Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dancing in Jeans

As most of you know, I'm a former actress, and I earned a BFA in Musical Theater from the wonderful Syracuse University.  So with that in mind, it probably comes as no surprise that I'm also an enormous fan of movie musicals from the 1940's and 50's.  I LOVE cinema classics like "High Society," "On the Town," "White Christmas," "State Fair," "Meet Me in St. Louis," and my all-time favorite, "Singin' in the Rain!"


I love EVERYTHING about "Singin' in the Rain," particularly the title song, performed with masterful perfection by the brilliantly talented Gene Kelly.  Gene is my favorite performer, from that era or any other.


Gene had an athletic style of dance that he blended perfectly with his ballet and tap training.  The resulting performances were original, creative, and never successfully topped by any other, in my opinion.  He came along when amazing dancers like Fred Astaire were popular.  Gene had an enormous amount of respect for Fred's classy style, and said once about his idol: 


"I...envy his cool aristocratic style, so intimate and contained.  Fred wears top hat and tails to the manor born -- I put them on and look like a truck driver!"


Gene was determined to prove to the world that male dancing need not be effeminate, but rather athletic and female "swoon-worthy."  He didn't think it should be performed solely in Fred's tuxedos, either (particularly because he was convinced he looked terrible in them!).  He wanted to portray "every man" characters, saying, "I didn't want to move or act like a rich man.  I wanted to dance in a pair of jeans.  I wanted to dance like the man in the streets."  


I guess everyone's viewed the famous lamp post swinging, umbrella twirling title number from  "Singin' in the Rain."  I think this number is so brilliant not only because of Gene's superb execution of his own choreography, but also for the wonderful mood he creates.  Have you ever fallen so deeply in love that it made you grin like an idiot, and the only thing to do was run outside and dance in the rain?  THAT'S what Gene captures for us in this piece!


But, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to offer this less popular number from "It's Always Fair Weather,"  made four years after "Singin's" success.  Gene was always looking for new, creative ways to present dance numbers onscreen.  Throughout his long career, he danced with newspapers, squeaky floors, sawdust, chairs, mops, an animated mouse, and garbage can lids!  This one, however, he choreographed for ROLLER SKATES!!  Notice how they're not the modern boot skates of today, either, but those old metal strap-ons that kids wore in the 50's!  Watch how effortlessly he glides, stops PERFECTLY on his mark, then begins to TAP, for crying out loud!!


I think it's just awe-inspiring, and I'd love to share it with you on this lovely Tuesday morning! It's over four minutes long, and I obviously think it's all terrific, but if you're pressed for time, the really amazing stuff starts to happen around 2:15 in!  Enjoy!  And please let me know what you think!  (Please ignore the French subtitles!  This was the only version I could successfully download!)


Thanks for Reading!!  (And watching!!)


63 comments:

Sylvia K said...

What a great post! And I love Gene Kelly and really enjoyed the tape. I performed in little theater and some musicals for a number of years in Dallas, Texas -- I don't talk about being from Texas much as I have some serious problems with their politics, but I was born and raised there. But getting back to the theater -- it was a really wonderful part of my life, too. Thanks for sharing this! Hope the rest of your week goes well!

Sylvia

Rachel said...

Now that is just ridiculous!

The sheer athleticism added to his natural dance talent, is just un-be-liev-able. WOW!

I'd never seen that one (captioned movies were difficult to come by once upon a time), but now I must see the whole thing!

Just stunning... truly.

(As someone who danced for a ballet company for a number of years, I can tell you firsthand that it boggles the mind to includes those moves while on skates! AMAZING!)

Richard said...

Ok, This is cool to me because of the skates. In the 1950s the type of skates they had were rubbish. They don't look like custom jobs, so this was much harder than it looks. Polyeurathane wheels were not invented yet, sealed bearings were not put into skates yet. They attached these things whith clamps! Wearing these for more than 5 minutes must have been torture. Awesome writing as usual, good job Joanie!

Sarah said...

Great blog. Following you back, thanks!

Kellyansapansa said...

Wow. I am absolutely gobsmacked. That is one uber-talented man. He must have rehearsed that for hours to get it so seamless and perfect. Not a single miss-step. Wow again!

Momma Fargo said...

Bravo for Gene! It was a happy time in film. No blood and guts, just music and dancing.

Erika said...

Holy crap he just tapped on roller skates. That is amazing. AND I have actually never seen this movie. My mother has an unnatural aversion to musicals in general so I just didn't see many growing up. I will have to add this to my netflix queue.

...Mrs.P! said...

Thankyou so much for sharing that! I LOVE Gene Kelly and Singin in the Rain is my 2nd fav movie musical of all time (first is of course Sound of Music, Jullie Andrews = my hero!)

m e l i g r o s a said...

I just went to the SF ballet recently with one of my good friends that no longer dances. He used to be very good (didn't know him then) and it is always nice to talk about past experiences and read (BFA in musical theatre from you - how cool!) about people's favorites and melodies that make the soul dance within.
cheers xo.m

Holly said...

Anyone who can dance amazes me ( I cannot), but I could watch this all day and still be fascinated. Why can't they make movies like this anymore?

THE OLD GEEZER said...

Gene Kelly made a lot of movies and most of them were pretty good. Musicals were very popular in the 40's and 50's
but my favorite movies in those days were shoot em' up cowboy movies. I think Mr. Kelly even made a few western movies in his day.

Thanks for the memory.

Kakka said...

Always loved Gene - I can't even stand in skates let alone dance. He is one super talented man. Thanks so much for sharing. xxx

Ian said...

Thank you for posting! Great post!

mercy said...

I LOVE those old musicals. I used to watch them all the time as a teen, and I love "Singing In the Rain". There is just something about those old classics that new movies just don't have. Now I want to see it again.

Alyssa said...

I'm stuck on the line you quoted (Gene Kelly re Fred Astaire)..."When I put them on I look like a truck driver" To me, that says alot about his personality/character that clearly comes through in all he does. Thanks again for a great post. Thanks, too, for your comment. I'm okay and, believe it or not, mom was kidding.

souldose said...

I didn't know Gene Kelley until I saw Usher's rendition of dancing in the rain an I started looking for Gene's videos and needless to say, wow

lifeshighway said...

I love Gene Kelley, in fact, I am also a huge fan on the era. It is well known that when my husband comes across one of my many favorite classic movies, he just sighs, gives up and stops.

Thank you for sharing the clip, I feel ashamed that I do not know that movie. But holy smoke the skate tap dancing...

ReformingGeek said...

The dancing is amazing!

JennyMac said...

LOVE this..and now wish I was roller skating at the park!

Getting My Words Out said...

I've seen a lot of Gene Kelly...but not this one. I second everything said by Richard above---the other thing that kept going through my mind is how they didn't have the editing back then that we do now. It's not like he was on real skates part of the time and "fake" skate-looking shoes for the tapping. AMAZING!! Thanks for the clip.
:D

SM said...

Loved this movie! Loved Gene :)
great post!
I will be playing that video more than once today.

Eva Gallant said...

What an amazing video. I had never seen that film. And I had forgotten how handsome he was! thanks for sharing.

Kristin said...

A girl after my own heart. I too adore musicals...thanks to my Mama. And you've named some of my faves! I'm also partial to Oklahoma, West Side Story and The King and I!

We live in a Zoo! said...

That was really cool!
So intrigued was I by your description I just had to watch.
Thanks for sharing!

Bossy Betty said...

I remember watching Gene Kelly as a kid and being absolutely entranced. I still am!

Aphrodite's Mortal Friend (ME) said...

I have never seen that before ... I love the subtitles ... makes me feel a little more sophisticated this bright and cheery Tuesday morning!

Darlene said...

What TALENT! I loved watching that clip from the film.♥

KathyB said...

NO FREAKIN WAY!!!! I have never seen this before and it completely blows me away. Good Lord, that man had talent coming out of every pore. Thanks for posting this Joan. So fun to see, and you wrote about it beautifully too. :)

Six Feet Under Blog said...

My husband loves the old movies.

Heatherlyn said...

I love dancing. I wish the old movies and their class and style and true talent would make a return. Thank you for sharing this post!

blueviolet said...

There is NOBODY like him, nobody! He's one of a kind. I've never seen that before so I'm so glad you shared it!

christy rose said...

I love to watch old movies like this. Wow on the dancing!

lakeviewer said...

Hi. Thanks for finding me and dropping by. Now, I just adore musicals! I'll have to hang you here for a while.

Ace said...

I had to look twice. That picture of Mr. Kelly bears a striking resemblance to a certain Mr. Affleck back around the time of his "Pearl Harbor" days.

WhisperingWriter said...

Wow, he was so talented!

Katy said...

What a stunning post......I too am a big Gene Kelly fan....my daughter is just starting to get into musicals and she loves the 'older' classic ones......my what a beautiful blog you have my dear! I thought it was about time I got off my butt and 'came too your house!'

mo.stoneskin said...

I have to say that I don't really know anything about Gene, but enjoyed the read and now I desperately want a cool aristocratic style. The question is, where can I buy one?

"Julie" said...

ahh I love all Gene Kelly! I secretly wish I was in one of those films tapping away!

Monique@Mommyhood Exposed said...

I love watching the classics. I took a film class once in college and it opened up a whole new world for me-I was hooked after that!

Yay for Gene Kelly! They sure don't make 'em like the used too!

Missy said...

Amazing! It looks so much like tap dancing! Love it.

GregoryJ said...

Quite a performance.
Thank you.

The Warrior in ME said...

HOW did he do that? I watched the part before 2 min 15 sec and thought, "What can get better than that?" I would have feared falling flat on my face- ouch! Unbelievable stuff! Thanks for sharing!

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

I've never seen this- I admit to not watching movies much, even classics. However, i loved this and it made me smile.

Velvet Over Steel said...

Amazing! I haven't seen this movie for years. Thanks for sharing and bringing back some memories! Hugs ~ Coreen

Snooty Primadona said...

If you loved this scene then I hope you've been able to see him in Xanadu with Olivia Newton-John.

He's always been one of my favorites too...

Eternally Distracted said...

I want to be as cool as this man and look like P1nk, that's not too much to ask is it?... Great video.

Juliana said...

This was awesome!!!!!!!!!

Bill said...

I know it's a bit stupid to dwell on the plot of a Hollywood musical, but I could never get past the story being so predictable and telegraphing its one twist from just about the beginning.

Having said that, Donald O'Connor is no slouch either.

magically ordinary said...

Great dancing! Amazing movies! My all time favorite is Meet Me in St. Louis. Love, love, love it!

TechnoBabe said...

This is a wonderful video. I watched it a couple times. Wonderful footwork, hard to do all those things with skates on. Up and down the curb and tap dancing. I always loved Gene Kelly. I loved his dear sweet boyish face and I could watch him dance all day and all night. Wonderful.

Lori said...

Geez! I couldn't do that in fancy skates! He was truly a master, wasn't he?

Cop Mama said...

Wow, that is crazy!!! Roller skates, of all things! So cool, thanks for sharing.

alexa - cleveland's a plum said...

my mother put "old movies" down my sister and I's throat - and i say that in the best way possible. I grew up on nick and nite and AMC - musicals were part of my upbringing. and i can't have more respect for them!

Writing Without Periods! said...

I love Gene Kelly and all his movies. My favorite though is Cary Grant. Cary Grant, Cary Grant, Cary Grant....aw....
Mary

Yankee Girl said...

I cannot believe that I never knew Gene Kelly was so HOT!

Deborah Ann said...

That was totally cool! I never saw that before. Not exactly current on the oldies..

Leeuna said...

Thanks for sharing this with us, Joan. I love those old musicals. I enjoyed the video. Gene Kelly was one of a kind. I love the way he makes this look so effortless when in fact if was anything but.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

Fantastic! Made me think that Gene is like the forerunner of a lot of today's street dancers: i love the idea that dancing can be cool for guys :)

Everyday Goddess said...

I guess that's why he has such an enviable derriere!

50centlove said...

That was AH-MAZINGGG!!

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Brittany at Mommy Words said...

Oh Lordy I have found another Bloggy Bestie. I am a fellow musical theater dork and I am patently waiting for thay day I can throw myself into community productions and be back on the stage.

Also, it has been years, but I LOVE this scene. I love Gene Kelly. I do love Fred too. My grandpa and I watched these movies all the time when I was a little girl on Beta tapes and now every christmas he sends me a new box set of old movies made into DVDs. Last year it was Shirley Temple - who Sophia loves.

Gobsmacked is SO the word - no matter how many times you watch it.

Wanna come over and watch movies with me...or be my duet partner? I haven't had anyone ot sing musicals with in awhile!

Andi said...

I love old movies as well and have not seen nearly enough of them. Just watched The Great Escape this week for the first time, there are just too many out there to catch up on, but I am certainly giving it my best effort!

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