In 1984, everybody was gettin’ Footloose at the movies, dancing along with a young Kevin Bacon

Footloose with Kevin Bacon

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Footloose stars Kevin Bacon as a dynamic Chicago youngster transplanted to a morally numb heartland town, where local minister John Lithgow has banned rock dancing.

An energetic, celebratory film about youth vs. age, with none of the stereotypes usually involved. – From the Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA) February 17, 1984

Young Kevin Bacon sizzles in Footloose

From The Daily News (Lebanon, Pennsylvania) February 22, 1984

You can forgive “Footloose” a lot after the charm of its opening credits. As Kenny Loggins sings the bouncy title song, it is accompanied by a sort of character ballet of feet, one pair at a time, rocking to the beat.

Upbeat and droll, it is an inspired beginning. If the rest of the picture held this much invention, this would be classic stuff. It isn’t.

The movie’s rewards are Kevin Bacon, electrifying in a true star-making turn; John Lithgow giving a human dimension to his role as pastor of a Midwestern town that bans dancing, and at least two jaw-dropping musical numbers.

There also has been an attempt by screenwriter-songwriter Dean Pitchford to flesh out the storyline, which is basically a variation on “Come on, kids, let’s put on a show!”

Footloose stars - Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer

While any step up from the crushing simple-mindedness of “Flashdance” or “Staying Alive” is deeply appreciated, the PG-rated “Footloose” may have been fleshed out to the point of obesity.

Do its target young audiences want to wrestle with kids’ rights versus fundamentalist pressure, or the gradations of suppression between banning music and burning books? I wouldn’t have guessed so.

We see the town of Bomont through new arrival Bacon’s eyes. And we see him through the wide-set, lovely eyes of Lori Singer as the pastor’s long-legged, hell-raising daughter.

To Chicago hipster Bacon, Bomont looks so square you could put photo-mount corners on it. To Singer, Bacon looks like hearts. Of course, she already has a country-macho boyfriend (Jim Youngs), but what is.a movie without conflict?

Eventually, the story has two branches, a crisis of leadership on the part of Lithgow (supported memorably by Dianne Wiest as his wife) and a challenge to that leadership by Bacon, who wants to see the high school seniors have a dance when they graduate.

Footloose movie - Kevin Bacon

It is the getting there that is the fun. Bacon has made one buddy at school, a sweet and goofy bumpkin (Christopher Penn, of the acting Penns).

Penn is us, the two left-feet klutz who absolutely can’t dance. And so the challenge of teaching Penn becomes one of the hilarious bits in the picture. (Paul Hirsch’s editing makes this a delight.)

Director Ross has consciously tried to make the film’s music and dance numbers (by excellent American Ballet Theatre choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett) an organic part of his picture.

You won’t find the sort of spontaneity that gave a movie like “Star Struck” its goofy dazzle, but there are moments here where you feel the real delight of moving to music, and I can’t remember that on a screen in ages.

Bacon also has a dancing soliloquy, letting out his pent-up energy and frustration in a combination of athletics and dance, which is a show-stopper. (There is a dancing double, Peter Tramm, at some points, particularly the gymnastic stunts, but Bacon moves magnificently.)

Kevin Bacon - Footloose warehouse dance scene

At other points, the picture doesn’t make much sense. Pastor father and rebellious daughter are forever at odds as she flouts curfew. (For starters, Lithgow doesn’t even seem old enough to have a 17-year-old daughter.) But when she sports a shiner for several days, he never mentions it.

When she drops a bombshell in church about her virginity, he never questions her about it again. He doesn’t even seem to notice that she doesn’t wear a bra, although we certainly do.

Flash back with Flashdance: What a feeling! (1983)

It takes a lot of charm to gloss over these pitfalls. Fortunately, Bacon has enough for three movies.

With his pointy fox-face and spiky hair, his air of keeping a little in reserve and the all-stops-out energy behind his dancing, he is ferociously attractive. And together, he and Singer are intelligently combustible. If you go to “Footloose” to discover Kevin Bacon, you couldn’t go wrong.

See the original movie trailer

YouTube video

Casual “boy next door” flashes toward stardom (1984)

By Mike Hughes, Lansing State Journal (Lansing, Michigan) Mach 17, 1984

He is the 1984 equivalent of Jennifer Beals, but up close, he doesn’t seem like a glittery star.

He is a small, slim young man with a gently-pleasant face. He talks easily and seems disarmingly honest.

But he’s likely to become a full-scale celebrity. Little girls are starting to ooh about him, at the same time that grouchy critics are admiring him.

THIS IS Kevin Bacon, who’s scoring with “Footloose.”

Footloose final dance scene with balloons

Last year at this time, “Flashdance” was just starting to take off. Beals was becoming a 19-year-old media event.

And now comes Footloose — same company, same sort of a campaign, same sort of rock-and-roll beat, same box-office bonanza. This time, the focus moves to Bacon.

Yes, there are differences between the two stars. He’s older (25), but passes easily for a teen. He’s also had some impressive acting experience.

WHEN BACON made a Hollywood stop last year (to talk about a TV movie), he was dressed, casually, wearing tennis shoes and throwing a sport coat thrown over a white T-shirt. “California has no sense of style,” he joked, “so you can wear whatever you want.”

And his conversation was just as. casual. In a formal press conference and an informal chat, he was instantly likable.

'80s teen idol Tommy Howell was already a veteran movie actor at age 17

BACON GREW UP “very middle-of-the-road” in Philadelphia, where his dad was a city planner. From his early teens, he was convinced he’d be an actor.

When he finished nigh school at 17, he headed to New York to study and act with Circle-in-the-Square. “I was in sort of a rush.”

Two years later, he landed a porting role in “Animal House.” He assumed he’d be returning to New York with fame and fortune.

“I thought there’s be a banner on the George Washington Bridge, welcoming me back… I’d made $785 a week (the minimum) for 19 weeks, and I hadn’t thought it out very carefully. Somehow, I thought that was going to last me the rest of my life.”

It didn’t. Soon, Bacon was back to waiting tables.

IN THE NEXT few years, Bacon had a succession of bit parts, often as punks and scum. (“I look like the boy next door. And the last thing the boy next door wants to play is the boy next door.”)

In “Friday the 13th,” he was speared to death in bed. In “Only When I Laugh,” he had just one scene, as a college kid who unwittingly tries to pick up a teenager and her youthful-looking mother.

“That was the one scene they kept showing on TV,” Bacon recalls with a grin. “My friends all thought I had a great role.”

Scenes from Footloose with Kevin Bacon and Chris Penn - 1984

AND HE HAD a better role on the “Guiding Light” soap opera. “On the soaps, you have to have a problem to survive. You say. ‘Oh, please, let me have a dark problem.”

“Then one day, pick up a script and it says, ‘Timmy takes a drink.'” You think, ‘Ah ha!'”

Soon, Timmy was a teen-age alcoholic and Bacon was doing well. But he took a chance, quitting the show after his one-year contract expired.

THAT’S WHEN a role in “Diner” appeared. “I thought it was going to be another ‘Animal House’ kind of film. I think that’s what the studio expected, too.”

But director-writer Barry Levinson had something else in mind. “I began to sense that, because in every scene he kept toning down the lighting and toning down the acting.”

“Diner” became a favorite of critics and film buffs. And one scene — with Bacon snapping out the answers to “College Bowl” questions — had an almost-haunting power.

Still, Bacon is remarkably honest about it. “I never did understand that scene,” he says.

THERE WAS still no instant fame. A year after “Diner,” Bacon was calm. “I’m still auditioning, still looking at scripts.”

One of those auditions led to the “Footloose” role as a teen rebel who dares to dance. Bacon threw himself into gymnastics and dance classes, then used a double (Peter Tramm) for the tough parts.

And now the “boy next door” may be finding stardom.

Footloose original movie poster with Kevin Bacon

Young actors find Footloose fame

“Footloose” is the sort of movie that creates instant stars.

The story [above] looks at Kevin Bacon. Here are quick sketches of three of his co-stars. The quotes, like those in the Bacon story, are from previous Lansing State Journal interviews.


There’s something ironic about Lori Singer’s sudden stardom. It was her brother, Marc, who was supposed to be the star. He’s been at it for a long time, while Lori was sticking to the family pre-occupation.

That’s music, and all of the Singers (except Marc) were into it. Jacques was conductor of the symphonies in Dallas, Vancouver, and Portland, Oregon. His wife, Leslie, is a concert pianist. Their son Gregory (Lori’s twin) is a violinist.

Matt Dillon: An insider's talk with teen actor & 'The Outsiders' star (1983)

LORI STARTED on the piano, then switched to the cello when she was 9. “Right away, I said, “This is it! The cello is my instrument!’ ”

By 13, she was soloing with the Oregon Symphony. A short time later, the family was moving to New York. “I just love the city. Anything you want to do is in walking distance. If you want six people to play chamber music at midnight, you’ve got them.”

Lori studied under cello superstar Leonard Rose and won the Bergen Philharmonic Competition. But she also dabbled in a few acting classes and talked to her brother about the craft. (Marc has built a solid career, including starring roles in the two “V” mini-series.)

SHE SHOWED UP for massive auditions for the “Fame” TV show, and landed the role of Julie, the naive newcomer from Grand Rapids.

Her acting drew harsh attacks from critics. But off-stage, she was a refreshing presence — bright, breezy and confident. She quit “Fame” after the second season, and plunged into “Footloose.”

That’s where the surprise comes. Under Herbert Ross’ direction, Singer gives a moving performance as the preacher’s kid trying too hard to be tough.

Vintage Footloose movie lobby poster


Sarah Parker’s family story sounds like a reverse “Sound of Music.” Her mom was a struggling divorcee, trying to support four children as a teacher in Appalachia. For a babysitter, she hired a college student and sometimes-actor.

Naturally, they fell in love and married. They moved to Cincinnati and had four more kids. The new stepdad encouraged Parker’s interest in dancing and acting, and kept an eye on auditions.

Square Pegs: The '80s TV series that starred Sarah Jessica Parker, from its much-buzzed beginning to its surprise demise

THEN CAME a long-shot try-out for “Annie.” Parker was hired as one of the orphans, then moved up a year later to the lead.

She was 13 and Broadway’s third Annie. “I had done it before, as understudy, but it isn’t the same. That first time, when the curtain opens and you’re the star, it’s such a wonderful feeling.”

But she promptly grew six inches and was replaced after a year. There was a letdown (“every night at 7:30 I felt it”), and then a starring role in the TV series “Square Pegs.”

The show didn’t return this season, and Parker retreated to New York. Then she landed a “Footloose” role as a good-spirited townie.


The first thing people notice about Chris Penn is? that he looks like someone else.

His brother, Sean, has drawn raves for his performances in “Taps,” “Bad Boy” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Meanwhile, Chris was growing up in the midst of show business. His dad (Leo) is a director, his mother is an actress. A family friend gave him acting lessons.

CHRIS PROMPTLY jumped straight to the movies. First came a role in “Rumble Fish,” then a bigger one in “All The Right Moves,” as a football player whose life is walloped by his girlfriend’s pregnancy.

And then came “Footloose,” as a clumsy farm kid who befriends the hip newcomer from Chicago. One of the film’s highlights is the long montage in which Penn’s character doggedly tries to learn to dance.

Video clip: The final dance scene from Footloose

YouTube video

MORE: Flash back with Flashdance: What a feeling! (1983)

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