Chorus Line, A (1985): Richard (Gandhi) Attenborough’s Musical Movie of Cult Broadway Hit

Richard Attenborough, the Oscar winner for Gandhi, proves to be the wrong director for this adaptation of Broadway’s legendary musical about the lives and times of dancers.

Putting the dances and the dancers front and center, the stage show was extremely touching in depicting the tales of a racially and sexually diverse group of hoofers.

We got to know from the inside what it takes to become a working Broadway dancer: the endless auditions, the long, painful classes, the embarrassing and damaging rejections, and the thrilling joys of finally making it.

In this (mis)conception, the dancers become sort of a background for a banal love affair between a choreographer Zach (Michael Douglas) and old flame Cassie (Alyson Reed) the show’s star dancer.

Zach is holding try-outs for a new Broadway musical. As expected, a disproportionately number of dancers are brought on stage to audition for Zach, who sits in the darkened spot in the theater, puffing on a cigarette, as he iterviews and selects thhe best ones among the hopeful dancers who want to become part of the chorus line for Zach’s new show.

Finally, Zach reduces the dancers to 16 men and women, and he asks each of them to step to the footlights and tell him about their familis, their lives, and their dreams.

While the dancers tearingly confess their pasts to Zach, we get to know him and his former lover, whom Zach met, courted and broke up with.  Once a big star, Cassie has returned to the theater , not to see Zach but to audition for Zach’s musical. She simly needs the work.

Sadly, as (mis)directed by Attenborough, on the big screen, Broadway’s smash hit is a painful dud and endless bore.

Oscar Nominations: 3

Sound:  Donald O. Mitchell, Michael Minkler, Gerry Humphreys, Chris Newman

Song: “Surprise, Surprise,” music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban

Film Editing: John Bloom

Oscar Awards: None


Oscar Context:

The Sound Oscar went to “Out of Africa,” which won Best Picture.

Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me,” from “White Nights,” won the Best Song Award.

The Editing Oscar was earned by Thom Noble for “Witness.”



Michael Douglas as Zach

Terrence Mann as Larry

Alyson Reed as Cassie

Cameron English as Paul

Vicki Frederick as Shiela

Audrey Landers as Val





Running time: 118 Minutes.

Directed by Richard Attenborough

Released: December 10, 1985.

DVD: April 15, 2003