‘In Bed with Madonna’ shocked and captivated us back in 1991

In 1991 Madonna captivated the world with her documentary Truth or Dare / In Bed With Madonna. The film had one name in the USA, but was retitled In Bed With Madonna for international markets because back in the early 90’s not everyone was familiar with the game ‘truth or dare’.

Director Alek Keshishian followed the singer throughout her landmark Blond Ambition Tour of 1990, capturing the singer and her troupe of backing vocalists and dancers behind the scenes. Most of the film is in back and white, capturing the performers rehearsing, checking in to hotels, hanging out backstage, while the bold and colourful live performances show the grandeur of the life on stage.

The film held the honour of being the highest grossing documentary of all time, until it was surpassed by Bowling For Columbine in 2002, and while big budget documentaries and reality TV series are common place now, back in 1991 Madonna was breaking new ground letting fans see behind the magic curtain.

Having taking some time off from music and public life in 1988, Madonna returned the following year with her most personal album to date, the highly acclaimed Like a Prayer. She’d split from husband Sean Penn, was she dating Sandra Bernhard? Warren Beatty? She filled the tabloids as much as the music charts.

It’s the period where she scored some of her biggest hits and created some iconic videos. Following the title track, the album offered the anthemic Express Yourself, followed by Cherish, Dear Jessie, Oh Father and Keep It Together. Madonna appeared as Breathless Mahoney in Dick Tracy and suddenly she had another album out, and the humungous hit Vogue. 

The live show of the Blonde Ambition Tour was also setting new standards. Having a troupe of dancers on tour today is the norm, but all the Janet Jackson, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue shows that followed are copied off a template of stage design and casting that was set by Madonna.

 

There is a clear theme of family running through it. We meet Madonna’s Dad and Stepmother, her wayward brother Martin drops by one of the shows, her younger brother Christopher is on the tour working for his older sister. Gay rights are also front and centre, at the height of the AIDS crisis Madonna included scenes of loud protests in NYC.

The film also introduced Antonio Banderas to a wide audience, at this point he’d only made films in Spain, and didn’t speak English. When director Pedro Almodovar throws a party for Madonna in Madrid, she shares how excited she is about meting the Spanish heartthrob. Madonna’s plans to seduce Banderas fall apart when she discovers he’s married.

When it was first released the film caused a lot of discussion, about the nature of celebrity, about scenes where Madonna swears, when she demonstrates her fellatio skills on a bottle, when she simulated masturbation on stage, there were many controversies.

Perhaps the films most enduring legacy was how it captured the dancers. For many people who went to the see the film in cinema and their local drive-in, Madonna’s backing dancers were the first gay people they really got to know.

Twenty five years later the documentary Strike a Pose returned to the seven dancers on the tour and found out what happened to the all after the trip around the world with Madonna ended. It makes a great companion piece to the original film.

OIP Staff


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