Fred & Ginger (& Mark) do ‘The Continental’ 1

Dance · Film
mark sandrich, fred astaire do the continental, but not cheek to cheekphoto: MARC WANAMAKER/BISON ARCHIVES The wonderful shot of director Mark Sandrich and Fred Astaire palling around at RKO Studios comes courtesy of artsmeme friend Marc Wanamaker. Thank you, Marc! The director and dancer are collaborating on a crazy-long, Art Deco-drenched, epic dance sequence for ...

Clippings tour: ‘Dirty Dancing,’ original version 1

Dance · Film
42nd Street (1933) choreography by Busby Berkeley This month’s edition of “Dirty Dancing: The Original” dates to the 1930s. If you think the McCarthy era saw the birth of the Hollywood black list you got that wrong. A work ‘lock-out’ took place during the Depression when chorus girls did not (ahem) ‘put out’ — and ...

Gwen Verdon to critic: Don’t overlook my choreographer

Dance
Gwen Verdon, a woman with values, in a handwritten note from September 1958, mildly protests to Los Angeles Times film critic John L. Scott about a crazy oversight in his review of the film Damn Yankees. [Pause the slide show for easier reading.] Scott was sufficiently impressed by Verdon’s message that he saved the letter ...

How ‘Lola’ helped Bob Fosse handle Gwen’s ‘bad reputation’

Dance · Film
In a 1991 interview with Gwen Verdon on CUNY Television, the great Gwen describes her first encounter with Fosse as her choreographer for Damn Yankees. I had seen [Fosse] at MGM studios. We had met at a party that Michael Kidd gave. I had a reputation for being difficult … and I was. I was ...

Hardest hit on ‘White Christmas’ movie set? Dancers. 4

Dance · Film
The lyric may be “iconic,” but it’s also “ironic.” Robert Alton’s sumptuous dance duet, “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,” a classy, flowing number for Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye, in White Christmas (1954) reveals the choreographer’s signature moves. Alton [Easter Parade, There’s No Business LIke Show Business, White Christmas] could move bodies around a ...

Ain’t there anyone here for love? Ladies, let’s do this! 1

Dance · Film
Okay, Messrs Weinstein, Schneiderman, R. Kelly, Richard Meier, Charlie Rose and the rest of you sexual predator power-guys! Formidable glamazon Marilyn Monroe, in Jack Cole’s “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” from GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953) wants to share her version of gender politics. A big boomerang of woman power heading your way, back at ...

Michael Jackson could only spin to the left, said Donald McKayle

Dance · Music · Theater
Chatting in 2011 with the great Tony Award-winning choreographer Donald McKayle (Raisin, Sophisticated Ladies, Dr. Jazz), who passed away just last week, McKayle let drop that he had worked with Michael Jackson on two occasions. And he remembered one funny detail. “He taught himself to dance,” said McKayle. “He could spin only to the left.” ...

A smoking dance number! ‘Two Cigarettes in the Dark’

Dance · Film · Music
It was so much fun to receive this dance number (above) from our friend the pianist/performer Peter Mintun, a very niche expert in old-tyme American popular music — the stuff of cafe society. The lead tap dancer (unidentified) and chorines deliver performances that can best be described as ‘smoking.’ “Two Cigarettes in the Dark,” by ...

Politics? Paul Draper says it with his feet. 1

Dance · Language & ideas
Would that certain people would zip their lip — and tell it like the great tap dancer Paul Draper does in this footage from 1948. Draper, in that year, was on the cusp of being blacklisted in the reign of terror foisted on thinkers, artists and other creatives by the House Unamerican Activities Committee. In ...

A Jack Cole audition for KISMET (1944)

Dance · Film
The choreographer Jack Cole is most known for his Oriental dance numbers in KISMET (MGM, 1955) directed by Vincente Minnelli. But a decade prior, also at MGM, Cole choreographed KISMET (1944) starring the non-dancer, Marlene Dietrich. Dancer/ballet instructor Joan Bayley, who went on to become choreographer’s assistant to Robert Alton, auditioned for Cole as a ...