I agree that the "Cyd Charisse" roles are best left to Cyd Charisse, but surely something suitable could have been contrived to play to Carol Haney's strengths, which were considerable. Personally, I suspect that the problem lay with Kelly and how he wanted himself to be perceived. If you look at both the "Couple of Swells" number from "Easter Parade" and "Be a Clown" from "The Pirate", with both men partnered with Judy Garland, it seems apparent to me that Astaire was more relaxed and in the moment, whereas Kelly was more focused on the technical aspects of the routine. I think Carol Haney could perhaps have brought Kelly more into the moment if he'd looked beyond an "unphotogenic" surface. Sometimes our eye is surprisingly pleased by what is supposedly not "photogenic".
I seem to recall that Kelly used Haney as the template for his animated dance partner in a number from "Invitation to the Dance". How must that have made her feel, to only be good enough to be copied by animators into an idealized image?
Anyway, based on "The Pajama Game", I'm a fan and I wish there were more of her on film.
Well said; This reminds me of a story between a childhood friend and I. When we were in our 40s we were talking about movies (I was really into studio-era films and he was NOT), and the Wizard of Oz came up. He went on about how beautiful the good witch was and that was one of his boyhood crushes.
I told him the actress was Billie Burke and that she was 55 when she played that part. I got a loud 'NO WAY". Well we had big screen T.V. now (back when we were kids that of course wasn't the case), and I put the film on and showed him the 'off to see the Wizard scene'. A 50 inch screen shows it all. He was upset that I messed with one of his most fond memories.
I did explain that Burke was indeed a beauty, a fine and well loved silent film actress (ok I should have let that part out), and still looked fine for a women over 50. NOT. The dream was over and I killed it.
(PS: To me Burke's best acting assets was her voice. It really reals one in. In OZ it was used to great effect to invoke compassion and kindness, later on she would use it to invoke an airhead in may fine comedy performances).