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Cagney in Footlight Parade

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Yes we do;  saw him in person May 1981 when he, in a wheelchair, was at the USMA graduation of my brother.

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Cagney's stylized dancing (so on view in "Yankee Doodle Dandy") seems like a natural extension of his aggressive, punchy screen persona.  His rat-a-tat-tat tap dancing in the office scene takes us by surprise!  His years of dancing in Vaudeville and Broadway no doubt helped him come off so naturally in his all-too-few screen dancing appearances.   I think Cagney's marvelous in "Footlight Parade"!

Edited by DAVIDLONG
I wanted to chance a word.
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This was my first time watching this movie and it was great to see James Cagney sing and dance. I always loved him in Yankee Doodle Dandy!

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Do we love breathing? The obvious answer is "yes." So, yes, Cagney's dancing in Footlight Parade really makes the film what it is - a beautiful, beautiful musical. Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, and Frank McHugh are perfect, as well. 

 

 

Footlight-Parade-02.jpg

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After seeing 1931's The Public Enemy with Cagney as the ultimate tough guy, it's always a treat to see his talent as a dancer.  I've always enjoyed Cagney's dancing, especially when he's doing it on top of a bar as in Footlight Parade.  That particular number is reminiscent of watching someone ride a bike on a tight rope--without a net.

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This was my first time seeing the movie. I loved it! Cagney was great and I loved the chemistry between him and Joan Blondell. Sorry I never watched it sooner. 

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Read the excellent biography "Cagney" by John McCabe for a look at his dancing style and early Vaudeville performances

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Cagney was an excellent dancer in Footlight Parade.  He was primarily a singer and dancer before he did movies like The Public Enemy.

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Cagney was a wonderful, idiosyncratic dancer from the Broadway stage. I primarily remember him dancing in the great "Yankee Doodle Dandy." My favorite dance routine of his, however, is "Shanghai Lil" in "Footlight Parade." Only Warner Brothers could produce such a sequence featuring ethnic jokes, a drug den, and of course the girl with a past, Shanghai Lil. 

As Shanghai Lil, I personally think Ruby Keeler is adorable. She is cute, petite (just the right height for Cagney), with an appealing speaking voice featuring a slight New York accent; Keeler was perfect, except she couldn't dance to save her life. Even Keeler acknowledged this in her later years when she starred once again on Broadway in "No No Nanette." In an interview from the time she said something like she couldn't believe how untrained she looked in her old Warner Brother musicals. Watching her tap on her own is hilarious, but next to the uber talented Cagney, it is painful.

Keeler winds her arms like a windmill, uses her feet like lead weights, and has the timing  of Frankenstein. Cagney is so generous in his partnering of her. Don't get me wrong, I like all of Keeler's musical performances, but there is no doubt she could not dance. 

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3 hours ago, chillyfillyinak said:

Cagney was a wonderful, idiosyncratic dancer from the Broadway stage. I primarily remember him dancing in the great "Yankee Doodle Dandy." My favorite dance routine of his, however, is "Shanghai Lil" in "Footlight Parade." Only Warner Brothers could produce such a sequence featuring ethnic jokes, a drug den, and of course the girl with a past, Shanghai Lil. 

As Shanghai Lil, I personally think Ruby Keeler is adorable. She is cute, petite (just the right height for Cagney), with an appealing speaking voice featuring a slight New York accent; Keeler was perfect, except she couldn't dance to save her life. Even Keeler acknowledged this in her later years when she starred once again on Broadway in "No No Nanette." In an interview from the time she said something like she couldn't believe how untrained she looked in her old Warner Brother musicals. Watching her tap on her own is hilarious, but next to the uber talented Cagney, it is painful.

Keeler winds her arms like a windmill, uses her feet like lead weights, and has the timing  of Frankenstein. Cagney is so generous in his partnering of her. Don't get me wrong, I like all of Keeler's musical performances, but there is no doubt she could not dance. 

Unlike other dancers, a tap dancer is judged 50%, if not 100% , with the sound of the taps. As you would judge any percussionist.

Ruby's taps were superb.  Case closed.

BTW--The standard-setting black tap dancers didn't even use their arms at all.

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Absolutely love seeing Cagney dance. It's a shame that he was typecast playing the gangster. Cagney was so talented, he could flourish in any role he chose to do. Interesting seeing arguably the toughest actor in film history break into song and dance, and his talents were magnified by being such a terrific dancer. 

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It’s so amazing to me how probably 90% of the eras actors were triple threats; sing, dance and especially act. Cagney did it all with charisma, grit and the coolest attitude. I love his tap style and his routines were amazing. It’s so great to see guys like him and Stewart singing and dancing when most of their films were drama. The choreography and cinematography in “Footlight Parade” was fascinating in the final three prologue sequences. The stage with the moving floor depicting the depression and the soldiers etc. 

I am so glad that this movie was highlighted and also his movie “Yankee Doodle Dandy” were he depicted the amazing life of George M Cohen I believe should be commended as well for showing the wonderful talent of Cagney also. I sincerely hope this movie will be in TCMs lineup as well. It really shows his triple threat chops, I believe in a greater fashion. 

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I think James Cagney is probably best known today for YANKEE DOODLE DANDY and as a result, many people may know him more as a song and dance man than a gangster. And from what I've read, it seems Mr. Cagney would be ok with that.

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I had long been a fan of Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy and saw Footlight Parade for the first time a few years ago, so I was not surprised at the talent Cagney exhibited. His moves show a self-confidence and athleticism that I find very attractive.

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13 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

Unlike other dancers, a tap dancer is judged 50%, if not 100% , with the sound of the taps. As you would judge any percussionist.

Ruby's taps were superb.  Case closed.

BTW--The standard-setting black tap dancers didn't even use their arms at all.

I've always known this but what I find hard to tell about their talent is that the taps are then synced in later.  How do we know that Ruby was actually the one doing the tapping during foley?  Or that she doesn't do it over and over until it is perfect.  Even she has been quoted as saying she looked untrained.  She always has to look down at her feet when she taps also.  Which I noticed James Cagney did during his dance on this bar top and table.  Which is what I would have done also...except I don't tap.  But is that a no no?  Like in old-fashioned typing class.  Don't look at the keyboard? 

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Loved him in this movie. Had seen clips but never saw the movie before now. I wish he had done more musical movies. He was such an amazing, versatile actor. 

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 It's well known that real tap dancers dub their own taps

It's also well know who did not dub their own taps.Ginger Rogers was probably one of the more famous stars of the musicals who was unable to really tap dance in real time on a professional level.

If you really want to see Ruby Keeler tap dance live you can go on YouTube and watch No No Nanette from her Broadway comeback in the 1970s. It's also recorded in the studio with the original Broadway cast, taps and all, for posterity.

 

FYI-- Singers,as well as tap dancers, were allowed to keep on singing a song or tap dancing a dance until they felt it was perfect for the recorded playback. That would include Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. There was no shame in that.Working until you get it right is what professional performers do.

1 hour ago, trish0395 said:

I've always known this but what I find hard to tell about their talent is that the taps are then synced in later.  How do we know that Ruby was actually the one doing the tapping during foley?  Or that she doesn't do it over and over until it is perfect.  Even she has been quoted as saying she looked untrained.  She always has to look down at her feet when she taps also.  Which I noticed James Cagney did during his dance on this bar top and table.  Which is what I would have done also...except I don't tap.  But is that a no no?  Like in old-fashioned typing class.  Don't look at the keyboard? 

Also you might take a look at a post that I did on the Eleanor Powell /Ruby Keeler thread to get somewhat of a background on how dance styles have changed in America in the last century.

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