Sunday, April 29, 2012

the end: beyond fred, ginger & gene

The final entry... Judy and Jack, as a divorced couple, bump into one another with their respective dates at a nightclub and try to outdo one another on the dance floor. Their dueling mambo is both hilarious and sublime.

 The film: “Phffft!” (1954)

 The director: Mark Robson

 The number: "Mambo!"

 The composer: Frederick Hollander

 The choreograher: Jack Cole

 The dancers: Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon

 The cinematographer: Charles Lang

 The editor: Charles Nelson

 The production designer: William Flannery

Saturday, April 28, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

 Bogdanovich's elegant screwball-of-a-musical hit its first of many peaks with a loose-limbed rendition of a Cole Porter fave, sung "live," natch.

 The film: “At Long Last Love” (1975)

 The director: Peter Bogdanovich

 The number: “Friendship”

 The composer: Cole Porter

 The singers: Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepherd, Madeline Kahn and Duilio Del Prete

 The choreograhers: Improvised by the cast, with coordination by Albert Lantieri and Rita Abrams

 The dancers: Reynolds, Shepherd, Kahn and Del Prete

 The cinematographer: László Kovács

 The editor: Douglas Robertson

 The production designer: Gene All

Friday, April 27, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

 An eruptive moment from John Landis' best film (hands-down, friends) brought James Brown, the king of soul, together with two game white-boy wannabes and a chorus line that wouldn't sit down, shut up or let up.

 The film: “The Blues Brothers” (1980)

 The director: John Landis

 The number: “Old Landmark”

 The composer: James Brown

 The singers: Brown and chorus

 The choreograher: Carlton Johnson

 The dancers: The ensemble

 The cinematographer: Stephen M. Katz

 The editor: George Folsey Jr.

 The production designer: John J. Lloyd

beyond fred, ginger & gene

 "Again! Again! Again!," Paul Wallace shouts to Natalie in this arousing choreographed sex act designed by Jerome Robbins for the legendary Broadway original and, thanks to a very smart Mervyn LeRoy, recreated for the screen by Robbins' stage assistant, Robert Tucker.

 The film: “Gypsy” (1962)

 The director: Mervyn LeRoy

 The number: “All I Need Is the Girl”

 The composers: Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim

 The singer: Paul Wallace

 The choreograher: Jerome Robbins, recreated by Robert Tucker

 The dancers: Wallace and Natalie Wood

 The cinematographer: Harry Stradling Sr.

 The editor: Philip W. Anderson

 The production designer: John Beckman

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

 A number that was merely sung in the Broadway original is reconceived and redefined in an outlandishly stylish way for the screen by the ever-inventive Hermès Pan, who came up with a veritable choreographic reverie.

 The film: "Flower Drum Song" (1961)

 The director: Henry Koster

 The number: "Sunday"

 The composers: Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

 The singers: B.J. Baker (for Nancy Kwan) and Jack Soo

 The choreograher: Hermès Pan

 The dancers: Kwan, Soo and company

 The cinematographer: Russell Metty

 The editor: Milton Carruth

 The production designers: Alexander Golitzen and Joseph C. Wright

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

 Yes, Astaire and Kelly were brilliant, as they kept reminding us (especially the latter, Hollywood's most endearing egomaniac), but for my money, the athletic, hyper-masculine and criminally overlooked Gene Nelson could keep up with them - and then some. Just take a look and become a believer.

 The film: "She’s Working Her Way Through College”(1952)

 The director: Bruce Humberstone

 The number: “Am I In Love?”

 The composers: Harry Warren and Al Dubin

 The choreographer: LeRoy Prinz

 The singer-dancer: Gene Nelson

 The cinematographer: Wilfred M. Cline

 The editor: Clarence Kolster

 The production designer: Charles H. Clarke

beyond fred, ginger & gene

 A curiously neglected film musical, Frank's "Li'l Abner" was successfully stylized in ways that Mankiewicz's "Guys and Dolls" wasn't, as personified by the vivid "Sadie Hawkins Day Ballet," wisely lifted directly from Michael Kidd's Broadway original by Dee Dee Wood.

 The film: “Li’l Abner” (1959)

 The director: Melvin Frank

 The number: "Sadie Hawkins Day Ballet"

 The composer: Gene De Paul

 The choreograher: Michael Kidd, recreated by Dee Dee Wood

 The dancers: The ensemble

 The cinematographer: Daniel L. Fapp

 The editor: Arthur P. Schmidt

 The production designers: J. McMillan Johnson and Hal Pereira

beyond fred, ginger & gene

 It's way too short, lasting perhaps less than a minute, and for some reason, director Bridges opted to film it in shadows, but is any dance on film more endearing than Debra Winger and John Travolta's wedding waltz to Anne Murray's achingly beautiful rendition of “Could I Have This Dance (for the Rest of My Life)?”? I think not.

 The film: "Urban Cowboy" (1980)

 The director: James Bridges (1987)

 The number: “Could I Have This Dance (for the Rest of My Life)?”

 The composers: Wayland Holyfield and Bob House

 The singer: Anne Murray

 The choreograhers: Lisa Niemi and Patsy Swayze

 The dancers: John Travolta and Debra Winger

 The cinematographer: Reynaldo Villalobos

 The editor: David Rawlins

 The production designer: Stephen Grimes

Monday, April 23, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

  For reasons sadly transparent, more than 50 years later, Rita Moreno continues to downgrade Natalie Wood, commenting in an AFI interview that WSS "had no major stars. Natalie Wood was not a major star! The movie was the star!" Sorry, Moreno, you're wrong. Natalie's delicate rooftop dance, created especially for her by Jerome Robbins, is more classic than all your ligament-spraining kicks in the racist "America!" number.

 The film: “West Side Story” (1961)

 The directors: Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins

 The number: “Maria’s Rooftop Dance” (“Maria”)

 The composer: Leonard Bernstein

 The choreographer: Robbins

 The dancer: Natalie Wood

 The cinematographer: Daniel L. Fapp

 The editor: Thomas Stanford

 The production designer: Boris Leven

Sunday, April 22, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

  Yes, Fosse again. Working under Abbott and Donen and Adler and Ross for the first time (later joining them all for "Damn Yankees" a year later), with the two very smart directors apparently giving him free reign.

 The film: Warner Bros.' 1957 movie adaptation of “The Pajama Game"

 The directors: George Abbott and Stanley Donen

 The number: “Once-a-Year Day”

 The composers: Jerry Ross and Richard Adler

 The singers: John Raitt and Doris Day

 The choreographer: Bob Fosse

 The dancers: Carol Haney, Buzz Miller, Kenneth LeRoy and company

 The cinematographer: Harry Stradling Sr.

 The editor: William H. Ziegler

 The production designer: Malcolm C. Bert

beyond fred, ginger & gene

  A film that has special meaning - the first one that I saw in Sacramento when I went to work for McClatchy. I saw it at the Capitol Theater (long gone) and I lost myself at Kellerman's Lodge (also long gone), where Jack Weston and Lonny Price kept their employees truly subordinate - except for Johnny Castle. Nobody put him in a corner; ditto for Baby Houseman.

 The film: "Dirty Dancing" (1987)

 The director: Emil Ardolino

 The number: “(I Had) The Time of My Life”

 The composers-singers: Bill Medley and Jennifer Warren

 The choreographer: Kenny Ortega

 The dancers: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey and company

 The cinematographer: Jeff Jur

 The editor: Peter C. Frank

 The production designer: David Chapman

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

Nearly a decade before "Glee," this was Todd Graff's “Camp,” a disarming 2003 film about a musical-theater camp for kids. The movie includes bits from a couple dozen songs by the likes of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Stephen Sondheim and Winnie Holzman, but the highlight is the full staging of a number from the Hal David-Burt Bacharach musical-comedy, "Promises, Promises," with choreographer Jerry Mitchell recreating Michael Bennett's dance moves from the Broadway original. This is about as close as "Promises, Promises" will ever get to the big screen.

The number: “Turkey Lurkey Time”

The composer: Hal David and Burt Bacharach

The singers: Alana Allen, Dequina Moore, Tracee Beazer and company

The choreographer: Jerry Mitchell, based on Michael Bennett’s original staging

The dancers: Allen, Moore, Beazer and company

The cinematographer: Kip Bogdahn

The editor: Myron I. Kerstein

The production designer: Dina Goldman

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

Perhaps the most unlikely dance team - Debra Winger and Nick Nolte - hoot it up in this charming scene from David S. Ward's 1982 film of "Cannery Row."

The number: “Take Five”

The composer: Paul Desmond

The choreographer: Lou Wills

The dancers: Nick Nolte and Debra Winger

The cinematographer: Sven Nykvist

The editor: David Bretherton

The production designer: Richard Macdonald

Monday, April 16, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

Fosse. Again. Yes. His 1969 film adaptation of "Sweet Charity" was written off in its day. Hastily so. And so was Fosse as a filmmaker. For some bizarre reason, the overrated "Cabaret" changed all that. But "Charity" is the better film. As this sequence demonstrates.

The number: “There’s Got to be Someplace Better Than This”

The composers: Cy Coleman and lyric by Dorothy Fields

The singers: Shirley MacLaine, Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly

The choreographer: Bob Fosse

The dancers: MacLaine, Rivera and Kelly

The cinematographer: Robert Surtees

The editor: Stuart Gilmore

The production designers: Alexander Golitzen and George C. Webb

Sunday, April 15, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

“Footloose.” 1984. Directed by Herbert Ross. This is for Chris Penn.

The number: “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”

The composer-singer: Deniece Williams

The choreographer: Lynn Taylor-Corbett

The dancers: Kevin Bacon and Chris Penn

The cinematographer: Ric Waite

The editor: Paul Hirsch

The production designer: Ron Hobbs

Saturday, April 14, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

Peter H. Hunt's 1972 film of "1776" becomes more impressive with each viewing - a most accomplished musical film. Sherman Edwards' score is at once literate and catchy, lending itself to two particularly wonderful choreographic triumphs by Onna White.

The number: “The Lees of Old Virginia”

The composer: Sherman Edwards

The choreographer: Onna White

The singers-dancers: Ron Holgate, William Daniels and Howard DaSilva

The cinematographer: Harry Stradling Jr.

The editors: Florence Williamson and William H. Ziegler

The production designer: George Jenkins
Also...

The number: “He Plays the Violin”

The composer: Edwards

The choreographer: White

The singers-dancers: Blythe Danner, Daniels and DaSilva

Friday, April 13, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

Few television remakes of musicals already made for the big screen are worthwhile. The rare exception is Gene Saks' 1995 TV version of
“Bye Bye Birdie,” which is superior to the dismal '63 film because it goes back to its source - Michael Stewart's libretto for the 1960 stage musical.

In fact, it uses Stewart's script; there was no adaptation.

Best of all, there is no Ann-Margret in it.

Instead, the spotlight is back on the lead female character, Rosie, played tartily by the perfectly cast Vanessa Williams.

Every number in this "Birdie" is memorable - the score is intact! plus a few added numbers! no deleted songs! - but the showstopper remains Williams' "Shriner's Ballet," choreographed by Ann Reinking who makes it fresh and new while occasionally paying tribute to Gower Champion's staging of the number for the Broadway original.

The number: “Shriner’s Ballet”

The Composer: Charles Strouse

The choreographer: Ann Reinking

The dancer: Vanessa Williams

The cinematographer: Glen MacPherson

The editor: Eric Albertson

The production designer: Charles C. Bennett

Thursday, April 12, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

George Sidney, a hit-or-miss filmmaker, outdid himself with his sterling 1953 adaptation of Cole Porter's "Kiss Me, Kate.” A film of many musical highlights, "Kate" offered up one in particular that deserves to be called classic - the twirling, spinning "From This Moment On" number.

Sublime.

The number: “From This Moment On”

The composer: Cole Porter

The singers: Tommy Rall, Bobby Van and Bob Fosse

The choreographers: Hermès Pan, with Bob Fosse (uncredited)

The dancers: Ann Miller, Carol Haney, Jeanne Coyne, Fosse, Rall and Van

The cinematographer: Charles Rosher

The film editor: Ralph E. Winters

The production designers: Cedric Gibbons and Urie McCleary

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

Granted, this is an eclectic pick. I'm talking about the school-dance number in James Foley's 1984 answer to "Rebel with a Cause."

Namely, "Reckless."

Shot in shadows, stars Aidan Quinn and Daryl Hannah move in a blur, but we get the point. These brooding kids are using dance to express the hot, push/pull tensions of their sexual arousal. Like "Pulp Fiction," the film lists no choreographer among its credits and my search for the person responsible came up empty. My hunch is that it was improvised by Quinn and Hannah - or, as Quentin Tarantino did, Foley staged it himself.

We'll never know.

The number: “Never Say Never”

The composer: Romeo Void

The singer: Void

The choreographer: None credited

The dancers: Aidan Quinn and Daryl Hannah

The cinematographer: Michael Ballhaus

The film editor: Albert Magnoli

The production designer: Jeffrey Townsend

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

John Huston's 1982 film version of "Annie" is as wildly underrated - by critics - as Rob Marshall's dull 1999 TV version is overrated.

Largely by the same critics.

Huston did some clever maneuvering in bringing "Annie" to the screen, ably abetted by scenarist Carol Sobieski: He brought Punjab (played by Geoffrey Holder) back into the story; he directed star Albert Finney (as Daddy Warbucks) to affect Huston's own vocal intonations (it's a terrific voice impersonation); he famously told Carol Burnett to play Miss Hannigan "soused"; he hired the perfect kid - Aileen Quinn - to play Little Orphan Annie, and he had the composers Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin write a fluid new number for Ann Reinking's Grace Farrell.

It's called "We Got Annie" and it's gorgeous.

The number: “We Got Annie!”

The composers: Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin

The singers: Ann Reinking, Lu Leonard and company

The choreographer: Arlene Phillips

The dancers: Reinking, Geoffrey Holder, Roger Minami and company

The cinematographer: Richard Moore

The editor: Michael A. Stevenson

The production designer: Dale Hennesy

Monday, April 09, 2012

beyond fred, ginger & gene

Ever creative, Danny Boyle elected to end his 2008 wonder, "Slumdog Millionaire," a raw, unstintinly realistic slice of life, with a rousing and quite unexpected production number danced by what seems like hundreds of performers, led by the film's two attractive young stars.

The result: One exited the theater thoroughly exhilarated. (One negative: Boyle received well-deserved criticism when he omitted the film's choreographer, Longinus Fernandes, from the end credits.)

The number: "Jai Ho"

The composers: A. R. Rahman and Gulzar

The singers: Gulzar, Sukhwinder Singh, Mahalakshmi Iyer, Vijay Prakash and Tanvi Shah

The choreographer: Longinus Fernandes

The dancers: Dev Patel, Frieda Pinto and company.

The cinematographer: Anthony Dod Mantle

The film editors: Chris Dickens

The production designer: Mark Digby