Mitzi Gaynor fabulous in Jack Cole’s “I Don’t Care” 1

Dance · Film

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.

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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.

Like this? So do I, here’s more:


One comment on “Mitzi Gaynor fabulous in Jack Cole’s “I Don’t Care”

  1. Rodney Punt Dec 13,2010 1:06 pm

    ‘I Don’t Care’ is a second-rate song and lyric, given a first-rate treatment in the Jack Cole production. It’s a sign of a great producer that he masks the triteness of the lyric’s rhymes. (Think of it as otherwise brilliant Ira Gershwin having a very bad day and just giving up on this one; “alas and alack” was used by him to better effect in other songs, BTW). Your later posting on Judy Garland’s effort of the early Forties exposes the weaknesses that Cole masks; I agree with you completely in your post of today.

    I just reviewed ‘Rigoletto’ at the LA Opera. Its scenic design, from an earlier SF Opera production of 1997, derives its inspiration from the same commercialized surrealism of the 1950’s that Jack Cole more smartly and more contemporaneously employs to give this song real juice. I refer to the LA Opera production’s design concept as “tamed” and “dated” surrealism. It was once a potent meme, that energized many a post-war musical in the 1950’s, until, of course, the rock generation buried the movie musical in the next decade.

    BTW, my grandfather, Will Turner, was a sound man and worked on the Astaire-Rodgers musicals at RKO where the song material was so inherently good – Gershwin, Berlin, Kern, et al – one only needed a dollied up commensurate design style to sell the numbers. Of course it didn’t hurt to have Fred and Ginger working on the scene. What an era!

    Cheers, Rodney

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