New Line Cinema, 1988, 91 minutes
Starring Divine, Ricki Lake, Michael St.Gerard, Jerry Stiller, Sonny Bono, Ruth Brown, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Deborah Harry, Leslie Ann Powers, Clayton Prince, Mink Stole
For Hairspray, John Waters inadvertently got a PG rating and created one of the most unexpected family movies of the 1980's.
In this wholesome story about an overweight high school girl, Tracy Turnblad (played by Ricki Lake in her debut performance) you not only get an empowering underdog film, but also a sub-plot about segregation in the early 60s and how young radicals of that era sowed the seeds of change. Inspired by the local Baltimore TV sensation The Buddy Deane Show, Waters packed the movie with fantastic 60s songs and dances, and an on-point message of integration and acceptance.
Highlights of Hairspray include star performances from Sonny Bono and Deborah Harry as the devious parents of spoiled teen queen Amber Von Tussle, R&B legend Ruth Brown as DJ Motormouth Mabel, plus Ric Ocasek and Pia Zadora as beatniks who paint, smoke reefer, iron their hair and listen to Odetta.
Hairspray will sadly be remembered as the final role that Divine ever played (and in fact, he played two roles!). Upon it's release, Hairspray received rave reviews, and he was heralded for his performances. But alas, Divine passed away three weeks after the film's release.
Without a doubt, Hairspray is John Waters' most popular film - and for good reason. It was adapted into a tremendously successful Broadway musical, going on to win 8 Tony Awards in 2003 including Best Musical. The musical was in-turn adapted into a film version starring John Travolta in the role of Divine! And now the musical is performed all over the world at community theaters and high school drama clubs.
"Hairspray is the only really devious movie I ever made. The musical based on it is now being performed in practically every high school in America – and nobody seems to notice it’s a show with two men singing a love song to each other that also encourages white teen girls to date black guys. Pink Flamingos was preaching to the converted. But Hairspray is a Trojan horse: It snuck into Middle America and never got caught." - John Waters
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