Making a Cult Classic

2012-28 FEA Akils Sparkle 1976 Version H

From left: Lonette McKee, Irene Cara and Dwan Smith, the stars of 1976’s "Sparkle."

Howard Rosenman recalls working with Joel Schumacher on the orginal 1976 "Sparkle."

I met Joel Schumacher in the summer of 1971. We both loved R&B, soul and the movies. The soundtrack to our lives was the '70s Supremes. I said to him, "We have to make a movie about these girls." Joel was doing the window display at Bendel's [department store]. He twisted the mannequins into incredible shapes, put outrageous wigs on them and red dresses covered in sequins. One sequin fell on the floor, and as I picked it up it glinted under the floodlights: "We're going to call our movie Sparkle."

I met Peter Brown, who was running Robert Stigwood's record company. Stiggy managed the careers of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton. Peter loved our idea and optioned it for $5,000. We hired Lonne Elder, who wrote the Oscar- winning Sounder, but his script was terrible. I told Joel, "Unless you write it on spec, the project will die."

John Calley, a very cool, smart man, was running Warner Bros. I told him about Sparkle. Joel had his heart set on directing, and I wanted Ashford & Simpson writing the music. Calley says to me: "I read Joel's great screenplay. I'll make the movie if Sam O'Steen directs and Curtis Mayfield writes the music." O'Steen was the editor of Catch-22, and Warner/Chappell had recently made a publishing deal with Mayfield, who wrote the phenomenally successful soundtrack to Super Fly. Joel said to me: "Curtis Mayfield is obviously our Barbra.

As far as Sam O'Steen ... it's painful for me, but I'll step aside." Calley gave us the green light a month later.

Sparkle became a cult movie, beloved by African- American girls because the characters felt like real people, not stock killers, pimps, drug dealers and addicts.

Howard Rosenman co-wrote and co-produced Sparkle