From Bernardo to “Bebo’s Girl”: George Chakiris tribute @ MoMA 6

Dance · Film

Balmy Indian-summer weather added pleasure to the late-October opening weekend of “To Save and Project,” The Museum of Modern Art‘s annual film-preservation festival whose tasty programming included a tribute to Oscar-winning actor-dancer-singer George Chakiris. In “George Chakiris: A Life in Film,” a wide-ranging interview that could not begin to encapsulate his decades-long activity in film, theater, recording, musical revues and television, Chakiris shared crackerjack memories and his kind and modest personality.

Vintage television variety-show clips from the Garry Moore Show, Dinah Shore Show and Andy Williams Show peppered the conversation. The event also featured clips of the song-and-dance man in “Night and Day” and “Begin the Beguine” from “CBS ‘Ford Star Jubilee: You’re the Top, A Salute to Cole Porter,’” which aired October 6, 1956. Ramping up the emotion was Chakiris partnering Anna Maria Alberghetti in a full-throttled rendition of “Stranger in Paradise” from a 1967 television broadcast of “Kismet.”

Following the interview came a proud moment for Chakiris: a screening of a movie made in Italy fifty years ago, “La Ragazza di Bube” (“Bebo’s Girl” 1964), a beautiful film in which he co-stars with Claudia Cardinale. The ‘romantic neo-realist’ movie is well known in Europe (the French consider it a classic), but has virtually gone missing in the U.S. Till now. MoMA has effectively resurfaced “Bebo.” Bravo!

MoMA adjunct curator Dave Kehr arranged the visit and screening along with MoMA film curator Josh Siegel who for twelve years has overseen the festival. Sophie Cavoulacos provided the visit with able logistical support.

In a beautiful mash-up of dance genres, attending the event was the artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, Janet Eilber, herself a great dancer, although retired. Can Eilber’s presence be interpreted as a squelched desire to kick it as Anita in “West Side Story”? She and Chakiris look well suited!


Photo credit:  Will Ragozzino/, courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York

6 thoughts on “From Bernardo to “Bebo’s Girl”: George Chakiris tribute @ MoMA

  1. debra levine Nov 4,2014 2:25 pm

    Thank you, Joanna Ney! So pleased you could attend! Debra L.

  2. joanna ney Nov 4,2014 10:43 am

    Debra, just want to say that you and George were a class act at MoMA. Enjoyed interview but could not stay for Q & A. Photo terrific! Also liked interview about Kosloff and remember Madam Satan as wondrously over-the-top. You are a dance archivist per excellence and fine presence on stage. Congrats!

  3. debra levine Oct 31,2014 4:27 pm

    Thank you so much Larry, we carried you in our pocket~! Cheers, Debra

  4. Larry Billman Oct 31,2014 4:04 pm

    Oh those lucky citizens of the Big Apple. George is always such a joy to listen to. With all that talent and movie star appeal, he is always so down to earth and self-effacing. And you, Debra, bring out the best in him. A power pair for the Arts. Congratulations.

  5. debra levine Oct 31,2014 10:36 am

    Thank you, Dana. Most pleased that you like the photography.

  6. dana ross Oct 31,2014 12:00 am

    What a great event. Photos are really good too. Very impressed.
    Well done.

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