May I express my gratitude to the wonderful classic-movie channel for “Choreography by Jack Cole” broadcast Monday night? I co-hosted the program with TCM’s great veteran host, Robert Osborne. Together, we screened four movies studded with dance sequences that were created by the massively talented American choreographer.
And a huge ‘thank you’ to Mr. Osborne, a giant in his encyclopedic knowledge of Hollywood musicals, for taking a personal interest in boosting the cultural memory of Cole and his career.
Jack Cole belonged first to the modern dance world, brandishing the rather impeccable credential of figuring among the last crop of Denishawn dancers. During the Depression’s waning years, he forged a market for dance in nightclubs with his exotic and proprietary ‘Hindu-jazz’ act. All of this high-impact artfulness Cole brought to bear as a top-dog Hollywood choreographer in the forties and fifties, creating indelible solo vehicles for bombshells like Monroe, Hayworth and Grable.
[Read my essay written for the Dance Heritage Coalition about Jack Cole’s career here.]
In the photo below, Cole runs Betty Grable through her moves, at a camera-ready moment, in “Down Boy” from THREE FOR THE SHOW (1955). This photo speaks to me in a way unlike other Hollywood lore. Glancing at the costume you won’t be surprised to learn that Cole was concurrently working on KISMET at MGM. The photo captures a marvelous disconnect between Grable and her coach. She’s being Betty Grable — and he’s either thinking about his lunch (perhaps not, the guy barely ate) or he wants his charge to glance downward.
Another possibility is that as much as Cole loved Grable (they were good pals), he was by this time bored to tears.
The photo accompanies a Jack Cole tribute written by Dance Magazine Editor Wendy Perron. Dance Magazine was a longtime, steady supporter of Jack Cole in his day. Cole treasured the Dance Magazine Award he received for his choreography in THREE FOR THE SHOW and KISMET in 1955. It was the sole such recognition he received in his lifetime. Jack Cole died in 1974 in Los Angeles. And no one has made a dance number with as kooky a headdress as Betty Grable wears here since. Bette Midler excepted.
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