“Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart (September 2021)” featuring… Deep In My Heart (1954)

For today’s entry in the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, we’ve got the 1954 all-star musical biopic on composer Sigmund Romberg, Deep In My Heart, starring Jose Ferrer, Merle Oberon and Helen Traubel!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Strauss Fantasy (1954)

(Available as an extra on the Deep In My Heart Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 49 seconds)

Johnny Green conducts the MGM Symphony Orchestra in a medley of tunes by the three Strausses: Johann Strauss Sr., Johann Strauss Jr. and Josef Strauss.  It’s a nice, short little concert with some fun, recognizable classical music (even if it is slightly edited to fit in the short runtime).  This short is probably best played in the background of whatever you might be doing, but it’s still enjoyable!  My only real complaint is that, on this Blu-ray, this short is using an old, unrestored, non-anamorphic transfer, and I wish that could be improved upon.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Farm Of Tomorrow (1954)

(Available as an extra on the Deep In My Heart Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection or as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 32 seconds)

We are shown the “farm of tomorrow.” This one has some fun, but I’ll admit it quickly goes a little sour for me. Instead of being as much about farming, it quickly devolves into gags revolving around the crossbreeding of different animals (and some objects). There are some good gags to be found here, don’t get me wrong, but it just seems like it goes the wrong direction. Still, it’s one I’ll probably find myself returning to here and there (with my expectations in check).  Of course, the transfer for this cartoon is older on the Deep In My Heart Blu-ray, so it doesn’t look as good as it does on the Tex Avery set released several years later.

And Now For The Main Feature…

In New York City, composer Sigmund “Romy” Romberg (Jose Ferrer) works at the Café Vienna, run by his friend Anna Mueller (Helen Traubel).  One night, a music promoter named Berrison, Sr. (David Burns) listens to Romy’s music, but determines it to be old-fashioned.  Inspired by Berrison’s descriptions of what type of music he wants to promote, Romy writes a ragtime tune that quickly becomes a hit.  That song’s success attracts the attention of theatrical impresario J. J. Shubert (Walter Pidgeon), and Romy auditions a new song for Shubert’s upcoming show.  Shubert’s leading lady, Gaby Deslys (Tamara Toumananova), is at first indifferent to Romy’s new song, but when a visiting actress, Dorothy Donnelly (Merle Oberon), praises it, Gaby decides to have Shubert buy it.  When he sees the show on opening night, Romy is disgusted with the overall presentation of his song.  Anna holds a party at the Café Vienna afterwards, where Romy is offered a five-year contract by producer Bert Townsend (Paul Stewart).  Initially, Romy turns it down.  As he explains to his new friend Dorothy Donnelly, he had wanted to bring his show Maytime to Bert and Shubert, but couldn’t bring himself to do it after what they did with his song.  Dorothy encourages him to sign the contract, so that he can become better-known and gain enough clout to get them to do the show.  He signs, although he frequently finds himself at odds with the shows he writes for.  Still, he keeps doing them because of his free-spending habits with the checks he is given.  He tries asking Bert Townsend to produce Maytime again and again, but he keeps turning Romy down.  Going back to Dorothy for advice, she suggests a slight deception.  The two of them go to a fancy restaurant, where they run into Florenz Ziegfeld (Paul Henreid).  While being watched by Shubert, they pretend to show Ziegfeld Maytime, and he goes along with their ruse.  It works, prompting Shubert to finally do it. Maytime becomes such a big hit, that they have a second company performing it at the same time.  Romy’s success goes to his head, and he comes up with another show called Magic Melody.  With Bert unwilling to produce it, Romy decides to do so himself (but it fails).  Broke and humbled, he returns to Bert repentant.  Of course, Bert needs him back, and he sends him along with two of his writers to Saranac Lake to work on a show.  They work hard on the show, but when frustrations run high, the two writers push Romy to go out for a bit.  While out riding his bicycle, he meets and falls for Lillian Harris (Doe Avedon), who is staying at Saranac Lake with her mother (Isobel Elsom).  Lillian develops some affection for Romy, but her mother thinks he is too vulgar.  Things go wrong when Bert visits and insists on hearing what Romy and the two writers have put together (all, of course, while Lillian and her mother are trying to visit).  Bert likes what he hears, but it horrifies Lillian’s mother.  Lillian is willing to make up with Romy, until Bert sends flowers to all the women at Saranac Lake (in an attempt to get Romy to come back to Broadway), which is too much for Lillian.  A year later, Romy has helped put together another show, but he still hasn’t gotten over Lillian.  Dorothy tries to rouse his spirits by asking for his help in writing music for a show she’s been adapting, but he is feeling too low and plans a trip to Europe after the opening of the show.  Will Lillian return and help him out of his funk, or will he make that trip to Europe (and be miserable the whole time)?

In the early 1950s, MGM made plans for a musical biopic on composer Sigmund Romberg, with producer duties assigned to Arthur Freed. Originally, the plan was to have the real Sigmund Romberg make an appearance as himself in a prologue to introduce the film, but he died before the film could go into production. Producer Arthur Freed ended up giving this one to his regular associate producer, Roger Edens, as he attempted to launch his own unit at MGM, and Roger Edens hired Stanley Donen as the director. It wasn’t necessarily a movie that either of them wanted to make, though. The musical biopics that MGM had produced tended to be more like revues featuring some of the big-name talent at MGM for various songs, without much plot, which didn’t appeal to Stanley Donen (but he did the project because Roger Edens, who had been championing Stanley’s rise, asked him to do it). Being his first producing gig, Roger Edens felt that he needed something that would have been a success, even if he didn’t find the material appealing (and ended up producing only one more film, Funny Face, after this). The original plan was to have Kurt Kasznar star as Sigmund Romberg, but rising star Jose Ferrer expressed interest in doing a musical, and that was the end of that.

To be perfectly honest, this is a movie that I have both a difficult time recommending and yet also an easy time recommending.  If you find that confusing, then allow me to explain.  I first saw this movie as part of the nine-film DVD set Classic Musicals From The Dream Factory Volume 3, which included films like Hit The Deck (1955), Kismet (1955), Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935), Born To Dance (1936) and a few others that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet.  At that time, I hadn’t seen ANY of those films, just clips here and there.  Of that group of nine films, I originally came out with the lowest opinion on Deep In My Heart.  Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it a little bit, but I also would have told you at that time that that first viewing was also going to be my last.  My biggest problem (at that time)?  Complete lack of familiarity with composer Sigmund Romberg and his music.  I had already seen some of the other musical biopics on different composers like Jerome Kern (Till The Clouds Roll By), Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (Words And Music), Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (Three Little Words), etc., and was at least familiar with their music from some of the various film musicals that they had written for.  But Sigmund Romberg?  I hadn’t heard of him, and I hadn’t heard any of his music (not helped by the fact, if I am remembering correctly, that the only clips with his music in any of the That’s Entertainment films came from the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy film New Moon, which I hadn’t seen at that time and had no plans to see).  So I went in blindly, and came out barely remembering anything with any fondness (maybe the song “I Love to Go Swimmin’ with Wimmin” done by Gene Kelly and his brother, Fred Kelly, but that was it on my first time).

So, that’s what I held against the film (and why I have a difficult time recommending it).  But, as you will look at my score (and the fact that I also feel I CAN easily recommend it), my opinion has changed.  What caused me to go back and give this film a second chance?  Maytime (1937).  I will grant you that, to the best of my knowledge, only one song from the original Broadway show’s score made it into that film, which was “Will You Remember?”, but that song alone gave me a very positive feeling towards that whole movie.  In the back of my mind, I somehow remembered the song being included in Deep In My Heart, and the name “Sigmund Romberg” seemed familiar, so I was willing to revisit this movie. I found myself enjoying it much more the second time around, now that I was a little more familiar with Sigmund Romberg’s music. I’ve since seen a few other films with Sigmund Romberg’s music and enjoyed them (mostly just the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films The Girl Of The Golden West and New Moon, but I certainly hope to see more when I get the chance).

I will say that, more than anything, the music (and dancing here and here) is what makes this movie so appealing to me. I certainly enjoy the song “Will You Remember” by Vic Damone and Jane Powell quite a bit (it’s not as good as the version from the 1937 Maytime, but that is partly because that film gives the song an actual context as part of the story, leaving me much more emotionally attached, but I can still enjoy this film’s version, too). It is also kind of fun seeing Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney (married offscreen, with her appearance in this film due to Jose Ferrer pushing MGM to borrow her from Paramount) doing the rather appropriate song “Mr. And Mrs.” Gene Kelly joined by his brother Fred Kelly for the aforementioned song “I Love to Go Swimmin’ with Wimmin” is quite entertaining, and one of the better dance routines in the film. The other is Cyd Charisse and James Mitchell dancing to the song “One Alone,” which is just breathtaking to watch (and a little steamy, too). The closest objection that modern audiences might have (besides the overall lack of recognition of Sigmund Romberg) is the “Jazz-a-doo” stuff with Jose Ferrer putting on soot that resembles blackface (although that would likely be historically accurate, given that he was imitating Al Jolson, who did that, from what I’ve seen and heard). Personally, while it took me a few tries to like this film, I’ve come to enjoy seeing it every now and then, and consider it my second favorite composer biopic from that period (trailing only Three Little Words). If you can familiarize yourself with the music of Sigmund Romberg beforehand, then I do think that this is a fun movie worth seeing (without that recognition, it’s much harder to recommend)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 2 hours, 12 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Caine Mutiny (1954) – Jose Ferrer

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) – Walter Pidgeon – Hit The Deck (1955)

Now, Voyager (1942) – Paul Henreid – Never So Few (1959)

White Christmas (1954) – Rosemary Clooney

Brigadoon (1954)Gene KellyInvitation To The Dance (1956)

Athena (1954) – Jane Powell – Hit The Deck (1955)

Athena (1954) – Vic Damone – Hit The Deck (1955)

Kiss Me Kate (1953) – Ann Miller – Hit The Deck (1955)

Brigadoon (1954) – Cyd Charisse – Silk Stockings (1957)

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) – Howard Keel – Kismet (1955)

Music In My Heart (1940) – Tony Martin – Hit The Deck (1955)

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) – Russ Tamblyn – Hit The Deck (1955)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

We’re back again to keep things musical this month with today’s entry in the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, as we take a look at MGM’s all-star musical from 1945, Ziegfeld Follies!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Luckiest Guy In The World (1947)

(available as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 21 minutes, 9 seconds)

Charles Vurn (Barry Nelson) struggles monetarily, due to his desire to get rich quick (mostly by gambling). When he accidentally kills his wife, his luck “seems” to change for the better. This was the last short in the “Crime Does Not Pay” series of shorts produced by MGM. It’s an interesting short, that feels well-acted and pulls you in for the story. Amusingly, considering this short’s inclusion as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray, it includes part of Red Skelton’s skit from the movie done as part of a radio program heard in a car. I’m still no fan of the “Crime Does Not Pay” series, but this one was interesting to see once, anyways.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Hick Chick (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 or as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray, both from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 7 minutes, 10 seconds)

Hick rooster Lem ends up fighting with a city slicker for the affections of his girlfriend, Daisy. A bit of fun here, with the city slicker rooster imitating Charles Boyer, while Daisy also does an imitation of Katharine Hepburn (if I’m correct). Not the most original, with the hick rooster constantly being punched in the face the same way by the city slicker, but it’s still fun. Enjoyed the chasing around (plus the bull being “stripped” of his fur several times). Maybe not Tex Avery’s best work, but I had a few good laughs here, and that alone makes it worth it!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Solid Serenade (1946)

(available as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 25 seconds)

Tom the cat tries to serenade his girlfriend, but when he disturbs the sleep of Jerry the mouse, he lives to regret it! An old classic “Tom & Jerry” cartoon, with him famously singing “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” I’ve seen this one for years, and always get a laugh out of watching Tom facing off against Killer, the bulldog, when Jerry lets him loose. The gags just get funnier as the short goes on, and this one never gets old!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Narrator): Ziegfeld Follies is one of those films with a very simple plot.

(Host): How simple is it?

(Narrator): I expected that from you, so I’ll tell you. Florenz Ziegfeld (William Powell) looks down from heaven, and imagines what it would be like to put on just one more of his famous Ziegfeld Follies shows using the talent in Hollywood (especially at MGM).

(Host): Yeah, yeah, what else?

(Narrator): That’s it.

(Host): That’s it?

(Narrator): Yep, and that all takes place within the first ten minutes of the movie. After that, it’s a revue like the earlier reviewed King Of Jazz, with different stars singing, dancing, doing comedy skits, whatever their specific talents were.

(Host): So what’s on the program?

(Narrator): Well, here’s a list of what’s included, and we’ll get into the various segments afterwards:

  • “Here’s To The Girls” sung by Fred Astaire, danced by Cyd Charisse and chorus, Lucille Ball and chorus
  • “Bring On The Wonderful Men” sung by Virginia O’Brien
  • “A Water Ballet” featuring Esther Williams
  • “Number Please” with Keenan Wynn
  • “Traviata” sung by James Melton and Marion Bell
  • “Pay The Two Dollars” with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold
  • “This Heart Of Mine” sung by Fred Astaire, danced by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer
  • “A Sweepstakes Ticket” with Fanny Brice, Hume Cronyn and William Frawley
  • “Love” with Lena Horn
  • “When Television Comes” with Red Skelton
  • “Limehouse Blues” danced by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer
  • A Great Lady Has “An Interview” with Judy Garland
  • “The Babbitt and The Bromide” sung and danced by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly
  • “Beauty” sung by Kathryn Grayson

(Host): And that’s all?

(Narrator): Yep, that’s all. Admittedly, there was more filmed, but that’s all that made it into the movie. But, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

(Host): Ok, so start at the beginning.

(Narrator): (whispering aside to audience) He asked for it! (winks at audience, then turns back to Host, speaking in normal voice) “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the–

(Host): No, no, NO! Not that far! The making of this movie!

(Narrator): Ok, fine. Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (1867-1932) was a famous stage producer. On the suggestion of Polish-French singer Anna Held, he started producing the American version of the Parisian Folies Bergère. From 1907 until 1931, he produced a yearly revue of the Ziegfeld Follies, with these shows sporting songs, dances, comedy sketches, and such. They mainly ended when he passed away in 1932. After his death, his widow Billie Burke sold the film rights of his life to Universal Pictures. However, with the rising costs and disagreements between the film’s producer and the studio, Universal ended up selling the rights to MGM. In 1936, MGM released The Great Ziegfeld, to great acclaim, box office, and a Best Picture Oscar win. A few years later, in 1939, studio head Louis B. Mayer planned the idea of a film version of a Ziegfeld Follies show, and gave the project to his new producer, Arthur Freed. However, with Arthur Freed’s new unit only just getting started, it took a while before they could really get into the project. With the success of Ziegfeld Girl in 1941, they really started to focus on the idea. The plan was to try and use some of the various songs, sketches and comedy routines that MGM had been acquiring over the years. At first, George Sidney was assigned to direct the film, but he left after a short while (supposedly, he wasn’t happy with the first month’s worth of shooting) and was replaced by Vincente Minelli (although some of what Sidney filmed was retained for the final product). The movie was originally intended to be released in 1944 to celebrate MGM’s 20th anniversary, but things didn’t work out that way. Filming initially took place between April 10 and August 18, 1944. When the movie was given its sneak preview (with a running time of nearly three hours), audiences didn’t respond as positively as they would have hoped. This resulted in the studio making some changes to the movie, removing many segments and doing some re-takes and additional sequences. Even once finished (as the film is now), they still took their time in releasing it, waiting almost half a year before finally giving it a wide release in 1946.

(Host hands the narrator a small business card)

(Narrator): (reading the card) “And now a word from our sponsor?”

(Pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face)

(Host): That’s right folks, our sponsor this week is Pie N De Face! If you’re feeling gloomy, and you don’t know what to do (and you’ve got a friend or family member nearby), use Pie N De Face, and you’re sure to bust a gut laughing! Also comes with a portable washing machine (water falls from above the Narrator, drenching him), soap (Narrator is scrubbed with soap, then drenched again), and dryer (a strong gust of wind blows on the Narrator, drying him up and fluffing out his clothing) so that you can use it again in a hurry!

(Narrator): (Angrily walks off-stage, sound of pie hitting him in face again, then sounds of gushing water and wind) (yells) Let’s move on here! Start talking about the movie!

(Host): Alright. Computer, bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set.

(Computer): Bringing in comedy set.

(Out pops a set with three distinct sections that look like a subway car, a courthouse and a jail cell. There are also two telephone booths and an old CRT television set with what appears to be a bottle of an alcoholic beverage, although nothing inside is visible. A huge pile of sweepstakes tickets drops on the Host, burying him).

(Host): (from underneath the pile of sweepstakes tickets) Ow.

(Narrator): (Walking back onstage) That’s the ticket!

(Audience groans)

(Narrator): Ok, ok, they can’t all be good! Anyways, it may not be what he asked for, but we should mention the comedy sketches. Obviously, opinions will vary for most, but in general, the comedy bits in this movie are among the more controversial aspects of it, as there are those that don’t think they have aged as well as the various musical numbers. There is a degree to which I agree with that. The bit “Pay The Two Dollars” with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold is the worst, as Victor Moore plays a businessman who gets in trouble for spitting on the subway (a minor offense), but, because of the fact that he is unable to pay the fine, combined with the insistence of his lawyer that he fight the charge (even though he just wants to pay the fine), he is sent to jail and then later prison, before being pardoned. In general, this one is just cringeworthy, watching Victor Moore’s character getting in worse and worse scrapes, both financially and with the law, just because his lawyer doesn’t want to lose the case (and charges his client an arm and a leg to do it). Maybe it’s funny once or twice, but eventually this becomes one worth skipping. Computer, drop “Pay The Two Dollars.”

(Computer): Dropping the cheapskate.

(Trapdoor opens up beneath the Host).

(Host): (Falling through the trapdoor with some of the sweepstakes tickets) Aaaaaaaaahhhh!

(Narrator): Moving on, we have the the “Number Please” comedy bit with Keenan Wynn, where he keeps asking the operator for a specific number, but keeps getting the wrong one. This one is decently funny, but, when all is said and done, it’s essentially the “Alexander 2222” (or whatever other name they go with) comedy routine, and, when you’ve seen Lou Costello do that routine, nobody else is as good.

(Phone booth rings)

(Narrator): (Steps in phone booth and picks up phone) Hello? (Muffled voice overheard on phone) Mmm-hmm. (Muffled voice continues) You don’t say. (Muffled voice starts to sound angry). You don’t say! (Muffled voice gets angrier. Narrator cups his hand over the phone and gives the audience a look). I think most of you can predict what I’m about to tell you, so say it with me. (breathes in) “He isn’t saying.” Computer, drop this obscene caller.

(Computer): Dropping the obscene caller.

(Host): (from the other telephone booth, getting quieter as if falling again) Not agaaaaaaaiiiiinnnn!

(Narrator): The next comedy sketch would be “A Sweepstakes Ticket” with Fanny Brice, Hume Cronyn and William Frawley. Fanny Brice was the only featured star in this movie to have actually been one of the big stars from a Ziegfeld Follies show. Different sketches and ideas were thrown around for what to do with her for this movie, but what we got was a sketch in which she plays a housewife that has the winning ticket in an Irish sweepstakes. The problem is her husband, played by Hume Cronyn, has given the ticket to their landlord (William Frawley in what would become a familiar occupation for one of his most famous characters half a decade later) as part of their rent, so they must try to get it back from him. There’s some fun with their attempts to get the ticket back, so it does manage to be slightly more memorable. (speaks loudly) Of course, I’ve got that winning ticket in that pile somewhere…

(Host comes running back onstage and dives into remaining pile of sweepstakes tickets, only to fall through the still open trapdoor)

(Narrator): Knew I forget to take care of something. Computer, close the trapdoor.

(Computer): Closing the trapdoor.

(Trapdoor closes)

(Narrator): Our last comedy sketch is “When Television Comes” with Red Skelton. (Walks over to the television set and takes a swig from the bottle on top) While Red Skelton seems to be one of the more “you love him or you hate him” types, I will admit that I personally like his comedy. I don’t think his comedy bit here is as good as what he did in Lovely To Look At, but it’s still some good fun as he plays an advertiser that gets slowly more drunk on the sponsor’s product while alternating (by the turn of his hat) as a poet with some rather amusing poetry (if you can call it that). Out of all the pure comedy sketches in this movie, this is the one that I enjoy the most. (Takes another swig from the bottle) Ah, that’s good stuff. (To audience) Before you get the wrong idea, I’m drinking the hard stuff. Milk. What? You expected something alcoholic? We wouldn’t let anything of that nature on here! But let’s get back to the movie!

(Host): (weakly from offstage) What about “A Great Lady Has An Interview” with Judy Garland?

(Narrator): Well, that’s kind of a different story. That one is a musical number, which was written by Kay Thompson and Roger Edens for actress Greer Garson, in an attempt to spoof her screen image at the time. When the two writers performed it for Greer Garson and her husband and her mother, they expressed their feelings that it wasn’t for her. Instead, Judy Garland ended up doing it. Personally, while I think that Judy Garland does a good job with it (and I’m glad that she got something in this movie, considering she was another star that had a lot of stuff planned as possibilities that didn’t pan out, and, as big as she was at MGM, she did need to be in this film), I think the humor of the piece falls flat. Maybe I’m saying that coming from a complete lack of knowledge in regards to Greer Garson (having only seen her in the film Blossoms In The Dust which was part of a set of Christmas films I got on DVD a number of years back), but I can’t believe that I’m the only one who has no knowledge of her, which causes this number to age poorly, in my opinion.

(sign drops from above)

(Narrator): (reading the sign) “And now back to our sponsor Pie N De Face?”

(another pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face).

(Host): (trying to stifle a giggle) If you’re feeling gloomy (starts giggling more intensely), and you don’t know what to do (and you’ve got a friend or family member nearby), use Pie N De Face (busts out in raucous laughter), and you’re… sure to… bust a gut… laughing! (starts rolling on the floor in uncontrollable laughter)

(Narrator): (wiping pie off his face) Oh, very funny. Veeeeerrrry funny. Are you through yet?

(Host still laughing on the floor)

(Narrator): Fine. I’ll finish the ad. (starts speaking fast to get it over with). Also comes with a portable washing machine, soap, and dryer so that you can use it again in a hurry! (In quick fashion, water drops on the Narrator, followed quickly by soap, more water, and then a strong gust of wind fluffs him up again)

(Host): (still on the floor laughing) Had enough?

(Narrator walks offstage muttering angrily to himself)

(Host): (laughter subsides) Ok, let’s try this again. Computer, bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set.

(Computer): Bringing in “Beauty” set.

(From above, a bunch of soap suds and bubbles drop down, covering the stage and sticking to the Host)

(Host): (spitting out soap bubbles) No, no, no, not that! Computer! Bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set!

(Computer): Bringing in “Water Ballet” set.

(Host): (dreading what is coming) Oh, no!

(A glass pane comes down covering the front of the stage, with water filling in behind it and washing away all the suds. The Host suddenly finds himself swimming in all the water as the water level continues to rise.)

(Narrator): (walking back onstage in front of the glass pane) Ah, two musical numbers that ended up being far different than what was originally planned. As I’ve hinted at already, a lot of the various stars were being given numerous songs or sketches in the planning stages, some of which managed to be filmed (but were dropped after the initial preview). One of those stars was singer James Melton, who had filmed at least four songs, but only one was retained: the operatic “La Traviata.” Personally, I think that to be one of the weakest (if not THE weakest) segments retained for the movie. I’ve seen it described as being filmed like a song for a TV variety show, which feels quite accurate. Overall, I don’t really like it at all (and only would have been able to tolerate it if it could have been done, for example, by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy instead of James Melton and Marion Bell).

(The water level continues to rise. The Host swims his way over to the glass pane and taps on it.)

(Narrator): What? Oh, right, the two different musical numbers. Well, we have the one segment with Esther Williams doing her underwater ballet. Originally, this segment was done with James Melton singing the song “We Will Meet Again in Honolulu,” but after the initial preview, Melton’s appearance was cut, with only Esther Williams’ swim routine sticking around. It’s nothing compared to some of the spectacles she would do in some of her later films (at least, those that I’ve seen), but it’s entertaining enough.

(With the water level at the top, an agitated Host pounds furiously on the glass pane.)

(Narrator): (looking back) Now what? (sees water level) Oh, right! Computer, pull the plug.

(Computer): Pulling the plug.

(A hole opens up in the center of the stage, draining all the water. As the water goes down the hole, the Host goes down with it.)

(Narrator): (When all the water is gone) Computer, put in the plug.

(Computer): Putting in plug.

(The hole in the center of the stage closes up.)

(Host): (from down below) Why can’t that thing work that well for me?!?!?

(Narrator): (Ignoring the Host’s complaint) Now where were we? Oh, yes. The song “There’s Beauty Everywhere” was also quite different for its original conception. James Melton also originally sang that song, and director Vincente Minelli envisioned having Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer and Cyd Charisse dancing among soap bubbles. However, the bubble machine caused a lot of trouble, with the gas from the bubbles causing the cameraman to faint and otherwise became a constant hazard, not to mention the bubbles themselves getting out of control. As a result, they weren’t able to film it right (with the bubbles generally obscuring parts of Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer’s faces), so most of the idea was abandoned. Some of the footage featuring Cyd Charisse was kept in the film, and James Melton was replaced by Kathryn Grayson with some newly shot footage. Personally, I think it’s not really that memorable of a song, especially as it is, and makes me wish they could have (safely) pulled off their original vision.

(From offstage, the sound of machinery fizzling out can be heard. Then the Host walks onstage)

(Host): Darn it. There goes our sponsor’s machine. All those soap suds and that water shorted it out.

(Narrator): (in a mocking tone). Awww, that’s too bad.

(Host): (imitating the Narrator) “Awww, that’s too bad.” (Normal voice) Oh, you’ll get over it. Getting back to the movie, are you finished with the water ballet and “There’s Beauty Everywhere?”

(Narrator): Yes.

(Host): Anything you want to say about the song “Love” before segueing into discussing the Fred Astaire stuff?

(Narrator): Well, “Love,” as sung by Lena Horne, is a fun piece of music, and she does a wonderful job of singing it. I can’t really say much one way or the other about how it was staged, as that aspect doesn’t really feel that memorable. Still, as I said, the song itself sticks quite well in my memory, and is one of the better songs in the film.

(Host): Ready for Fred Astaire?

(A screen drops down from above)

(Narrator): (ducking behind the screen and popping out on the other side wearing a top hat and a tuxedo with tails, and carrying a cane) Ready!

(Host): Alright. We’ll give this one last shot. Computer, bring in the “Fred Astaire” set. (closes eyes and flinches)

(Computer): Bringing in “Fred Astaire” set.

(Host): (slowly opens one eye and looks around to see a set divided into four sections, with one occupied by a group of ladies all decked out in costumes with big headdresses, another occupied by the Chinatown section of London, another in a park with a statue of a man on a horse, and the other with a barren wintry landscape. Seeing the coast is clear, he unflinches and breathes a sigh of relief) Phew. Finally! (Suddenly, a piano drops on his head, knocking him out)

(Narrator): Hmm. That piano sounded out of tune. Oh, well. (pulls the unconscious Host out from under the piano and drags him offstage) Anyways, back to Fred. Compared to some of the many stars who had multiple segments planned that, for one reason or another didn’t make it into the final film, Fred Astaire managed to get four segments in the movie, besting Cyd Charisse and Lucille Bremer, who were tied at two each (while everybody else had one). Even then, Fred still had at least one segment cut, the song “If Swing Goes, I Go Too” (a song that he himself wrote). While the footage of that song no longer exists, the recording of it does. However, that was not included (for some reason) as an extra on the recent Blu-ray release.

Anyways, to get back to what is actually in the movie, after William Powell’s Ziegfeld introduces the idea behind the movie (in what little exists for a “plot”), he hands things off to Fred Astaire to start things off. Fred introduces everything with a few kind words about Ziegfeld, concluding with a reminder that Ziegfeld was a specialist in glorifying girls before launching into singing the song “Here’s To the Girls.” After singing the song and dancing (very, very briefly) with Cyd Charisse, he leaves the stage, leaving Cyd to dance with some other chorus girls, before we have a merry-go-round with ladies all dressed in pink, leading up to Lucille Ball leading a group of cat-like dancers (with a whip in hand). Of course, after glorifying the ladies, Virginia O’Brien shows up on horseback to “Bring On The Wonderful Men” (although it’s just her onscreen, without any men showing up). Neither song is necessarily that great, but they do help start off the proceedings quite well.

Moving on from there, we have Fred’s third appearance in this film (I know I’m doing this out of order, but we’ll get to his second appearance in a bit), dancing alongside Lucille Bremer for the song “Limehouse Blues.” Now, one thing that should be said here. Fred was worried about his song “If Swing Goes, I Go Too” becoming dated (because of the style of music), which is why that was deleted, but, among his song-and-dance routines that survived, “Limehouse Blues” has fared worse over time, with both him and Lucille Bremer made up to look Asian in appearance. But, if you can get past that, this is a wonderful routine that is out of the ordinary for Fred Astaire. For one thing, it’s a bit more balletic, with him doing some tricks like cartwheels, and, for another, both he and Lucille work with fans throughout the dream sequence. In spite of it’s issues, it’s still a very interesting routine that shows how well he could do with a variety of dance styles.

(Host): (Walking back onstage) Have you gotten to Fred and Gene yet?

(Narrator): No, I was just getting there. Fred’s last appearance in the film is for the song “The Babbitt And The Bromide,” which was originally written by the Gershwins for the Broadway show Funny Face starring Fred and his sister Adele. This time, Fred was paired with up-and-comer Gene Kelly, with the two of them providing the choreography for the different sections of the song. Before starting the song, they both rather amusingly reference each other’s big partners (obviously, for Fred it was Ginger Rogers, but for Gene, it was Rita Hayworth, since Cover Girl was still Gene’s big breakthrough at that point). Whatever the case, it’s still a lot of fun to see the two of them dancing together in their prime, as that was to be the only time they could work anything out (yes, I know they also danced together in That’s Entertainment, Part 2, but that was with them both nearly thirty years older than they were here).

(Host): Ok, that’s all fine and dandy, but what about “This Heart Of Mine?”

(Narrator): Yes, I know you’ve been leading to that one, but that’s why we’ve saved the best for last.

(A moving sidewalk starts up underneath the Host, who starts walking to keep up with it)

(Host): This isn’t too bad. Anyways, “This Heart Of Mine” is, in some respects, a shorter version of the story for the other Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer film, Yolanda And The Thief, with Fred playing a thief out to steal something from Lucille Bremer’s wealthy character.

(The Narrator pulls out a remote and presses a button. The moving sidewalk starts to move faster, forcing the Host to start jogging, then running.)

(Host): (Running out of breath) That’s not so easy! (Angrily points at the Narrator) You were planning this, weren’t y- (Host trips and falls on the moving sidewalk, which is going so fast now that he practically flies offstage. A commotion is heard backstage as he crashes into various objects.)

(Narrator): And off he goes again. Getting back to the “This Heart Of Mine” segment, it’s arguably one of the film’s best moments. We’ve got Fred and Lucille doing a ballroom dance together, with a beautiful piece of music to back them up. I know I like it, and the song itself gives me chills, especially when the chorus sings it near the end. It’s a longer song, clocking in at over ten minutes, but it’s well worth it for me.

Overall, I find this to be a very enjoyable film. As I’ve indicated, it’s a bit uneven, but, let’s be fair. As a revue, it’s going to be hard to keep everything good. Whatever the case, it’s one I’ve seen many times over the years. Most of the music is good, and there’s some fantastic dancing throughout (mostly provided by Fred Astaire, but there are some others doing well here, too). For me, I always like to sit through the whole thing without skipping through anything (in spite of the variation in quality of the segments). If you can get past the essentially nonexistent plot, then it’s a movie worth recommending (and certainly the best movie revue I’ve seen, even if that is a short list)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The Blu-ray features a new transfer that comes from a 4K scan of most of the original camera negative. While some of the original negative is gone, I would say that overall, this transfer is much improved! The detail is much better, and the colors certainly have that three-strip Technicolor look to them! The picture has been cleaned up of dirt and debris. Extras include (besides the three shorts already mentioned) a featurette on the movie and audio-only outtakes of different musical numbers that were originally planned for the movie. I certainly think that this is the best way to enjoy this movie!

(Host comes back onstage carrying a stack of pies on his left hand, and one lone pie on his right, looking like he might throw them)

(Narrator): What are you doing with those?0

(Host): Well, even though the machine is broken, we do still have a sponsor for this post who needs-

(Narrator): (interrupting) Oh, no you don’t! I’ve had enough of Pie N De Face! Now give me those pies!

(Host): Are you sure? (winks at the audience).

(Narrator): Of course I’m sure! Now let me have them!

(Host gives the audience a look. However, that look is long enough for the Narrator to act and push the lone pie into the Host’s face. The Host falls down, and the pies in his other hand go flying. The Narrator starts laughing hysterically, and then all the pies fall down, covering the both of them. They wipe the pie off their faces, look at each other, and burst into uproarious laughter.)

(Narrator): (After finally calming down) Computer, bring the curtain down.

(Computer): Bringing the curtain down.

(The whole curtain falls down from above, landing on the Host and the Narrator).

(Narrator): Well, it seems that the Writer has thrown in almost everything now.

(A kitchen sink falls from above and lands on the Narrator’s head, knocking him out)

(Host): You just had to go there, didn’t you? Well, that’s all folks!

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Star Of The Month (March 2021)” Featuring Gene Kelly in… Brigadoon (1954)

We’re back for more fun with Gene Kelly, as we next celebrate our Star Of The Month through his 1954 musical Brigadoon, which also stars Van Johnson and Cyd Charisse!  Of course, as always, we have a theatrical short to get through, and then it’s on with the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Punch (1966)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)

The Pink Panther has come up with a health drink of his own, and tries to promote it. He is thwarted, however, by an asterisk from one of his signs that turned green and keeps turning everything green. There are a few good laughs here, as the Panther tries to deal with the small asterisk (and its much bigger “parent”). I’ll admit, it’s not one of the better Panther cartoons, as I generally prefer those where he is “winning,” as opposed to his opponents, but at least there is still some fun to be had here.

And Now For The Main Feature…

A pair of American hunters, Tommy Albright (Gene Kelly) and Jeff Douglas (Van Johnson), have come to Scotland to hunt grouse.  However, they quickly find themselves lost.  They come across a village that wasn’t on their map, and, since they are hungry, decide to stop by and see if they can find any food.  On the outskirts of the village, they run across Fiona Campbell (Cyd Charisse), who directs them to the village square.  Tommy is captivated by her, but Jeff tries to push him on towards the square for food.  Everyone in town is frightened at the sight of these strangers, and one of the vendors rejects their money.  However, Charlie Dalrymple (Jimmy Thompson) is in a good mood because he is getting married, and buys them breakfast.  Fiona comes to town to run some errands in preparation for her sister’s wedding, and Tommy decides to join her.  They start to gather some heather, but Fiona runs away when they get near a bridge at the edge of the town’s boundaries.  Tommy runs into Jeff (who was trying to get away from an over-amorous shepherdess), and they stop outside the Campbell home.  There, Tommy sees their family Bible, and is confused by the birthdates of Fiona and her sister being listed as nearly two hundred years earlier.  In between that and some other comments he had heard from the villagers, Tommy confronts Fiona and asks her to explain what’s going on.  Unable to give an explanation herself, Fiona agrees to take them to the schoolmaster Mr. Lundie (Barry Jones), who can explain everything.

According to Mr. Lundie, the town wasn’t on the map because of a miracle.  Two hundred years earlier, the country was full of witches and sorcerers who were turning the people away from their faith in God.  The town’s minister, Mr. Forsythe, was growing old, and worried that those witches would come to the town after he died and do the same there.  So, he went outside the town’s boundaries, and prayed to God for a miracle.  He asked that the town would disappear into the highland mists, only to appear for one day every one hundred years (so as not to be influenced by the outside world).  Of course, there was a condition that required the townspeople not to cross the boundaries, or the entire village would disappear forever.  There was a provision for outsiders wanting to stay, in that, if they loved someone in the village, they would be able to stay as well.

Unsure of how much he believed what he was told, Tommy still decided to stay and see Charlie’s wedding to Fiona’s sister, Jean (Virginia Boswell).  At first, things go well, but then Charlie’s rival for her affections, Harry Beaton (Hugh Laing), starts a fight.  When he loses, he expresses his hatred for the town, and tries to leave.  Everybody, including Tommy, try to find Harry and stop him.  He is only stopped when Jeff (who had left the wedding before the fight broke out) tries to do some hunting, and accidentally shoots and kills Harry while he was up in a tree.  Everybody assumes that Harry fell and hit his head, and they decide to keep Harry’s death quiet for the remainder of the day.  With that crisis over, Tommy decides to stay in Brigadoon with Fiona, and goes off to find Mr. Lundie.  However, he runs across Jeff, who tells him about how he had shot Harry, which leaves Tommy confused.  Can he convince himself to stay with Fiona after this, or will the two be separated forever?

The movie was based on the Broadway show of the same name, which opened in 1947 and went on to be a hit.  MGM bought the film rights in 1951, intending the film for Gene Kelly (although, because of his schedule, it took a while to get started).  Gene Kelly and director Vincente Minelli had hoped to film it on location in Scotland, but a combination of bad weather and high costs prevented that.  After trying other locations, they were forced by studio heads to do it entirely on the sound stages at MGM to keep costs low. Even with that attitude, though, the MGM executives thought this movie was going to be a big hit, and decided to put a bit more money into it by using some of the money that had been allocated to a little movie called Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (of course, we all know how that turned out, with Seven Brides becoming the well-regarded classic).

Personally, I have no experience with the musical play at all, only the 1954 film.  I admit, I didn’t take to it that much on my first try, and I really didn’t care for much of the music. In the time since that first viewing, I’ve come to appreciate the music of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe more (mostly through My Fair Lady), so when I tried again a few years back (almost a decade after my first time seeing it), I enjoyed Brigadoon a lot more. The music overall is a lot of fun, and there is some fantastic dancing to be enjoyed here (but more on that in a moment). While others take issue with this movie not being filmed on location, I actually like it better on the soundstages. For one thing, it’s more of a fantasy, and thus the not-as-realistic settings work much better for me (that, and I enjoy seeing just what all the various craftsman could actually put together back then without the aid of CGI). Now, is this movie perfect? Far from it. Dancer and actor James Mitchell had originally played the part of Harry Beaton in the original show, and was under contract to MGM at this time, but they instead opted to cast Hugh Laing (borrowed from the New York City Ballet) as Harry. While that in and of itself isn’t bad, it feels very much like Hugh Laing is underutilized. I would have expected him to do a lot more dancing, especially with his background, but he is instead relegated to doing a little at the wedding right before his character tries to kiss the bride against her will (I know that he did more in one of the still extant deleted scenes from the movie, but it still wasn’t that much). Van Johnson’s character isn’t exactly the most likeable guy, either (at least, not the way he portrayed him).

Still, Gene Kelly certainly made the film fun to watch. His dancing in this movie was always interesting. On my first viewing, the only song that actually stuck with me was the song “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean,” and I like how all the villagers had their own style of dancing (from their own time), and then Gene and Van Johnson started doing some more modern dancing, which they all wanted to see. Gene’s duet with Cyd Charisse to “Heather On The Hill” is absolutely beautiful to watch, both the dancing and the scenery (and, if you recall, it made my list of Top 10 Dance Routines). His dance solo to “Almost Like Being In Love” is also quite entertaining, as he goofs around while enjoying the feeling of being in love. Honestly, Gene Kelly makes this film worth seeing! It’s not a perfect movie, but I enjoy it enough to recommend it (especially if you can see it through its restoration on Blu-ray)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 48 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Singin’ In The Rain (1952)Gene KellyDeep In My Heart (1954)

The Caine Mutiny (1954) – Van Johnson

The Band Wagon (1953) – Cyd Charisse – Deep In My Heart (1954)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Star Of The Month (March 2021)” Featuring Gene Kelly in… Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

Time for my first entry of my own Star Of The Month for March 2021’s Gene Kelly, and where else to start but with one of his most well-known musicals, Singin’ In The Rain, also starring Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor! Of course, first we have a theatrical short to get through, and then it’s on to the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bully For Pink (1965)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 2 seconds)

The Pink Panther decides to try being an amateur bullfighter, and borrows a magician’s cape to use. This one is a bit of fun, with all the various tricks that occur because of the magician’s cape (including the angry rabbit). Admittedly, it does feel a lot like the classic Looney Tunes cartoon “A Bully For Bugs,” which is not a point in its favor, as that earlier Bugs cartoon is very much a classic, and this one feels like an inferior knockoff. Still, it does have a few good moments, and I certainly laughed a few times, so there is that.

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Narrator): All Hollywood is abuzz at the premiere of the new silent film The Royal Rascal starring that great screen team of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen).

(Host): Don’t you mean The Three Musketeers? 😉

(Narrator): Not completely. Yes, this movie did re-use some footage from that 1948 Gene Kelly film (without sound) for The Royal Rascal, but they also threw in some new stuff to add in Jean Hagen’s Lina Lamont for this “silent movie.” Getting back to the story, after the movie’s premiere, Don makes a speech to the audience, all the while preventing Lina from talking. Backstage, we find out why: she speaks with a thick Queens accent and with a somewhat squeaky voice (and, as the press agent Rod, who is played by King Donovan, puts it, “Lina, you’re a beautiful woman. Audiences think you’ve got a voice to match. The studio’s gotta keep their stars from looking ridiculous at any cost”). Of course, to make things worse, the gossip columnists and fan magazines keep linking Don and Lina together romantically. She doesn’t mind going along with the idea, but he has no interest in her.

Anyways, getting back to the story, producer R. F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell), the head of Monumental Pictures is throwing a party to celebrate his new picture. Don is riding with his friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) when Cosmo’s car suffers a flat tire. Before they know it, Don is mobbed by some of his fans, and, in an attempt to get away from them, he hitches a ride with passing motorist Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). At first she is startled, but, once she recognizes who he is, she offers him a ride back to his home (but not before she makes some comments about silent movie actors and their “lack of” acting ability). Don makes his way to the party, but he is slightly shaken by her comments. R.F. uses the party to show off some new sound technology, but nobody thinks it will take off, even though rival studio Warner Brothers is making the movie The Jazz Singer with the tech. When R.F. brings out a cake for Don and Lina, who should pop out but Kathy Selden herself? After she does a song-and-dance number with some others, Don pursues her. She tries to hit him with a cake, but misses and hits Lina instead.

(Host): That’s a sight that never gets old!

(Narrator): You’re darn tooting it doesn’t! Anyways, Kathy runs off after that. Don later hears that she has been fired, and tries to find her, but no luck. So, it’s up to Cosmo to cheer him up.

(Host): Indeed. To quote Cosmo, “Now the world is so full of a number of things I’m sure we should all be as happy as…, but are we? No. Definitely no. Positively no. Decidedly NO. Uh-uh. Short people have long faces, and long people have short faces. Big people have little humor, and little people have no humor at all. And in the words of that immortal bard, Samuel J. Snodgrass, as he was about to be led to the guillotine…”

(Narrator): You better not be getting ready to “Make ‘Em Laugh!”

(Host): Indeed I am! I mean, how can you not? That’s one of the most fun moments in this entire movie (and, for those who may recall, this was part of my Top 10 Dance Routines list)! I don’t care how much the music may have been lifted from the Cole Porter tune “Be A Clown” (from The Pirate), it’s still fun (and funny) to watch Donald O’Connor pull off all those stunts! As they say, “Don’t you know all the world loves a laugh? My dad said be an – (slips on a banana peel) Whoops! (goes sliding offstage) Where did that banana peel come from?

(Narrator): (finishes eating a banana) I have no idea. Are you all right?

(Host): Sure, although my feet crashed into the globe out here. (I wonder how many people will get the joke). I’ll just be a few minutes while I get out of it!

(Narrator): Ok. Getting back to the story, Don and Lina prepare to start their next film, but things get slowed up when everybody realizes that The Jazz Singer is a big hit, and they decide to turn the next Lockwood and Lamont film into a talkie. While watching a musical number being filmed for another movie, Cosmo runs across Kathy and lets Don know about it. Don is ecstatic to finally see her again (and gets a good chuckle out of the idea that she had known more about him than she had indicated during their first meeting). Of course, the show must go on, and so Don, Lina and the rest of the crew try to learn the new “talkie” business for their next film, The Dueling Cavalier. At a preview for the movie, the audience laughs at how poorly done it is, and everything is looking down for everybody. Despondent, Don, Cosmo and Kathy return to Don’s house. Things start looking up when Cosmo comes up with the idea to not only have the film changed into a musical, but also have Kathy dub Lina’s voice.

(Host): (Walks back onstage with a bunch of umbrellas and sets them down) And, of course, that brings us to this movie’s most iconic moment, that of Gene Kelly singing (and dancing) in the rain! For a song that had been published in 1929 and had made its way through a number of MGM films over the years, most notably by Cliff Edwards in The Hollywood Revue Of 1929 and Judy Garland in Little Nellie Kelly, it’s this simple moment that has been engrained in the hearts of all those that have seen it (of course, as I’ve said before, I enjoy swinging it Judy’s way in that earlier film, but I easily understand the appeal of Gene Kelly’s version, too)! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some dancing to do! Maestro, some music, please!

(Narrator starts up a record player. The song “Singin’ In The Rain” starts playing.)

(Host): (Picks up umbrella and opens it. Rainwater starts consistently pouring out from under the umbrella. Music stops) Well, that’s not the right umbrella. Let me try another here… (Opens up a new umbrella. This one has big holes that aren’t stopping the rain). Seriously, how are there multiple bad umbrellas in the same bunch? (mutters to self) Must be that somebody let the Narrator near the props again… (Pulls out another umbrella and opens it, finding it to be alright) (normal voice) Oh, good, a normal one! Well, here we go! (Music starts up again. Suddenly, a big wind comes rushing in, blowing the host up in the air like Mary Poppins and carries him way offstage) I’ll be baaaaaaaaaaack!

(Narrator): Now that that foolishness is over, let’s get back to the story. Don and Cosmo tell R.F. their idea, and, since he likes the idea, they get back into working on the movie almost immediately, with plans to give Kathy credit for the voice and a publicity campaign for her once the movie opens. Everything is looking good, and then Lina discovers what’s going on. She then does interviews for the newspapers, making herself out to be the new singing star, and privately threatens to sue R.F. if he tries to correct that (and forces him to make Kathy be her voice from now on). With all this trouble, will Kathy be given a voice (and career) of her own, or will Lina win out?

(Host): (Quickly running back onstage) Whew! That wind sure took me quite a ways away! And I see you finished telling the story without me. So, I guess everybody is here now for my opinion. Well, this is one of the movies that helped me to develop a fondness for musicals, and it was certainly my introduction to Gene Kelly. Watching him in this movie, whether he’s dancing alone, or with others, has always been fun, and made the idea of learning tap dancing appealing to me (and I can definitely tell you I once did a tap solo to the title tune for a dance recital)! The rest of the cast is great, too, and they all do their parts so well! And the music is quite memorable, with a good chance of it getting stuck in your head (it always does in mine, anyways)! Admittedly, as I’ve said in a previous post, with regard to the music of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, I prefer the score to Broadway Melody Of 1936 more, but for sheer number of tunes, overall fun and a better movie, it’s hard to go wrong with Singin’ In The Rain! It’s one of the easiest movies for many to recommend, and I certainly would have to be part of that group! Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, go out there and see it now! And remember that motto: “Dignity. Always dignity.”

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, either as an individual release or as part of the four-film Musicals Collection.

Well, now that that’s over, let’s try this song-and-dance again! (Opens umbrella and starts to sing, although badly offkey) I’m singin’ in the rain – (umbrella is hit with lightning bolt, and is now singed. Host pauses for a second before trying again) I’m singin’ in the – (umbrella is hit again with a bolt of lightning, and now only the umbrella shaft remains) I’m singin’ – (lightning hits the shaft, destroying it too) I’m s – (lightning hits the host, leaving him singed) I – (lightning hits again, and now the host is singed more and knocked out cold).

(Narrator): (tries to hide bag of lightning bolts) Hmm. has anybody seen that bag I borrowed from Zeus recently?

(A pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face)

(Host): Now THAT’S funny!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

On April 26, 2022, Warner Home Video released Singin’ In The Rain in the 4K UHD format. I had always thought that their earlier Blu-ray (from 2012) looked pretty good, but the new UHD blows it out of the water! The resolution is certainly much improved, allowing us to see better detail (and all this from a film whose original camera negative was mostly destroyed, save for one reel, in the infamous 1978 Eastman House fire, and which has relied mostly on dupe negatives ever since). The colors are much improved by the HDR, toned down from the slightly yellowish image on the Blu-ray and DVD (and, according to the experts on the subject that I’ve read, the UHD is closer to being what it is supposed to look like). Of course, if you’re looking to “future-proof” this film, then do know that the Blu-ray included with the UHD is still the 2012 release, and not a remastered Blu-ray with a new transfer (which admittedly does allow you to see just how different the UHD is from the older Blu-ray). I’ll certainly recommend the 4K UHD quite heartily as the best way to enjoy this wonderful classic!

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #2 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

**ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

An American In Paris (1951)Gene KellyBrigadoon (1954)

Something In The Wind (1947) – Donald O’Connor – Anything Goes (1956)

The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) – Debbie Reynolds – Give A Girl A Break (1953)

The Harvey Girls (1946) – Cyd Charisse – The Band Wagon (1953)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Original Vs. Remake: Ninotchka (1939) Vs. Silk Stockings (1957)

Now that we’re back for another edition of “Original Vs. Remake,” let’s take a look at the 1939 comedy Ninotchka and its 1957 musical remake, Silk Stockings. Since the two plots have enough differences, I’ll just borrow the two plot descriptions from each of the individual reviews.

Ninotchka: Three Russian commissars (Sig Rumann, Felix Bressart and Alexander Granach) come to Paris with the intention of selling jewelry that had once belonged to the Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire). However, Swana is living in Paris, and she learns about the jewels through a former Russian nobleman working at the hotel the commissars are staying at. She sends her lover, Count Leon d’Algout (Melvyn Douglas), to delay the sale of the jewelry in the hope that she can reclaim it. Leon helps introduce the commissars to some of the pleasures of Paris and capitalism, but special envoy Nina Ivanovna Yakushova, or Ninotchka (Greta Garbo) is sent to to take over the case. Leon accidentally meets her on the street, and is instantly smitten (although at first neither realizes who the other is). Once she overhears his telephone call with one of the commissars, they realize who they are with. Leon still likes her, and keeps trying to go out with her, which becomes easier after he is able to make her laugh and loosen up. Swana sees all this going on, and jealously takes advantage of Ninotchka when Ninotchka comes back to her hotel room drunk and leaves the safe containing the jewels open. Swana agrees to relinquish her rights to the jewelry if Ninotchka would immediately return to Russia, which she reluctantly agrees to do. (Length: one hour, fifty-two minutes)

Silk Stockings: Movie producer Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire) wants Russian composer Peter Boroff’s (Wim Sonneveld) music for his new movie, and tries to help him stay in Paris. The Russian government is displeased with this, and sends three commissars (Jules Munshin, Peter Lorre and Joseph Buloff) to bring him back. When Steve distracts them with wine, women and song, special envoy Nina Yoschenko (Cyd Charisse) is sent to try again. She proves to be more resilient, but as the attraction between the two develops, even she manages to loosen, and Steve proposes to her. However, when Nina, Peter and the three commissars hear how Peter’s music has been changed for the movie, they are all offended and they all return to Russia. (Length: one hour, fifty-eight minutes)

This is another instance where it’s not really worth noting the similarities. With Silk Stockings being a remake of Ninotchka (with a Broadway musical in between the two film versions), there is definitely some similar dialogue. We do get George Tobias in both movies, although he plays different parts in each movie (and neither are very long). But really, not much else beyond the very basic story is the same.

So let’s get some of those obligatory surface differences out of the way. First, Ninotchka = comedy, Silk Stockings = musical. Secondly, outside of the leading lady’s character having the same first name (and nickname), none of the characters share names between the two movies. Thirdly, Ninotchka had the Russians coming to sell some jewelry to buy food for the Russian people, with the sale being delayed by the original owner and her lover. Silk Stockings has the Russians coming after a Russian composer who is seeking asylum and providing music for a movie producer, who is trying to prevent him being taken back to Russia.

There are certainly some differences in characterization, but the three commissars do seem to be a bit more vivid. In Ninotchka, when we first meet them, they are already showing signs of wanting to enjoy some of the benefits of staying in a capitalistic society. Instead of staying in the hotel their government had already arranged for, they are arguing themselves into a better and classier hotel, and decide to go with the royal suite, at least partly because it has a safe for them to store the jewels in. In Silk Stockings, since they are coming after Boroff the composer, it’s up to Fred’s Steve Canfield to distract them with the glitz and glamour, almost like a devil who knows how to tempt some of the people he has to deal with and keep them from their mission.

Another major difference, to me, is how the two movies treat the Russians. While Ninotchka is intended as a comedy and a satire of communism, the Russians are not being portrayed in a completely negative light. Sure, the three commissars want to enjoy the benefits of capitalism away from their own country and we see some of the problems of communism itself (including the reference to the then-recent mass trials that resulted in “fewer and better Russians”), but the fact remains that they are in Paris to sell the jewelry to buy more food for their people. Which really puts the Grand Duchess Swana in a bad light, as she just wants her jewels and doesn’t really seem to care at all what happens to the Russian people. And, to a degree, Melvyn Douglas’s Count Leon comes around to the idea of communism, at most, being frustrated with the Russian government for denying him a visa to come and see Ninotchka when she goes back to Russia. Silk Stockings goes a different route, not portraying them as well. In between them trying to force composer Peter Boroff to return (and the three commissars), the political philosophy is never embraced by Fred Astaire’s Steve Canfield (which in some respects injects a bit of sexism and American disregard for other cultures into the story, considering it is used as this story’s excuse to separate the two lovers and have her return to Russia of her own free will). Personally, I suspect this change was partly due to how society changed between the two movies, in between the start of the Cold War and the anti-communist feelings that had swept the country.

As to which movie I prefer? Silk Stockings. It’s been the version of the story that I’ve seen the most (and for many more years). While I do think Greta Garbo was the better actress (both overall and in this role), I still can’t deny that, for me, Fred Astaire brings a magic of his own, that I have enjoyed for a number of years. Not to mention my opinion that I much prefer watching Cyd’s Ninotchka transformation between Fred dancing with her to “All Of You” and Cyd’s solo dance to the title tune as she changes from her drab outfit into a dress. The music by Cole Porter is catchy, the dancing is fun to watch, and it’s just overall easier to sit down and watch Silk Stockings. I can’t deny there are some things that require either seeing Ninotchka or at least some knowledge of what the Soviet Union was like, such as the one guy who passes through Ninotchka’s living area (in Ninotchka, we are given the explanation that he is the type that you can never tell whether he is just going to the washroom or to the secret police, and that explanation is absent when he walks through during the “Red Blues” number in Silk Stockings). But, while I do prefer Silk Stockings, Ninotchka is no slouch, either, and I would definitely recommend both movies highly!

Ninotchka

My Rating: 9/10

Silk Stockings

My Rating: 10/10

The Winner (in my opinion): Silk Stockings

Screen Team Edition: Fred Astaire & Cyd Charisse

And we’re back to talk about another screen team! This time, it’s Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse! Going into The Band Wagon, Cyd Charisse was coming off her successful partnered dance with Gene Kelly for the “Broadway Melody” ballet in Singin’ In The Rain resulting in her being promoted to leading lady for The Band Wagon. On the other hand, Fred was coming off The Belle Of New York, which had flopped. This put him in a similar situation as his character in The Band Wagon, where he was considering retirement or trying to figure out how to keep going.

In The Band Wagon, washed-up movie actor Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) decides to leave Hollywood and go to New York City to do a Broadway show written by his friends Lester (Oscar Levant) and Lily (Nanette Fabray) Marton. Lester and Lily have convinced actor/ director Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan) to do their show, and he quickly signs ballet dancer Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse) as the leading lady, along with her boyfriend/ manager Paul Byrd (James Mitchell) as the show’s choreographer. However, Tony and Gabrielle don’t hit it off well at first, and Jeff quickly gets out of control making the show quite different than what Lester and Lily had written. When the show opens out-of-town, they find just how badly out-of-control Jeff had gotten, and they all regroup to figure out how to salvage the show. (Length: one hour, fifty-two minutes)

While they had worked alongside each other a little in the 1946 Ziegfeld Follies, The Band Wagon was the first opportunity that Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse would have to actually work together. As such, Fred did have some concerns about working with her (which ended up being written into his character for the movie). He did worry about her being a little tall for him, which would be fixed either by him wearing a hat or by her wearing flats. And of course, her ballet background made thing different, as Fred had had some ballet when he was much younger, but hadn’t done much for years, and was generally not fond of doing it. We see that in the movie, and it helps drive the early portion of the film, as we only see them “rehearsing” together (but it’s not exactly going well). It’s only when they go to the park, with the intention of seeing whether they can dance together, that we get their iconic “Dancing In The Dark” duet. From there, we see them “rehearse” (admittedly, running into trouble with all the out-of-control smoke, which in some respects was the movie’s director Vincente Minelli making fun of some of the bubble trouble he had with one segment of the aforementioned Ziegfeld Follies). Then we get the “Girl Hunt Ballet,” which was spoofing a lot of the various private eye/detective stories of recent years, with Michael Kidd being brought in due to his work on the Broadway show of Guys And Dolls to choreograph another iconic dance (with Cyd pulling double-duty as a femme-fatale and a “damsel in distress”).

In Silk Stockings, movie producer Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire) wants Russian composer Peter Boroff’s (Wim Sonneveld) music for his new movie, and tries to help him stay in Paris. The Russian government is displeased with this, and sends three commissars (Jules Munshin, Peter Lorre and Joseph Buloff) to bring him back. When Steve distracts them with wine, women and song, special envoy Nina Yoschenko (Cyd Charisse) is sent to try again. She proves to be more resilient, but as the attraction between the two develops, even she manages to loosen, and Steve proposes to her. However, when Nina, Peter and the three commissars hear how Peter’s music has been changed for the movie, they are all offended and they all return to Russia. (Length: one hour, fifty-eight minutes)

Going into filming Silk Stockings, producer Arthur Freed had it pegged as another film for Fred and Cyd. Having established their chemistry in the previous film, they were able to work with another story. The song “All Of You” in effect replaced the attempt by Melvyn Douglas’s Count d’Algout in Ninotchka to make Greta Garbo’s Nina laugh in an attempt to loosen her up with Fred’s Steve Canfield trying to get Cyd’s Nina to loosen up through dance. While she resisted at first, he was able to get through, and she danced with him. While she still resisted a little, by the time they got to the song “Fated To Be Mated” (a new song written specifically for the movie), she has loosened up, and the dance is a more joyous one (and even borrows some of the music from “All Of You” for part of the dance)!

In commenting on Silk Stockings, New York Times writer once said that “There should be legislation requiring that Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse appear together in a musical picture at least once every two years.” While I agree with that statement, sadly, it was not to be. Upon completing the movie, Fred announced he would be retiring (mainly from dancing, although he made a few dance specials for television and would return again for the 1968 Finian’s Rainbow and dance again in That’s Entertainment Part 2). It would also mark the last musical for Cyd as well, although she would continue to do dramatic parts, as well as some dancing here and there, both on the big and small screens. According to some, Silk Stockings underperformed at the box office, resulting in a loss. Personally, I enjoy both of their movies, with a greater preference for Silk Stockings as the better of the two (again, that’s my opinion), so I would very heartily recommend seeing these two work (and dance!) together in either of these movies!

The Band Wagon

My Rating: 10/10

Silk Stockings

My Rating: 10/10

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Silk Stockings (1957)

Now we have a movie that proves that Paris loves lovers, the 1957 MGM musical Silk Stockings starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse!

Movie producer Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire) wants Russian composer Peter Boroff’s (Wim Sonneveld) music for his new movie, and tries to help him stay in Paris. The Russian government is displeased with this, and sends three commissars (Jules Munshin, Peter Lorre and Joseph Buloff) to bring him back. When Steve distracts them with wine, women and song, special envoy Nina Yoschenko (Cyd Charisse) is sent to try again. She proves to be more resilient, but as the attraction between her and Steve develops, even she manages to loosen up, and Steve proposes to her. However, when Nina, Peter and the three commissars hear how Peter’s music has been changed for the movie, they are all offended and they all return to Russia.

This movie was based on a then-recent Broadway musical with music by Cole Porter (which was based on the 1939 comedy Ninotchka). A lot of the score from the Broadway show was kept for the movie, with a couple of new songs written specifically for the movie. These include the songs “Fated To Be Mated” and “Ritz, Roll And Rock” (and a few altered lyrics on some others in order to comply with the censors). Personally, “Ritz, Roll And Rock” is probably my favorite song from this movie (although most of the music is a lot of fun). It’s a song Fred Astaire apparently asked composer Cole Porter to write for the movie, due to the recent popularity of rock and roll. For me, it’s just a fun song to remember, and it’s one that almost always seems to be at least partly stuck in my head!  The song “All Of You” also manages to be quite memorable (although it’s one of those songs that I’m surprised made it past the censors, considering the suggestive nature of some of the lyrics)!

Just in general, this movie is one that I very, very much enjoy! For me, the cast just makes it work! Fred and Cyd dazzle, alone and together, in their dances. Janis Paige is hilarious, with a character essentially spoofing the famous swimming actress Esther Williams. All three of the Russian commissars are fun to watch (including Peter Lorre, who certainly seems like an odd choice in a musical, especially considering his dancing seems to be very limited, but still manages to make the comedy work). Again, a movie I have so much fun watching (and getting the music stuck in my head), and one I definitely would recommend highly!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 58 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #6 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Funny Face (1957)Fred AstaireThe Notorious Landlady (1962)

Deep In My Heart (1954) – Cyd Charisse – Two Weeks In Another Town (1962)

Romance On The High Seas (1948) – Janis Paige

My Favorite Brunette (1947) – Peter Lorre

On The Town (1949) – Jules Munshin

The Glenn Miller Story (1954) – George Tobias – Marjorie Morningstar (1958)

The Band Wagon (1953) – Fred Astaire/Cyd Charisse (screen team)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Band Wagon (1953)

If you’re not going your way by yourself, then let’s all get on The Band Wagon, the classic 1953 musical starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse!

Washed-up movie actor Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) decides to leave Hollywood and go to New York City to do a Broadway show written by his friends Lester (Oscar Levant) and Lily (Nanette Fabray) Marton. Lester and Lily have convinced actor/ director Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan) to do their show, and he quickly signs ballet dancer Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse) as the leading lady, along with her boyfriend/ manager Paul Byrd (James Mitchell) as the show’s choreographer. However, Tony and Gabrielle don’t hit it off well at first, and Jeff quickly gets out of control making the show quite different than what Lester and Lily had written. When the show opens out-of-town, they find just how badly out-of-control Jeff had gotten, and they all regroup to figure out how to salvage the show.

Similar to the previous year’s classic musical Singin’ In The Rain, The Band Wagon is a celebration of the music of composers Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. The movie shared the title of the final Broadway show that Fred Astaire did with his sister Adele, but the movie was far different, being given a plot, instead of being a musical revue. Only a few songs from the show were retained for this movie: “I Love Luisa,” “Dancing In The Dark” and “New Sun in The Sky.” All the other songs were pulled from other stuff that Dietz And Schwartz did (with the exception of the song “That’s Entertainment,” which was written for this movie). However you look at it, the movie has a lot of wonderful music and dancing, including the song “Shine On My Shoes,” which featured Fred working with a real dancing shoeshine man, Leroy Daniels, and many others (I plan on commenting on some of the others in another post).

As much as I enjoy Fred Astaire’s films, this is one that took multiple viewings before I appreciated it. But I do believe it to be a wonderful movie, with a lot of songs and dances that certainly grow on you over time. For some, it is considered to be as great as Singin’ In The Rain. Personally, I think it’s better! I will agree most heartily with the iconic status of both the “Dancing In The Dark” and “Girl Hunt Ballet” dance routines, as they both leave me wanting to get up and dance myself (although that last part is just as true for a lot of the other music, too)! Yeah, the film’s ending is a little off, but, honestly, I’m not bothered by it that badly, and I would EASILY recommend this movie to anybody interested!

This movie is available individually on Blu-ray and DVD and on Blu-ray as part of the four film Musicals Collection from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Easter Parade (1948)Fred AstaireFunny Face (1957)

Singin’ In The Rain (1952) – Cyd Charisse – Brigadoon (1954)

An American In Paris (1951) – Oscar Levant

Monte Carlo (1930) – Jack Buchanan

Fred Astaire/Cyd Charisse (screen team) – Silk Stockings (1957)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Two Weeks In Another Town (1962)

Here we are for the 1962 movie Two Weeks In Another Town, starring Kirk Douglas, Edward G. Robinson and Cyd Charisse.

Washed-up actor Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas) has been staying at a sanitarium due to his alcoholism and general life issues. He got a message from his frequent director Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson) to come to Rome and do a small part in the movie he was working on. Once there, however, he finds that there is no part, but Kruger asks for his help in getting the dubbing done for the movie. Of course, he finds the whole production to be a mess, with a quick deadline in which to finish the entire movie before somebody else is brought in to do it, the leading man (George Hamilton) is angry with the whole business and Kruger is apparently having an affair with the leading lady (and his wife knows about it, too). When Kruger has a heart attack, Jack tries to help finish the movie.

I have to admit, going into this movie, I had some relatively low expectations due to a lot of what I had read. The movie is the follow-up to what is considered one of the best dramas about Hollywood itself, The Bad And The Beautiful, which also stars Kirk Douglas and was directed by Vincente Minelli (heck, this movie even shows a few scenes from that movie as an “example” of what Andrus and Kruger had done before). I haven’t seen the earlier film, and I admit, it wasn’t one I had any interest in. I tried this movie because of actress (and dancer) Cyd Charisse (although having Kirk Douglas and Edward G. Robinson in this movie didn’t hurt, either). In spite of what I had heard previously, I ended up enjoying the movie and the performances of all the actors and actresses involved. And right now, I admit to also being curious about the earlier movie as well.

Does this movie have flaws? Yes. I’m not thrilled with the fact that Kirk Douglas’s character is somewhat abusive with some (but not necessarily all) of the female characters (but then again, outside of Daliah Lavi’s Veronica, very few characters come out of this movie looking squeaky-clean for one reason or another). The movie is a little loose with its plot (although, from what I’ve read, nowhere near as much as the novel it is based on). Part of the problem here is apparently how involved the censors and studio executives were in trying to make this more of a family movie (and how well they did with that is debatable for the reason I already specified). The use of rear projection screens is also somewhat disconcerting and quite noticeable, especially in a later scene when you should be feeling a little more fear because of how Jack Andrus is driving, but the rear projection really takes you out of the moment. If, and only if, you can get past these points, then I do think this is an enjoyable movie, and one I would recommend.

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Young Man With A Horn (1950) – Kirk Douglas

The Ten Commandments (1956) – Edward G. Robinson

Silk Stockings (1957) – Cyd Charisse

Marjorie Morningstar (1958) – Claire Trevor

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Top 10 Dance Routines

Well, I seem to have made it to the 100 post mark for this blog, so I felt the need to celebrate! Considering I have always been quite fond of musicals, which originally inspired me to take up dancing, I feel like doing my top 10 dance routines from the movies! Now, I did set up a few limits. Mainly, I tried to limit the number of dance routines featuring any specific dancers to about one solo routine and one partnered routine per person (otherwise, I could easily list quite a few for some dancers with ease)! I should also mention, that it’s not just the dancing itself, but sometimes the music that influences my opinion as well. Again, this list is entirely my own opinion, and not necessarily even my favorite dance routines and/or songs, but those that just mesh well. They will be presented as song, dancer(s), movie.

1. “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” Fred Astaire, Blue Skies

Fred Astaire’s big tap solo that was originally intended to be his last, as he went into retirement after this movie (which, thankfully, was short-lived). This routine allowed Fred to show he still had some considerable skill, improved by using special effects, such as his cane flying into his hand from the ground. But most famously, we have Fred dancing with a background chorus that consisted entirely of him (long before the days of CGI), which demonstrates just how well-rehearsed and precise he could be with his movements!

2. “Never Gonna Dance,” Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Swing Time

While Fred Astaire partnered with a number of talented ladies over his career, few are better remembered than Ginger Rogers, who brought her talents as a dramatic actress to the table. It took a lot of thought to pick which one of their routines to add to this list, but I went with “Never Gonna Dance.” This wonderful dance showcases their dramatic abilities, coupled with superb dancing (not to mention beautiful music that also brings back “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Waltz In Swing Time”)!

3. “Singin’ In The Rain,” Gene Kelly, Singin’ In The Rain

Of course, no list of famous dances would be complete without this classic! You can’t help but smile when thinking of Gene Kelly’s iconic dance, joyful in what could otherwise be depressing weather! So grab an umbrella and start dancing (and singing!) in the rain!

4. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” Marge and Gower Champion, Lovely To Look At

For me, this one just HAS to be on the list. The husband-and-wife dance team of Marge and Gower Champion wasn’t renowned for their acting ability, and neither made a huge mark in the movies, but this movie (and most particularly this routine) was one of their best. From their kiss at the beginning of the routine that sends them “up among the stars” to the end of the routine, we are treated to some wonderful dancing, some superb lifts and one of the most beautiful orchestrations of this (or any other song) that I’ve had the chance to enjoy!!

5. “Barn Dance,” group dance, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

Ok, so I’m simplifying things by calling it a group dance, but if I listed everybody, you’d spend too much time reading that list! But still, who can pass up the chance to watch the six brothers constantly one-up the men from town as they show off for the ladies! Between the music, the high-flying leaps and flips, this is always fun!

6. “Make ‘Em Laugh,” Donald O’Connor, Singin’ In The Rain

Yep, Donald O’Connor’s classic comedy dance is here, too! While the music might have borrowed heavily from the Cole Porter tune “Be A Clown,” Donald brought all of his abilities to hear, with pratfalls, and many different comedy bits (and some dancing as well)! Always fun to watch (and good for a laugh)!

7. “Ragamuffin Romeo,” Marion Stadler and Don Rose, King Of Jazz

As I’ve said before, a wonderful example of some old vaudeville style dancing! While neither of the two dancers here have any lasting fame, what they do is still impressive! She’s supposed to be a doll made up of rags, and, with her flexibility, she acts and moves just like it! The lifts are just phenomenal, and I could easily watch this dance time and time again!

8. “Yankee Doodle Boy/ GiveMy Regards To Broadway,” James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy

While he was a song-and-dance man himself, James Cagney ended up being typecast as a gangster for a lot of his movies with Warner Brothers. But this movie (and most particularly these two songs paired together) helped change that. Cagney successfully portrayed George M. Cohan, making use of the real Cohan’s style of dance, while still maintaining his own!

9. “Honolulu,” Eleanor Powell and Gracie Allen, Honolulu

This is one of those dances I just love to watch! For me, it was this dance that proved to me what I had heard many times, that Eleanor Powell was one of the few women at that time who could out-dance Fred Astaire. The music is fun, as is watching Gracie Allen dancing with Eleanor, but once Eleanor starts with her solo section, that’s when the real fun begins! I love watching her tap dance and jump rope at the same time (personally, I would probably get tangled up in a hurry if I tried)!

10. “Heather On The Hill,” Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, Brigadoon

As wonderful a dancer as she is, of course Cyd Charisse needed to be represented on this list! While there are other dances that she did that I enjoyed more (but can’t include because of my own silly rules), I can’t deny the beauty of this duet with Gene Kelly. With some beautiful music to help, this romantic routine with its lifts and balletic quality is certainly still worthy of inclusion!

Well, that’s my list! I hope everyone enjoyed it (and I’d certainly like to hear what everybody else’s lists would be)! Also, if there’s enough demand/ interest, later on I might just do a “Top 5 Dance Routines I Would Love To Learn!” But that’s all for now!