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August 24, 2022

Candid Photographs of Madonna and Felix Howard During the Filming of ‘Open Your Heart’ in 1986

“Open Your Heart” is a song recorded by Madonna for her third studio album True Blue (1986). Written by Gardner Cole and Peter Rafelson, it was conceived as a rock and roll song titled “Follow Your Heart” for singer Cyndi Lauper, but Cole and Rafaelson never had the chance to play it for her. At the time, Cole’s management was working with Madonna’s, who were looking for material for her third studio album. After her manager asked Cole to present a female demo of the song, Madonna accepted it and, alongside producer Patrick Leonard, turned it into a dance song.

The music video for “Open Your Heart” was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, and shot at Echo Park in Los Angeles, during the summer of 1986; David Naylor was in charge of production. Music & Media magazine had initially reported that Madonna’s then husband Sean Penn would direct it. The clip takes influence from Liza Minnelli’s “Mein Herr” number in Bob Fosse’s Cabaret (1972). In it, Madonna plays an exotic dancer at a peep show who befriends a young boy, played by child actor Felix Howard. The peep show was Mondino’s idea since, at that time, “we were into a period where we were experimenting [with] some kind of freedom about the body, about sexuality and stuff.” The set, including the frontal part with the ticket booth, was built from scratch; Mondino liked the “fakeness” of it all: “when I saw it [...] I said, ‘It’s so naïve.’ It’s kind of badly done [...] but there’s something sweet about it.” The director also suggested Madonna wear a dark-haired wig, because she was “known as being the blonde with short hair.”

The video was nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards in 1987. In the Best Female Video category, “Open Your Heart” lost to another Madonna video, when the music video for “Papa Don’t Preach” won the award. The video has been ranked at number 35 on VH1’s “50 Sexiest Video Moments” of all time.


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