth Maybelle's son, Seaweed (Clayton Prince). This horrifies Penny's mother, Prudence (Joann Havrilla), who imprisons her daughter in her bedroom and tries to brainwash her into dating white boys and oppose intergration with the help of a quack psychiatrist (John Waters). Seaweed later helps her break out of the house and run away. It is implied that she will never return as she has finally broken free from her mother.

Undeterred, Tracy uses her newfound fame to champion the cause of racial integration with the help of Motormouth Maybelle, Corny Collins (Shawn Thompson), his assistant Tammy (Mink Stole), and Tracy's agoraphobic, slightly overbearing, and overweight mother, Edna (Divine). After a race riot at Tilted Acres results in Tracy's arrest, Franklin and Velma Von Tussle grow more defiant in their opposition to racial integration. They plot to sabotage the Miss Auto Show 1963 pageant by planting a bomb in Velma's bouffant hairdo. The plan literally blows up in Velma's face when the bomb detonates prematurely, resulting in the Von Tussles' arrest by the Baltimore police after it lands on Amber's head. Tracy, who had won the crown but was disqualified for being in reform school, dethrones Amber after the governor of Maryland pardons her; Tracy then shows up at the competition, integrates the show, and encourages everyone to dance.


Special appearances
Council members
  • Josh Charles as Iggy
  • Jason Downs as Bobby
  • Holter Graham as I.Q. Jones
  • Dan Griffith as Brad
  • Regina Hammond as Pam
  • Bridget Kimsey as Consuella
  • Frankie Maldon as Dash
  • Brooke Stacy Mills as Lou Ann Levorowski
  • John Orofino as Fender
  • Kim Webb as Carmelita
  • Debra Wirth as Shelly
Other characters
  • Cyrkle Milbourne as Little Inez
  • Dawn Hill as Nadine Carver
  • Verna Day as Mrs. Carver
  • Brook Yeaton as Tough guy #1
  • Jeff Gardner as Tough guy #2
  • Toussaint McCall as Himself
  • John Waters as Dr. Fredrickson
  • Lydia Troy as Mrs. Malinski
  • Jay Hillmer as Principal Davidson
  • Andrew Myers as Pre-teen dancer
  • Rosemary Knower as Mrs. Shipely
  • Mary Vivian Pearce as Hairhopper mother
  • Susan Lowe as Angry mother
  • Buddy Deane as Governor's mansion newsman
  • Doug Roberts as Paddy Pingleton
  • Linda Cohn as Reporter
  • Kathleen Wallace as the Gym Teacher


John Waters wrote the screenplay under the title of White Lipstick, deriving the film partly from real events. The Corny Collins Show is based on the real-life The Buddy Deane Show, and the film's climax is based on an actual event that took place on that show in the summer of 1963.[4]

Filming for school occurred at Perry Hall High School with set locations including the library, a first-floor English class, and the principal's office.[5] In the scene set in the principal's office, the Harry Dorsey Gough (see Perry Hall Mansion) coat-of-arms that once hung in the main lobby can be seen through the doorway.[6]

The scenes set at Tilted Acres amusement park were filmed at Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania.


Critical reception

Hairspray received 3 stars from critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.[7]

The film currently holds 97% "Fresh" rating, and a 77% Audience rating, on Rotten Tomatoes; it is Waters' highest-rated film, considering his actual works, as the site's consensus states "Hairspray is perhaps John Waters' most accessible film, and as such, it's a gently subversive slice of retro hilarity."[8]

Box office

Hairspray opened on February 26, 1988 in 79 North American theaters, where it grossed $577,287 in its opening weekend. On March 11, it expanded to 227 theaters, where it grossed $966,672 from March 11–13. It ended its theatrical run with $8,271,108.[9] The film was nominated for six Independent Spirit Awards, and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.[10]

Other works

Broadway musical

In mid-2002, Margo Lion teamed with writers Marc Shaiman and Thomas Meehan to turn Hairspray into a Broadway musical production. The show opened on August 15, 2002 starring Marissa Jaret Winokur as Tracy and Harvey Fierstein as Edna. The show went on to win eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, in 2003. The show closed on January 4, 2009.

2007 adaptation

In 2006, New Line joined forces with Adam Shankman to make the Broadway show into a movie musical. The film was released July 20, 2007, starring John Travolta as Edna, Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma, Christopher Walken as Wilbur, Amanda Bynes as Penny Pingleton, Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle, James Marsden as Corny, Zac Efron as Link, and newcomer Nikki Blonsky as Tracy. The film had a $75 million budget and earned $202.6 million worldwide.[11]


The soundtrack was released January 27, 1995 by MCA Records. The CD featured one original song by Rachel Sweet and eleven other songs mostly from the 1960s by Gene Pitney, Toussaint McCall, among others.

Additional songs

Other songs appear in the movie, but are not on the soundtrack.

  • "Limbo Rock" – Chubby Checker
  • "Day-O" – Pia Zadora This was never released as a single
  • "Duke of Earl" – Gene Chandler
  • "Train to Nowhere" – The Champs
  • "Dancin' Party" – Chubby Checker
  • "The Fly" – Chubby Checker
  • "The Bird" – The Duo Tones
  • "Pony Time" – Chubby Checker
  • "Hide and Go Seek" – Bunker Hill
  • "Mashed Potato Time" – Dee Dee Sharp
  • "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)" – Dee Dee Sharp
  • "Waddle, Waddle" – The Bracelettes
  • "Do the New Continental" – The Dovells
  • "You Don't Own Me" – Leslie Gore
  • "Life's Too Short" – The Lafayettes

Home media

Hairspray was first released on VHS and LaserDisc in 1989 by RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video. New Line reissued the film on VHS in 1996.

The film was released on DVD by New Line in 2003. The disc included an audio commentary by John Waters and Ricki Lake and a theatrical trailer.

See also


External links

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