20 August 2010

Damn Yankees by Abbott & Donen, 1958

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 9:54 am



  1. Oh ho ho! Good for you. Did you notice that when Gwen and Fosse are dancing, hers is just a smidgen sharper? I re-watched this with a friend in Alabama in 2005, and her way of describing this was that ‘hers has just a little more energy than his does’. This is one of the few Fosse musical where Verdon got to repeat her stage role. Later, Fosse took up with the more gorgeous Ann Reinking–I first saw Reinking in the original prod. of ‘Chicago’, had never heard of her, and was blown away at how good she was, and the most beautiful legs since Cyd Charisse. I then thought she had originated the Roxie Hart role, but later found out that she had followed Verdon, who would have also been magnificent. Reinking also has been in films, but never a film star; I only remember her in ‘All That Jazz’. Verson would probably have been better than MacLaine in ‘Sweet Charity’ too, god knows she’s a better dancer (when MacLaine starts talking about her ‘singing’ and her ‘dancing’ it’s a bit much, you know.)

    btw, if you saw the film version of ‘Chicago’, you didn’t see the real thing at all. All of the dancing was watered down (Fosse’s choreography is very difficult and many hurt themselves with it) so we could see how Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger could not even do easy steps. Therefore, it won a thousand Oscars.

    Even Tab Hunter is very cute in this, because his Thesp’an talents are well-known to be miniscule. He’s still alive, a handsome older ‘gay guy’, and his autobio is very well-written (most of those things aren’t, even though that doesn’t make his career quite distinguished–even though he did appear with Tallulah Bankhead on B’way in some Tennessee Williams flop, I believe.)

    So, what did you think of it? This is the other big Adler and Ross show (one of them died, so their collaboration was cut short), the other being ‘Pajama Game’, which is also a pretty good movie with Doris Day and John Raitt, which you may know. Although nobody ever told Doris that when she belts, it’s not pretty like some others’ belting. She’s better in her quieter moments, as in ‘Hey There’, but still not as good at it as Rosemary Clooney.


    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 20 August 2010 @ 11:32 am

  2. As a kid I saw this movie on TV and loved it. The baseball angle was part of the draw for me of course, but I’d seen quite a number of stage musicals with my parents in Chicago and had acquired a taste for the song-and-dance numbers. I spotted the DVD at the library the other day, brought it home, thought maybe I wouldn’t get around to watching it, but finally did last night and was glad I did. It’s a very good show with several fine songs, both on the square and on the diabolical side of things. It really starts popping when Gwen Verdon “bursts onto the scene” about halfway through: what a great comedic talent, along with the superb dancing. I’ll watch the Verdon-Fosse scene again, but at the time I thought both were excellent in that Mambo number. I didn’t realize her dance partner was Fosse until after I’d finished watching. The last screen shot, from Two Lost Souls, anticipates that scene in John Waters’ Hairspray as well as the Kylie Minogue underwear-swarm number of which Dejan is so fond lately.

    But Damn Yankees is pretty queer, isn’t it? I recently read two short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in both of which he depicts some odd behaviors in almost perversely obsessive detail, only to wrap them up with boring Puritanical morals. Still, you strongly sense that Hawthorne is drawn to the sinner and the sin, with repentance and restored squareness being obligée for the time and place and probably also for the conscience of the author. One wonders at the end of Damn Yankees if Joe, back at hearth and home with the “old girl,” will soon try to reinstate his deal with the devil.


    Comment by ktismatics — 20 August 2010 @ 12:16 pm

  3. Eloise one day we have to do a Boulder SINGALONG party with Butchness


    Comment by parody center — 21 August 2010 @ 2:15 am

  4. Here are the songs corresponding to the first two screengrabs, pc, so you can practice up for the Big Audition. I couldn’t find the cine version of Two Lost Souls, so you’re on your own for that one, Kid.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 August 2010 @ 9:15 am

  5. I love that dance she does in the first clip, it neatly exemplifies just the kind of imbecilic GOOFINESS that was the dominant code when you and Butchness used to be young, Eloise.


    Comment by parody center — 21 August 2010 @ 2:43 pm

  6. Is that the Bob Fosse of ”Cabaret” ? I usually find his choreographies stunning.


    Comment by parody center — 21 August 2010 @ 2:43 pm

    • Yes, it’s the same, except Fosse is the director of the film. He probably fooled around with the dance numbers, too, but I haven’t seen it in so long that I don’t remember much dancing. ‘Cabaret’ was something that is considered great by a lot of people, but I can’t take that much Liza Minnelli. The first B’way musical I saw was the original ‘Cabaret’, and that was terrific, the choreography is by Ron Field. He’s one of the greatest B’way choreographers, but that’s not one he originated on B’way. There are a lot ‘How to Succced in Buiness…’ ‘Pippin’, ‘Chicago’, ‘Little Me’ . ‘All that Jazz’ is his autobio with Roy Scheider, all about his nerves and speed-taking and open-heart surgery (which freaks some people out, but I didn’t think it was quite that big a deal, and I’m pretty squeamish about things like that. This one 19-year-old I knew in 2006 talked about how, since his mother had been a nurse, that he had really ‘been lucky to get to see so many surgeries’. Well, I was floored. I guess there is a surgery channel on cable, I don’t think that’s quite for me.)

      Just looked up Fosse, I knew his first wife without knowing that’s who she was till just now. In ‘No No Nanette’, she was a dance coach, but performed only in the chorus, had cigarette/whiskey voice like a lot of those B’awy chorines. Also didn’t know he was married to Verdon till his death in 1987, and he’d been very involved with Reinking way back in the mid/late 70s. She’s still around, and did the revival of ‘Chicago’ in 1997, which is still running. It must really be awful by now.


      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 21 August 2010 @ 4:23 pm

      • He’s one of the greatest B’way choreographers,

        meaning Fosse, not Field. Fosse probably directed a lot of these shows he choreographed too, but I haven’t looked it up and didn’t see nearly all of them. ‘Pajama Game’ was his, though, that had Janis Paige in the show, she would have been funnier than Doris Day.


        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 21 August 2010 @ 4:25 pm

  7. I think Minelli retroactively ruined ”Cabaret”’s reputation

    but that doesn’t take away from the brilliance of the film, and of the choreography (I mean that he’s got a profound understanding of dance as a storytelling).

    Related to this, yesterday I saw STEP UP 3D, which is the new generation’s FLASHDANCE, and noticed that while in Fosse’s musicals the dance was about a sequence, and cutting techniques, the new forms of dancing seem much more aware of space (the third dimension enhances the effect as well). I wouldn’t be surprised if one could follow the same development on the ballet scene.


    Comment by parody center — 22 August 2010 @ 2:14 am

    • I haven’t been able to tell what, if anything, is new in ballet choreography, but the dancing itself is more and more athletic, with the primary symptom being 180 degree extensions by the ballerinas (started by Sylvie Guillem in the 80s, and since then, a host of girls who just ‘have to do them’ even if they just look stuck on and don’t go with the rest of what’s going on). There’s this new one with the Bolshoi who came to ABT for the recent season, Natalia Osipova, who is supposed to be the greatest ballerina in the world today (acc. to Alistair Macaulay of NYT and others), who I’ve seen in clips, and she’s just changed the whole scene that way, in that she’s truly an artist but does the 180 degree extensions as if effortlessly.

      The new ballet choreography has no genius in it (at least acc. to the old-fogies on the ballet board), but there is some good stuff being done. I can’t be sure if that’s like what you’re talking about in other dance, but what I saw of new ballet choreographers in the winter was not worth anything. I don’t intend to spend any more money on ballet for some time. I did recently see the Wiseman docu about Paris Opera Ballet (remember I once showed the clip from ‘Wuthering Heights’, which is no longer available), and they really do have some strong work (including a ‘Medea’ with buckets of blood put on the kids’ heads, that all these bourgeois types freaked about, but it was very effective), in fact they’re way beyond NYCBallet by now. ABT (American Ballet Theater) is the other huge one here, but they specialize in old warhorses and in featuring the greatest virtuosos (male and female) in the world. I saw them in June for the first time in maybe 15 years, and they were amazing, but it was old stuff by the old Royal Ballet choreographer (for Nureyev and Fonteyn, among others), Frederick Ashton. Very nice, but some of it 50 years old and more.

      off-topic–I watched Mike Nichols ‘Carnal Knowledge’ for the first time in decades last night. It’s very impressive, Nicholson is very good and so is Ann-Margret. The socialite Cynthia O’Neal is the best thing in it, in a bit part at the tennis court, I remember being startled at her looks when I first saw it. I met her at a party a couple of years later: She had become the patron of that Chelsea composer I told you still lives there, and she worked with him for a few years, he was under her spell, and then she dropped him. Was married to the actor Patrick O’Neal, mainly a B-actor, although he did originate the Richard Burton ‘Shannon’ character in ‘Night of the Iguana’. Never met him, though. I never saw her again in anything but ‘Primary Colors’, she’s again a socialite and billed as ‘Elegant Woman’. It’s episodic in a weird way, going from Nicholson/Garfunkel with Candice Bergen, Ann-Margret, Cynthia, and finally, Rita Moreno as a trusty ‘giver of head’.


      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 22 August 2010 @ 9:46 am

  8. Fosse choreographed both the stage and screen versions of Damn Yankees, but only the filmed adaptation of Cabaret, which he also directed as Butch noted. It’s too bad I couldn’t find the Two Lost Souls clip from Yankees, which is the last musical piece in the movie. The dance unfolds and expands organically from structured duet into a lissome and almost liquid swarm, traversing the whole set-space until the whole writhing ensemble oozes off-stage.


    Comment by ktismatics — 22 August 2010 @ 7:37 am

  9. Well the STEP-UP 3D is a gawdawful movie as a movie, but the dance is indeed gravity-defying and highly athletic, its point doesn’t seem to be the telling of a story, but the construction of space. There’s even a contemporary discipline involving running and jumping across rooftops *sic! Also the collective dancing has something of that Deleuzian idea of ”the swarm”, as Eloise recently noted when talking about Kylie’s video.

    Eloise Butchness got her copy of the Serbian FIlm, so around now would be the time to see it.


    Comment by parody center — 22 August 2010 @ 11:11 am

  10. I keep neglecting the Serbian film; having just finished a very good Italian novel I believe I can schedule a screening. I see that there’s a possible remake of Damn Yankees in the works, with Jake Gyllenhaal reprising the Tab Hunter part, and in the role of Worst Baseball Team Ever the now-defunct Washington Senators will be supplanted by the Chicago Cubs. It seems from his latest minipost that Graham H. is a Cubs fan; I have always supported the cross-town White Sox and have hated the precious Cubbies.


    Comment by ktismatics — 22 August 2010 @ 11:32 am

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