Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Favorite Films: Dance Movies

In light of Kit’s article on Friday, which more of you should read, here are my favorite “dancing” movies. That would be movies involving a lot of dancing.

1. Strictly Ballroom (1992): By far my favorite dance film, this is a romantic comedy about the absurd competitors in the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix ballroom tournament. Number after number in this one is incredible.

2. Footloose (1984): Kevin Bacon meets the American Taliban as he moves to a rural community that doesn’t allow dancing... or anything else that might be fun. Awesome soundtrack.

3. Shall We Dance (1997): This is the story of a Japanese salaryman who takes ballroom dancing lessons so he can learn the identity of a woman who has caught his imagination. This is one of those interesting films where you get to see cultural differences in action.

4. Grease (1978): Yes, it’s a musical, but it’s also all about the dances, and the dances here are a lot of fun. This is also a surprisingly dirty film for having such a wholesome reputation.

5. Dirty Dancing (1987): Daddy’s girl falls in love with the bad boy dance instructor at the summer dance camp. This is one of those opposites-attract type films and it works beautifully. There is incredible chemistry between Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze.

6. Singing In The Rain (1952): Gene Kelly leads this story of a group of actors who are caught in the transition from silent films to “talkies.” The dancing in this film is some of the most famous Hollywood has ever produced, in particular the titular song “Singing In The Rain.”



Kit said...

I would say Singin' in the Rain and Top Hat, which I reviewed last Friday.

I got a chance to watch Singin' in the Rain on the big screen. Wow!

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I've never seen them on the big screen. I do like both films. To me though, I prefer the more modern stuff.

Kit said...

TCM occasionally shows movies at cinemas nationwide.

AndrewPrice said...

I didn't know that. Interesting.

Kit said...

Interestingly, I found The Birds kind of boring on the big screen. Lawrence of Arabia was freakin' amazing (though it was not presented by TCM).

Trivia: Debbie Reynolds was not a trained dancer when she was cast for Singin' in the Rain, though she was a gymnast. And several times Gene Kelly insulted her for her lack of dancing experience. Later, another actor, also a famous dancer, found her crying under a piano and offered to teach her dancing lessons. That actor was Fred Astaire.

When she finished the "Good Mornin'" scene, (linked below), her feet were bleeding.
"Good Mornin'"

She later said, "Singin' in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life."

AndrewPrice said...

Interesting. It's kind of like being set up for failure.

Kit said...

She was eventually able to do the stuff she had pretty well.

It also makes me like Fred Astaire even more. Oh, and Astaire was a Republican! (As was Ginger Rogers)

Kit said...

Also, Donald O'Connor had to be hospitalized after filming "Make 'Em Laugh". This is a scene that is so difficult, that most stage performances just skip most of the major athletic moments.

"Make 'Em Laugh"

More trivia: Donald O'Connor taught Debbie Reynolds how to do the run up a wall. And he and Debbie Reynolds later did a movie together called I Love Melvin. I've never seen it but it does have a cut scene of Donald O'Connor dancing on skates with a little girl.

Kit said...

Here is Debbie Reynolds telling the story of Fred Astaire helping her. Debbie was about 19 at the time (she says 17). He didn't actually teach her, he just showed her how tough it is, even for the greats.

She also called him "the sweetest man, other than Jimmy Stewart."

Length: 1min 20sec

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Donald O'Connor was a 4-pack a day smoker so see Make 'Em Laugh with that in mind and it's a miracle he lived past that (or into his 70s for that matter!)

1. Singin' in the Rain -- always the top

2. On the Town -- Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, and the under-rated Jules Munshin... pure joy on film (as is Singin')

3. The Band Wagon -- Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse (not a great actor, but absolutely stunning and a beautiful and sexy dancer)

4. An American in Paris... I'm not much of a ballet fan, but the ending ballet with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron is a sight to behold.

5. Top Hat

I enjoyed Chicago and Moulin Rouge as musicals, but the jump editing has destroyed dance sequences. I'm sure Catherine Zeta Jones is doing a great job in Chicago, but it's so heavily edited that we're watching 7 different versions spliced or edited together as opposed to one wide shot with a boom like a lot of the iconic dance movies.

Tennessee Jed said...

Singin' in the Rainuniversally considered the best of them all. I personally enjoyed the Shirly Temple films. A personal favorite is 7 Brides for 7 Brothers with Howard Keel and Russ Tamblyn. That was one of the first movies I remember seeing as a young kid.

Tennessee Jed said...

I should also add the Betty Grable movies. Incredible gams, and pin-up queen to the greatest generation. I say this with full acknowledgement that I've only seen a couple of them, and honestly can't recall the names of the films. But, the images of BG remain :)

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I had the same problem with the dance numbers in Moulin Rouge -- it was so heavily edited that I had no idea what was really going on. Chicago struck me as a total rip off of Cabaret.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I don't think I've ever seen a Betty Grable film.

Dave Olson said...

One of the best numbers from Singin' in the Rain is "Fit as a Fiddle," in which Kelly reminisces about his vaudeville days with O'Connor. In contrast to the aforementioned Chicago and Moulin Rouge, the two minute sequence is comprised of four shots with precisely three cuts. It was made in an era when actors had to do more than just look pretty while making faces on a screen.

Kit said...

When Joseph Gordon Levitt did "Make 'Em Laugh" on SNL he was nearly hoarse at the end and appeared on the verge of passing out.

Unknown said...

Love Singin' In The Rain!

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, Times have definitely changed. Hollywood would be well served to learn to pull the camera back and let a scene unfold again instead of trying to hyper-edit everything.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I never saw that.

Collin, Agreed.

JimmyC said...

Dancer in the Dark. The most depressing musical of all time, but still a beautiful film.

Unknown said...

"Show me your paso doble!"

Strictly Ballroom is a truly awesome movie, and hard to beat for its amazing dancing, although Dirty Dancing comes close. Here are a few other more recent ones...

1. Happy Feet. Dancing in jacket and tie, antarctic style.
2. Shall We Dance, the remake. Not bad for Gere, with a nice line on marriage as a witness.
3. Billy Elliot. Atmospheric northern British stuff.
4. Black Swan. No, really!

AndrewPrice said...

Jimmy, I don't know that one.

AndrewPrice said...

John, I love that -- "Show me your paso doble!"

Excellent list. I liked Black Swan a lot.

PDBronco said...

Two excellent "dance" films, films about the art of dancing, are missing from the list.

"The Red Shoes" is a great movie about not only ballet but the conflict that can happen between the artistic soul and the emotional soul. Not only is the dancing beautiful, but the cinematography is gorgeous (especially since it was restored).

"The Turning Point" is a more modern version of "The Red Shoes". This is the movie that made Baryshnikov much better known (along with his CBS special of "The Nutcracker"). Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine are great in this as well.

Gene Kelly tried an all-dance movie, "Invitation to the Dance". Unfortunately, this is hit-and-miss. There are some great sequences, but not all. Kinda like "Fantasia". But I'd recommend at least giving it a try.

AndrewPrice said...

PDBronco, The Red Shoes is an excellent film. I definitely recommend that one.

Post a Comment