Purple Rain (1984)

R | 104 mins | Drama, Musical | 27 July 1984

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HISTORY

The Purple Rain project was initiated by musician Prince Rogers Nelson (a.k.a. “Prince”) and his three managers, Robert Cavallo, Joseph Ruffalo, and Steven Fargnoli, as a means to showcase Prince’s talent and capitalize on the new phenomenon of music videos in the early 1980s. After the success of Prince’s fifth album, 1999 (1982), the artist planned to combine his next release with a feature film and began work on Purple Rain.
       On 28 Apr 1983, Rolling Stone announced that Prince had completed writing a treatment for an untitled motion picture. However, production notes in AMPAS library files reported that William Blinn was the first writer, adapting Prince’s lyrics into a screenplay. Approximately six months later, in Oct 1983, Prince’s current record company, Warner Bros., guaranteed a film distribution deal after reviewing a presentation of the songs and treatment, according to a 22 Aug 1984 LAT column, even though the venture presented a considerable financial liability. As noted in a 10 Aug 1984 BAM article, long-form music videos had not yet been tested in theatrical release, and recent rock concert films had been unprofitable. In addition, Prince was notoriously private and inaccessible to the press, making him unavailable for publicity campaigns and potentially disinteresting to general audiences. As such, Cavallo, Ruffalo, and Fargnoli secured the film’s $7 million budget from independent, non-music industry investors.
       James Foley was the producers’ first choice for director, but he was unavailable and recommended Albert Magnoli as a replacement. Although Magnoli had no feature film credits to his name at that time, he ... More Less

The Purple Rain project was initiated by musician Prince Rogers Nelson (a.k.a. “Prince”) and his three managers, Robert Cavallo, Joseph Ruffalo, and Steven Fargnoli, as a means to showcase Prince’s talent and capitalize on the new phenomenon of music videos in the early 1980s. After the success of Prince’s fifth album, 1999 (1982), the artist planned to combine his next release with a feature film and began work on Purple Rain.
       On 28 Apr 1983, Rolling Stone announced that Prince had completed writing a treatment for an untitled motion picture. However, production notes in AMPAS library files reported that William Blinn was the first writer, adapting Prince’s lyrics into a screenplay. Approximately six months later, in Oct 1983, Prince’s current record company, Warner Bros., guaranteed a film distribution deal after reviewing a presentation of the songs and treatment, according to a 22 Aug 1984 LAT column, even though the venture presented a considerable financial liability. As noted in a 10 Aug 1984 BAM article, long-form music videos had not yet been tested in theatrical release, and recent rock concert films had been unprofitable. In addition, Prince was notoriously private and inaccessible to the press, making him unavailable for publicity campaigns and potentially disinteresting to general audiences. As such, Cavallo, Ruffalo, and Fargnoli secured the film’s $7 million budget from independent, non-music industry investors.
       James Foley was the producers’ first choice for director, but he was unavailable and recommended Albert Magnoli as a replacement. Although Magnoli had no feature film credits to his name at that time, he had directed an award-winning thesis short at the University of Southern California (USC) called Jazz, in which he followed three jazz musicians for over one year. When Magnoli declined the project, citing disinterest in Blinn’s script, Cavallo asked him for advice about the narrative, and Magnoli spontaneously concocted with the general outline for what would become Purple Rain, according to BAM. Impressed with the story, Cavallo sent Magnoli to Minneapolis, MN, where he met Prince and secured his approval. Magnoli had not listened to the Purple Rain songs and knew very little about Prince when he conceived the narrative, disproving public sentiment that the film was biographical. However, several aspects of the story reflected Prince’s personal life, including the musician “Father.” Prince’s real-life father, John L. Nelson, was a jazz musician and is credited onscreen for writing “Father’s Song.” The tune was released on the Purple Rain album as “Computer Blue,” with words and music by Prince, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Matthew Fink, and John L. Nelson.
       The role of “Apollonia” was initially written for Prince’s protégé and lover, Denise “Vanity” Matthews, for whom he wrote the 1982 hit song “Nasty Girl.” When she ended their relationship, and was considered for a role in a Martin Scorsese picture, the filmmakers had little time to find a replacement and recruited first-time actress Patricia Kotero, who changed her stage name to “Apollonia” for the movie. Vanity’s vocal group, “Vanity 6,” was renamed “Apollonia 6,” and replicated Vanity’s highly-sexualized act. According to a 2 Feb 1984 Rolling Stone brief, Prince’s stand-in, Byron Hector, was fired for complaining about Kotero’s acting skills.
       Principal photography began 1 Nov 1983 in Minneapolis, as listed in a 15 Nov 1983 HR production chart. Filming took place over seven weeks, according to production notes, with MN locations including Henderson, Eagan, and Lake Elmo. Exteriors were shot at the First Avenue and 7th Street Entry nightclubs in Minneapolis, and interiors were captured on soundstages constructed at an abandoned locomotive repair shop on the shores of Cedar Lake. The final budget was $7 million.
       Warner Bros. strategically released singles from the Purple Rain album in the months leading up to the film’s national opening on 27 Jul 1984, and the LP was available for purchase several days before the movie hit theaters. Various contemporary sources, including a 16 May 1984 Var article, noted that Warner Bros. was conducting a “synergistic” marketing campaign that incorporated its music and film properties. MTV, which was co-owned by Warner Bros. at the time, ran “promotional music videos” that included footage from the film, as well as a ten-minute short film about the movie. On 13 Jul 1984, LAT reported that the pre-released soundtrack singles were a commercial and critical success, creating mass anticipation for the film’s opening. In addition, sneak previews in Denver, CO, and San Diego, CA, garnered “the highest approval ratings in Warner Bros. history.” Although the studio initially planned a cautious “region-by-region” release pattern to test demographics, the surge of interest prompted Warner Bros. to open the film in approximately 700 theaters nationwide.
       Purple Rain made its world premiere at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, on 26 Jul 1984, one day before its general release. According to a 13 Jul 1984 HR news item, the soundtrack had already sold nearly two million copies, and the first single, “When Doves Cry,” ranked #1 on pop, R&B, and dance music charts. Two days after the film opened, a 29 Jul 1984 HR column reported that the Purple Rain LP had just reached sales of eleven million, making it the fourth soundtrack in U.S. history to be granted Platinum status by the Recording Industry Association of America. Since previous soundtracks had been compilations, Prince was the first solo artist to achieve the Platinum award. By 31 Jul 1984, the film dominated U.S. box-office returns, as noted in an LAHExam news brief published that day. Grossing $7.7 million in its first four days of release, Purple Rain surpassed Ghostbusters (1984, see entry) in ticket sales. One week later, however, Ghostbusters regained momentum, earning $300,000 more than Purple Rain’s gross of $6.2 million, according to an 8 Aug 1984 NYT report. At that time, the picture had grossed $18.8 million in ten days.
       The film was generally reviewed favorably, with the 4 Jul 1984 Var calling it “a rousing contemporary addition to the classic backstage musical genre,” and the 27 Jul 1984 LAT declaring it a success “beyond its own audacious dreams.” However, Purple Rain was also regarded as a predominately commercial enterprise, as the 14 Aug 1984 Village Voice reported it was the “most expensive video ever made,” and the 27 Jul 1984 NYT noted “it demonstrates the skills of the recording industry far more effectively than it does those of movie making.”
       On the day following Prince’s untimely death on 21 Apr 2016, the AMC theater chain announced plans to screen Purple Rain at eighty-seven locations nationwide, on 28 Apr 2016, and tributes throughout the world featured Purple Rain. According to the 22 Apr 2016 HR, the picture grossed over $80 million in its initial release.
       In 1990, Warner Bros. released Graffiti Bridge, a sequel written and directed by Prince (see entry).
       End credits state: “The producers wish to express special thanks to: The State of Minnesota; the Minnesota Motion Picture and Television Board; the 1st Avenue and 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis; the mayor, police department and people of Minneapolis” and, “May u live 2 see the dawn.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
BAM
10 Aug 1984
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 1984
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 1984
p. 6, 41.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 2016.
---
LAHExam
31 Jul 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Jul 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Jul 1984
p. 1, 23.
Los Angeles Times
22 Aug 1984
Calendar, p. 1, 6-7.
New York Times
27 Jul 1984
p. 5.
New York Times
8 Aug 1984
Section C, p. 15.
Rolling Stone
28 Apr 1983.
---
Rolling Stone
2 Feb 1984.
---
Variety
16 May 1984
p. 107, 110.
Variety
4 Jul 1984
p. 16.
Village Voice
14 Aug 1984
p. 63.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Cavallo, Ruffalo & Fargnoli present
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
2d unit cam (Helicopter)
Cam asst
Cam asst
Panaglide op
Spec lighting for musical numbers by
Lighting tech
Lighting tech
Lighting tech
Lighting tech
Chief set elec
Best boy
Elec
Key grip
Best boy
Dolly grip
Grip
Grip
Grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Co-film ed
Addl film ed
Addl film ed
Addl film ed
Addl film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Swing gang
Asst to Anne McCulley
Prop master
Asst props
Asst props
Const coord
Shop foreman
Painter
Jungle exotics
Jungle exotics
COSTUMES
Clothes by
Clothes by
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
MUSIC
Orig songs comp & prod by
Mus score
Mus ed
Mus re-rec mixer
Coordination
Mus rec at
Hollywood
Mus rec at
SOUND
Sd mixer
Playback op
Sd des supv sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Dial, Re-rec mixer
Sd eff, Re-rec mixer
Audio tech
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals by
MAKEUP
Supv makeup artist
Makeup artist
Key makeup artist
Key makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of post prod
Los Angeles casting
New York casting
New York casting, Hughes-Moss
Minneapolis casting
Plaza 3
Prod coord
Prod assoc
Asst to Mr. Magnoli
Secy to the prods
Loc mgr
Prod accountant
Prod accounting
Prod accounting, Moultrie Accountancy Corp.
Prod accounting, Moultrie Accountancy Corp.
Loc auditor
Payroll services
Loc projectionist
Unit pub
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Post prod asst
Post prod asst
Post prod asst
Prod secy
Prod secy
Prod secy
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt double
Stunt double
Stunt double
COLOR PERSONNEL
Prints by
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
“Let’s Go Crazy,” words and music by Prince, performed by Prince and the Revolution, © 1984 Controversy Music
“Jungle Love,” words and music by Morris Day & Jesse Johnson, performed by The Time, © 1984 Tionna Music
“Take Me With U,” words and music by Prince, performed by Prince and Apollonia, © 1984 Controversy Music
+
SONGS
“Let’s Go Crazy,” words and music by Prince, performed by Prince and the Revolution, © 1984 Controversy Music
“Jungle Love,” words and music by Morris Day & Jesse Johnson, performed by The Time, © 1984 Tionna Music
“Take Me With U,” words and music by Prince, performed by Prince and Apollonia, © 1984 Controversy Music
“Modernaire,” words and music by Dez Dickerson, performed by Dez Dickerson, © 1984 Dezsound
“The Beautiful Ones,” words and music by Prince, performed by Prince, © 1984 Controversy Music
“God (Love Theme From Purple Rain),” music by Prince, performed by Prince, © 1984 Controversy Music
“When Doves Cry,” words and music by Prince, performed by Prince, © 1984 Controversy Music
“Father’s Song,” music by John L. Nelson, performed by Prince, © 1984 Controversy Music
“Computer Blue,” words and music by Wendy, Lisa, and Prince, performed by Prince and the Revolution
© 1984 Controversy Music
“Darling Nikki,” words and music by Prince, performed by Prince, © 1984 Controversy Music
“Sex Shooter,” words and music by Apollonia 6 and The Starr Company, © 1984 Controversy Music
“The Bird,” words and music by Morris Day & Jesse Johnson, performed by The Time, © 1984 Controversy Music
“Purple Rain,” words and music by Prince, performed by Prince and the Revolution, © 1984 Controversy Music
“I Would Die 4 U,” words and music by Prince, performed by Prince and the Revolution, © 1984 Controversy Music
“Baby, I’m A Star,” words and music by Prince, performed by Prince and the Revolution, © 1984 Controversy Music.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
27 July 1984
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 26 July 1984
Los Angeles and New York openings: 27 July 1984
Production Date:
began 1 November 1983
Copyright Claimant:
Purple Films Company & Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 October 1984
Copyright Number:
PA227976
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses & Panaflex® Cameras by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
104
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27397
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

A nineteen-year-old singer named Apollonia arrives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, seeking fame and fortune at the city’s legendary First Avenue nightclub. There, she captures the attention of the venue’s most popular acts, the brash and ambitious Morris Day, and his troubled yet brilliant young nemesis, “The Kid,” who leads a band of androgynous, garishly dressed musicians called The Revolution. Although the Kid is a budding sensation on stage, he is handicapped by his abusive life at home. His father, a failed musician, copes with his frustrations by beating his wife, and the Kid, who is powerless to protect his mother, struggles with emotional attachments. He alienates himself from his bandmates, Wendy and Lisa, refusing to incorporate their songs in the set, and keeps Apollonia at a distance, even when they become lovers. As the Kid loses command of his relationships, Morris sees an opportunity to exploit his rival’s vulnerability and push him out of the First Avenue lineup. He convinces club owner Billy Sparks to sponsor a female-fronted band, featuring Apollonia, and promises the group will generate more revenue than The Revolution. Although the Kid has captured Apollonia’s heart with his provocative lyrics and sensual performances, he does little to promote her career, and she is flattered by Morris’s promise to showcase her talent. She hesitates to accept a role in Morris’s project, now called Apollonia 6, because she does not wish to hurt the Kid. However, she cannot refuse the opportunity to achieve her dream, and buys the Kid a guitar as a conciliatory gift. Although the Kid has long coveted the expensive instrument, he is unable to temper ... +


A nineteen-year-old singer named Apollonia arrives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, seeking fame and fortune at the city’s legendary First Avenue nightclub. There, she captures the attention of the venue’s most popular acts, the brash and ambitious Morris Day, and his troubled yet brilliant young nemesis, “The Kid,” who leads a band of androgynous, garishly dressed musicians called The Revolution. Although the Kid is a budding sensation on stage, he is handicapped by his abusive life at home. His father, a failed musician, copes with his frustrations by beating his wife, and the Kid, who is powerless to protect his mother, struggles with emotional attachments. He alienates himself from his bandmates, Wendy and Lisa, refusing to incorporate their songs in the set, and keeps Apollonia at a distance, even when they become lovers. As the Kid loses command of his relationships, Morris sees an opportunity to exploit his rival’s vulnerability and push him out of the First Avenue lineup. He convinces club owner Billy Sparks to sponsor a female-fronted band, featuring Apollonia, and promises the group will generate more revenue than The Revolution. Although the Kid has captured Apollonia’s heart with his provocative lyrics and sensual performances, he does little to promote her career, and she is flattered by Morris’s promise to showcase her talent. She hesitates to accept a role in Morris’s project, now called Apollonia 6, because she does not wish to hurt the Kid. However, she cannot refuse the opportunity to achieve her dream, and buys the Kid a guitar as a conciliatory gift. Although the Kid has long coveted the expensive instrument, he is unable to temper his outrage and hits Apollonia, prompting her to run away. The Kid begins to alienate his audience with self-indulgent and libidinous performances, and First Avenue owner Buddy Sparks threatens to fire the band. He warns the Kid that he is emulating his father, who prioritized his ego over the needs of his family, friends, and fans. Sometime later, the Kid grudgingly attends the debut of Apollonia 6 and confronts his estranged lover outside. When she agrees to a ride on his motorcycle, he threatens to hit her and she flees yet again. Realizing he cannot escape his family’s violent legacy, the Kid returns home and sees his father attempt suicide. In a rage, the Kid ravages the basement and discovers a crate filled with his father’s neglected music compositions. Regaining composure, the Kid returns to his own music and finally writes lyrics for Wendy and Lisa’s song. Back at First Avenue, Morris Day and his band, The Time, revel in their victory over The Revolution, which has lost its fan base due to the Kid’s recent penchant for self-indulgence. However, the Kid returns to the club with uncharacteristic humility, takes the stage in silence, and surprises his band with the announcement of a new song by Wendy and Lisa. Dedicating the tune to his father, the Kid plays the guitar Apollonia gave him and mesmerizes the crowd with an impassioned rendition of “Purple Rain.” When the song ends, the Kid presumes his career at First Avenue is over and rushes outside, but he hears the roaring crowd and turns around. As he returns to the stage, Apollonia tearfully kisses him, and he thrills his audience with an exhilarating encore. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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