Set in Baltimore, Maryland in the year 1962, 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). Penny is too nervous and stumbles over her answers, and another girl, Nadine, is cut for being black (there is a ‘Negro Day’ on the show on the last Thursday of every month, she is told).
However, despite being overweight, Tracy is a strong enough dancer to become a regular on the show, infuriating the show’s reigning queen, Amber Von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick), a mean, privileged, beautiful high school classmate whose racist parents, Velma (Debbie Harry) and Franklin Von Tussle (Sonny Bono), own Tilted Acres Amusement Park and have banned African Americans from going there. 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 J. 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, from which 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 parents,
Hairspray is a 1988 American romantic comedy film written and directed by John Waters, and starring Ricki Lake, Divine, Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono, Jerry Stiller, Leslie Ann Powers, Colleen Fitzpatrick, and Michael St. Gerard. Hairspray was a dramatic departure from Waters’ earlier works, with a much broader intended audience. 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 1962 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. Most critics praised the film, although some were displeased with the overall campiness. The film ranks #444 on Empire magazine’s 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.
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.
Directed by: John Waters
Starring: Sonny Bono, Ruth Brown, Divine, Debbie Harry, Ricki Lake, Jerry Stiller, Vitamin C, Leslie Ann Powers, Clayton Prince, Shawn Thompson, Mink Stole, Pia Zadora
Screenplay by: John Waters
Production Design by: Vincent Peranio
Cinematography by: David Insley
Film Editing by: Janice Hampton, Charles Roggero
Costume Design by: Van Smith
Art Direction by: Vincent Peranio
Music by: Kenny Vance
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Release Date: February 26, 1988