Thursday, September 3, 2009

Everybody was dancing in the blog-light

And what a warm light the blog gives. This blog was tagged by Marilyn, proprietor of Ferdy on Films and inventor of the dance blogathon. This time it's a meme concerning fifteen favorite dancers on film. Well here's the thing: I don't know if I have fifteen favorite dancers on film that wouldn't be everybody else's favorite fifteen but the good thing about memes is you can knead them and mold them into whatever you want. So I'm going to go with ten and not just ten favorites like Kelly, Astaire, Charisse and so on. Oh no that would be too easy. I'm going to go with the ten dancers I never got to see enough of for any number of reasons: they weren't glamorous enough for leads, they had a style not suitable to very many films, they weren't the right race to succeed in the classic era of Hollywood, and so on. They almost all succeeded gloriously on Broadway but Hollywood was another story. With that explanation allow me to now present the Cinema Styles 1st Annual Underused Dancers of the Silver Screen.

Gwen Verdon. She just didn't have the right face for Hollywood. Oh it was pretty and had an appealing over-bite and the hair was good and... but you know, she just didn't look like you're supposed to look to be a Hollywood glamour queen.

Ben Vereen. He's more known for his dramatic role in Roots than his dancing and it was his dancing, specifically the kind choreographed by Bob Fosse, that made him famous (if that sentence makes any sense please let me know). Thing is, in the seventies, musicals were box office poison. Vereen came about at just the wrong time.

Bob Fosse. Since he's so closely associated with the first two dancers on this list I might as well make him number three. His choreography is well known but his on-screen output is, like everyone on this list, tantalizingly small.

Russ Tamblyn. He was an incredibly athletic dancer. He could do the back flips, jump over a car and do full splits seven feet in the air without breaking a sweat. But he didn't light up the screen dramatically and had a boyish face. And that doesn't translate into dance idol success in Hollywood.

Michael Kidd. Again, like Fosse, his choreography is known but despite a few good roles he's not really as known. And he was around at a time when there was only room for one Gene Kelly.

Fayard and Harold Nicholas. They could move like no others but they were Black and it was the thirties and forties and if I have to explain to you why they didn't get any leads in big budget musicals coming out of MGM then your knowledge of Hollywood history is woeful.

Leland Palmer. (No, not the Twin Peaks character although I bet Ray Wise can really cut the rug if he wants to) Again with the Fosse but hey, he had a knack for finding terrifically talented dancers that didn't have perfect noses for Hollywood cinematographers to frame. So again we get tiny glimpses, mainly from All That Jazz.

Ann Reinking. Okay, I guess I should just rename this the 1st Annual Bob Fosse's Dancers List. Anyway, she did have the right nose but... well... she just didn't have much onscreen presence, but maybe that's because she kept getting cast in non-dancing roles!

Savion Glover. He's done choreography, tv and been in exactly one film, Tap. Let's face it, you come of age as a tap dancer in the nineties and you can forget about ever being immortalized on film.

Joel Grey. What the hell, let's make the Fosse circle complete. And really, outside of Cabaret and Dancer in the Dark, what the hell do the movies have to offer Grey in the way of dancing? Fortunately, he's a pretty damn good character actor. It's just too bad we couldn't have more dancing on film from him.

And that wraps up my top ten (although this one goes to eleven thanks to the Nicholas Brothers).

I now insist, nay, DEMAND that Bill, Krauthammer and Ryan come up with their own since they were whining about it the other day (and in Krauthammer's case, I just want a new post to go up, period). In fact, they have to list their top 500(!) dancers in film. No. 1500! Get to it gentlemen, and Bill, Edward Woodward better be on your list. Thank you.


p.s. - Since Marilyn put videos of all of her selections up and I didn't I feel I have shortchanged you. Please view this, perhaps the greatest dance routine ever committed to film, as a catch-all proxy for the missing videos above.