Movie musical talk with George Chakiris

I had the wonderful good fortune to interview singer/dancer/actor George Chakiris at TCM Fest this weekend.

The resulting Los Angeles Times piece here. A few leftover niblets to follow…

His passion for musicals when growing up:

I used to love every movie musical I saw. There was one that stood out, The Barclays of Broadway .

When I first heard about it, I couldn’t wait for it to open. I was counting the days. Finally, it came. I took the bus downtown to see it. One the way home, my neck hurt, I kept touching my neck. I had the mumps.

So it seems I saw the movie in just the nick of time.

On Rita Hayworth:

What was so beautiful about her, compared with what we see today on the red carpet, I mean, I see these young women today trying so hard to be attractive, showing cleavage and everything. Rita was not trying so hard to be sexy. But she had class and vulnerability. There was so much to her.

Watch the way Jack Cole has her use her hair in “Amado Mio” from  “Gilda.” [note: see 02:12; Cole also has Hayworth fling her lustrous locks in “Put the Blame on Mame”]

On Marilyn and [choreographer] Jack Cole in “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”:

Marilyn liked him very much. “Diamonds” took three days to shoot. On the third day, we worked till 9 pm. They had to double-check to see that the film was okay. So we had to wait around.

Jack Cole had to catch a red eye to New York. He had another job there. So he left for the airport. She ran off the sound stage to say goodbye to Jack Cole.

She worked so hard. Every time we had a break, she went right back to her place to wait and start up again.

On Gwen Verdon:

I remember auditioning for a show called “Stars & Stripes Forever” with Clifton Webb and Debra Paget. I was with Drusilla Davis. Well, Gwen pulled us to the front so we would be seen.

When we  heard Gwen was going to Broadway, we were so happy. She was so modest. When you looked at her, you never thought — WOW!

But in the film “Damn Yankees,” you can see her flawless dancing. It’s perfect. It’s so subtle, she’s sexy, but she’s not in your face. And what legs — she had great feet!


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