Above, an interesting shot of Vera-Ellen‘s “cute” entry into the Danny Kaye-starring “Choreography” number from WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954). You don’t see the dancer’s full descent in the final film. You just see her legs. Nor in the black-and-white photo is it possible to imagine the fuchsia color Vera-Ellen is wearing — a color made possible by Jack Cole’s “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” released the prior year. It’s a direct lift.
For the umpteenth time, Robert Alton choreographed this number, not Bob Fosse. That miscredit was an internet rumor I went to personal lengths to quash — through research. This fun number by Alton can only be interpreted as a playful push-back on the presence of an artiste in Hollywood, Jack Cole. The part of the number that is Kaye and the modern dancers is very effective and a lot of fun. “Choreography,” however, sinks on several critical elements, led off by mediocre production design. The sequence is not well directed by the hallowed Michael Curtiz; neither is it well shot by DP Loyal Griggs despite all the hoopla of Paramount’s debut use of a new screening paradigm, VistaVision. One imagines priority was being given to “The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing,” a flowing Alton number for Vera-Ellen and Kaye.
A friend once pointed out that Vera-Ellen as a dancer is a good illustration of the whole not equaling (let alone exceeding) the sum of the parts. Her dancing, to my eye, is a near miss; she can’t seem to put it together. Even adding Johnny Brascia, who adopts a competitive approach to their duet, cannot make this duo hum. “Choreography” is a minor number — it fits absolutely nowhere in the movie’s inchoate script — but it is a fun one to take apart. And I’m glad Robert Alton made it.