I’ve got to find out that heaven remark Jean Hagen makes toward the end, then I’ll get back to you on this. She’s very much like Judy Holliday’s Billie Dawn in ‘Born Yesterday’ here, although she didn’t become such a big star.
Well, how about this from wiki:
“Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont. Judy Holliday was strongly considered for the role of Lina, until she suggested Hagen, who had been her understudy in the Broadway production of Born Yesterday. Fresh off her role in The Asphalt Jungle, Hagen read for the part for producer Arthur Freed and did a dead-on impression of Holliday’s Billie Dawn character, which won her the role. Her character was based on the silent picture star Norma Talmadge who bombed during the transition to talkies.”
I didn’t know that when I wrote that the other day, even that it was related to Holliday. Probably the same kind of obvious that Daniel Day-Lewis was doing John Huston in that tedious movie, but Hagen’s works. Not that Holliday wouldn’t have probably added even a tad more dimension to it.
Still haven’t gotten to that hilarious bad grammar thing she does toward the end.
Have noticed in looking at the movie-making star-oriented motifs while watching it this time, that none of that interests me at all the way it did. That’s why there are a few sections of cine-musique in IDNYC, but I seem to have given up movies for the most part just the way I have television. I don’t ‘do cine-musique’ anymore except as an affectionate look to something of the past, and Christian is having the hardest time adjusting to this.
But I noticed some things more strongly this time. Gene Kelly unbelievably photogenic and attractive in every way–that smile upward in the title song. The Nacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed songs ‘Broadway Melody’ and ‘You Were Meant for Me’ were first written for the ‘Broadway Melody of 1929’, one of my favourite things the first sound picture to win Best Picture. Kelly is much more glamorous than Charlie King had been, but King had some charm too, even if it dated quickly. ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ dates back possibly to 1927, and is also featured in a big number in ‘Hollywood Revue of 1929’, which I write a fairly long piece about in ‘Day of Cine-Musique’. I feel a bit dense only noticing this time that the Broadway Melody production number is very much like some of Busby Berkeley’s big numbers from the early 30s as well, particularly the big ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ number, which was very shocking to me as a late teen, as these things don’t usually involve a murder: “Lullaby of Broadway” – One of the most famous Busby Berkeley numbers is actually a short film-within-a-film, which tells the story of a Broadway Baby who plays all night and sleeps all day. It opens with a head shot of singer Wini Shaw against a black background, then the camera pulls back and up, and Shaw’s head becomes the Big Apple, New York City. As everyone rushes off to work, Shaw returns home from her night’s carousing and goes to sleep. When she awakens, that night, we follow her and her beau (Dick Powell) from club to club, with elaborate large cast tap numbers, until she is pushed off a balcony to her death. The sequence ends with a return to Shaw’s head, as she sings the end of the song”. There’s some of that sinisterism in Cyd Charisse’s dance-character, but that was pretty much a stock character, and Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer do a version in the early 40s ‘Ziegfeld Follies’, with the necklace reversed to Astaire being a gigolo, but that one ends happily, and the two agree to become ‘less mercenary’.
Charisse kept that body all her life, and in her early 70s I remember a marvelous video she was featured in. Superb creature, I love the over-sophisticated name, and wonder if it was a reaction to her real name, Tula Ellice Finklea, of Amarillo. She was a real ballet-trained dancer, though, and I like her appearances with Astaire much more than his early stuff with Ginger Rogers that some people are so mad about. Also really good among that period of film musicals is ‘Silk Stockings’, in which Charisse plays Ninotchka, and I think it’s much better than the original straight version with Garbo, although Charisse a fairly wooden actress. Janice Paige has a great comic part in that and the song ‘Glorious Technicolor, Breathtaking Cinemascope and Stereophonic SOUND’.
I do think Kelly is simply sensational, and although many prefer Astaire’s debonair gentleman, Kelly can also dance so well, and has much more magnetism and sensuality for me.
Gene Kelly is great. Donald O’Connor is too, but Anne pointed out to me the extra finish that Kelly puts on every move. I understand that Debby Reynolds didn’t know how to dance before this movie, and that Fred Astaire took her under his wing so she could make it through. I wonder how she got the part. She is very cute and perky, and her singing is certainly adequate. There’s the segment where Debby is doing the voice-over line by line for Jean Hagen, and Hagen sings it an octave higher with that shrieky voice, but you can tell she could probably do a serviceable job on the song if she wanted to. I don’t recall having seen Judy Holliday in anything, but Jean Hagen was very good. She brings a rubber-faced expressiveness to go along with the voice. “I make more money than Calvin Coolidge put together” — is that the line?
And you’ve given up movies? That’s interesting — why, do you suppose? You’ve seen far more than I, I expect, especially of the old ones. The other night I watched the “Singin in the Rain” clip from Hollywood Review of 1929 — I like the jazzy 20s arrangement by Cliff Edwards, who later voices Jiminy Cricket, singing and playing uke. There’s another segment where a girl trio sings the same song, in which they do the same goofy arm movements as Jean Hagen in her disastrous live encore. There’s also that fascinating and unexpected musical number by Joan Crawford. I just pulled your Cine-Musique from the shelf:
‘…the personification of youth and beauty and joy and happiness: JOAN CRAWFORD!’ Could there be a remark more evocative of a time so innocent, especially in Hollywood, as to be all but unimaginable if it weren’t still on film 75 years later?
Even so. Joan does a fine job though, and she does look so young and pretty as to be nearly unrecognizable.
LOL! yes, that’s it. I died when I heard it about a year ago, and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t remember it. You’ve made my day, so I don’t have to go looking for that; although there’s hardly a problem, since this film just gets better the more you watch it.
I think that I was always absorbed in movies to such a degree that I finally started writing cine-musique from having begun to even live it with my trips to Los Angeles. It had to do with being exposed to them at such an early age, and seeing 4 new ones a week beginning age 7, until my father decided that 1 would be enough (even though they were only 20 cents at the time). By the time I got to New York, I got involved with all kinds of live performance, but the time it took for this to supersede film has to do with all these forms: theater, dance, opera, film, television, books, and now the digital age with the internet and bleugs, etc. Film is like an ‘early virtual’ if compared to theater, and you could even say ‘cine-musique’ is something in between, because you make the vaporous form, which is to some degree fantasy no matter how serious, just by virtue of its singularly inaccessible (to the viewer, who absolutely cannot touch it). I didn’t know that it was out of frustration with this non-physicality that I developed cine-musique, which was a way of making this ‘early virtual’ accessible. The early appeal of cinema was to a great degree this inaccessibility, a good example being in the Great Depression, in which, by the way, those Berkeley musicals, which are so great in their numbers–the Gold Diggers (the 1935 one has the ‘Lullaby of B’way’ number, I liked that wiki called it a ‘film-within-a-film’), ‘Footlight Parade’, finally degenerating in weaker things like ‘The Gang’s All Here’, with the bewilderingly lethargic Alice Faye, but including Doris Day’s first big musical movie ‘Romance on the High Seas’, which is dreadful, but she has her first big hit with ‘It’s Magic’.
I think it was only after finishing IDNYC that I realized that I really was hardly ever watching movies anymore, and never going to them; I had plenty of the sensation of them all the time. So it’s ended up with this one motorbike movie that I watch as background to go to sleep by every few days, and watch for details so I can tell how long I slept or when I went to sleep, the one called ‘Angels Die Hard’. Once in a while I’ll still watch something, but it was then natural that I would once again move toward live performance as definitely favoured once I still found myself writing a passage here and there of cine-musique (the final poem of IDNYC was written in February of this year, and is a kind of cerebral-sexual menage a trois between me, Susannah York, and the Boy of Avon, my Muse in all three books, and this is a kind of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ cine-musique). But what I hadn’t realized was that, in finding cine-musique as a means of rendering film-sensation something accessible rather than ‘desired but always out of reach’ that I was moving further from cinema as usually understood.
It also has to do with the concepts of romanticism. This is a huge area so I’ll say a few things which are directly related to the main places in question. Part of the problem Christian and I are having now upon release of the book has to do with the fact that he still wants to see all of it as cine-musique, because that gives him vicarious pleasure, Swissness being of the highest national success in terms of high standard of living, and almost total absence of Romanticism as one can understand it in Italy, Greece, France, England, America, and even Germany in a different way (the music proves that difficult one.) But while in the poem about Susannah’s recitation in 2004 of ‘How Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?’ I talk about she also keeps saying between Shakespeare sonnets and soliloquies something about ‘this anti-romantic period’…and it was the most moving solo performance I’ve ever been to. That I even went was nearly insane: It was 2 days before my 2nd trip to Polynesia and seemed shamelessly indulgent. It was in a very small theater, so what she was up to at every move was unmistakable. But, getting back, Switzerland doesn’t have any ‘anti-romantic eras’ because it never had any romantic ones, at least not since it became so hugely prosperous and successful; that’s why they have so little powerful art, it is as if to say, they don’t really need it. But they do need something, and they’re very difficult about all of it, smug in their riches and incredibly chauvinist.
I’m already going on too long with this, but the other two places therefore are New York and Los Angeles. IDNYC is always looking for ruins of the New York Romanticism, which was definitely in place in the teens and 20s of the 20th century, chiefly because of B’way. Film was born here, although it quickly rerouted in Los Angeles, with DeMille and the Famous Lasky Players, and D.W. Griffith. There’s been lots of location shooting here, but this is not primarily a film town, even with the Astoria Studios, which most don’t even know about (‘Angels in America’ was shot there, and also ‘The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3, and a good bit of television). Broadway used to be a sexy and thrilling place, and New York romanticism definitely lasted through about 1981, which means that the ‘real 80s decade’ was the end of it. Since then it’s become decentered.
Los Angeles, the other entertainment center, has had a romanticism that has lasted longer, at least through the 00’s, but the film products are not reflecting a romanticism as they once were by a long shot. Big stars are pretty much ‘out’, and have been dwindling for some time. Then one comes along like Natalie Portman, and that’s really what she most wants to be, so that recently, when Sarah Lane spoke out to the WSJ that she thought it uncalled-for that Portman was taking credit for going through a year and a half of ballet training and claiming to have achieved something as a dancer–which is cancelled out by Lane’s ‘Portmangate’ facts about how she did all the fouettes, all the hard stuff, computers were used. And she waited till the Oscars were given, and Hollywood types (including bitches on the ballet board) were pissed she did this. I wasn’t. She was right to put Ms. Portman in her place–as just another contemporary Hollywood ACTRESS. That ought to be enough. But the point was something else: Ms. Portman wanted only to take credit for her ‘new-found dancer ability’ not because she cared about being thought of as a dancer, even walking around pregnant with NYCBallet dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied hasn’t made that possible, but because she clearly wants that to make it possible for her to be a big MOVIE PERSONA, more than just the actresses that are still very good, but not at all remote or mysterious. How good is Laura Linney, for example? Extremely good. How alluringly mysterious is she? Not a whit in my book. I find Ms. Portman quite obnoxious, and she and her beau are very involved with a huge continued p.r. blitz on their own behalf at the moment, including recently at American Ballet Theater, where he had a new premiere. She is never going to seem as much like Garbo as she does like a smart version of Paris Hilton, and her remarks accepting awards just sound silly.
So I think even ‘Los Angeles Romanticism’ and
American Romanticism in general is dying out. I can find the ruins of New York Romanticism still here just because of being so familiar with it for so long, but still–the decentering is going on.
That last was so I wouldn’t forget to link it, Debbie Reynolds’s marvelous collection of Hollywood costumes and other memorabilia being auctioned currently. She could never find a permanent home for them, which is fairly startling. This is a marvelous lady, and even after Shirley MacLaine (a much more accomplished actress, despite her loud-mouthedness and bullshit) played Debbie in ‘Postcards from the Edge’, down to singing ‘I’m Still Here’, Debbie still went right out to Las Vegas and sang it onstage again in one of those places. She’s the pluckiest thing you could find, although the good performances are few and far between: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is by far the best, although Jack says she’s good in ‘The Catered Affair’ with Bette Davis. I was interested in what you said about her dancing, I didn’t know that, and just watching the ‘Good Morning’ last night, I thought she was marvelous.
Also what Anne said about Kelly being a ‘bit more finished’ than O’Connor is the same kind of remark an Alabama friend said to me when we watched ‘Damn Yankees’ together in 2005: Fosse and Verdon were dancing together, and Kathy said ‘hers has just a litte more energy than his does’. Oh ho, I think I already wrote that on your bleug here, when we talked about ‘Damn Yankees’ about a year ago, or maybe a bit less.
About 1996 or so, I also started watching at home an enormous quantity of movies, catching up everything I could think of that I thought I’d missed, and this lasted through about 2000, slowing down as I started going to Los Angeles itself, whose locality alone I think really contains the sensation of cine-musique: You can learn how to ‘do it’ there and export it, but you learn how to do something else in other places. And it’s no easy task learning how to do it in LA either, as the place is so weirdly shaped and strangely laid out. It’s child’s play to be in a part of LA so banal you can’t even imagine your 10 miles from Barbra Streisand’s latest manse.
I’d love to see how you respond to Judy Holliday. There’s a moment in ‘Born Yesterday’ that I found so perfect in comic timing that I would say it is my favourite single fragment in all film. One of the extraordinary things about Holliday was she was the ultimate in the ‘dumb blonde’, but had a genius I.Q. herself. That’s the second time I hear of her trying to get somebody else to do a part she’d have been perfect in. They were making a shit job of her last film ‘Bells Are Ringing’, which she’d done brilliantly on B’way (a great Jule Styne show), and she told them so, and said she wanted out of the project, said give it to Shirley MacLaine (she’d have been good in it, but not as good as Holliday.) Hagen is terrific, so maybe Holliday didn’t do it because of other commitments; otoh, she was never in a film quite that good herself, because most agree that even in ‘Born Yesterday’, Garson Kanin’s play is not nearly as interesting once Billie Dawn stops ‘being dumb’.
Oh yes, before I forget. A while back, somebody on the ballet board put up a bunch of ciips of Crawford from the early years, and they are like a different person altogether. She obviously didn’t like herself doing what she was best at–being youthful and light and sexy, and became this ghastly thing be degrees. I think of all major stars metamorphosis over time, hers is the most extreme, and most of it was even there by the late 40s with ‘Mildred Pierce’, although she was good there. But I really only like the very early things from the late 20s and 30s, she was in a few silents as well. Her dancing is not polished, but it does have a natural charm to it. She got rid of all that, and ended up in ‘Straitjecket’ and ‘I Saw What You Did’. Not to mention that most think of her as ‘Mommie Dearest’, and Faye Dunaway indeed does give a dramatic performance that is greater than any Crawford ever gave IMO, and that’s about the only really good film bio I know of. Most of them are schlock.
Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 31 May 2011 @ 12:39 pm
That’s all very interesting, this inaccessibility of cinema also extending to the blogs. Facebook enforces the revelation of identity which presumably makes the relationships more direct, but from a distance it sounds shallower and more exhibitionistic, like personal ad campaigning. The exhibition of performing art is integral, the interactive spaces of theater and concert being clearly delineated in a way that honors and actively draws out the passion and expertise of the performers. Even the making of a film is alienating, fragmented, purely technical, with all the continuity of artistry and human scale assembled in the editing room. All this crap about a book being an autonomous object of remote connection to the author seems misguided, analogous to suggesting that the song really isn’t being sung by the performer. Oh wait: that’s one of the lessons of Singin’ in the Rain. It’s great that the Jean Hagen character believes that the Gene Kelly character really loves her because everybody knows it to be so from the PR apparatus. But the movie is neither cynical nor nostalgic about the past. it’s celebratory and very forward-looking, sixty years old now, remarkably.
As I recall, the loss of romanticism is integral to Dominic’s Cold World book. It’s curious that he plays with computerized poetry generators and death metal and hauntology so on, embracing the coldness. There’s a lot of ambivalent nostalgia on these collective English blogs looking back at the culture of the 80s and 90s and so on. We were just joking about what it must be like to go to a Goth club. “I hate it,” says one of the patrons. So why do you come? “Because I hate it.”
I just found this, realizing that the literal ‘dream ballet’ part of the Kelly/Charisse number has always slightly puzzled me. To the point of not being sure it’s Charisse. Did you notice how she is so transformed that the face is never really clear enough to be sure and even the figure seems a good deal more full-figured and hourglassy than the usual (and hardboiled Charisse in the green here as well) Charisse. Apparently it is still Cyd. So, was this just a more ingenuous, sweet version that he’d prefer, instead of the ‘Sophisticated Lady’ who’s ‘smoking, drinking, never thinking of tomorrow… nonchalant…diamonds shining, dancing, dining with some man in a restaurant…is that all you really want?” That lyric is off-topic, but Duke and Billy could really come up with hot lyrics unlike anybody else. I’ve got a fantastic LP from 1950 with a singer named Yvonne who does a kind of ‘vocal interlude’ in the middle of 20-25 minute instrumental arrangements of a very elaborate nature of both ‘Sophisticated Lady’ and ‘Mood Indigo’.
I sort of agree with this bleuger that this is particular ‘dream ballet’ is ‘slightly crazy’, in that it doesnt’ belong with the more cracking-wise aspect of this particular kind of smart musical, and those look more natural in the more hokey R & H things like Oklahoma and Carousel. This one doesn’t remind me that much of the 30s production numbers either. Strange little piece, and I always feel relieved to see Charisse reject Kelly AGAIN, even after he’s managed to ‘make it’ to dinner jacket, but not quite yet to Harry Winston to please Charisse (that’s a delicious bit of wit I’d never thought of before–Cyd’s character’s uncompromising golddigging, based almost strictly on QUANTITY!)
At first I thought that the dancer was Jean Hagen in a black wig, which was the intended confusion — it’s Kelly imagining that his costar actually can dance. So we’ve got Debbie doing voice-overs and Cyd doing dancer body double, in a scene that hasn’t even been filmed yet — imagined by Kelly and described to the producer. And when Charisse changes from the green dress to the white tunic with the long scarf in the surreal set: this is Kelly’s fantasy embedded within the imagined scene. So it’s all kinds of layers of artifice going on — artifice leading away from phoniness to something like pure art.
I too like it that Charisse decides in the end of the fantasy to stick with Scarface and the money — she represents Hagen after all. Then Kelly tosses his silver dollar to the hat check girl — GOTTA DANCE! he reiterates, pure and true to art. Is this as much fantasy as the rest? When he returns to reality will he sell out? No: he exposes Jean Hagen as a phony and puts Debbie Reynolds forward as “the real star of the picture.” And then at the end we see a billboard of the picture Gene and Kelly are going to make together, both under their own names: it’s called “Singin’ in the Rain.” Very snazzy.
At the end of the fugue-state fantasy with Charissse we return to reality. Well, waddya think, Kelly asks the producer. I can’t quite visualize it, the producer tells Kelly; I’ll have to see it on film. Hilarious. The producer is of course the stand-in for Arthur Freed, who wrote lyrics for most of the songs in this movie in the days before he became the big MGM exec.
I had two other thoughts about the fantasy scene while I was out running. First, the colors of Cyd’s outfits: green for money, white for purity. Second, except for Gene’s “gotta dance” outbursts, this whole extended scene has no dialogue — a futuristic throwback to the silent film era.
Definitely the white for purity, probably the green for money, but I just like the green outfits so many times more than the white one in this case, because Cyd is all about sleekness, even usually when she’s being nice. What I like about this weird ‘dream ballet’ is that it comes across as so de trop , as though it could have been done without, but that its addition is a marvelous thrust of energy into something that is already very satisfying in itself (in fact, ‘in itself’, the dream ballet is much less satisfying than the sexy stuff with Charisse, or even Kelly’s other work). So the ‘silent film’ nod is part of it–maybe; I’m going to watch that part again, but even the fact that there’s the ‘Gotta Dance’ singing makes it more like the big Busby Berkeley early 30s films-within-films (there are a number of these, and these are definitely evoked), which also don’t have any dialogue in them, but do have sung music. Also, since it’s definitely about so many things, I’d have to research whether these ‘dream ballets’ existed in B’way shows before this. No, they definitely did, because Oklahoma does predate ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, and that lasted for 5 years in the 40s. There would have been many of these during that decade, and this one looks more like those, but so marvelously out of place.
But what I was getting to was that the homage to ‘Broadway Melody of 1929’s songs is so strong here as well, that that’s another whole tribute: Not only this whole imaginary sequence, with the title song of the original show, but when Kelly sings ‘You Were Meant for Me’ to Debbie, it is almost exactly like it was sung in ‘B’way Melody’ by Charlie King to Anita Paige; and if you look back at that same review of Hollywood Revue of 1929, which was made in two weeks despite being nearly 3 hours, and is like a sequel to the successful sister-act ‘B’way Melody’, I write about that strange sensation of Anita Paige appearing again and having the song sung to her by a much more prestigious performer, Conrad Nagel. And Charlie King is already being given a bit of the Hollywood boot, because he’s in the film too. But Conrad Nagel was a major leading man and had appeared opposite Garbo in at least two of her silent films, including her last one, ‘The Kiss’, which was also the last major silent made as a serious and routine thing (Chaplin did that big thing later, but that was exceptional, and was within the context of talkies). ‘The Kiss’, btw, is very good indeed, melodramatic and yet full of surprises, with Garbo’s usual stunning acting craft. So that that moment in which the better leading man could be used with the still-voluptuous Anita Page, had struck me, even though in the second case it was within the context of a revue, which ‘Broadway Melody’ wasn’t, it had a real plot, and has much charm. King gets to sing the colorized ‘Orange Blossom Time’ at the end.
All this way you’ve documented the plot in the last post is very good and proves the film to be far more important than I’d realized. When I first watched it, I wouldn’t have thought of any of those things, and recently, I just watched it without thinking much about it, and waiting for the numbers–which is part of how I describe cine-musique as well, but there’s also a cine-musique within the film as you describe it here:
Well, waddya think, Kelly asks the producer. I can’t quite visualize it, the producer tells Kelly; I’ll have to see it on film. Hilarious. The producer is of course the stand-in for Arthur Freed,
, and so there really are some pleasures in mirrors as well as numbers, we see: My own cine-musique use of the VHS I picked up on the street for a buck last year was just to watch the Broadway Melody number as a thing-in-itself, which is a legit thing to do with ‘numbers musicals’, as Pauline Kael called them, but not with ‘book musicals’ like Gypsy, Oklahoma, etc, And part of the genius of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is that it really is both a numbers musical and a book musical, i.e., my own person cine-musique never thought about Charisse as representing Hagen at all, even though it now makes sense. She was too much more obviously goddessy, so that I always watched it without making references to the rest of the show, which was lazy, but at the same time, the pure numbers musicals were really meant to be watched primarily for the big entertainment numbers, and the plots were always song-writer from Boston social family falls in love with chorine, etc., and as flimsy and stock-jokey as possible. All the Golddigger Berkeley movies were like that, and they only deserve to be watched for the song ‘n’ dance elements, plus here and there a nice period detail. In your analysis, though, the dream ballet proves that there’s more, but there’s an interesting twist: Not only is Charisse as the ‘dream Lina Lamont’ much more desirable than the real Lina Lamont, she’s also more desirable than her own self as the ‘dream-Debbie!’ To this is added the element that Kelly is so attractive he can ‘afford’ to be rejected by the more gorgeous version of Charisse, and still come out lookin’ good. It’s very flexible. What’s naughtiest among this hall of idenities as that the dream Lina, danced by Charisse, is also more alluring than the REAL Debbie, and that’s just mean of me to say, but we know that once in awhile one must call a spade a spade. So that, if Anita Paige can get set up, using her real name now, in Hollywood Revue with Conrad Nagel and yet within a movie, and Gene Kelly and dream-Lina as danced by Charisse make sexy music together, one ends up with some knowledge of the reality at the bottom line of the studio system: The net result is the hotness of Gene Kelly and Charisse whenever they come close as real identities of themselves. The dream ballet is so strange because he is still desirable there, but she is purposely made to be LESS so, but that wouldn’t have probably been the audience perception at the time of the film. It’s also like Christian’s ‘cine-portraits’, which he agreed with me this morning are ‘too cerebral’, when I said that if you use models to do a scene from ‘The Misfits’, people now see ‘the Misfits’ to be ABOUT Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, not ‘acted by’ them (Norman Mailer made sure of that by the 70s in specific). So that even I had to look at the titles to those scenes to figure out what famous scenes he was portraying. Even at the time of the Misfits, though, people were beginning to think of that as being about those particular stars, but not nearly to the degree that we’ve come to by now. So, looking back, at this, I pull it out of context, and see the sexual sparks all between Kelly and Charisse in green. His magnificent technique combined with his gentle-macho persona make him stay on equal footing with her even when he’s rejected–and perhaps it is at that moment that she finally seems cheap, because by then she ought to know better…and he wastes no time getting back to ‘Gotta Dance!’ing. And by this morning as well, I had managed to get Christian to understand that ‘Illegal Dance’ is a larger concept than ‘cine-musique’, it doesn’t kill the other off. It, rather, does live in the real world where there’s an economy, whereas cine-musique, for the subtle intellect, works exactly like cinema did in a more innocent time, i.e., as an escape from the mundane. And you can live in that only so long.
Another word about Anne’s perception of Kelly’s dancing: It’s doubly impressive that he’s so finished because he is quite voluptuous physically in a way that Astaire and O’Connor were not. In ballet, the long-limbed dancer that can move with great speed is somewhat comparable, and it has a stunning visual look to it, almost like a Parmigianino or others of the 17th century unreal Mannerist figure-painters.
It’s also, btw, well-known that the Talmadge gals, who made literally hundreds of silent films, did say things along the lines of the ‘Calvin Coolidge put together’ quip, and were just fine quitting as rich as they were. You may have seen the other well-known Talmadge, Constance, in D.W. Griffith’s ‘Intolerance’, in which she plays the Mountain Girl, who eats wild onions.
And if you went to the end of the White Album, you remember the Arthur Freed Orchids in Malibu that Didion used to just go sit in and muse, and that burned down. Lots of pleasing connections can sometimes be made. Although the Talmadge pile across from the ‘big Hollywood house’ you’ve seen belonged to one of the sisters, but I don’t know which. That’s why she said the neighborhood was ‘once expensive’, but just a few blocks up was also the Nelson house, on which was based the one in Ozzie and Harriet. I went up to it late one night in 2002, but couldn’t tell much.
Funny that you mention the Nelsons: I just watched Rio Bravo, in which Ricky plays a young gunslinger. The movie is supposed to be John Wayne’s response to High Noon, where sheriff Gary Cooper spends half the film pleading with the townies to help him clean out the bad guys. Wayne thought that was pussy anti-American shit: the sheriff should be selective, only accepting the help of the pros. High Noon is the better movie. Supposedly the cowardly townies represent Hollywood’s unwillingness to stand up to the HUAC blacklisters. Even if it’s not a political allegory it’s so stripped down it’s almost abstract.
No question Cyd Charisse is more seductive in green, and the dancing with Kelly is hot. She’s a big girl with legs down to there, but Kelly moves her with grace and strength. Debbie Reynolds is not particularly sexy, even though as you say her tap dancing looks quite good. I’ve just never seen the old movies to which this one alludes, so a lot of that context eludes me. But the musical numbers are wonderful in their own right, and it’s worth watching the movie just for them.
Oh, but I LOVE ‘Rio Bravo’, and especially Rick and Angie. I think it’s a great film. I’m sure Coop did too, since he testified on the non-pussy-anti-American-shit side too…but actors will do anything. Even Wayne would have had he had the range. He’s a special kind of one-note star, I love him just to think of him in more or less anything, but it doesn’t usually matter much which film, and I never watch them (although I would re-watch ‘Rio Bravo’). Coop was THE Hollywood Male Star, never surpassed in my book. We had a very long discussion of Garbo’s films at the ballet board in 2010, and a really nice and totally consumed Garbo fan from Annecy, France wrote marvelously long and informative posts. One thing he said was that the great director Ernst Lubitsch had said that Garbo and Cooper were ‘born to make films together’, which they never did. I had always thought this, and mentioned, which is why it came up. That was a serious omission, and he would have been the absolutely perfect Armand in ‘Camille’ if the director snipped off some of the extreme Americanisms (which Robert Taylor already was, but in less magnetic form by a long shot) if they couldn’t get the imposing French or European star at the time (they obviously couldn’t, although Olivier was also an omission, and never got to play opposite Garbo, since she insisted on John Gilbert the one time he almost did). This fellow, named Yiannis, quoted Lubitsch as also saying “that there was never anyone more beautiful than Cooper in Hollywood (man ro woman), with one exception, Garbo.” I responded to this by saying I understood, but thought Coop was more beautiful (he always is, she sometimes is, and sometimes other actresses are as beautiful and even more so IMO, but maybe none more singular.)
In a high sense, of course ‘High Noon’ is greater. But there can be no ‘high-toned’ John Wayne film. That’s part of what’s so weirdly wonderful (and freakish in its way about him.)
After watching Singin’ in the Rain I tracked down some other 1952 movies, High Noon being one, which moved me on to the 1959 Rio Bravo. I’d never seen it before, and I liked it well enough. It certainly takes itself less seriously than High Noon, being as much a romantic comedy as a Western. I nearly always enjoy John Wayne in the movies. Angie is good as the tough sexy gal, though watching her trying to romance John Wayne was awkward — he’s just not a plausible love interest. Ricky Nelson and Dean Martin’s duet was fun. This is a real “talkie,” in which both Walter Brennan and Angie mention how they just can’t seem to shut up, sometimes talking to themselves after everyone else has left the scene. I suppose it’s an explicit contrast with the relatively taciturn Cooper. Surely Coop’s Mexican saloonkeeper ex-girlfriend was sexier than his Quaker wife, not unlike the green versus white Cyd Charisse personae.
Liberty Valance (1962) is another great showdown-with-the-bad-guy Western featuring Wayne, but my favorite in this vein has always been Shane (1953). Both the cattle baron and the hired gun know that their time is over in the West; they’re like Titans fighting one last battle before the less-epic humans completely take over.
Here’s Fred and Cyd in ‘All of You’ from ‘Silk Stockings’. There are moments she sparkles in her movements beyond what even he is capable of. I found the Fred/Lucille Bremer ‘This Heart of Mine’ but it has no sound, so is worthless. Also just read that Cyd’s last name does come from her first husband, Nico Charisse (marvelous name.) She was married to the singer Tony Martin for 60 years, and they used to perform together a lot at the Concord in the Borscht Belt, I rememember the big ads in the NYtimes in the 70s and early 80s. When she died at 86 a couple of years ago, he was already 94 or 95, and I just saw that he continues to perform at 97. I hadn’t known he’d been married to Alice Faye (how she made it has always mystified me, she always acted as though sleepwalking.) ‘Ninotchka’ is such a silly story that turning into a musical, for once, made some sense. Even if Charisse isn’t a great actress, she’s more convincing in this part than Garbo, who seems in pain at the stupidity (and is idiotically paired with Melvyn Douglas for the 3rd time, although he’s not as bad in that, and Ina Claire is great in it.) I didn’t post the ‘Dancing in the Dark’, which I’m sure you’ve seen.
Very elegant, precise, beautiful. She’s so tall already, and yet she dances on her toes. I’ve not seen this movie, but it’s a dance of dominance and submission isn’t it, with Cyd at the end assuming the “top” position.
Cyd Charisse worn green high heels on. I danced with the Hispanic woman with yellow high heels on. This relationship is interracial, she was Mexican and while I am a Caucasian Greek and I am the son of a Greek native.
V.E.G., I’m sorry that I did not realize the importance of the green shoes to you. I have never been to Greece, but I studied the Greek language in school. Last night I watched a video of the Greek Eurovision performance of the song Opa, with the five men in white suits. The Norwegians seemed very enthusiastic about this song. Perhaps Opa would have won if the show had included at least one very attractive woman wearing green high-heeled shoes.