Hair (film)


Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Miloš Forman
Produced by Michael Butler
Lester Persky
Screenplay by Michael Weller
Based on Hair
by Gerome Ragni and James Rado
Starring John Savage
Treat Williams
Beverly D'Angelo
Music by Galt MacDermot
Cinematography Miroslav Ondříček
Edited by Alan Heim
Stanley Warnow
CIP Filmproduktion GmbH
Distributed by United Artists (1979, original) MGM (1999, DVD, and 2011, Blu-Ray DVD)
Release dates
  • March 14, 1979 (1979-03-14)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11 million
Box office $15,284,643

Hair is a 1979 musical war comedy-drama film adaptation of the 1968 Broadway musical Hair: An American Tribal Love-Rock Musical about a Vietnam War draftee who meets and befriends a tribe of long-haired hippies on his way to the army induction center. The hippies introduce him to their environment of cannabis, LSD, unorthodox relationships and draft evasion.

The film was directed by Miloš Forman, who was nominated for a César Award for his work on the film. Cast members include Treat Williams, John Savage, Beverly D'Angelo, Don Dacus, Annie Golden, Dorsey Wright, Nell Carter, Cheryl Barnes, Richard Bright, Ellen Foley and Charlotte Rae. Dance scenes were choreographed by Twyla Tharp and performed by the Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation. The film was nominated for Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture (for Williams).


Hair is a musical focusing on the lives of two young men in the Vietnam era against the backdrop of the hippie culture.

Claude Hooper Bukowski (John Savage) is a naive Oklahoman sent off to see the sights of New York before beginning his enlistment in the Army. On his arrival, he observes a group of hippies led by George Berger (Treat Williams) begging for change from a trio of horseback riders. Later, Claude catches the runaway horse the hippies have rented, and uses it to show off his riding skills to one of the trio of strangers, an upper-class débutante. While returning the horse to the hippies, Claude accepts their invitation to be shown around.

In the course of an evening, Claude gets stoned, then is introduced to the race and class issues of the 1960s. On the morning after, George finds a scrap of newspaper identifying the mysterious girl. The group including Hud (Dorsey Wright), Jeannie (Annie Golden), and Woof (Don Dacus) crash a private party where the girl—Sheila Franklin (Beverly D'Angelo)—secretly enjoys the disruption of her rigid environment. After the group is arrested, Claude uses the only money he has to pay George's fine so George can find the funds to get the rest of them released. Meanwhile, at the prison, Woof's refusal to have his hair cut leads into the title song.

Unsuccessful at convincing Sheila to get the funds from her father, George returns to his parents' home and is able to convince his mother to give him enough money to have the others released. For their next adventure, the group attends a peace rally in Central Park, where Claude drops acid. When Jeannie proposes they get married to keep Claude out of the Army and Sheila shows up to apologize, Claude's "trip" reflects his internal conflict over which world in which he belongs: his own native Oklahoman farm culture, the upper class society of Sheila, or the free-wheeling world of the hippies.

When his trip is over, Claude and the hippies have a falling out over both a mean trick they pull on Sheila (taking her clothes while she's skinny-dipping, which then leads to Sheila being completely humiliated when she has no choice but to hail a cab in just her underwear) and their philosophical differences over the war in Vietnam and personal versus community responsibility. In the end, Claude goes through with his original plan and reports to the draft board. He begins his enlistment in the Army and makes it through basic training.

When Claude writes to Sheila from his training camp, she seeks out George and his group to share the news. George begins to cook up a scheme to visit Claude in Nevada. Hud's fiancée (Cheryl Barnes) wants him to return to their life together with his son, LaFayette Jr. (Rahsaan Curry). Tricking Sheila's brother Steve (Miles Chapin) out of the family car, the hippies, Sheila, and Hud's fiancée head west and try to enter the training camp to visit Claude.

Turned back at the guardpost, George's next scheme has Sheila chat up Fenton (Richard Bright), an Army sergeant, at a local bar. Luring him out a back country road with intimations of sex, Sheila helps the group relieve him of his uniform and his car. Using both, George infiltrates the Army base, finds Claude, and reveals himself. When Claude refuses to leave for fear of being found missing during a headcount, George schemes to take his place long enough for Claude to visit with the others waiting in the desert.

While Claude is away, the base, which has been on alert, becomes fully activated with immediate ship-outs to Vietnam. George, unwilling to reveal that Claude is AWOL, boards the plane to Vietnam in Claude's place. Claude arrives too late to slip back onto his plane.

In a cut to Arlington Cemetery much later, his friends look at George's headstone. The song "Let the Sunshine In" plays, and as the song continues, the movie closes with crowd shots of a full-scale peace protest in Washington.


Differences from original version

Both the film's plot and soundtracks were greatly changed from those of the musical stage play.

Plot changes

Soundtrack changes


Gerome Ragni and James Rado, who wrote the original musical along with composer Galt MacDermot, were unhappy with the film adaptation, saying it failed to capture the essence of Hair in that hippies were portrayed as "oddballs" and "some sort of aberration" without any connection to the peace movement.[2] They stated: "Any resemblance between the 1979 film and the original Biltmore version, other than some of the songs, the names of the characters, and a common title, eludes us."[2] In their view, the screen version of Hair has not yet been produced.[2]

Nevertheless, the film received generally favorable reviews from film critics at the time of its release; it currently holds an 89% "fresh" rating on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[4] Writing in The New York Times, Vincent Canby called it "a rollicking musical memoir.... [Michael] Weller's inventions make this Hair seem much funnier than I remember the show's having been. They also provide time and space for the development of characters who, on the stage, had to express themselves almost entirely in song.... The entire cast is superb.... Mostly... the film is a delight."[5] Frank Rich said; "if ever a project looked doomed, it was this one" (referring to the "largely plotless" and dated musical upon which it was based. Forman's and Tharp's lack of movie musical experience, the "largely unproven cast" and the film's "grand budget"); in spite of these obstacles, "Hair succeeds at all levelsas lowdown fun, as affecting drama, as exhilarating spectacle and as provocative social observation. It achieves its goals by rigorously obeying the rules of classic American musical comedy: dialogue, plot, song and dance blend seamlessly to create a juggernaut of excitement. Though every cut and camera angle in Hair appears to have been carefully conceived, the total effect is spontaneous. Like the best movie musicals of the '50s (Singin' in the Rain) and the '60s (A Hard Day's Night), Hair leaps from one number to the next. Soon the audience is leaping too."[6]

The film was shown out of competition at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival.[7]

Awards and honors

At the 37th Golden Globe Awards, the film was nominated for a Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and Williams was nominated for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture - Male. The film was also nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 1980 César Awards, losing to Woody Allen's Manhattan.

Years later, Forman cited his loss of his moral rights to the film to the studio as eventually leading to his 1997 John Huston Award for Artists Rights[8] from the Film Foundation:[9]

What was behind that [award] was that one day I had in my contract that when the studio wants to sell Hair the network but they have to have my, you know, consent or how would they...what they do with it. But I didn't have this, so what they did, they didn't sell it to the network, they sold it to syndicated television where I didn't have that right. What happened: the film played on 115 syndicated stations practically all over the United States, and it's a musical. Out of 22 musical numbers, 11 musical numbers were cut out from the film, and yet it was still presented as a Milos Forman film, Hair. It was totally incomprehensible, jibberish, butchered beyond belief...

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


All lyrics written by Gerome Ragni, James Rado; all music composed by Galt MacDermot.

Disc One
No. Title Length
1. "Aquarius" (Ren Woods) 4:47
2. "Sodomy"   1:30
3. "Donna/Hashish"   4:19
4. "Colored Spade"   1:34
5. "Manchester" (John Savage) 1:58
6. "Abie Baby/Fourscore" (Nell Carter) 2:43
7. "I'm Black/Ain't Got No"   2:24
8. "Air"   1:27
9. "Party Music"   3:26
10. "My Conviction"   1:46
11. "I Got Life" (Treat Williams) 2:16
12. "Frank Mills"   2:39
13. "Hair"   2:43
14. "L.B.J."   1:09
15. "Electric Blues/Old Fashioned Melody"   3:50
16. "Hare Krishna"   3:20
Disc Two
No. Title Length
1. "Where Do I Go?"   2:50
2. "Black Boys" (Ellen Foley) 1:12
3. "White Boys" (Nell Carter) 2:36
4. "Walking in Space (My Body)"   6:12
5. "Easy to Be Hard" (Cheryl Barnes) 3:39
6. "Three-Five-Zero-Zero"   3:49
7. "Good Morning Starshine" (Beverly D'Angelo) 2:24
8. "What a Piece of Work is Man"   1:39
9. "Somebody to Love"   4:10
10. "Don't Put It Down"   2:25
11. "The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In"   6:06

Home video releases

Hair was released on VHS by 20th Century Fox Video in 1982 with later VHS releases from MGM/UA Home Video. The film was released on DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on April 27, 1999, as a Region 1 widescreen DVD, and on Blu-Ray on June 7, 2011.


  1. "HAIR (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2012-12-29.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Horn, pp. 117–18
  3. Ruhlmann, William. "Hair (Original Soundtrack)".,
  4. ""Hair (1979)"". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  5. Canby, Vincent (March 14, 1979). "Hair". The New York Times.
  6. Rich, Frank (March 19, 1979). "Cinema: A Mid-'60s Night's Dream". Time. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
  7. "Festival de Cannes: Hair". Retrieved 2009-05-25.
  8. "Artists vs. Solons: Helmer Forman feted for rights fight". Variety. April 20, 1997. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
  9. "Interview with Milos Forman". The John Tusa Interviews. BBC Radio 3. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
  10. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  11. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
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