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Thread: Singing and Dancing on the screen

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    Default Singing and Dancing on the screen

    Some of the most amazing artistry is found in American film from the era of the Busby Berkeley musicals of the 1930s right through to the last great musicals from the MGM Freed Unit (circa late 1950s).

    Here is just one such example; Marge and Gower Champion dancing to the fabulous music of Jerome Kern - with a superb and full orchestration by Conrad Salinger which really captures the idiom. Notice the confined space these two famous dancers use to weave their magic. And lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, 11 (though there is "Bill" with lyrics by PG Wodehouse):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZprGYcQ-HI

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    I was always a fan of the tap dance. Here's probably my favourite:

    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    So very reminiscent of 'Bojangles' Robinson and Shirley Temple!! Surely it's a straight steal of that!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_8fAbqoEvs
    Last edited by Christabel; Aug-11-2020 at 06:06.

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    Good Morning" - Singin' in the Rain (1952)
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

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    "Singin' in the Rain" (Title Song) 1952 - Gene Kelly
    Just my two cents
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

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    Absolutely magnificent; "Singing in the Rain", "The Bandwagon" and "American in Paris" set the benchmarks for artistry in singing and dancing. Gene Kelly was involved in two of these. I just love that fluid crane shot which swings upwards and over Kelly as he uses the full space of the set while twirling that umbrella at the side with the orchestra in full flourish. For that I credit the finesse of director Stanley Donen and cinematographer Harold Rossen: a single take from the moment the water is coming out of the drain pipe to the edit of Kelly back on the sidewalk. Ergo, the moving frame which completely complements the rhythm of the piece and at the service of the action.

    Also, of course, these RKO musicals of the 1930s - but not to the extent of the integrated musical: the elegance and sophistication of this is amazing. And to think; the orchestra (a typical dance band) was sitting right there behind the camera as this was still the early era of sound film:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GV8eUi-fxsc

    Sensuous and provocative sequence; with the tuba setting the pulse and rhythm like a heartbeat. The two of them enmeshed in a seductive dance. It doesn't get much better. Do watch Astaire's eyes; he doesn't take them off his partner Rogers. (Sadly director Mark Sandrich didn't live past age 44.)
    Last edited by Christabel; Aug-11-2020 at 10:15.

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    Fast forward to 1957 and the music of Cole Porter for the film "Silk Stockings" (the musical version of "Ninotchka") directed by Rouben Mamoulian and with the fabulous dancing of Cyd Charisse. This was a deeply satirical film about Russia made during the Cold War: choreography by Hermes Pan and orchestration by Conrad Salinger (uncredited...grrrr!).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqIgYAQkBcs

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    You mean that people don't just break out into dancing and singing, with full orchestral accompaniment, in real life? (I guess I can just take all of these people off of my payroll.)

    Outside of musicals, it is often amusing (and usually a bit embarrassing) to see dance numbers that were inserted into films as a kind of artistic statement. Frequently, these rely on very modern ideas about dance (even if they are set in the past), and they tend to be very self conscious. (Too often, they are performed by people who really don't seem to have a knack for dancing.)
    Last edited by JAS; Aug-11-2020 at 11:16.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogerx View Post


    "Singin' in the Rain" (Title Song) 1952 - Gene Kelly
    Just my two cents
    Kelly had a stinking cold during that scene shoot iirc.

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    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christabel View Post
    Some of the most amazing artistry is found in American film from the era of the Busby Berkeley musicals of the 1930s right through to the last great musicals from the MGM Freed Unit (circa late 1950s).
    Berkeley in particular often relied on camera tricks that could not really be appreciated by an audience if they saw dancing on the stage, or numbers that were so elaborate that they really only work on film. I presume that they were trying to offer something that you could not just get in a regular theater experience. (I believe that I am correct in thinking that Berkeley did not originate this idea, but certainly made the most of it. He also tends to stretch out a number with long parts that are very repetitious of a single phrase, which can get tiresome, but they can be an eyeful if one has an appreciation of the period in which they were made.)
    Last edited by JAS; Aug-11-2020 at 11:23.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JAS View Post
    Berkeley in particular often relied on camera tricks that could not really be appreciated by an audience if they saw dancing on the stage, or numbers that were so elaborate that they really only work on film. I presume that they were trying to offer something that you could not just get in a regular theater experience. (I believe that I am correct in thinking that Berkeley did not originate this idea, but certainly made the most of it. He also tends to stretch out a number with long parts that are very repetitious of a single phrase, which can get tiresome, but they can be an eyeful if one has an appreciation of the period in which they were made.)
    Berkeley was in the military and familiar with precision formations and drills. I'm pretty sure he did innovate with those musicals and he had a cinematic eye for movement and display. I think many of them are straight kitsch and repetitious, yes, but they distracted people from the misery of their lives during the Depression. However, I think this sequence must have gone right to the heart - and it was influenced by German Expressionism and very clever:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzNcT7wfHj4

    (Once upon a time people were concerned about the welfare of the poor.)

    Here's a restored sequence in the pre-code "Footlight Parade", with James Cagney in an early dancing role. Lloyd Bacon directed the film and it must have been considered pretty daring!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUyREZ_Hcr4
    Last edited by Christabel; Aug-11-2020 at 20:30. Reason: Cagney

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    Here's a singing/dancing scene from a Disney movie that totally cracks me up:

    I love music. I want music. I need music.

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    Here's a complex 'dance' sequence created and directed by Busby Berkeley in "Footlight Parade", 1933. I have wondered how he did this, but it must have been graphically conceived before being 'choreographed'. And the overhead camera shots would have been rather risky, suspended from height as they were. Not forgetting that sound film was only 6 years old when this was made; it's remote from our experience but this would have presented problems as dramatized in "Singing' in the Rain" in the 1950s. I'm fairly certain that when "Footlights" was made sound on disc technology had been replaced by sound on film; this was a MAJOR innovation.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRqcZcrgPaU

    For those with an interest in film history here is the opening title sequence of "Footlight Parade". The film has a silly plot and is pretty boring but the musical numbers are the important element.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIQizM2zioo

    Through the miracle of film restoration we're able to view these important socio-cultural 'documents' for many more generations. Director Lloyd Bacon died at 65 in 1955 - quite a long life for many in the film industry in the earlier years. Cinematographer George Barnes died at 60 years of age just two years earlier.
    Last edited by Christabel; Aug-12-2020 at 01:13.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christabel View Post
    Here's a complex 'dance' sequence created and directed by Busby Berkeley in "Footlight Parade", 1933. I have wondered how he did this, but it must have been graphically conceived before being 'choreographed'. And the overhead camera shots would have been rather risky, suspended from height as they were. Not forgetting that sound film was only 6 years old when this was made; it's remote from our experience but this would have presented problems as dramatized in "Singing' in the Rain" in the 1950s. I'm fairly certain that when "Footlights" was made sound on disc technology had been replaced by sound on film; this was a MAJOR innovation.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRqcZcrgPaU

    For those with an interest in film history here is the opening title sequence of "Footlight Parade". The film has a silly plot and is pretty boring but the musical numbers are the important element.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIQizM2zioo

    Through the miracle of film restoration we're able to view these important socio-cultural 'documents' for many more generations. Director Lloyd Bacon died at 65 in 1955 - quite a long life for many in the film industry in the earlier years. Cinematographer George Barnes died at 60 years of age just two years earlier.
    Something about the shadowing around 0:20 suggests a lot of post-production special effects were used. Also with the layers of the circles in the water. They didn't spin with real physics.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    Something about the shadowing around 0:20 suggests a lot of post-production special effects were used. Also with the layers of the circles in the water. They didn't spin with real physics.
    You could be right about that, I really don't know. There were processes back then for special effects, even from the days of Melies and "A Trip to the Moon" in 1902. Melies had been a magician but you can clearly see the processes involved in moving from one shot to the next, even though the frame itself is somewhat immobile. He fills his scenes with busy activity to compensate for his immovable camera. This film been speed-corrected and restored and it's a real document of history.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNLZntSdyKE
    Last edited by Christabel; Aug-12-2020 at 07:45. Reason: Forgot the link!!

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