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Film / Fame

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I'm gonna live forever, I'm gonna learn how to fly (High!)
I feel it coming together, people will see me and cry (Fame!)
I'm gonna make it to heaven, light up the sky like a flame (Fame!)
I'm gonna live forever, baby, remember my name!"
The title theme song by Irene Cara
A 1980 musical drama film directed by Alan Parker, Fame is the story of some students of the High School of Performing Arts, a very exclusive Real Life school in New York City (which has since been merged with the High School of Music & Art to become the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts). The students find themselves cooperating among themselves and with the faculty, even as they compete for chances in the real world to make their dreams of stardom come true, and deal with the personal and professional obstacles that stand in their way.

The original film earned two Academy Awards, for its music score and title song. A remake film directed by Kevin Tancharoen (yes, the Mortal Kombat: Legacy guy) was released in 2009. There is also a musical stage adaptation which has had many productions over the years.

Along with the silver screen and the stage, Fame has been adapted into several musical television series. The first series aired from 1982–87 (with much of the film's cast reprising their roles), followed by Fame L.A. in 1997–98. The last attempt, in 2003, took the form of a Reality Show similar to American Idol.

The movies provide examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Kevin in the remake. The actors and the director disagree whether he is gay or not.
  • Artistic License: "P.A." as shown in the film closed in 1984, but modern productions such as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou are mentioned by the characters in the remake.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Out Here On My Own." Nominated for Oscar, but lost to the title song (so they technically both won and lost that Oscar).
  • Bait-and-Switch: Lisa's seeming suicide is framed as this. The scene places a lot of emphasis on an incoming subway train, flashing between it and Lisa walking towards the yellow line, but when it passes by and the kids shout, we're to assume the worst. Turns out Lisa only threw her dancing clothes to the tracks and symbolically killed her dancing career, declaring she's going to the Drama department instead.
  • Big Applesauce: The film is set in New York.
  • Big Finale Crowd Song: The film ends with the high school music students singing "I Sing the Body Electric" during their graduation in senior year.
  • Book Ends: "Audition" features a scene where Doris' mother starts tearing up and taking pictures of her because she's so proud of her. By the end of "Senior Year", and thus the movie, we see Doris' mother doing the same thing again as she's cheering her on in her class' graduation performance.
  • Coming-Out Story: Montgomery gets his in the first movie. He does his best to hide it early on, and Ralph mocking him about it doesn't help either, but he is able to come out to his closest friends. The story doesn't dwell on this for very long, however.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Not a lot of these kids walk into school with a good background:
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": A few characters fall into this. Ralph refuses to go by "Raul Garcia" in school, instead taking the name "Ralph Garci". Similarly, once Doris starts finding her voice, she requests renaming herself "Dominique DuPont".
  • Driven to Suicide: Nearly happens to Lisa in the original and Kevin in the remake after they're informed that their ballet skills aren't enough to recommend them to a professional dance studio.
  • Ensemble Cast: The movie isn't solely about one or two groups of people, nor does it focus on any one discipline in P.A. At the most we follow about eight students, their various circles, and a handful of teachers to support them.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Averted with Angelo Martelli, Bruno's father. Mr. Martelli actually likes Bruno's compositions and is very saddened by the fact that Bruno refuses to play them for public audiences.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: The movie focuses on a few different stories together:
    • The friendship between Doris, Ralph, and Montgomery, and how they begin to grow from their presence in each other's lives.
    • Coco chasing fame, and Bruno breaking out into composing.
    • Leroy's tumultuous relationship with Mrs. Berg, and his slow development into a less self-centered young man.
  • Gayngst: Montgomery. It makes sense considering when this takes place, and only made worse by Ralph's bullying of the kid during the first few years of school.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Discussed in one scene, and averted in the end. Doris ends up getting impregnated by Ralph after a night of comfort sex, while her mother admonishes her and chastises her for the act (not to mention not wanting to keep the baby). Hilary, meanwhile, goes through with one, but she retains sympathy throughout her clinic scene and the movie makes clear that she would have to suffer some consequences if she wanted to continue as a dancer.
  • Graduation for Everyone: "Senior Year", and thus the film, ends on all of the main cast at their graduation ceremony.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: Doris is forced to sing this at a children's birthday party by her Stage Mom, and not only is she clearly reluctant and sad performing the song, but the children are crying and distracted.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: You won't get anywhere without hard work, but hard work alone won't get you anywhere.
  • High School: Albeit an "alternative" one.
  • High-School Rejects: Michael graduates and he is sent out for auditions for television pilots. Two years later, Doris meets him again. He works as a waiter.
  • High School Rocks: Literally.
  • Hopeless Auditionees: While a good number of the hopefuls in "Audition" are genuinely talented or have some spark, there's focus on the ones who don't make the cut too. Leroy's story even starts with him outshining his friend, who could barely dance at all.
  • Hufflepuff House: While we get to know a lot of people from the Acting and Dance departments, the only person we follow that comes from Music is Bruno.
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: "In L.A.", though it's more I Was Becoming.
  • I Am What I Am / "I Am" Song: "Out Here on My Own".
  • "I Want" Song: "Fame", natch.
  • Inspired by…: The real students of the real school.
  • Irritation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: Ralph's character arc has him wanting to get into show business because of Freddie Prinze, and he generally starts to go down a similar career path at first. It takes a turn for the worse in the end, when the tragedies in his life and the stress of being a comedian start eating away at his relationships with Doris and Montgomery. Eventually learns not to be so focused on Prinze, and takes a healthier approach to his life.
  • It's All About Me: Leroy is a very self centered boy during his stay at P.A. His outbursts in class are for his own sake, he damages school property without a care, and when he learned Miss Berg went to the hospital (to be there for her dying husband) he took the time to come after her and chew her out for her treatment of him in school. This led to her only really nasty outburst towards him— "Do you ever think of anybody else besides yourself?!"
  • Love Triangle: You see bits and pieces of one surrounding Leroy, Coco, and Hilary. While Leroy and Coco get along very well in the first year, once Hilary enters the school she does everything she can to get Leroy's attention, to the point where she and Coco trade verbal blows with each other over him every class where it's brought up. Hilary eventually wins out, but there doesn't appear to be bad blood between them all.
  • Kick the Dog: "Who in the world told you you were special?"
  • Lazy Bum: While Lisa loves to dance and truly wants to pursue it as a career, her footwork is less than stellar and she refuses to correct it. She does mention that her family's not all that great with discipline, but it's no justifiable excuse for her teachers. Her poor performance in Dance does cost her, and she is eventually kicked out of the course.
  • Model Scam: Coco is approached in a diner by a sleazy guy claiming to be a director. She goes to his apartment for a "screen test" and he orders her to undress in front of a camera. She does so, and starts crying from embarrassment and shame.
  • Near Misses: Chris learns that the prince he's traded places with is the target of an assassination plot when a bullet almost hits him while he's just minding his business.
  • Never Learned to Read: While they don't always touch upon it, Leroy's biggest hurdle in school turns out to be English. He never learned to read before coming to P.A, and flips out when Miss Berg presses him on the subject during Freshman Year. Over time he does learn, but outside of one extracurricular scene we don't see him training himself.
  • Onscreen Chapter Titles: The film is divided into five chapters: "Auditions", "Freshman Year", "Sophomore Year", "Junior Year", and "Senior Year".
  • The Peeping Tom: Some boys peep into the girls' locker room through a hole in the wall. Their peeping days come to an end when they start making too much noise and collapse the bathroom stalls they used to stand on.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Ralph is a right jackass to Montgomery after learning he's gay, and makes plenty of homophobic comments to him before they really start becoming friends. However it's clear that Ralph isn't a bad person and maintains sympathy once the audience gets to see more sides to him.
  • Product Placement: To The Rocky Horror Picture Show. While we see Ralph dress up as Dr. Frank-N-Furter to mock Montgomery in one scene, he and Doris do go to a screening in the latter half of the film. They even participate in the crowd riffs, and Doris starts dancing to "Timewarp".
  • Proscenium Reveal: One of the main characters is monologuing about his mother. It looks like an interview, until he flubs a line and we realize it's an audition.
  • School Play / Graduate from the Story: The final "Senior year" sequence, "I Sing the Body Electric"/"Hold Your Dream".
  • Senior Year Struggles: The final act focuses on the pressures of getting into prestigious (performing arts) higher education or entering the (again performing arts) workforce after graduating. This pressure brings the issues that Ralph, Hilary, Coco, and Leroy have had the previous three years to a head: Ralph, would-be stand up comic, gets a significant gig; Hilary has a shot at a ballet scholarship; Coco is auditioned by an "independent producer;" and Leroy is being recruited by Alvin Ailey. In each case, how well they've internalized their teachers' mentoring affects the outcome.
  • Shrinking Violet: Doris in the original, Jenny in the remake. They get better.
  • Shoutout:
    • During the auditions, a black girl recreates a scene from The Towering Inferno.
    • During the auditions, a guy reads a scene from Romeo and Juliet. He mistakenly reads Juliet's part.
    • Coco is mentioned to have done a part in A Chorus Line some time in Junior Year.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Stuck firmly on the cynical end. This is not a film which shies from showing how hard it is to get into showbiz. If you're talented, focused and willing to work to achieve your dream... it might not be enough. If you are unlucky, you will fail. If you are worse than anyone else, you will fail. If you fall in with the wrong people, you will fail. "All we can guarantee is seven harsh lessons and a hot lunch a day", indeed.
  • Sore Loser: Leroy only intended to assist with Cindy's audition. When he not only outshines her, but gets the acceptance ticket ahead of her, Cindy furiously rips not only into him but P.A. as an institution, saying she saved time and money being kicked out of what she now considered a phony school.
  • Spontaneous Choreography: Downplayed in both the "Hot Lunch" and "Fame" sequences. The students do indeed start breaking into dance once the music hits, but very few groups are coordinated and the resulting dances are chaotic.
  • Title Theme Tune: Won an Academy Award and became a hit single for Irene Cara (who also played Coco in the film).
  • Third Wheel: Eventually, Montgomery comes to feel this way in his relationship with Doris and Ralph. The instant the latter couple starts really flirting with each other, they're off in their world while Monty's left trying to stay on track or awkwardly waiting out their couple moments. A heartbreaking version of this trope applies when Ralph finally admits his abysmal family life in a teary breakdown, and while Doris comforts him Monty realizes the wall between them and leaves.
  • Visual Pun: A horn player is seen in the bathroom for both peeping scenes.

The TV series provides examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: "Not In Kansas Anymore", a Whole-Plot Reference episode based on The Wizard of Oz.
  • Bowdlerize: TV!Montgomery is not that obviously gay, compared to the movie version of him.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Season 2 episode 12, "Tough Act to Follow", opens with Danny having a dream where he is in the elevator of the apartment building that Mr. Crandall lives in. The elevator malfunctions with Danny still inside, and he is left screaming, "Crandall!" Danny then wakes up right at the stroke of 2:36 AM. At school that day, he finds out that Mr. Crandall died of a heart attack early in the morning, and asks Mrs. Berg what time Crandall died. She says she doesn't know, and after a replay of the scene where Danny wakes up, he says "I know".
  • Christmas Episode: "All I Want For Christmas" and "Ebenezer Morloch".
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: While many cast members got fond farewells, others vanished without warning (i.e. Doris). Subverted in that many of them come Back for the Finale.
  • Citizenship Marriage: In Season 4's "Dreams"; the revelation that Jesse was in the country illegally, Doris considers marrying him to allow him to stay in the country, while Mr. Shorofsky considers trying to adopt Jesse.
  • Dance Party Ending: The finale - and yes, it was to the title song.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Miss Grant comes the closest.
    "You've got big dreams. You want fame. Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying... in sweat."
  • Driving Stick: The Episode "Street Kid" has Ms Sherwood giving Mister Shorofsky driving lessons, but she only knows how to drive an automatic and the classic car he bought turns out to have a four speed manual transmission meaning that all her lessons were useless because neither of can drive it at all.
  • Emergency Impersonation: The 1985 episode "His Majesty Donlon" sees Chris having to trade places with Prince Frederic of Vatonia to allow the prince to experience normal life for a period prior to giving a speech at the United Nations (though unknown to Chris until a near-miss; the Prince is also the target of an assassination plot).
  • Fake Guest Star: Dick Miller (who played Lou Mackie during the 2nd half of the series' run when Lou's Lanes becomes the Local Hangout) first appeared early in Season 4 but got this treatment during the first half of Season 6, when he appears in 8 of the first 12 episodes of that season before being Promoted to Opening Titles.
  • First-Run Syndication: After NBC canned the show after 2 seasons, the rest of the show ran in syndication.
  • Last Episode Theme Reprise: See Dance Party Ending for the video.
  • Local Hangout: Lou's Lanes becomes this during the latter part of the series' run.
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Occurs with Dick Miller (as Lou Mackie) and Ann Nelson (as Mrs. Berg)
  • The Queen Will Be Watching: Season 3's "Hail to the Chief" has the school debating what to do with an upcoming play following an announcement of a last-minute visit by the President and whether to change things in the play; particularly a fairly risque song titled "Drive Me Wild".
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The Season 5 finale "The Incident" (focusing on an accident that left Jesse Velazquez unconscious). In fact it came a little too close to plagiarismnote 
  • Rearrange the Song: For the first few seasons, the theme was arranged in a similar manner as the film version. By the last season, however, the song received a more synthpop sounding arrangement.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The song "That Dream", featured in the season 3 episode "A Way of Winning", later appeared in the Kids Incorporated episode "You've Got The Wrong Date". A given, since both shows were made by MGM and featured original songs by Michael Cruz.
    • The song "That's Dancin'" was also shared by both shows, appearing in the Fame episode "The Rivalry" and the Kids Incorporated episode "The Wallflower".
  • Say My Name: See Catapult Nightmare.
  • Very Special Episode: Many, including "Help From My Friends" and "Go Softly Into the Morning".
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: Naturally, "Ebenezer Morloch".

The musical version provides examples of:

Alternative Title(s): Fame LA