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.

52 comments:

Marilyn said...

Well done, grasshopper. I shall make you the lord of the dance one of these days. A number of your picks were on my mind as well - Reinking, Tamblyn, Glover. And I DO worship Savion Glover. But I had to look at output, too. I'm one of the fortunate people who has seen Fosse in most of the few films he made. But you know - I really don't like his choreography. I had no idea you were such a fan!

Ryan Kelly said...

I wonder if I couldn't twist this around and make it my 15 favorite DANCES? I mean, I honestly can't think of 15 dancers I'm familiar enough with to contribute anything of value.

Boss-Marilyn, the decision is in your hands.

Anyway, Greg, I like the angle you played this up at. You're always finding ways of personalizing these things.

Greg said...

Marilyn - Fosse and Kelly were pretty much the only choreographers I knew of until probably my twenties. I saw Pippin and Sweet Charity on PBS and Cabaret and All that Jazz continuously on cable in the early eighties and I can't say it didn't have an impact.

Greg said...

Ryan, you should definitely do 15 favorite dances, or ten or whatever. I would've included favorite numbers from each of mine but since they have such limited output it would be clips from their only films, not necessarily their best routines.

Marilyn said...

Well, OK. Participation has been slow, and it's important for me to spread the gospel of dance. Can I ask that you identify the dancers, at least, even if they aren't strictly dancers? It's important to acknowledge the artistry of the performer, just like we do with actors, directors, cinematographers. Often, dancers - even principal dancers - are just props in the minds of moviegoers, and that was what I was trying to change. It's needed, as evidenced by the fact that most people can't even think of 10, let alone 15 dancers by name.

bill r. said...

I don't think those two people in that picture at the top are dancing, unless by dancing you mean that they're dancing in the very special way mommys and daddys who love each other dance.

And I wasn't whining.

Marilyn said...

Actually, Bill, you don't know how right you are. That's from the VERY provocative dance routine in All That Jazz

bill r. said...

Ah, that explains it. You know, that's a movie I would like to check out again, actually.

Ryan Kelly said...

Oh, of course I'll acknowledge the dancers, but it's generally gonna be actors --- some who aren't necessarily known for their dancing (indeed, one I have in mind isn't even a musical). Thanks for being accommodating, Marilyn.

And I most definitely was whining.

Marilyn said...

I know, Ryan. You're probably going to do the Madison number in Band of Outsiders, right? If you have to do a nondancer, why not Peter Boyle in "Puttin' on the Ritz" in Young Frankenstein?

bill r. said...

Because Peter Boyle isn't Anna Karina.

Marilyn said...

You all need to see some real dancers. Talk about sensuous... Youth is wasted on the wrong people!

bill r. said...

Oh, I know all about sensuous dancers. I've been to Vegas.

Ryan Kelly said...

And I was considering Showgirls, too...

But that's not the movie I was alluding to! I actually don't like Band of Outsiders all that much.

Marilyn said...

Elizabeth Berkley is really quite a good dancer.

I haven't even seen Band of Outsiders. I just know that dance because three participants in my blogathon used it in their posts.

bill r. said...

Elizabeth Berkley is really quite a good dancer...

Yeah she is! Woo! Nudity!

Okay, I'll stop.

Ryan Kelly said...

She is good. Oh, screw it, I may use it anyway.

Ryan Kelly said...

Bill, grow up.

Greg said...

Well I was only gone for an hour but that was quite an entertaining conversation to catch up on.

Ryan, you should do Diane Wiest and John Lithgow almost slow dancing at the end of Footloose.

Bill, you should do all sex scenes and call it dancing. Then you and Marilyn can be Best Friends Forever.

Ryan Kelly said...

Like I always say: the horizontal tango is still a tango.

bill r. said...

Can I do all lesbian sex scenes?

Greg said...

Ryan, that reminds me: Do the tango scene from Last Tango where Brando moons everybody.

Greg said...

Bill, why not? Can't imagine Marilyn would disapprove.

Marilyn said...

As long as you don't do the scene where Brando moons everyone in Don Juan DeMarco. He was, shall we say, GROSS!

And I prefer Elvis Costello's term "mystery dance." A great many people cannot tango.

Greg said...

I never saw Don Juan DeMarco and your comment has now permanently sealed its fate as an eternal exile from my television.

bill r. said...

And I prefer Elvis Costello's term "mystery dance."...

"Mystery dance"? Does that mean Elvis Costello's never done it??? HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW!

Marilyn said...

Done what, Bill? I fail to follow your meaning.

bill r. said...

Oh, you know...it! Rubbed his thing on a lady! It! Do I need to draw you a diagram!?

Ryan Kelly said...

I think Bill means that Costello calls it that because the deed is a mystery to him.

Ryan Kelly said...

Rubbed his thing on a lady!

I hate to break it to you, Bill, but that's not exactly how it works...

bill r. said...

Yes it is. My friend told me, and he's an older boy.

Oh, and also, I've done it, too. Only about a thousand times!

Greg said...

Rubbed his thing on a lady!

Now I really want Bill to draw a diagram.

Marilyn said...

I think Bill means this. Please read the rest of it, Bill. You need help.

bill r. said...

I don't need help. You guys need help. I'm awesome and ladies love doing it with me.

Ryan Kelly said...

Doing what? It's called intercourse, not outercourse!

Ryan Kelly said...

Still waiting on that diagram.

bill r. said...

U guys r doing it wrong ha ha ha thats so funny! I cant belive you guys realy want a diagram. ha ha ha thats TOO funny.

Greg said...

Marilyn's memes bring out the best in everybody.

Marilyn said...

In general, I bring out the best in everyone - or else!

Greg said...

Agreed. [hands trembling]

Haven't heard from Bill in a while. Must be drawing his diagram.

Marilyn said...

He probably doesn't know where everything goes.

bill r. said...

Sorry, everybody. I was busy rubbing my thing on a lady.

Greg said...

Marilyn! Bill's being gross again.

Marilyn said...

Don't tell me. This is your blog. Take it to a higher authority if you have to - like Brando.

Pat said...

Greg -

I'm so glad you included Leland Palmer - I'd like to see more of her too! I love the scene in All That Jazz where she rehearses a dance while chiding Joe about all his other women at the same time. I remember her briefly in Ken Russell's Valentino, but - off the top of my head and without running over to IMDB - I can't think what other films she's been in.

I though about putting Micheal Kidd on my list, too - but the only film in which I recall actually seeing him dance is It's Always Fair Weather, and I couldn't find a clip with him in it.

Greg said...

Pat - Palmer is my favorite of the female leads in All that Jazz. I don't know that I've seen her in anything else either but I loved her in that enough to include her on the list.

I would have included Chita Rivera like you did but I don't know if I have actually ever seen her perform so I wasn't as familiar with her.

Pat said...

I think I've only really seen Chita dancing on the Tony Awards and those Broadway's Lost Treasuresshows that pop up on PBS during Pledge Week.

If I'd thought a little harder, I might have also included Donna McKechnie (am I spelling that right?) on my list,too, since I've seen her many times on the same kinds of shows.

Marilyn said...

Chita Rivera in the only movie in which she really makes a mark: Sweet Charity

Greg said...

I didn't even know she was in the movie version which I've never seen. As mentioned earlier in the thread, at the beginning, I saw the PBS Broadway version of Sweet Charity with Gwen Verdon and I'm sure Chita was in that too but I just don't remember.

Rick Olson said...

Damn, I KNEW I shoulda' put Val Kilmer on my list which, if you are really bored, is up over at my place.

Greg said...

Your site always warms my heart Rick. Visiting it is always a pleasure.

olins said...

Savion Glover was in Bamboozled and if memory serves tap dances in it. You may not like the movie however. I found it hard to suss.