Anna Pavlova visits Hollywood 3

Dance · Film
It was standard practice at Universal Studios in the silent film era to have observers on the set. We wrote about this in a previous post. One movie star proved the exception to this rule. Not an actor, but a dancer. And not just any dancer, but ballet’s first superstar, Anna Pavlova, the great globe-trotting ballerina ...

Uncle Carl’s two-bit boxed lunch 1

Film
From the get-go — for Universal Pictures that would be 1909 — film industry pioneer “Uncle” Carl Laemmle, a keen entrepreneur, allowed visitors on film sets. In the early days of Los Angeles filmmaking, shooting took place in plein air. Indoor production came later. To accommodate curiosity seekers, Laemmle erected a special grandstand. From this ...

Rambova’s Aztec costume for Kosloff 2

Dance · Fashion · Film
Ballets Russes dancer Theodore Kosloff and his protegee Natacha Rambova pose at left, costumed for their Aztec dance number on the Keith Orpheum vaudeville circuit. Kosloff brought to the stage the role in which he made his cinematic debut  — Guatemoco, the Aztec prince, in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Woman God Forgot” in 1917. Here’s a ...

Say a dance prayer for Gene Kelly in Pittsburgh 2

Dance · Film
Come on, home town! What’s this I hear about twenty years of fruitless effort to erect a statue of dancer Gene Kelly  — in a city where bridges, steel mills, skyscrapers, and sports stadia get built with ease? In a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, retired entertainment columnist Barbara Cloud gripes that she’s grown despondent waiting ...

Before Hollywood came Edendale 2

Architecture & Design · Film
This rustic boulevard, photographed at the turn of the twentieth century, occupied a Los Angeles neighborhood with the aspirational name of Edendale. One hundred years later, it’s called Echo Park. The street was then Allesandro. Now it’s Glendale Boulevard, or more accurately, a two-mile suction tube for automobiles hurtling toward downtown Los Angeles. On this ...

Red hair, red shoes 2

Dance · Film
I recently attended a screening of The Red Shoes, the 1948 Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger classic lovingly restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive, Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, British Film Institute, and others. This film’s huge blast of technicolor transforms red-headed Moira Shearer into an unspeakably firey, unearthly creature … her neat figure, fair complexion, and carrot top ...

Ballerina’s beautiful beach birthday bash 1

Dance · Film
Last year I wrote an article about former New York City Ballet ballerina Yvonne Mounsey coaching a young dancer, Melissa Barak, in the lead role of George Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son.” Mounsey danced the role in the early 1950s. By all accounts, she was an amazing, full-blooded dancer. She went on to become a great ballet ...

Marilyn dances . . . 1

Dance · Film
The first man to impersonate Marilyn Monroe may well have been her dance coach, Jack Cole. Anticipating the iconic Marilyn, he brought out her exceptional femininity through dance. Monroe copied him in return. A star was born. Monroe’s six-movie collaboration with Cole began with 1953’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” the breakthrough film that made her a ...

Why film community matters

Film
In this coming Sunday’s Los Angeles Times Calendar section you will find my article about choreographer Jack Cole who coached Marilyn Monroe in movement over the course of six of her films. Most famously, he choreographed “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Jack Cole also choreographed “Put the Blame on Mame” for Rita Hayworth in Gilda, at ...

Travis Banton turned tootsies into stars 1

Fashion · Film
I had the great pleasure of spending a few hours with writer David Chierichetti, the film fashion expert. David is the biographer of the under appreciated film director Mitchell Leisen; costume designer Edith Head; and he is author of coffee table volume, Hollywood Costume Design. Driving in L.A. traffic en route to the Egyptian Theater, ...