This is basically a continuation of some video posts I was putting up on my facebook page. I decided to add on to that here, so that my poor friends don’t have to wade through my pages of videos.
I spend an inordinate amount of time surfing through YouTube. The great thing (one of the great things) about film is that it is a medium that preserves moments, so people of my generation can watch performances from people that were gone before we were even born. And YouTube is great because it is a place where little snippets of those moments can be collected for a large audience.
So, here are some of my favorite dancing moments from classic film.
Singin’ In the Rain (1952) dir. Donen/Kelly
Singin’ In the Rain gets it’s own post because I just love it so much. Considered by many to be the best of the Hollywood musicals, it is an iconic film mainly based on Gene Kelly’s famous dance. But whereas many musicals have somewhat thin plots, this one is pure fun and full of comedic moments that rival any other movie’s. The story is about Hollywood itself, and the painful transition that movies had to make in the late 1920s as sound came about. In that case, it is very real. Cosmo and Don come from variety show backgrounds, and the Lina Lamont character is based on many real silent movie stars that lost their jobs because they were not suitable for speaking roles. Then there is that big Broadway Melody number at the end of the film, the one that prompted my sister to ask, “what does that have to do with The Dancing Cavalier? (the in-movie musical that the characters are making). The answer is, it doesn’t have anything to do with anything. It is another instance where the film copies what so many other big movie musicals did- they featured huge, elaborate dance sequences that had nothing to do with the plot, or only marginally so. Nevertheless, the film is a showcase for it’s starring talent, and it’s a film I could watch over and over and never get sick of.
*It is an interesting fact, all of these musical numbers save, I believe Moses Supposes, were from previous MGM musicals.
“Fit as a Fiddle”-Gene Kelly/Donald O’Connor
“Good Mornin'”- Kelly/O’Connor/Debbie Reynolds
“Singin’ In the Rain”-Kelly
Ziegfeld Follies (1945)-various directors
“The Babbitt and the Bromide”
This clip is the only film performance that featured Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly together. This segment was directed by Vincente Minnelli.
Harlem Is Heaven (1932)-dir. Franklyn
Amazing stair routine from Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. I love the rhythms, they’re so clear. He was probably best known for dancing with Shirley Temple in some of her 1930s films, but as you can see, his dancing is amazing. Another routine, like Begin the Beguine, that I could watch all day.
Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940)- dir. Taurog
Fred Astaire’s great partnership with Ginger Rogers at RKO was over after nine films, and he was paired once with the great Eleanor Powell in this film. The Begin the Beguine number is considered one of the greatest tap routines ever. Both dancers were without equal, and together, it’s just pure awesomeness. A Cole Porter score, by the way.
Note: It cracks me up at the beginning of this dance when Eleanor Powell asks Fred Astaire, “simple?” after they learn that basic traveling step together. Yeah, simple for them…
“Begin the Beguine”
The ending pieces of dialogue are dubbed in German, but it was the only version that had most of the entire end sequence and not just the famous last five minutes or so.
Eleanor Powell solos:
Born To Dance (1936)- dir. Del Ruth
This was actually the film that got me started on Eleanor Powell and all these other dancers. I watched it because it’s actually got James Stewart in it, in a musical role (you know, if you were contracted to MGM, they made you do it at least once, at least that’s my theory). But she blew my socks off. Here’s a video featuring two numbers from the film; the latter is the finale of the movie.
“Rap, Tap on Wood,” “Swingin’ The Jinx Away”
And another one of my favorites, it’s shows her precision off so well.
Thousands Cheer (1943)- dir. Sidney
Sensations of 1945 (1944)- dir. Stone
So here is where YouTube comes in handy for finding random things. I was looking for Eleanor Powell clips, and she does appear at the end of this one with a dancing horse, but the thing that killed me were all these people doing the splits. Well, you’ll see what I mean when you watch the clip. But it’s crazy! It hurts to watch…
Ok, well that’s it for now. I’ll do a separate post on Rogers and Astaire in the near future.