Wednesday, April 04, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

Ah, the days when filmmakers had to be creative.

I'm not talking about cinematics but content. However, in this case, cinematics and content are irrevocably intertwined. In bringing William Inge's seminal play of longing to the screen (by way of Daniel Taradash's fine screenplay), director Joshua Logan faced the challenge of having the piece's star-crossed lovers - stumble-bum Hal and small-town queen Madge - be intimate with actually showing them engaging in sex.

He shrewdly solved the problem with a dance that has become an iconic screen moment, even though is lasts only a few minutes.

Swooning and gyrating to "Moonglow" and "The Theme from 'Picnic,'" expertly intertwined by composer George Duning, stars William Holden and Kim Novak seem to be improvising their choreographed sex act. But, in actuality, the dance was overseen by the very clever choreographer, Miriam Nelson, who for some bizarre reason was never credited.

Nevertheless, what she created in 1955 fairly drips with passion.

The number: “Moonglow”/”Theme from ‘Picnic’”

The composer: George Duning

The choreographer: Miriam Nelson

The dancers: William Holden and Kim Novak

The cinematographer: James Wong Howe

The film editors: William A. Lyon and Charles Nelson

The production designer: Jo Mielziner


Tammy said...

I love this moment! And you aptly described it when you called it "a choreographed sex act." Great

Brian said...

That is indeed a wonderful dance moment, and the highlight of the film.

Alex said...

I love how Howe photographed this sequence. He was an absolute master of blocking and framing.

wwolfe said...

One of the best moments from one of the definitive movies of the 1950s.

Sharon said...

The dance from "Picnic"... It is a Wow! even today. I suppose that reaction applies to everyone: once you've seen it, you remember it. Kim Novak and William Holden embody sexual attraction so well that their dance routine is more stunning and memorable than any of the technically more difficult routines performed by Fred & Ginger.

Who could believe those two (F&G) were attracted to each other? Despite their complexity and exciting visual impact, there is an immaculate quality to every dance in all their movies - routines full of movement, yet clean and antiseptic.

The "Picnic," dance clip, however, is at the other end of the spectrum. In just a few minutes of screen time, "Marge" and "Hal" pulse with love and sexuality. With almost no physical touch, they exemplify the power of sexual attraction and depict the riveting sequence of love, attraction, surrender, and bonding. Their focus and intensity smolders with passion. If one smoked, you would want a cigarette at the end of the sequence ... Loved seeing it again.