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Wednesday May 22nd 2024

Flashdance | 1983

Flashdance filming location: Carnegie Institute, Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh
Flashdance location: Alex nervously applies to audition: Carnegie Institute, Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh

One of the archetypal 80s movies, with Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) flinging herself around like a maniac to a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack, against the backdrop of industrial Pittsburgh.

It’s clearly filmed around the Steel City, with Adrian Lyne’s visuals rendering the gritty urban environment strangely appealing.

In fact, there’s a surprising amount of Los Angeles on show, though there’s been a lot of redevelopment in the ensuing years.

Alex's loft apartment was filmed on the top floor of the old Feit Electric company building, which stood on Los Angeles Street at 17th Street, southwest of downtown alongside the Santa Monica Freeway.

Aspiring performers needn’t bother seeking out ‘Mawby’s’, the blue-collar bar with an oddly indulgent appreciation of modern dance (especially when performed by athletic young women in skimpy outfits). This was no more than a vacant warehouse building on the corner of Boyd Street and Wall Street, downtown LA – also gone.

The exterior of the ‘Zanzibar’ strip club was filmed on Main Street, just north of 7th Street in downtown LA (Dearden’s department store in the background of the shot remains pretty much unchanged). The club interior was that of the Star Strip Gentlemen’s Club, 365 North La Cienega Boulevard, in West Hollywood, which only demonstrates the enduring appeal of dance.

In downtown LA, about a mile southwest of the club exterior, stood the church where Alex attends confession, which was St Joseph Catholic Church, 218 East 12th Street at South Los Angeles Street. Severely damaged by fire in the 80s, St Joseph’s was demolished and a completely new church has since been erected on the site.

Over in Beverly Hills you would have found the elegantly luxurious restaurant, in which Alex’s meal with her hunky boss Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri) is disrupted by his ex-wife. This was Bistro, at 240 North Canon Drive, which found screen fame as the spot where Julie Christie offered a blowjob to Warren Beatty in Hal Ashby’s Shampoo in 1975. The block has been completely redeveloped.

Flashdance location: Carnegie Institute, Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh
Flashdance location: Alex throws a rock through Nick’s window: South June Street, Hancock Park, Los Angeles

At last, something is still standing. In swanky Hancock Park in midtown LA you can see the mock-Tudor mansion of Alex’s hunky boss Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), where she throws a rock through the window of 440 South June Street, between West 4th and West 6th Streets. As ever, please remember this is a private home and respect the current residents.

Most of the rest, though, is the real Pittsburgh, introduced as Alex cycles across the graceful, wave-like Smithfield Street Bridge across the Monongahela River into the city from her home in Fineview (which is – erm – north of the city, across the Allegheny River).

Alex backs out of applying for a dance audition at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 4400 Forbes Avenue, in Oakland, the city’s academic and cultural heart, east of downtown. She flees through the museum’s Hall of Sculpture, but don’t worry – she'll be back.

Flashdance filming location: South 21st Street, Southside Flats, Pittsburgh
Flashdance location: Alex visits Hanna for encouragement: South 21st Street, Southside Flats, Pittsburgh

The home of Alex’s mentor Hanna (Lilia Skala) is south of the Monongahela River in Southside Flats, near the Birmingham Bridge. The address of the house is 2100 Sidney Street, though the formerly photogenic entrance seen in the film is just around the corner on South 21st Street. Disappointingly, the fancy green porch has been removed leaving the property looking a little dull.

The huge clock in the background is that of the old Duquesne Brewery, on 21st Street at Mary Street. The largest single-face clock in the world when it was built in 1933, AT&T recently bought the rights to advertise on the clockface, which now displays the company’s logo.

Flashdance location: Duquesne Incline, West Carson Street, Pittsburgh
Flashdance location: Alex visits Hanna: Duquesne Incline, West Carson Street, Pittsburgh | Photograph: wikimedia / Plastikspork

Opposite Station Square, developed as a glitzy shopping mall and dining complex, stands the entrance to the Monongahela Incline, the short but steep railway that will quickly transport you to the summit of Mount Washington. A little further west, its twin, the Duquesne Incline, 1197 West Carson Street, is the one Alex rides on her way to visit Hanna. Opened in 1877, the Incline is an absolute must for the first time visitor, giving a spectacular view of Pittsburgh’s layout, nestled like a mini-Manhattan between the two rivers as they flow together to form the Ohio River.

Saved from demolition and restored by a group of local residents in 1963, the Incline’s upper station also houses a museum of Pittsburgh’s history.

And it’s back to downtown Los Angeles for the famous final dance scene with Alex blowing away the five judges with her routine, which was filmed in the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall, 1816 South Figueroa Street at West 18th Street, downtown.

• Many thanks to Charles Newirth for his help with this section.