Jack Cole invites you to a ball 4

Dance · Film

From MGM’s “The Merry Widow” (1952) Jack Cole’s beautifully calibrated waltz sequence pours forth. Minutes and minutes of on-screen dancing. Audiences apparently used to like this; I guess they don’t anymore. 


Cole’s gigs at MGM were fewer then at Columbia or Fox (at MGM: Kismet twice: 1944, 1955, Les Girls 1957, Designing Woman 1957). The choreographer prevailed nonetheless in influencing this waltz sequence’s production design. The evidence is the pink light bathing the scene at 2:55. That’s pure Jack Cole — he visualized dance in colors. Cole would ramp up that pink 100 degrees on his next assignment.

Dance detectives will note that Cole marched, er, tour jeté-ed the waltzing girls across town, from Culver City to Pico Blvd, and created “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” at Fox in 1953. Smart dance maker, he built upon components  from “The Merry Widow,” contemporizing them and adding Marilyn Monroe’s combustible va-va voom.

Result: this time, it all clicked. He created a timeless masterpiece.


Thank you Larry Billman, for the MGM-ania.

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4 thoughts on “Jack Cole invites you to a ball

  1. debra levine Aug 26,2013 7:09 pm

    I totally agree, the camera work, the cutting, the two rooms, the hallway effect, that incredible overhead shot where the dancers just back out of the frame, the anonymity of the dancers, the cookie cutter “rush” as Bill puts it, is so gorgeous, I also agree with Sandi’s observation about “menace.” The bottom line: it’s complex.

  2. bill Hastings Aug 26,2013 6:45 pm

    I like the Meet Me After the Show( I Feel Like Dancing) waltz as well …. a tad bit of partnering , lots of candelabra , “net” covered faces, beautiful dresses, really interesting segue from the joyful duet preceding it; but, The Merry Widow waltz really transports me… the company “rush” down the stairs takes my breath away everytime; would love to have seen ( been a part of) those rehearsals!!!

  3. Larry Billman Aug 26,2013 5:03 pm

    Sandi is correct – there IS “Menace.” This and the Swan Lake dream ballet in “Three for the Show” are the two times that Jack works in adagio pairs. Which proves he could do it. It just was not his preferred Lindy jazz partner work.

  4. sandi kurtz Jan 18,2012 3:29 pm

    I think it’s interesting that in both of these clips there’s a real sense of menace associated with the waltz — in the Merry Widow I think I even hear a quote from the Ravel La Valse.

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