More on Alton’s ‘Choreography’ from WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) 6

Dance · Film

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.

“Best Things” actually led to the worst things — for the dancers! Read about that here.

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.

6 thoughts on “More on Alton’s ‘Choreography’ from WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954)

  1. CC Rider Jan 2,2024 6:31 am

    This number seems to have been filmed at a different time than the rest of the movie. Vera Ellen’s hairstyle and color has changed…she has bangs and the color is much more honey blond than in the rest of the picture. Also, Ellen doesn’t look quite as thin as she does in the rest of the film.
    Have wondered about this for decades, but can find no mention or documentation!

  2. Angela Aniol Dec 17,2023 6:08 pm

    This is my favorite in the movie. As you recall they are developing a show that includes all types of singing and dancing. So it fits very well. Vera-Ellen is the best

  3. Brooke Dec 26,2021 11:08 pm

    Does anybody know who the dancers in the purple dresses are?

  4. AuAngel Dec 23,2021 11:19 pm

    I don’t know what movie you were watching, but Vera-Ellen’s dancing in White Christmas is spot on! The choreography is excellent and matches her abilities perfectly. She is fabulous, in cadence and hits many tiny nuances throughout the film. She may not have sang, but her dancing is top notch, exciting, precise and complements each of her partners.

    I agree that the “Choreography” number doesn’t fit in the movie at all and I fast forward through it.

    Overall, I think the dancing (and dresses) in the movie especially by Vera-Ellen is sleek, precise, smooth and enjoyable to watch.

    Check your “eye” for dance. You may need to see an optometrist.

    —A Dancer with an “eye” for dancing

  5. debra levine Aug 18,2020 2:14 pm

    Bob, Nick Castle was on this film as well.
    I will study your links.

  6. Bob Boross Aug 18,2020 12:24 pm

    I don’t know much about Robert Alton, but was he skilled enough as a tap dancer to create the tap routines in White Christmas? They are quite advanced. Just wondering, as Matt Mattox was a skilled tapper and he danced in many Alton films. You can see sections in The Girl Rush that were Cole-esque and most likely choreographed by Matt or at least had his contribution. As for the tap, check the tap routine in Best Things at 2:26 and Matt’s tapping in his 1960s Bell Telephone Hour show with Carol Lawrence at 3:23 ( Very similar in style and rhythm. Did Alton create his own tap dances, or possibly did Matt create them and was not credited? Or did Matt just “lift” the style when he created for Bell Telephone Hour?

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