Prince a patchy performer on screen, from Purple Rain to Graffiti Bridge

Flamboyant singer-songwriter was a perfect fit for Hollywood, winning an Oscar, starring in Purple Rain, which he wrote and directed, and contributing his songs to dozens of soundtracks

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 April, 2016, 11:47am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 April, 2016, 11:47am

Flamboyant, expressive and larger than life despite his diminutive stature, Prince fit perfectly in Hollywood. He won an Oscar, starred in a big-screen hit, wrote and directed, and lent his songs to scores of productions.

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Prince, who died unexpectedly on Thursday at the age of 57, won an Academy Award for his original songs in 1984’s Purple Rain, the film that introduced him to the movie-going masses.

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Wearing ruffles, eyeliner and Jheri curl, Prince made his acting debut playing a sexy, androgynous young musician on the cusp of fame. His character, the Kid, was escaping his parents, falling in love with Apollonia and battling Morris Day for top billing.

The film amplified Prince’s sex-symbol status and popularity in real life. He had released five albums before making Purple Rain, which shot him to the top of music charts around the world.

Besides winning the Oscar for original song score (a category that no longer exists), the Purple Rain soundtrack won Grammy Awards for its writing and performance.

The film received mixed reviews, but Roger Ebert gave it a thumbs-up, calling it “one of the best combinations I’ve seen of music and drama”. It was also a box-office success, with US$68 million in ticket sales.

In 1986, Prince directed and starred in Under the Cherry Moon, which critics panned. The New York Times described Prince’s character as “a self-caressing twerp of dubious provenance” and the Chicago Tribune called the film “absurdly bad”. The soundtrack, Parade, was well received, though, and yielded the dance-floor standard Kiss.

All the while, Prince was writing new music, and the following year he released a concert film called Sign O’ The Times, comprising songs from his double album of the same name.

He composed the soundtrack for the 1989 Batman film starring Michael Keaton. Batdance became a No. 1 single.

A year later, Prince wrote, directed and starred in Graffiti Bridge, a sort-of sequel to Purple Rain. This time, the Kid and Morris are fighting over ownership of a nightclub called the Glam Slam. Prince really owned such a place in Los Angeles for a time. The real club was cool, but the movie was just mediocre.

Prince’s songs – both those he performed and those written for other artists — have appeared in many movies. Among the most memorable: Sheila E.’s A Love Bizarre in 1985’s Krush Groove, If I Was Your Girlfriend in 1996’s Striptease, and Chaka Khan’s I Feel For You in 50 Cent’s 2005 film Get Rich or Die Tryin’.