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!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… Born To Dance (1936)

Like Eleanor Powell, I was Born To Dance (for those that don’t know me, I have always been fond of dancing myself, and it’s fun to imagine being related to Eleanor, even though that was just her stage name, as far as I know)! Of course, we’re here for the 1936 musical Born To Dance, starring Eleanor Powell as Nora Paige, James Stewart as Ted Barker, Sid Silvers as “Gunny” Saks, Una Merkel as Jenny Saks, Virginia Bruce as Lucy James and Buddy Ebsen as Mush Tracy.

Now as to plot, we find a submarine arriving in New York City. On their leave, three sailors (Ted Barker, Gunny Saks and Mush Tracy) all go to the Lonely Hearts Club, where Gunny’s wife works. There, Ted meets Nora Paige, an aspiring dancer, and he falls in love with her. Within a few days, the submarine is visited by Broadway star Lucy James. Her Pekinese falls in the water and is saved by Ted. Lucy falls for him, and goes with him to a nightclub. When Nora finds out in the newspaper, she decides to cool things off between her and Ted. Ted uses his influence with Lucy’s manager to get Nora a job as Lucy’s understudy in the show. Lucy doesn’t want any more publicity about her relationship with Ted, and she threatens to leave the show if anything more is printed about them. In a diva moment at rehearsal, Lucy says that nobody can dance to one of the songs. However, Nora does so successfully at the request of Lucy’s manager. That makes Lucy mad, and she demands Nora be fired. When Ted finds out about that, he knows what to do!

As to my opinion of the movie, it is a lot of fun, and one I would recommend. The score by Cole Porter is most of the fun, with songs such as “Rap-Tap On Wood,” “Hey, Babe, Hey,” “Easy To Love,” “Swingin’ The Jinx Away” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Part of the fun here is that this is one of the few musicals that James Stewart made, giving him a chance to do some of the singing and dancing.

To get into some of the music, we have the song “Rap-Tap On Wood.” It is an early song in the movie, and is one of Eleanor’s tap solos. It is one I enjoy watching, and the song is prone to getting stuck in my head. Just a lot of pure fun!

The song “Hey, Babe, Hey” features most of the cast together. Jimmy starts out singing to Eleanor, and several others join in, with three different couples flirting with each other. The dancing here is only so-so, but that is mostly because, of the six people doing it, only Eleanor Powell and Buddy Ebsen are really dancers. I think, however, that the movie makes up for it by being a very fun and catchy tune!

With “Easy To Love,” James Stewart is again romancing Eleanor. This time is in Central Park, and it gives Eleanor a short dance solo. Some of the fun here is that, partway through, they are joined by a cop, played by Reginald Gardiner. He observes Jimmy “conducting” the music, and then does his own more serious conducting (apparently spoofing conductor Leopold Stokowski), which is also fun.

The song “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is sung by Virginia Bruce to Jimmy. I personally don’t think it was the most memorable rendition, and how it became famous from that, I don’t know. The song was, however, also used by a couple at the nightclub that she and Jimmy visit. The couple, George and Jalna, do a dance routine to the song, with a few different lifts and whatnot. It is an example of the different types of dancing I had mentioned were fun to watch back in my post on King Of Jazz.

As I said, this is a fun movie. The plot may not be the movie’s strength, but I think the rest makes up for it. I do heartily recommend the movie. The movie WAS available on DVD from Warner Home Video (but currently appears to be out-of-print and awaiting re-release from Warner Archive Collection).

Film Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935) – Eleanor Powell – Honolulu (1939)

Rose-Marie (1936) – James Stewart – After The Thin Man (1936)

Frances Langford – All-American Co-Ed (1941)

Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935) – Buddy Ebsen – The Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

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!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)

This time, I would like to talk about the MGM musical Broadway Melody of 1936, starring Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell, and Robert Taylor.

As to plot, Bob Gordon (Robert Taylor) is planning a new show, but since he is short of funds, he has to go to Lilian Brent (June Knight).  Newspaperman Bert Keeler (Jack Benny) gets wind of this, and writes about it, angering Bob.  Irene Foster (Eleanor Powell), an old classmate of Bob’s, comes to town, with hopes of getting a role in a show.  Since Bob won’t consider her, due to their past together, she joins forces with Bob’s secretary Kitty (Una Merkel), in an attempt to get the role (helped unintentionally by Bert Keeler).

Getting past the plot, we can dig into the real fun of this movie, the music and the dancing!  The music for this movie is provided by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.  This movie has five then-new songs: “Broadway Rhythm,” “I’ve Got A Feelin’ You’re Foolin’,” “You Are My Lucky Star,” “Sing Before Breakfast” and “On A Sunday Afternoon” (the first three songs were later reused, of course, in Singin’ in the Rain).

There are five dancers in this movie.  Eleanor Powell, the primary dancer, does some tap dancing and ballet to the songs “Broadway Rhythm,” “Sing Before Breakfast” and “You Are My Lucky Star.”  She is joined by Buddy Ebsen and his sister Vilma Ebsen (in her only onscreen appearance).  They do some tap dancing to the songs “Sing Before Breakfast,” “On A Sunday Afternoon” and “Broadway Rhythm.”  June Knight and Nick Long, Jr. provide some ballroom/ partnered dancing to “I’ve Got A Feelin’ You’re Foolin’ ” and “Broadway Rhythm.”

As far as my opinion on it goes, I think this is a VERY enjoyable movie.  I personally think that this is the best score from Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown (in my opinion, even better than Singin’ in the Rain).  I personally enjoy the songs “Sing Before Breakfast” and “I’ve Got A Feelin’ You’re Foolin’ ” (which particularly throws reality out the window more than the rest of the movie does).

I do enjoy the movie very much.  The plot isn’t the most memorable, but the music and dancing more than make up for it. I definitely recommend giving this movie a chance!

The movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.  Hope you get a chance to see it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #9 in Top 11 Movies Watched in 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Jack Benny – To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

Eleanor Powell – Born To Dance (1936)

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!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940)

Here we are again, to delve into the movie that teamed up the king of rhythm, Fred Astaire, and the queen of tap, Eleanor Powell (don’t look at me, that’s how the trailer referred to them), Broadway Melody of 1940. The movie also stars George Murphy and Frank Morgan.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Big Premiere (1940)

(available as an extra on the Broadway Melody Of 1940 Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 34 seconds)

When the “Our Gang” group are kicked out of a Hollywood premiere, they decide to hold one of their own! It’s one of the few “Our Gang” shorts that I’ve had the opportunity to see yet, and, although it’s one made after MGM took over the series from Hal Roach’s studio, there’s still some fun to be had here. The group are all a little older, but they still manage to be funny, as they hold their own premiere. Their movie is rather laughingly bad (in a good way), and their antics made me chuckle! I certainly look forward to seeing more of the series (especially from the earlier Hal Roach era)!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Milky Way (1940)

(available as an extra on the Broadway Melody Of 1940 Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 58 seconds)

When three little kittens are sent to bed without their milk, they decide to take a trip to the Milky Way. It’s an interesting, if somewhat predictable cartoon. The animation is the big plus, as the story doesn’t break any ground, with everything narrated in song. It won the Oscar that year for Best Short Subject (Cartoon), although some of the others nominated have since become better known (and more important) over time. That being said, it’s at least a fun eight minutes, that should leave you with a smile.

And Now For The Main Feature…

In this movie, Johnny Brett (Fred Astaire) and King Shaw (George Murphy) are a dance team at Dawnland Ballroom. There, they (or rather, Johnny in particular), are discovered by Bob Casey (Frank Morgan), a theatrical producer, but Johnny, thinking he was a bill collector, gives his partner’s name as his own. So Casey sells King Shaw to his associates as a new partner for their star, Claire Bennett (Eleanor Powell). They like King Shaw, and so use him (even though Casey had meant for the role to go to Johnny). On opening night, King Shaw is drunk and passes out, so Johnny goes on in his place. Nobody knows this except Claire, who is furious with King Shaw. So the question remains: will Johnny become the Broadway star he was intended to be?

At the time this movie was made, Fred Astaire was just coming off The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle, then planned as his last film with Ginger Rogers (although they would reunite in 1949 for The Barkleys Of Broadway), and the last film on his contract with RKO Studios. Broadway Melody Of 1940 brought him back to MGM for the first time since he made his film debut in the 1933 musical Dancing Lady. One of MGM’s big musical stars at the time was Eleanor Powell, considered one of the few female dancers in the movies capable of out-dancing Fred. They were paired together for this film, although initially their respective reputations left them both nervous and timid as they started working together. However, after Eleanor finally decided they needed to get past that, they started working together with their usual fervor (if not more so, since they were both perfectionists). The movie itself was originally planned to be in color, but the war in Europe meant that the studio couldn’t count on foreign revenue, so they went with the much cheaper to film black-and-white photography.

In a number of ways, this movie is the oddball in the Broadway Melody series. The previous three movies, (1929, 36 and 38) had all featured music by the songwriting team of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. This time, the score was provided by composer Cole Porter, with a slight reference to the song “Broadway Melody” used for a brief portion in the opening credits. Of course, that change in composers is at least partly because lyric writer Arthur Freed had transitioned away from songwriting into being a film musical producer during the time between the ’38 and ’40 films. Another change here is that star Eleanor Powell, who had headlined the previous two films in the series (which both feature her as a Broadway newcomer trying to make it big in her first show), is now starting this movie as the “big Broadway star,” with Fred Astaire being the character trying to make it big.

There is a LOT of dancing in this movie, since all three leads were dancers. What makes it odd, is that this might be one of the few movies that Fred’s leading lady actually does MORE dancing in the movie than he does. They both have the same number of routines (and most of them are together), but for at least two routines, Eleanor starts off on her own while somebody else is singing, before being joined by Fred. Of course, I think just about all the dancing is fun to watch (and the music very fun to listen to). I enjoy some of the songs like “Please Don’t Monkey With Broadway,” “I’ve Got My Eyes On You” and “I Concentrate On You.” Of course, the most famous part of the movie is the “Begin the Beguine” song (which, incidentally, is the only song NOT written for this movie, as Cole Porter had written it several years earlier for the 1935 Broadway show Jubilee). With that routine in particular, we are treated to Fred and Eleanor proving their tap dancing abilities as some of the best ever in Hollywood.

In my own opinion, this is the best movie in the Broadway Melody series. Sadly, it was also the last one. A few years later, there were plans for another that would have teamed Eleanor with then newcomer Gene Kelly, but those plans fell through (although some stuff was filmed, including one solo routine for Eleanor that ended up being inserted into the Gene Kelly movie Thousands Cheer). So, I do very heartily recommend this movie if you get a chance to see it.

The movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940)

On April 13, 2021, Warner Archive Collection released Broadway Melody Of 1940 on Blu-ray, featuring a new transfer that came from a 4K scan of nitrate preservation elements. All I can say after seeing this transfer is “WOW!!” It’s a HUGE improvement over the previously available DVD. The clarity is much better, with the detail showing off the various costumes and scenery much better. The picture has been cleaned up of all dirt and debris, and there’s nary a problem in sight. In short, it’s a typical (great) transfer from the folks at Warner Archive, and is VERY much recommended as the best way to see this wonderful classic!

Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

**ranked #8 in Top 11 Movies Watched in 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939)Fred AstaireYou’ll Never Get Rich (1941)

Honolulu (1939) – Eleanor Powell

George Murphy – Little Nellie Kelly (1940)

The Shop Around The Corner (1940) – Frank Morgan – Casanova Brown (1944)

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!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… Honolulu (1939)

All right, everybody, pack your bags, we’re off again to the state of Hawaii, circa 1939, with Honolulu, starring Eleanor Powell and Robert Young!

Now in some respects, this is a “Prince and the Pauper” type of movie, with Robert Young playing the dual role of Brooks Mason, a movie star, and his Hawaiian lookalike George Smith. Now they meet when George Smith is mistaken for Brooks Mason at the premiere for one of Mason’s movies, gets mobbed by the public, and is then taken to Mason’s home by the ambulance. Now Mason has been wanting a break, but his agent and the studio keep making him work, so he decides to switch places with Smith and goes to Hawaii, Smith’s home. Now on the way there, he meets Dorothy March (Eleanor Powell). He falls for her, but he runs into trouble on isles with Smith’s fiancé and her father. Now meanwhile, Smith is getting mobbed continuously in New York, particularly as he keeps trying to get out of there. SO the remaining trouble for the rest of the movie then becomes how they can both make the switch back to their own lives.

Now my own opinion here is that this movie is a lot of fun. Prior to my first viewing of this movie, I had heard it said that Eleanor Powell was considered, at the time, to be one of the few ladies capable of out-dancing Fred Astaire, but from the movies I had seen, I never believed it until I saw this movie.

Now Eleanor only has three routines in this movie, but I would say that two of the three in particular really showcase just what she could do. Now her first routine is to the title song, where we see her start dancing with Gracie Allen on the ship, but then she goes off on her own, and we see just how good she could be as she jumps rope AND tap dances AT THE SAME TIME, both handling the jump rope herself, as well as having others do it for her. Now, for me personally, this is an amazing routine, and one I know I have never quite had the coordination to pull off (not exactly helped by my height when it comes to jumping rope).

The other routine worth mentioning is her hula dance on the islands, which is her third and final dance in the movie. Now, at the start of the dance, we see her doing her version of the more traditional hula, barefoot, and then partway through, she puts on her tap shoes (offscreen of course), and then she tap dances while simultaneously doing the hula. I really think this routine is a lot of fun, and definitely worth watching in and of itself.

The other routine, her second one, is probably one of the points of the movie that might bother people. On the ship, they have one night for everybody to come dressed as their favorite movie stars/ celebrities. As part of the show, she does a tribute to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, in blackface. Now, the dancing itself, isn’t too bad, but again, the blackface may bother many people. Since this isn’t exactly a moment that is important to the plot, it would be easy enough to just skip right past this moment, if you were so inclined.

Other than the issues with blackface, I think this movie is very enjoyable, and one I recommend. The movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Thanks for tuning in everybody, and enjoy your stay in beautiful Honolulu!

Film Length: 1 hour, 20 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #10 in Top 11 Movies Watched in 2018

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!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Born To Dance (1936) – Eleanor Powell – Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940)

The Bride Comes Home (1935) – Robert Young

College Swing (1938) – George Burns/Gracie Allen (screen team)