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!

Top 10 Disc Releases of 2018

(Updated 8/23/2019 from “Top 5 Disc Releases of 2018” to “Top 10 Disc Releases of 2018”)

Here’s the list you have been waiting for, on what I think are some of the best releases for 2018, giving new life to old classics and forgotten gems!  Again, my thoughts are coming ONLY from what I have been able to see myself.  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon!

  1. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic musical about a family of seven brothers who fall in love with girls from town, this movie has been given a new lease on life.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of Warner Archive, this movie, which has been in bad shape for years, has a new restoration from newly rediscovered film elements that makes it look closer to how it was originally supposed to look than it has in a long time!  Do NOT miss this one if you can help it!  Full review here.
  2. The Sea Hawk (1940) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic seafaring adventure starring Errol Flynn as an English captain helping Queen Elizabeth to stop King Phillip II of Spain from trying to take over the world. While parts of the movie were cut a long time ago for a theatrical double-feature, they were restored to the movie in the 80s, and the new Blu-ray restoration shows off the best that could be done for this wonderful movie! Full review here.
  3. Merrily We Live (1938) (Classicflix, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • A long-forgotten gem, this screwball comedy centers on a family whose matriarch (Billie Burke) is prone to hiring any tramp who comes to the door.  When Wade Rawlins (Brian Aherne) is hired, almost all the female members of the household fall in love with him.  With a new restoration from the capable hands of Classicflix, this one is surely worth a try!  Full review here.
  4. My Man Godfrey (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • One of the best-known screwball comedies, this movie starring William Powell and Carole Lombard features a “forgotten man” hired to be the butler for a very eccentric family.  Having been in the public domain for a number of years (which usually means poor transfers for the movies), this movie has been restored by Universal, and now looks fantastic!  Full review here.
  5. My Sister Eileen (1955) (Twilight Time, Blu-ray, My Rating: 9/10
    • The classic film musical starring Janet Leigh and Betty Garrett as a pair of sisters coming to New York to make their dreams come true. With a new high definition transfer, the movie looks even better, and shows off the scenery (not to mention the dancing as well)! Full review here.
  6. The Awful Truth (1937) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 9/10)
    • In this classic screwball comedy that introduced us to the fully-formed Cary Grant persona, we have Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a couple who try to undergo divorce, only to find they can’t stand the thought of the other being with somebody else!  Recently restored from the best available elements for this release.  Full review here.
  7. Gun Crazy (1950) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 9/10)
    • In this film noir that predates the classic Bonnie And Clyde, we follow Peggy Cummins and John Dall, who star as a couple obsessed with guns who go on an increasingly violent crime spree. Released by Warner Archive Collection, their usual fantastic work is evident in the transfer, which brings this classic black-and-white film to life! Full review here.
  8. Designing Woman (1957) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 9/10)
    • In this comedy starring Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall, we follow a couple who just met and got married in a hurry, only to find out when they return home just how different their lifestyles are. As usual, Warner Archive has given us a great release on Blu-ray that looks fantastic, and is certainly the way to see the movie! Full review here.
  9. Home From The Hill (1960) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 9/10)
    • Robert Mitchum stars as Wade Hunnicutt, a big game hunter, whose son, played by George Hamilton, wants to live up to his father’s reputation, even though his mother firmly disagrees, due to the long-simmering feelings of hatred for her husband. The scenery and townsfolk are easily brought to life with the recent Blu-ray release, which is definitely the best way to see the movie! Full review here.
  10. King of Jazz (1930) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 8/10)
    • A plotless musical revue, built around the orchestra and music of Paul Whiteman, recently restored to as close to its original length as possible.  Features the Radio City Rockettes (under a different name), along with other vaudevillian singers and dancers.  Also the film-debut of Bing Crosby.  Full review here.

Honorable mentions: Les Girls (1957) (Blu-ray, Warner Archive Collection), Casanova Brown (1944) (Blu-ray and DVD, Classicflix), Running Wild (1927) (Blu-ray and DVD, Kino Lorber)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… King of Jazz (1930)

Here is my inaugural post for my blog “Thoughts From The Music(al) Man,” featuring the 1930 movie King of Jazz. This movie is a musical revue. Otherwise translated, there is no plot. AT ALL. The movie is a series of songs and dances mainly featuring the music of Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, with brief comedy skits in between some of the segments, and at least one “host” to introduce some of them. The movie was released in 1930, and at that time, it bombed (a combination of behind the scenes problems with directors and what they wanted to do with this film, and the fact that musicals of this nature were out of favor by the time the movie came out). It was re-released a few years later, although substantially cut by nearly 40 minutes.

There are different aspects of the film that might seem weird to everybody now. Most of us are well-used to movies that look and sound great, but this movie is an early sound film, and a VERY early example of a color movie that then used “two-color technicolor.” Because of what that technology could (and could not) do, this movie does not look quite as natural as most of us are currently used to, but the most recent restoration (which is what I have) is a rare exception of a movie that used that technology still surviving, for the most part. Due to the cuts, which were made to the original camera negative (particularly at a time when they did NOT save everything), the movie has been pieced back together over the years from what they have been able to find (currently about 98 minutes out of the original 105). Some moments still exist with sound but no picture (so still images have been used) (most of these are just intros to the segments). There are moments of jumps where frames are missing, and sometimes a brief still is used if a second or two is missing. It can be slightly jarring, but they did the best with what they could.

Now, on to the movie itself. As I said, it is a revue featuring the music of Paul Whiteman and his orchestra. The movie starts with an animated segment (possibly the first cartoon in color), and for those who know who he is, it features a brief cameo of the then Universal-owned character Oswald The Lucky Rabbit (earlier created by Walt Disney, although by this time was out of his hands). The rest of the movie is live-action, featuring a number of singers, most prominently Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys (which counted among its members the then 26-year-old at the time of filming Bing Crosby making his movie debut), and some dancers as well. The dancers best remembered now were the Russell Market Dancers, or as they are known now, the Radio City Rockettes (of course, some of the members have changed in the last 90 years 😉 ).

I personally enjoyed this movie. I do think the mileage anybody gets out of it may vary, but generally I would say that, for most, the first viewing would be to watch the entire movie and then figure out from there what bits and segments appeal to them, and then on later viewings you can skip the stuff you dislike with ease and not miss anything. For me, the comedy bits between some of the segments mostly fall flat, but they are VERY short (which might admittedly be part of the problem, since some of them feel so short as to make you wonder why they even spent the money to film them). The music that the movie centers around is certainly going to affect how everybody enjoys the movie, because obviously if you don’t like Paul Whiteman’s version of jazz, then you may not like the movie (and I have certainly seen some argument as to whether what he did even was jazz). For me in particular, I enjoyed four segments a little more than the others.

One I enjoyed was the first spot that prominently featured the Rhythm Boys. The main allure was Bing Crosby. At this point, I have seen a large number of his movies, and in spite of the fact that he was making his debut here, not to mention that he really wasn’t acting, I could still see some of the charm and style that I have come to see in a lot of the movies he made later. I think I might have recognized one of the other two in the trio from some other movies, but I don’t think he ever managed more than bit parts, if anything.

Another segment I enjoyed featured featured Paul Whiteman’s trombonist, Wilbur Hall. His segment featured him playing on the violin and the bicycle pump. It really has to be seen to be believed, ESPECIALLY how he plays the violin. I think at least some of his performance is on YouTube, so check out if you can.

The “Ragamuffin Romeo” segment was another one I enjoyed. I admit, it is the main evidence of the fact that this is a pre-Code (otherwise translated, before the movies were censored), a fact I am not fond of, although I’ll admit it seems tame compared to what has been done after the movies stopped censoring themselves in the 60s. What I do like, however, is the dancing (I’m still repairing the floors that my jaw went through when it dropped). The lifts are just insane! My own opinion here after watching it is that some of the most interesting dancing in the movies occurred in the thirties (I am not fluent enough in the films of the late 20s, since I have seen very few), and it is generally not the leads who did some of the most interesting dancing, but (I’m assuming) vaudeville performers doing bit pieces for a few minutes (which is sad, since I know vaudeville was dying out about that time due to the advent of sound in movies). There should be a YouTube video, so, again, watch it if you can.

The last segment I enjoyed was the “Happy Feet” song. It featured the Rhythm Boys singing it, some dancing by “Rubber Legs” Al Norman, and of course the Rockettes (excuse me, I mean the Russell Market Dancers for the purpose of this movie). Probably the song I most enjoyed from this movie!

I am writing about this movie based on the March 2018 Blu-ray/ DVD release from Criterion Collection, which uses the most recent restoration of this movie. So far, it is the only disc release of the new restoration, and I know Criterion releases tend to be a bit more expensive, so I would definitely suggest this movie more so as something you either rent or stream (I have no idea if you can buy the digital copy, since the movie is owned by Universal and they licensed it out to Criterion, and licenses rarely come with digital copies). I do highly recommend the movie, though, so if you get a chance to see it, please do!

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

*ranked #10 in Top 10 Disc Releases of 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Bing CrosbyCollege Humor (1933)

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