To commemorate the first-ever Oscar for Dance Direction, awarded to Dave Gould at the Eighth Academy Awards for his spectacular “Straw Hat” number from FOLIES BERGERE (1935), dance-movie-poster maven Mike Kaplan in tandem with the National Museum of Dance has introduced a new poster. The poster, created by a young artist, was part of the Museum’s just-closed ART OF THE DANCE: POSTERS FROM HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE exhibit. The vibrant results indicate that young generations can still have a visceral response to classic movie musicals decades after their release.
Kaplan, a veteran art director and friend of artsmeme, conceived of the new poster, working with artist Brant Yang, a graduate of the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. The poster captures the dynamic of the “Straw Hat” finale in which a joyful Chevalier and Sothern dance on a giant hat above a circular chorus of showgirls on its brim. Parisian landmarks provide a backdrop. A formal black, white and grey color scheme reflects the film’s costumes, with a flamboyant pink-purple-lavender palette highlighting the logo and credits. In marking the choreography’s importance and the Academy Award, Dave Gould’s dance-director credit now receives equal billing with director Roy Del Ruth.
Just as in Gould’s ornate number (which carries Busby Berkeley’s signature geometric formations shot overhead), the poster adapts star Maurice Chevalier’s trademark straw hat as its dominant image. Building from that key element into a dizzying kaleidoscope of straw-hat imagery, Gould surrounds Chevalier and co-star Ann Sothern by hundreds of hatted chorines. The number’s music, ‘Singing A Happy Song,” performed by Chevalier and Sothern, falls right in line with the upbeat movie musical themes of the Depression. (Where is that music, and those movies, now?) Gould’s work is as light as froth, possibly due to Chevalier’s joyous presence. It avoids the pitfalls of Berkeley, who could go crazy robotic at his most dehumanized.
The film’s exuberant choreography also includes the opening “Rhythm In The Rain” production number, as Maurice Chevalier splashes and dances in water puddles—the obvious precursor to Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” solo. Let’s have a look at that.
Kaplan calls FOLIES BERGERE “an overlooked movie, among the best of the ’30s.” (Eric Blore is in it!) “The movie’s A-list talent, literate screenplay and fluid direction take the conventions of the double identity plot to sophisticated heights,” writes Mike. Its inherent qualities, and Darryl Zanuck’s clear affection for it having worked on the screenplay as well as produced the picture, sparked re-makes THAT NIGHT IN RIO (1941) with Alice Faye, Don Ameche and Carmen Miranda and a decade later ON THE RIVIERA (1950) starring Danny Kaye and Gene Tierney — choreographed at 20th Century-Fox by Jack Cole.
The Hungarian-born Gould has 39 film credits as choreographer and 28 as a director of short films.
He received Oscar nominations for BORN TO DANCE, BROADWAY MELODY OF 1936 and A DAY AT THE RACES in each of the three years the Dance Direction category existed. THE GAY DIVORCEE, FLYING DOWN TO RIO and NOTHING SACRED count among his other credits.
Limited edition copies of the FOLIES BERGERE poster and postcards will be available at the Dance Museum gift shop and from LAGOONPRESS.com.