DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN is a 1985 American comedy-drama film
Susan Seidelman and starring
Rosanna Arquette and Madonna
. Set in New York, the plot involves the interaction between two women
– a bored housewife and a bohemian drifter – linked by various
announcements in the personal column of a newspaper.
This was Madonna’s first major screen role and the film also
provided early roles for a number of other well-known performers, such
John Turturro ,
Laurie Metcalf ,
Aidan Quinn and
Steven Wright .
The New York Times named the film as one of the 10 best films of
* 1 Plot
* 2 Cast
* 3 Critical reception
* 4 Soundtrack
* 4.1 Track listing
* 5 Production
* 6 Stage musical
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 External links
Rosanna Arquette ) is an unfulfilled suburban housewife
Fort Lee, New Jersey who is fascinated with a woman she only
knows about by reading messages to and from her in the personals
section of a New York City tabloid. This fascination reaches a peak
when an ad with the headline "Desperately Seeking Susan" seeks a
rendezvous in Battery Park with the man who regularly seeks her (i.e.
Jim, played by
Robert Joy ). Roberta goes to Battery Park too, sees
the woman (Madonna ), and in a series of events involving mistaken
identity, amnesia, and other farcical elements, Roberta goes from
voyeur to participant in an Alice in Wonderland –style plot,
ostensibly motivated by the search for a pair of stolen Egyptian
earrings. With both of them trying to locate Roberta, her husband Gary
Mark Blum ) encounters the wild Susan.
Rosanna Arquette as Roberta Glass
* Madonna as Susan Thomas
Aidan Quinn as Dez
Mark Blum as Gary Glass, Roberta's husband
Robert Joy as Jim Dandy, Susan's boyfriend
Laurie Metcalf as Leslie Glass, Roberta's sister-in law
* Anna Levine as Crystal
Will Patton as Wayne Nolan
* Peter Maloney as Ian the magician
Steven Wright as Larry Stillman D.D.S.
John Turturro as Ray, the master of ceremonies at the Magic Club
Anne Carlisle as Victoria
Jose Santana as Boutique Owner
Giancarlo Esposito as Street Vendor
Richard Hell as Bruce Meeker
Rockets Redglare as Taxi Driver
Annie Golden as Band Singer
Richard Edson as Man with Newspapers
Ann Magnuson as Cigarette Girl
John Lurie as Neighbor Saxophonist
Victor Argo as Sgt. Taskal
Shirley Stoler as Jail Matron
Arto Lindsay as Newspaper Clerk
Kim Chan as Park Bum
Michael Badalucco as Guy from Brooklyn
Carol Leifer as Party Guest
The film holds an 85% "Fresh" rating at the review aggregator website
Rotten Tomatoes , based on 23 reviews. In her review for The New
Yorker , critic
Pauline Kael praised Madonna's performance as "an
indolent, trampy goddess."
The New York Times film critic Vincent
Canby named the film as one of the 10 best films of 1985.
Rosanna Arquette won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting
Role for her portrayal of Roberta; the fact that the award was for a
"supporting role" reflected the surge in popularity that Madonna was
experiencing at the time, since in terms of billing, number of scenes,
lines of dialogue, and the plot, Arquette was the film's lead. She was
nominated for a
Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.
Madonna also received positive reviews for her portrayal of Susan.
The soundtrack was released on both vinyl and CD together with the
soundtrack to the film
Making Mr. Right . The soundtrack does not
feature any of the other songs in the film including Madonna's "Into
the Groove " which can be found on the European 1985 re-release of her
Like a Virgin album. The film captures the feel of the underground
Bohemian/new wave scene of the early to mid-1980s New York City, a
scene that in real life helped Madonna get her big break in the music
business. Madonna recorded a song for the movie, titled "Desperately
Seeking Susan". It ended up not being used in the film, and a demo she
just finished at the time called "Into the Groove" was used instead.
The demo version can only be heard in the movie. The song was a huge
commercial success but was not included on the film's soundtrack,
despite being heard in the film, due to licensing restrictions, which
did involve Madonna's record label, that none of her songs was allowed
to get mixed in with other artists. The music video for "Into the
Groove" consists of clips from the film compiled by Doug Dowdle of
DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN – Music composed by
* "Leave Atlantic City!"
* "Port Authority by Night"
* "New York City by Day"
* "Through the Viewscope"
* "St. Mark's Place"
* "A Key and a Picture Of"
* "Battery Park / Amnesia"
* "Jail / Port Authority by Day"
* "Running With Birds in Cages"
* "Trouble Almost"
MAKING MR. RIGHT – Music composed and performed by
* "Chemtech Promo Video"
* "Ulysses' Escape"
* "Night Visit"
* "Frankie's Drive"
* "In the Lab"
* "Sondra and Jeff"
* "Mr. Right"
* "Wedding Reception"
* "Parting Glance"
Songs that appear in the film but not on the released soundtrack:
Into the Groove
Into the Groove " – Madonna (Madonna, Stephen Bray)
* "The Shoop Shoop Song (It\'s in His Kiss) " – Betty Everett
* "One Fine Day " –
The Chiffons *
* "Urgent " –
Junior Walker (Mick Jones)
* "You Belong to Me ", –
Carly Simon (Pee Wee King, Redd Stewart,
* "Lust For Life" –
* "Sucker M.C.\'s " –
* "Mashed Potato Time" –
Dee Dee Sharp
* "One Thing Leads to Another" –
* "Respect " –
Aretha Franklin (
Otis Redding )
* "Someday, Someway" –
* There are two versions of the opening scene; one version opens
with "The Shoop Shoop Song" and one version opens with "One Fine Day".
"One Fine Day" was used for the European version where licensing
restrictions prevented the use of the "Shoop Shoop Song" (as explained
on the 1996 DVD commentary).
The filmmakers had initially wanted
Diane Keaton and
Goldie Hawn to
play the roles of Roberta and Susan, but the director decided to cast
Rosanna Arquette and Madonna instead and the studio wanted
the film to have younger actors in order to appeal to younger
Bruce Willis was up for the role of "Dez" and Melanie
Griffith was up for the part of "Susan". Madonna barely beat out Ellen
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Jennifer Jason Leigh for the part of Susan. Suzanne Vega
also auditioned for the role of Susan, but was passed over.
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty can be seen in the film when it was still
covered in scaffolding during its two-year renovation. The DVD
commentary track for the film (recorded in 1996) noted that after
Madonna's first screen test, the producers asked her to take four
weeks of acting lessons and get screen-tested again. Although the
second screen test was not much of an improvement, the director still
wanted her for the role, as much for her presence and sense of style
as for anything else. Costume designer
Santo Loquasto designed Susan's
The film was inspired in part by the 1974 film, Céline et Julie vont
en bateau (Céline and Julie Go Boating). The film also has an
alternate ending included on the DVD, where Susan and Roberta are
invited to Egypt after helping to return the earrings. They are
depicted next to the pyramids on camels. The director cut this scene
from the end saying that it was unnecessary and audiences at the test
screenings thought the film should have already ended much earlier (as
explained on the DVD). The 1964 science fiction film, The Time
Travelers , is playing in scenes 6 and 23 (melts at the end of the
movie). All the scenes featuring Dez (Aidan Quinn) working as a
projectionist were filmed at
Bleecker Street Cinema . The scene
between Roberta and Gary in their kitchen show Roberta watching Alfred
Hitchcock's Rebecca .
The movie was filmed during the late summer and early fall in 1984,
early in Madonna's rise to popularity, and was intended to be an
R-rated feature. However, following the success of the singer's
1984–85 hits "Like a Virgin " and "
Material Girl ", the film was
trimmed in content by
Orion Pictures to get a PG-13 rating in order to
market the film to Madonna's teenage fan base.
The interior/exterior shots of The Magic Club were filmed at the
Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. Some of the scenes were filmed in
Danceteria , a club that Madonna frequented and which gave her a start
in the music business.
The film has been developed into a stage musical which received its
world premiere at London's
Novello Theatre on November 15, 2007,
following previews from October 16, 2007. The musical version features
music and lyrics by Blondie and Deborah Harry , including a brand-new
song written especially for the show. The production was directed by
Angus Jackson, with book and concept by Peter Michael Marino, and sets
and costumes by Tim Hatley. Produced by Susan Gallin, Ron Kastner,
Mark Rubinstein and Old Vic productions, the musical starred Emma
Williams as Susan and
Kelly Price as Roberta, with
Steven Houghton as
Alex. Marino presented his solo comedy Desperately Seeking the Exit,
which is based on his experiences, at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival
* Film in the United States portal
* 1980s portal
List of American films of 1985
* ^ "Desperately Seeking Susan".
Box Office Mojo . Retrieved
February 4, 2015.
* ^ "
Desperately Seeking Susan
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)".
Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved
February 4, 2015.
* ^ Amis, Martin (May 2, 1995). Visiting Mrs. Nabokov: And Other
Excursions. Vintage. Archived at
Google Books . Retrieved February 4,
* ^ Taraborrell, J. Randy (September 27, 2001). Madonna: An
Simon & Schuster . p. 86. Archived at Google
Books. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
Ebert, Roger (August 16, 2007). "Movie Answer Man".
* ^ Ebert, Roger. "Desperately Seeking Susan". Chicago Sun-Times.
Retrieved March 3, 2012.
* ^ Austin, Guy (December 1, 2008). Contemporary French Cinema: An
Introduction By Guy Austin. Manchester University Press, 2nd edition.
p. 64. Archived at
Google Books . Retrieved February 4, 2015.
* ^ "Brief Reviews". New York . May 27, 1985, p. 111.
* ^ Peyser, Michael (September 24, 2010). "DESPERATELY SEEKING
SUSAN 25 Sarah Pillsbury & Michael Peyser on the Magic Club". YouTube
* ^ Nicholas Blincoe. "
Desperately Seeking Susan
Desperately Seeking Susan + Blondie = a
painful performance". The Guardian.
* ^ "Fringe performers react against the critics – with
tomatoes!". The Edinburgh Reporter.
* ^ "\'Desperately Seeking Susan\' Turns 30: An Oral History of the
Downtown Classic!". The Edinburgh Reporter.
* Desperately Seeking