I’m not really a movie buff. In fact I can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema. It might even have been 1977 when I saw Star Wars in San José, Costa Rica. But I do catch the odd movie from time-to-time on the TV, and I particularly like westerns and musicals (although I still haven’t seen The Sound of Music.) The musicals of the thirties were something special and surrealistic – especially those directed by Busby Berkeley, which featured hundreds of showgirls in fantasy routines that would be almost impossible to mount in a real theatre.
But it’s also the music – that silky combination of wind instruments (banks of saxophones and clarinets) and muted brass, overlain with strings, typified by the Glenn Miller sound.
And the dancing of course. Now I’m a huge fan of Fred Astaire and could watch any of his movies over and over again. This solo sequence of Puttin’ On The Ritz from the movie Blue Skies (actually made in 1946, and co-starring Bing Crosby), exemplifies what a perfectionist Astaire was.
I learned recently that Astaire always added the tap sounds to the soundtrack after a sequence had been filmed.
But when Fred partnered with Ginger Rogers, what more can one say? Choreographic perfection! These next clips show what a magnificent duo they were – just click on the image below.
The sequence of Never Gonna Dance is pure theatre. I read that there were more than 40 takes before Astaire was satisfied with the sequence, and Ginger Rogers’ feet were bleeding in her shoes.
Gene Kelly was wonderful dancer as well, and the Good Morning routine (made in 1952) with a young Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor is a classic.
So is Kelly’s solo Singin’ in the Rain (which he apparently performed while suffering from ‘flu and with a temperature of 103F!).
I can’t say that I am an aficionado of ballet (although I do appreciate its artistic qualities and the skills of the dancers), and much of what purports to be modern dance – more like gymnastics – on the TV ‘dance’ shows leaves me quite cold. Michael Jackson apparently devised the dance routine to Smooth Criminal as a tribute to Fred Astaire and who himself acknowledged Jackson’s talent and that he was the greatest dancer of his generation.
Nevertheless, the magic of Astaire and Rogers lives on, and long may it do so.