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Xanadu is a 1980 musical/romance film directed by Robert Greenwald.

Starring Olivia Newton-John (fresh from her role in Grease), Michael Beck and Gene Kelly, and features music by Newton-John, Electric Light Orchestra, UK pop idol Cliff Richard, and the San Francisco-based art-rock band The Tubes.

The film's tagline is "A fantasy. A musical. A place where dreams come true."

The film was a major box office failure, and was nominated for six Razzies at the first-ever Golden Raspberry Awards (winning one), but the film has endured to become a cult classic. It is a "roller disco" film with emphasis on disco music and extensively-choreographed roller skating sequences.

Fans of the film argue that its early commercial failure and hostile reception in many quarters relate not only to the declining popularity of disco at the time of its release, but also to the film's emotional honesty. A contributing factor may have been a difficulty experienced by audiences in placing the film in its intended idiom, i.e., the more innocent musical romances of the 1930s and 1940s.

The film's soundtrack was more of a commercial success and went platinum, with many hits for both Newton-John and ELO, including the title track "Xanadu", "Magic" (four weeks at #1 in the US), "Suddenly", "Don't Walk Away" and "I'm Alive".

Plot summary

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Sonny Malone (Michael Beck) is a talented artist who dreams of fame beyond his job, which is painting larger versions of album covers for record-store window advertisements. As the film opens, Sonny is broke and on the verge of giving up his dream. Having quit his day job to try and make a living as a freelance artist, but having failed to make any money at it, Sonny returns to his old job at AirFlo records. After some humorous run-ins with his boss and nemesis Simpson, he resumes painting record covers.

One day Sonny is told to paint an album cover with a beautiful woman on it. This same woman has literally run into him earlier that day, kissed him, then roller-skated away, and Malone becomes obsessed with finding her. She finds him and identifies herself as Kira (Olivia Newton-John), but will tell him nothing else about herself.

Sonny befriends a has-been big band orchestra leader named Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly). Danny lost his muse in the 1940s; Sonny has not yet found his muse. Kira encourages the two men to form a partnership and open a nightclub. She falls in love with Sonny, and this presents a problem because she is actually Terpsichore, the muse of dance. Her parents, the Greek gods Zeus and Mnemosyne, call her back to the timeless realm of the gods, but when Sonny follows and professes his love for her, they agree to let her be with him.


  • Xanadu is set to become an Off Broadway musical in Spring 2007.
  • This film is dancer Gene Kelly's last starring role in a motion picture. (He had a minor appearance in the film Action U.S.A. nine years later.) Xanadu features his last dance on film (among them "Whenever You're Away from Me"). In this film, Kelly is also shown on roller skates during a musical number, a reference to a similar routine he performed in It's Always Fair Weather.
  • The title of the film is a reference to the poem "Kubla Khan, or A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment." by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which is quoted in the film. Coleridge had begun work on this poem, intended to be of epic proportions, when he was interrupted by a man from Porlock who detained Coleridge long enough for him to lose his train of thought after returning to his desk. The poem was never completed; it might be said that Coleridge had "lost his muse." Yet the poem is considered by many to be one of Coleridge's best. Xanadu is the name of the Chinese province where Khan establishes his pleasure garden in the poem.
  • The muse Terpsichore also appears in the 1947 film "Down to Earth", where she is played by Rita Hayworth. The other eight muses also feature prominently in both films. That "Xanadu" and "Down to Earth" have certain plot elements in common suggests to some that some "Xanadu" may have been partly inspired by "Down to Earth." But the relation between the two films, if any, is a matter of controversy. Some argue that "Down to Earth" is completely unrelated "Xanadu." In any case, it is inaccurate to describe "Xanadu" as a remake of "Down to Earth." (See below.)
  • Gene Kelly's character Danny McGuire has the same name as Kelly's character in Cover Girl (1944), starring Rita Hayworth. It is also related to this film, hence:
  • The Internet Movie Database incorrectly lists this film as being a "remake" of "Down to Earth", and a "spinoff" of ""Cover Girl"". The fact that this film features a character named "Danny McGuire" is an homage to Kelly's appearance in Cover Girl (which also featured Rita Hayworth, who also plays Terpsichore in Down to Earth), as well as relating to the "'40s-meets-'80's" theme.
  • Gene Kelly took the role of Danny McGuire because filming was a short drive from his home in Beverly Hills, so he could be close to his family. In his biography, he admitted that Xanadu was a bad film, but found Olivia Newton-John a joy to work with. For her part, Newton-John has said she immensely enjoyed working with Kelly as well, although she was initially intimidated by the prospect of starring in a film with a legend like Kelly.
  • Xanadu contains the first known appearance in the popular media of what later became known as the "Flock of Seagulls haircut." The hairdo is sported by drummer Prairie Prince of the Tubes during their performance of the song "Dancin'" in the film.
  • The film contains a short animated sequence by former Disney animator Don Bluth and his new animation studio. It is accompanied by the song "Don't Walk Away" by Electric Light Orchestra (not to be confused with the song recorded by Jade more than a decade later).
  • Matt Lattanzi, who was to become Olivia Newton-John's husband and father of her daughter Chloe Lattanzi, was a dancer in the film.
  • The film owes its cult status partly to audiences who were peculiarly touched by it as children during its short theatrical run in 1980. Xanadu also has a large following in the gay community.
  • Sandahl Bergman, who starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1982's Conan the Barbarian, plays Muse 1. She also had a prominent role in All That Jazz.
  • Olivia Newton-John promoted the film and the songs on a 1980 episode of The Midnight Special hosted by Wolfman Jack. In the show, Olivia (via trick photography) played all three Andrews Sisters-type singers in a segment featuring the song Dancin' from the movie.
  • Xanadu is one of three other roller-disco films released 1979-1980, the other two: Skatetown U.S.A. and Roller Boogie.
  • The exterior of Los Angeles' Pan-Pacific Auditorium was used in film for shots of the Xanadu nightclub. The art deco Streamline Moderne building burned down in 1989, though a front spire section was saved and used on the recent Pan-Pacific park community center building which now stands in its place.



  • Olivia Newton-John - Kira
  • Gene Kelly - Danny McGuire
  • Michael Beck - Sonny Malone


  • James Sloyan - Simpson
  • Dimitra Arliss - Helen
  • Katie Hanley - Sandra
  • Fred McCarren - Richie
  • Ren Woods - Jo

The Muses

  • Sandahl Bergman - Muse 1
  • Lynn Latham - Muse 2
  • Melinda Phelps - Muse 3
  • Cherise Bates - Muse 4
  • Juliette Marshall - Muse 5
  • Marilyn Tokuda - Muse 6
  • Yvette Van Voorhees - Muse 7
  • Teri Beckerman - Muse 8

The Tubes

  • John 'Fee' Waybill
  • Rick Anderson
  • Michael Cotten
  • Prairie Prince
  • Bill Spooner
  • Roger Steen
  • Vince Welnick
  • Re Styles

Rest of cast

  • Marty Davis - Male Guard
  • Bebe Drake-Massey - Female Guard
  • Mickey McMeel - The Accountant
  • Aharon Ipalé - The Photographer
  • Lise Lang - Popcorn Girl/Xanadu Dancer
  • Melvin Jones - Big Al
  • Matt Lattanzi - Young Danny McGuire/Xanadu Dancer
  • Ira Newborn - 40's Band Leader
  • Jo Ann Harris - 40's Singer #1
  • Cindy Leake - 40's Singer #2
  • Patty Keene - 40's Singer #3
  • John 'Fee' Waybill - Rock group 80's Rock Singer
  • Stephen Pearlman - Foreman
  • Church Ortiz - Worker #1
  • Randy T. Williams - Worker #2
  • David Tress - Nick
  • Madison Arnold - Vargas
  • Wilfrid Hyde-White - Male Heavenly Voice (voice)
  • Coral Browne - Female Heavenly Voice (voice)
  • Marla V. Langston - Dizzy Heights
  • Darcel Wynn - Dancer


"The Warriors opened a lot of doors in film for me, which Xanadu then closed." Xanadu co-star Michael Beck.

"I certainly wouldn't die of overexposure in Xanadu. Not enough people saw it. I don't regret it or anything else I've done. ... I learned a lot and the music was successful. I would've been upset if the music flopped." - Olivia Newton-John, quoted in the The Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson in the essay on her four-week US number one single from the film, "Magic."

Awards and nominations

  • Ivor Novello Award Best Motion Picture Film soundtrack Jeff Lynne
  • Young Artist Awards
Nominated: Best Major Motion Picture - Family Entertainment
  • Golden Raspberry Awards
Won: Worst Director (Robert Greenwald)
Nominated: Worst Picture
Nominated: Worst Screenplay
Nominated: Worst Actor (Michael Beck)
Nominated: Worst Actress (Olivia Newton-John)
Nominated: Worst "Original" Song (Suspended in Time)
Nominated: Worst "Musical" of Our First 25 Years


  • Some interpret Xanadu as an allegory for multigenerational projects for human progress, in the cause of liberty, equality and brotherly/sisterly love.

External links

da:Xanadu sv:Xanadu (film)