Gotta Cut Loose…Footloose

The following free article is for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as scholarly research or as a final authority on the topic.  

Today’s post is part of the the original vs. remake movie review series I am doing with Tiffany A. White.  This month’s movie is Footloose.  I will be reviewing the original 1984 version.  On Friday, Tiffany A. White will review the 2011 remake.

Footloose is a teen drama with heavy emphasis on music and dancing.  It is not a musical, exactly, because the cast did not sing the soundtrack.   The film is loosely based on true events that occurred in 1980 in Oklahoma.

As mentioned above, Footloose was originally released in 1984.  The movie featured Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, Dianne Wiest, Christopher Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker, and John Lithgow.  Watch the trailer:

Summary: Footloose is the story of a big-city kid who moves to a podunk town where dancing is illegal.  The big-city kid fights to hold a school dance, a prom, and encounters resistance from both town leaders and other kids who don’t like slick, fast talking outsiders.  Footloose has it all–romance, fighting, laughs…and dancing.

Cute, pug nosed, blue-eyed Kevin Bacon couldn’t have been more well cast as Ren McCormack, the underdog who fought the good fight for oppressed teenagers everywhere.  Ariel Moore (Lori Singer) plays Kevin Bacon’s love interest.  Their relationship sets up a great deal of the movie’s conflict.

See, Ariel’s father is Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), a reverend who fought hard to have the “No Dancing” laws passed.  Shaw’s motivation for helping pass these paternalistic laws shed a sympathetic light on his character.  Shaw’s son—Ariel’s older brother—died in a car crash after an illicit night of drinking and dancing.

In addition to Shaw Moore, Ren must contend with the rebellious Ariel’s bad boy boyfriend Chuck Cranston (played by Jim Youngs).  Chuck is furious when city-boy Ren steals his girlfriend.  He shows up at various intervals in the movie to start fights with Ren and sabotage his efforts to convince the town’s lawmakers that a dance will not result in the town’s moral corruption.

Chuck and Ariel

Chris Penn—who died way too soon—plays Kevin Bacon’s hayseed friend, Willard, who’d rather fight than dance.  Watching Kevin Bacon teach Willard to dance is one of the movie’s more endearing moments.

An incredibly young Sarah Jessica Parker plays Chris Penn’s cute girlfriend Rusty.  Willard and Rusty are at the center of many of Footloose’s more comic moments.

And the music.  It makes me smile just to remember it.  Back in 1984, I loved the soundtrack.

It featured artists such as Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Mike Reno (of Loverboy), Ann Wilson (of Heart), and Bonnie Tyler.  The movie also featured songs by Foreigner, John Mellencamp, and Quiet Riot.

Confession: I still jam to some of these songs.

There are a couple of good storytelling lessons to be learned from Footloose.

1. Know Your Audience:  Footloose was directed at teenagers, who were not only sure to understand Ren McCormack’s frustration but also to think a dance was worth all that trouble.

2.  A lovable underdog will always find an audience to root for him.  Ren McCormack is earnest and undeniably cute.  Though he is a rebel, he’s a good guy.  He’s respectful when the situation warrants it, he treats his girlfriend well, and his cause is a positive one–at least to his intended audience.

Fun Factoid: Kevin Bacon was not the first choice to play Ren McCormack.  Tom Cruise was wanted for the role because of his underwear dance in Risky Business. Tom was unavailable because he was working on All the Right Moves, which is almost as good as Footloose.  Remember the fantastic theme song from All the Right Moves? Gosh, I loved that song.

Rob Lowe was also considered for the Ren McCormack role but was unable to take the role because of an injury.

Now, we’re down to the true story on which Footloose was based.  Elmore City is a town in Gavin County, Oklahoma.  The population as of the last census was 756.  It is 150 miles southwest of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  From the time Elmore City was incorporated in 1898, dancing was against the law.

In 1980, Leonard Coffee and Mary Ann Temple-Lee, students at Elmore City High, fought against the no dancing law.  They wanted to have a prom.  The roles of Ren McCormack and Ariel Moore in Footloose are based on Coffee and Temple-Lee.

Despite objections from religious leaders who believed the prom would lead to nothing more than fornicating and boozing and threats by the same to file court orders, the prom did happen.  The first Elmore City Prom was a combination banquet, prom, and all night lock-in night for seniors, which ended with a breakfast.  A prom is still held each year in Elmore City.


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