This article belongs to the story Prince’s second soundtrack, the sublime Parade.
Movie number 2
Following the success of Purple Rain, Prince was the most important artist on the Warner Bros. roster in the music and movie departments. Prince could do whatever he felt like. He had an idea for a movie and was immediately given cart-blanche. Without even as much as a script he was granted the okay.
Prince’s ideas were transformed into a script by the virtually unknown (and inexperienced) Becky Johnson. Prince wanted to make a romantic comedy with a 1930s vibe. France was picked as the right place to film and mid June 1985 Prince started looking for suitable locations and settled on Nice, a beautiful city along the French Riviera, with more than enough lush houses and hotels nearby. Also, travel to the other locations was easy from Nice: Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Cannes, Cap d’Antibes, Villefranche en Villeneuve Loubet (thank you Sophie Roux, set designer at the time and subsequent personal assistant for Prince’s Paris estate).
The initial idea was for Madonna to play the lead female character of Mary. After she declined attention was directed at Prince’s fiancée Susannah Melvoin, but she couldn’t act. Eventually the young aspiring British actress Kristin Scott-Thomas got the job, landing her her debut role in a major movie. Mary’s parents were portrayed by Terrance Stamp and Alexandra Stewart. Mary Lambert was hired as the movie’s director, someone already known within the Prince camp as she had previously made the Sheila E.’s video to The Glamourous Life in 1984. The video represented the style Prince was looking for.
After Prince’s passing a number of auctions were held where personal items were sold, including scripts. In 1985 Prince was working on the Under The Cherry moon script himself and two of his notebooks were auctioned off. Some pages coming from 2 different notebooks have been made available. The first one belonged to Prince, the second to Susannah Melvoin, his fiancée at the time.
Both notebooks are interesting. The second contains the fully scripted ‘Wrecka Stow’ scene (pages 13, 14 and 15). See the pages below.
Click on the notebook pages to enlarge.
From September 16th, 1985 to the end of November 1985 the movie was shot (in color). Prince wanted to film the movie in black and white, but his request was initially declined. However, the released version of the movie was in black and white, as Warner Bros. was not in the position to deny this to Prince.
The filming met with problems. After a couple of weeks Terrance Stamp left, because he felt the role didn’t live up to his expectations. Steven Berkoff took over. It wasn’t before long that director Mary Lambert’s role was untenable, she was fired and Prince took the helm and directed the movie from then on.
Christopher Tracy (Prince) is a piano player in a fancy hotel in Nice. He and his brother Tricky (Jerome Benton) are essentially gigolos in search of rich women, their money to be precise. One day Tricky finds out about Mary Sharon (Kristen Scott-Thomas), daughter to Isaac Sharon (Steven Berkoff), who is about to inherit $50 Million when she turns 21, which happens soon. Tricky convinces Christopher to go after Mary, so they crash her birthday party, sneak in and try to talk to her. Mary wants nothing to do with them and has them thrown out.
Nonetheless, the spark is undeniably there. Christopher and Mary start a relationship, even though Mary is bethrowed to Jonathan. Mary receives her inheritance on the grounds that she marries Jonathan. Despite that stipulation Christopher persists: he has fallen in love. Mary’s father is annoyed by the blossoming relationship and uses his immense power to work against Christopher. He is helped by Tricky, who tells Mary that Christopher has promised him 30% of the money when Christopher runs off with Mary. Sad and hurt, Mary decides to leave for New York to meet up with Jonathan.
Christopher manages to stop Mary at the airport and takes her with him. Her father interprets it as a kidnapping and informs the local police. Christopher and Mary talk things over and all’s well again. When they want to leave by boat, Christopher is shot by the police and dies in Mary’s arms.
The movie ends with Tricky who manages an apartment complex in Miami, owned by Mary.
The movie premiered on July 1st, 1986 (3 months after the release of the Parade album) in Sheridan, Wyoming. At the local school Prince And The Revolution played a mini concert (with Mazarati as their support act). The reason the premiere took place in Sheridan, Wyoming was caused by a competition organized by MTV. The 10,000th caller would win, which turned out to be the 20 year old Lisa Barber. And so, the Prince circus moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, where the premiere was broadcast by MTV.
The report of the premiere was published in People Weekly on July 21st, 1986.
Prince Charming – His movie’s a smash – in Wyoming
By Culter Durkee, Cathy Free and Jeff Yarbrough
First you win a contest, then you win friends. That’s how it happened for Lisa Barber, 20, a Sheridan, Wyo. motel chambermaid who last month dialed an MTV contest number and, by being the 10,000th caller, won a date with Prince and the opportunity to have his much-hyped new movie, Under the Cherry Moon, premiered in her hometown. Barber, a veteran contest entrant who had never won more than “a couple of Big Macs and a curling iron,” was ecstatic. So were her friends, many of whom she had never met. Moments after her name was announced, callers from California to the Carolinas began ringing up to ask for one or two or 10 of the 200 tickets she’d been allotted for Prince’s frontier fandango. Her mother, Elena Holwegner, fielded the endless requests with humor, if not compromise. Ring! “No, Lisa’s not here,” she fibbed to one caller. “You say you’re calling from Maine? Sorry.” Ring! “You say you want to come over and take pictures of me doing housework? I’ve got a better idea. You come over and do housework, and I’ll take pictures of you.” Ring! “Sorry, no more tickets. What? You say you have six days to live? Well, sorry to break the news, honey, but you’ll be long gone before Prince gets here. What? You say you can hold on an extra day? Well, I can’t. Sorry!” Click.
For Prince — who, when it comes to publicity, is usually about as visible as a microbe and only slightly more talkative — the sojourn to Sheridan seemed to serve two purposes. After years of performing in bikini underwear and a raincoat and singing such single-entendre hits as “Head” and the incest-themed “Sister,” he is, say pals, concerned that the public hasn’t seen enough of the happy-go-lucky, Little House on the Prairie side of his personality. “He’s perceived by the media as a bad boy, a rude boy,” says his friend and protégé, singer Sheila E. “He is very conscious of his reputation, and I think he’s making an effort to turn it around. Basically, he’s an easy-going guy.” Says Lisa Coleman, keyboardist with Prince’s band, the Revolution, “He’s so consumed by what he’s doing that sometimes he has not noticed what is happening to his public image. He realizes it now.”
The other reason Prince is courting publicity is that as Cherry Moon goes, so may go his movie career. If Moon succeeds, he’ll be seen as a screen phenomenon; if it fails, his first movie, the $80 million-grossing Purple Rain, may be seen as a fluke. Adding to the tension is the fact that the new film, a black-and-white fantasy romance set in the South of France, is pure Prince: He stars in the movies, conceived the plot, handpicked the cast and took over for the original director, Mary Lambert, after she left because of “artistic differences.” He also reportedly refused Warner Bros.’ entreaties to inject conflict into the script, saying that atmosphere and music would keep the audience entertained.
Sheridan hadn’t hosted such a dramatic event since 1865, when locals took on Arapaho Indians in a skirmish that preceded the Little Big Horn. By the time Prince pulled into town — 11 days after Barber made her call — Sheridan was ready. The pro-Prince contingent gathered at the airport, carrying signs (WELCOME TO SHERIDAN. WE’RE PROUD OF OUR TOWN. GOT ANY EXTRA TICKETS?) and hoping for a glimpse of the would-be minimogul. Others, less enthralled, could be found at the coffee counter in Ritz Sporting Goods, where rancher Dugan Wragge noted, “This town’s known for fishing lures. We don’t care about no boy who wears tight pants and struts around like a woman.” Ventured another customer: “I’m going to paint a fence. If Prince wants to help me, that’s fine.” A third recalled that when he first learned of Prince’s impending arrival, it set him to thinking about a visit Queen Elizabeth made to Sheridan in 1984 to look at equestrian stock: “I told my wife, ‘This is real nice. First his mother, and now him.'”
The airport crowd let out a hoot when Prince’s Learjet appeared as a dot in the Western sky. It landed and sat on the strip for a few minutes, the passenger door open. Then one tiny, high-heeled boot appeared. Then all 5’3″ of Prince Rogers Nelson, decked out in a purple paisley silk suit, emerged smiling. He walked down a red carpet and threw his jacket over a fence to the crowd, then politely exchanged pleased-to-meet-you’s with Sheridan’s mayor, Max DeBolt, and other dignitaries. DeBolt, who takes every opportunity to plug Sheridan’s tourist attractions (hunting and fishing), and neighborly life-style (“I think we had a thief here — once”), was delighted with the hoopla. As Prince climbed into a gray-and-black limo, he said, to no one in particular, “I’m going to buy a house here.”
Meanwhile, back at the small cottage behind her mother’s trailer home, Lisa Barber fretted like a prom queen should. Prince’s staff had cured one headache by providing a black-and-white outfit that would match the evening’s decor. “I was real worried about what I was going to wear,” says Barber. “I usually shop at K Mart.” Prince also sent over a hair stylist and a makeup artist. After that, Lisa has nothing to do except sit perfectly still until date time, 6 p.m.
Her guy pulled up, 15 minutes late, at the wheel of a white Buick convertible with personalized license plates that read LOVE. Eschewing the gravel driveway, he vaulted the chain-link fence and knocked on the door. “Hello,” he said, kissing her hand. “My name is Prince. Ready to have a good time?” Unfazed by the fact that her date was wearing more makeup and — thanks to a midriff-baring shirt — showing more skin than she was, Barber answered in the affirmative and took her seat in the car. Preceded by Sheridan’s female riding troupe, the Equestri-Annettes, and trailed by a posse of costumed cowboys, the couple cruised to the Centennial Twin theater, where 800 enthusiastic but inexpert stargazers waited. Singer Joni Mitchell entered unnoticed; crooner Ray Parker, Jr., a newspaper reported, was misidentified by some as Lionel Richie. “We cheered for anyone who was dressed weird or who was black,” says one Sheridian.
Inside, Prince sat with Barber in a back row. He did not buy her any Raisinets or popcorn but otherwise behaved like a perfect gentleman. “Well, there was one time during the movie when he played with my hair and he put his arm around me,” says Barber. “But that’s all he did. Honest.” And did Prince, rock’s reigning purple enigma, actually engage in conversation sometime in the evening? “Oh, yeah,” says Barber. “I asked him how he liked it here. He said it was real pretty and that I was lucky to live here. In the car he asked me what the best radio station was, and when he turned to it, the deejay was talking about him. He said, ‘If I had a phone in here, I’d call him.'” At Cherry Moon, she says, “I told him I liked the movie. [Prince’s co-star and sidekick] Jerome Benton asked me if I liked to fish but I told him ‘No way.'”
And how did the all-important Sheridan critics react to Under the Cherry Moon? The first review came from a young woman who, when Prince’s tightly suited form first appeared on the screen, yelled out “Nice butt!” After that things got a little less precise. “I liked it, but I didn’t get it,” said one local, whose opinion was echoed by others throughout the evening. “It was great!” offered another. “Like one long rock video! But I didn’t really figure out what was going on.” The next day, when Cherry Moon opened at 941 theaters around the country, paid critics began weighing in with reviews that made the townfolk seem kind. The New York Times called Prince’s character a “self-caressing twerp of dubious provenance.” The Washington Post said that in black-and-white, “Prince begins to remind you of something your biology teacher asked you to dissect.” USA Today, at least, pointed out that Prince’s principal draw isn’t his dramatic skill: “Fewer people saw [Purple] Rain for the acting than saw Old Yeller for the sex.” In its first weekend, the film grossed $3.1 million — about the same as Walt Disney’s new movie The Great Mouse Detective.
That was in the future, however, and there was still joy in Sheridan as the movie crowd spilled out of the theater and into a party at the Holiday Inn. At 10 p.m. Prince climbed onto a specially built stage and unleashed 45 minutes of radioactive funk. “He’s incredible,” said a surprised Lillie Belle Johnson, 66. “I never realized what we were missing.” With uncharacteristic informality, he and his band members mingled with the locals and made small talk about movies and trout. Cherry Moon might have gone over like wheat rust, but you couldn’t tell that from the crowd’s mood or from the mouths of Prince’s entourage, who were hard-pressed to find fault with their mentor. “I thought it was the perfect thing for him to do,” said bandmate Lisa Coleman. “Purple Rain was a heavier film; this is lighter.” Casey Terry, lead singer in the Prince spin-off group Mazarati, pronounced him “scintillating to work with. If you can’t handle his energy, you’re up a creek.” Said Cherry Moon co-star Kristin Scott-Thomas: “He was a joy to work with.” Seconded Jerome Benton, who has worked with Prince as a roadie, backup singer and actor: “He’s a genius. I won’t ever leave, unless he couldn’t use me. I like being under that protective wing.”
Lisa Barber also enjoyed her time under the protective wing. When the party ended, her date made sure she had a ride home in a limousine. “I’ll have lots of memories, but I know he’ll probably never see him again,” she said of her beau, who gave her earrings and a gold necklace as keepsakes. “I’ll never take them off,” she vowed. Looking back, she says the only good flaw in a perfect evening involved a misunderstanding over some costume jewelry Prince had impulsively asked to borrow. “He was a dream date,” says Lisa, “even if he didn’t give me back my pearls.”
People Weekly, July 21st, 1986
Unfortunately, the movie was badly received, universally lambasted by the press and audiences didn’t show up. The most important review were:
He finished the picture; he produced an entertainment that, while limited, is as good as much of the stuff cranked out by longtime professionals, and he got to do it the way he wanted.
(Detroit Free Press, 07/03/1986)
I’ve seen “Under the Cherry Moon,” I enjoyed it enormously, but I haven’t quite figured out what it’s supposed to be.
(Philadelphia Daily News, 07/03/1986)
If you make it to the bitter end of this less-than-cherry “Moon,” stick around a few minutes longer. There’s a full-fledged video of Prince’s “Mountains” behind the end credits. It’s more exciting than anything that goes before.
(San Jose Mercury News, 07/03/1986)
“We had fun, didn’t we?” asks Prince at the end, just before he goes to heaven. It’s nice that somebody did.
(Chicago Tribune, 07/04/1986)
Most of the scenes are so awkward, so hopelessly inept that the whole affair looks like a student film that somehow inherited a multimillion-dollar budget.
(Los Angeles Times, 07/04/1986)
Prince will never be an acceptable actor.
(Dutch newspaper het Parool, 09/04/1986)
This tribute to fun for the sake of fun lacks content in order to leave a lasting impression.
(Dutch newspaper Trouw, 09/04/1986)
The marriage between film and pop music has never been an easy one, but this is a stillborn child.
(Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, 09/04/1986)
No, Under The Cherry Moon hasn’t been able to convince me of Prince’s status as an undisputed superstar.
(Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, 09/05/1986)
Under The Cherry Moon an annoying monster.
(Dutch newspaper het Vrije Volk, 09/05/1986)
Failed egotrip by Prince.
(Dutch newspaper Leeuwarder Courant, 10/10/1986)
Under The Cherry Moon is a boring egotrip.
(Dutch newspaper Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 10-10-1986)
The Golden Raspberry Awards (better known as Razzies or Razzie Awards) is a reward show for worst movie, actor, actress, etc., as counterbalance to the Oscars. On March 29th, 1987, the reward show as organized and Prince/Under The Cherry Moon was the big ‘winner’. The following categories were won:
- Worst movie (with Howard, the Duck)
- Worst actor (Prince)
- Worst supporting actor (Jerome Benton)
- Worst director (Prince)
- Worst musical number (Prince And The Revolution – ♥ Or $)
The movie was nominated in the following categories as well, but didn’t win:
- Worst supporting actress (Kristin Scott-Thomas)
- Worst script (Becky Johnston)
- Worst new star (Kristin Scott-Thomas)
And, is it really that bad? Well, no actually. Personally, I think the movie is good fun, in which Prince may come across as a bit aloof, but human as well. A number of scenes in the movie are very funny, including the, among Prince fans, famous “Wrecka stow” scene.
Yes, the story is rather thin. Yes, it contains a lot of (melo)drama, but the overall mood is pleasing. The choice for black and white lends the movie a timeless quality, more so than Purple Rain. If the viewers really wants to see a bad Prince movie, choose Graffiti Bridge. Under The Cherry Moon is a nice, unpretentious movie, that puts a smile on my face and contains phenomenal music!
So, what about the “Wrecka stow” scene? See the scene, and the Under The Cherry Moon trailer in the (sub)article Prince – Under The Cherry Moon trailer & Wrecka Stow scene.
Read the movie reviews in Prince – Parade – The reviews.
Prince – Under The Cherry Moon scene – Color image: prince.org
Prince And The Revolution – Parade image: writteninmusic.com
Prince – Notebook 1 images: rrauction.com
Prince – Notebook 2 images: icollector.com
Prince – Under The Cherry Moon crew 1985 & Prince – Under The Cherry Moon – Wrecka Stow scene images: pinterest.com
Prince – Under The Cherry Moon premiere – 07/01/1986 image: thedailybeast.com
Prince with winner Lisa Barber 07/01/1986 image: facebook.com
Prince – Under The Cherry Moon – Poster image: imdb.com
Prince – Under The Cherry Moon – Flop Rolling Stone July 1986 image: Rolling Stone
Razzie image: wikipedia.org
Just a couple of things. They are not brothers although this is referenced in one of the scenes (different fathers).
It wasn’t Nice it was Juan les Pins /Antibes.
Otherwise love this. UTCM can’t get enough praise.
Thanks, will look into your comments as soon as I have the time!
Hi Annie, I’ve added the known film locations, so that should be fine now. Thanks again!
Lovely article!! I took myself on a wonderful UTCM tour in fall of 2019 and actually filming was done in Nice, Antibes, Juan les Pins etc. Their apartment building still stands today and looks exactly like it did in the film and it is indeed in Nice, France. I adore the Parade album and this film. UTCM 4EVER!! 🍒🍒🍒🍒🍒🌕🌕🌕🌕🌕🌕💜💜💜
Hi Clare, I’ve added the known film locations, so that should be fine now. Thank you so much for your reply!
Hi Clare we shot the movie in Nice, Cannes, Cap d Antibes, Beaulieu, Cagnes, Villefranche, Villeneuve Loubet. For info: I worked on the movie in the set design department.
Hi Sophie, thank you for commenting. It’s my honor hearing from you!
I loved the movie and thought the LP was one of Prince’s best: Mountains, Kiss, Anotherloverholenyohead 💜 Hard to watch now that Prince is really dead.😪