35 years later, is Xanadu still a place where nobody dares to go?

Published Aug. 25, 2015

Did we forget to honor Xanadu on its 35th anniversary earlier this month. Maaaybe. Released on Aug. 8, 1980, the big-screen fantasy-on-rollerskates is infamous for basically killing Hollywood's love affair with musicals. It's been said that, along with the Village People sorta-bio-pic Can't Stop The Music, Xanadu basically invented the need for the Razzie Awards, which annually "honor" the worst of Hollywood's filmmaking efforts.

And yet, Xanadu did a lot of good. It gave us an amazing soundtrack (which went double platinum) featuring the vocals of Olivia Newton-John with the music of the Electric Light Orchestra. And decades later, our love for campy nostalgia, it spawned a Broadway stage musical that ran for more than 500 performances.

Here are five more things you probably didn't know about Xanadu on its 30th anniversary.

1. It was the final feature film for the great Gene Kelly, who died in 1996 at age 83. It wasn't, however, his last acting job. Kelly appeared on TV in episodes of The Love Boat, the 1985 mini-series North and South (where he played Sen. Charles Edwards) and the mini-series Sins in 1986.

2. One of Xanadu's choreographers was a buy named Kenny Ortega. Yes, the guy who would go on to much better success with Dirty Dancing and High School Musical.

3. The movie is essentially a disco-fied remake of the 1947 movie Down to Earth, starring Rita Hayworth. That movie was a sequel to 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan (which was remade in 1978 as Heaven Can Wait and again in 2001 as … Down To Earth.) Confused yet?

4. Xanadu's failure was more critically based than ticket based. The movie grossed $22 million on a budget estimated at about $13 million. And contrary to popular thought, it didn't kill Olivia Newton-John's movie career; that was likely taken care of by 1983's Two of a Kind. (Which in all fairness has a great killer title song by ONJ.)

5. So did Xanadu really kill movie musicals? It wasn't the first bad musical. (Consider 1978's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.) And it wasn't the last. (Thank you, Glitter, From Justin to Kelly and Phantom of the Opera.) Maybe Xanadu really is just the love that we came to know.