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 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!

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 (since I would probably get tangled up 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!

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Screen Team Edition: George Burns and Gracie Allen

“When I saw George walk out on the stage, I said, ‘There’s the man I’m going to marry.’ Boom! Something hit me!”- Gracie

“Really?” – Mamie Kelly (Sarah Selby)

“Yes, it was my mother!”- Gracie (The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show)

I want to discuss some of the movies starring George Burns and Gracie Allen. I only have a handful to work with, and I know they made more together (although I’m not sure how many others have been made available on disc). Going into things, it’s definitely better to have an understanding of who they are and their style of humor, since they usually play the same type of character (and usually go by their own first names, too). To best understand them, I would suggest trying to find their radio show (The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show), which should be available as a podcast.

As to their history, George went into vaudeville, usually with a partner, sometimes doing dance, sometimes comedy, but he never really clicked until he met Gracie in 1923. At first, Gracie was the “straight man” and he delivered the punchlines, but that didn’t work, with the audience laughing more at Gracie than him. So they switched roles, and became a success, with it even becoming a running joke that Gracie was George’s “talent.” They made it big, first on stage, then got into the movies for the thirties. Not long after starting in the movies, they had a radio program that became a hit, and changed a little over the years. They then switched their radio show to TV, which also became a hit, lasting until Gracie finally decided to quit the show, partially due to health reasons.

College Humor’s plot mainly follows two characters: Barney Shirrel (Jack Oakie) as he goes through college, playing football for the college team, and Professor Danvers (Bing Crosby), who is in a love triangle with Barney’s sister Barbara (Mary Carlisle) and Barney’s football teammate Mondrake (Richard Arlen). To give a quick opinion on this movie, I wouldn’t recommend it. I enjoy it well enough, but I would sooner say this is a movie for “completists,” those who feel the need to see all the movies ever made for any of its stars. Considering this discussion is about George and Gracie, their appearance in this movie is more like two cameos, maybe amounting to about five minutes screentime, give or take a few. The movie is available on DVD, and is about one hour, twenty minutes in length.

The 1934 movie We’re Not Dressing mainly concerns a socialite and her friends who end up shipwrecked on an island. By now, you should have seen my individual review for the movie (if you haven’t yet, go do so!), so we’ll stick to George and Gracie. Their presence here is definitely greater than it was in College Humor, but they are for the most part separated from everything else happening in the movie. Their bits are still hilarious, though, and still worth seeing the movie for (I think).

In A Damsel in Distress, we mainly are concerned with the romance between Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Joan Fontaine) and Jerry Halliday (Fred Astaire). Again, this I have reviewed this one previously, I’ll stick to George and Gracie. George is Jerry’s press agent, and Gracie is their secretary (and not necessarily a good one either, but her father had invested in Jerry’s first show, as we are reminded multiple times). Of the (currently) 5 movies I have seen them in together, this one is the most fun, giving them a chance to dance with Fred Astaire (and doing a pretty good job of keeping up with him, I think).

College Swing basically goes with the premise of Gracie being in charge of the college. Gracie is given the lion’s share of screen time here, as it seems like they were trying to give her a solo career. George has his moments, too, both with Gracie and without, although this is one movie where they don’t end up together as a couple in the end.

Honolulu brings them both back, one last time. With a Prince and the Pauper type of story, Gracie accompanies Eleanor Powell to Honolulu, while George acts as the press agent for Robert Young’s Brooks Mason. George and Gracie don’t really have any screen time together, until the end of the movie. Gracie is given one chance to dance with Eleanor Powell, to the title tune, although it is quite obvious that dancing together almost seemed to hold Eleanor back a little, as her style was quite different than Fred Astaire’s, so Gracie didn’t end up doing the whole routine with her. I still think this movie is fun, although not as highly recommended if you are watching it for them as a team.

As a whole, George and Gracie are a wonderful comedy team. While I can only comment on a few of their films together, due to lack of availability of most of them, they are worth looking into. After Honolulu, Gracie had a couple of solo outings in the movies, while George didn’t return to the big screen until his Oscar winning role in the 1975 The Sunshine Boys, nearly a decade after Gracie’s death. But together, whether onscreen in the movies, on tv, or just on radio, they are always worth a good laugh when together, and I recommend trying to find any of their work if you can!

Ratings (note: Since they are generally not the main focus of these movies, I am also including a third rating, a “George and Gracie” rating, if you will, to reflect on how much I think the movies may be worth viewing for them alone).

As always, please be sure to use the Amazon links to help support this page!

College Humor

My Rating: 4/10

“George and Gracie” Rating: 2/10

Audience Rating:

We’re Not Dressing

My Rating: 8/10

“George and Gracie” Rating: 6/10

Audience Rating:

(This applies to both College Humor and We’re Not Dressing)

https://www.amazon.com/Collection-College-Dressing-Mississippi-Stranger/dp/B0041T50J2/ref=as_li_ss_tl?crid=2RNNPEA4QZZAV&keywords=bing+crosby+collection&qid=1540693685&s=STRING(movies-and-tv_44751)&sprefix=bing+crosby+c,movies-tv,568&sr=1-2&ref=sr_1_2&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=bf62f9c836f0259fb03ec441b859dbf3&language=en_US

A Damsel In Distress

My Rating: 10/10

“George and Gracie” Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

https://www.amazon.com/Damsel-Distress-Fred-Astaire/dp/B0058KCMF8/ref=as_li_ss_tl?crid=4T4BE1BMB0PZ&keywords=damsel+in+distress&qid=1540693314&s=STRING(movies-and-tv_44751)&sprefix=damsel+in+,aps,214&sr=1-3&ref=sr_1_3&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=7c1c8d1fab14991c2900ed66456b5127&language=en_US

College Swing

My Rating: 8/10

“George and Gracie” Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

https://www.amazon.com/College-Swing-George-Burns/dp/B017DO6WU2/ref=as_li_ss_tl?keywords=college+swing&qid=1540693529&s=STRING(movies-and-tv_44751)&sr=1-2&ref=sr_1_2&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=4518d5fd02533c8819dcf021b2985ea2&language=en_US

Honolulu

My Rating: 10/10

“George and Gracie” Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

https://www.amazon.com/Honolulu-Eleanor-Powell/dp/B0062Z0PIO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?crid=2PQ1LYG9FSMQ4&keywords=honolulu+1939&qid=1540693607&s=STRING(movies-and-tv_44751)&sprefix=honolulu,movies-tv,703&sr=1-2-catcorr&ref=sr_1_2&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=7669d21add4bee4a54a8b9e83026e593&language=en_US

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, and is about one hour, twenty minutes in length.

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

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

https://www.amazon.com/Honolulu-Eleanor-Powell/dp/B0062Z0PIO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1539891024&sr=1-1&keywords=honolulu&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=06ade8f3b7f9fd044ae614b3bb83f3cc&language=en_US