I love everything about this amazing, high-spirited dance sequence choreographed by Jack Cole for The I Don’t Care Girl (1953).
“I don’t care. I don’t care. What people think of me.
I’m happy, go-lucky, men say that I’m plucky, so jolly and carefree!”
From the first frames — the camera shooting upward through a mirror that cracks at the sight of Mitzi wickedly cuddling black cats — and she doesn’t care! — to her parading with ridiculous feathers sprouting from head and derriere (and falling out!) — to the cocky head-shaking that sends men in pork-pie hats flying in every direction.
I love the blast of primary color in the yellow background, the use of strong diagonal lines, ladders, staircases, and platforms that segment the film’s frame as it swaps from yellow to red, and ends in flames! All Jack Cole trademarks.
The whole thing is so vividly imagined … and performed with such insouciance. Jack Cole was a tremendous dance-on-film genius. The best.
§ § §
The “I Don’t Care Girl,” a bio-pic inspired by early vaudeville star Eva Tanguay, was a troubled production. Twentieth Century Fox studio boss Darryl Zanuck’s meddling and heavy cutting did not help. Cole was engaged as a choreography doctor to bump up Seymour Felix’s old-school tap routines (in fact he replaced them). All three Cole production numbers — “Beale Street Blues,” “The Johnson Rag,” and “I Don’t Care” — still look fantastic today — even in this so-so movie. My vote for the most imaginative choreography on film, ever. Sorry Fred, sorry Gene, that’s just the way it is.
Can someone please give a genius his due? That’s (born) John Ewing Richter, aka Jack Cole.
Here’s a vintage recording of Eva Tanguay singing “I Don’t Care” in 1922. How Cole took this material and arrived at Mitzi shaking her tail feathers on a fire ladder is anyone’s guess.
Eva, below, next to Mitzi who plays her in the movie.
- Judy Garland doesn’t care either.
- arts·meme‘s thread of writing about Jack Cole
- Debra Levine essay on Jack Cole for the Dance Heritage Coalition