Lover-o-Classics

'Easter Parade'... Ann Miller

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Just finished watching 'Easter Parade' on TCM.  Such a sumptuous musical... one you can enjoy over and over.  I love Judy Garland in her role as Hannah... so charming and radiant.  But Ann Miller absolutely sizzles as Nadine!  What talent... what a smile... what legs!  Va-va-voom!  Needless to say, she's one of my faves, and I wonder if she ever gave a better performance.  By the way, did anyone else have the good fortune to see Ann Miller with Mickey Rooney in 'Sugar Babies' back in the 80's.  It was a musical based on the old burlesque shows and was non-stop fun.  I saw it in a touring production that came to town... a couple of times.  As it was before the days the old movies were readily accessible, I really didn't know very much about Miller then, though everyone was familiar Mickey Rooney.  But she had the legs and the smile, and could still do a tap at age 60.

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I saw Ann Miller in Mame on Broadway and in Sugar Babies on tour.  For Mame, they had re-choreographed "That's How Young I Feel" to showcase her amazing tapping.

I read someplace that when they filmed "Shakin' the Blues Away", she was pregnant and in a back brace.  Anyway you look at it, that is an sizzling number.

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Ann Miller and Desi Arnaz do a pretty great dance in Too Many Girls (where Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met).  While it might not be Ann's most memorable number, it's fun, especially when you consider that she's dancing with the future Ricky Ricardo. 

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Oh, and I also enjoyed her in this.

 

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Ann Miller always seemed to be cast in the secondary role. Her tap dancing was phenomenal. I loved all of her numbers in Kiss Me Kate. And by the way...why wasn’t Tommy Rall a bigger star? He was a wonderful partner for her! She was taller they most of the other women dancers at the time but she wasn’t really super tall. I did see her and Mickey Rooney on tour in Sugar Babies in Chicago. I took my 4 year nephew. Other members were amazed that he was understanding the jokes. Their performances were just magical.

I love this number with Ann, Tommy, Bobby Van, and Bob Fosse.

https://youtu.be/TEaZ5xotL_o

 

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Last week, when the debate was about Ruby vs. Eleanor. I said like them both, but for me Ann Miller is the whole package! She taps, spins and does sexy wiggles in between.  I love Ann Miller in Easter Parade and Kiss me Kate (she dances with a group that includes a young Bob Fosse). I also like; "from this moment on" and "too damn hot". She was phenomenal. 

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Believe it or not, THE NEW YORK TIMES thought Ann Miller was a better partner for Fred Astaire in EASTER PARADE than Judy Garland.  In its' review the TIMES said something like: "And Judy Garland gets some stiff competition from the long-legged Ann Miller. Miss Garland is a competent trouper: nimble on her feet and professional sounding vocally, but somehow we feel that Miss Miller teams better with Mr. Astaire."

I was surprised when I read that review, because Judy is so delightful in EP, but I agree that Ann Miller was a wonderful talent in her own right. It's no mean feat that she makes us enjoy her musical numbers so much despite the fact that "Nadine" is such an unlikeable character.

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Interesting that Ann Miller ditches her heels for slippers after her big number and right before she entices Astaire to dance with her in front of Judy Garland

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20 hours ago, jawz63 said:

Ann Miller always seemed to be cast in the secondary role. Her tap dancing was phenomenal. I loved all of her numbers in Kiss Me Kate. And by the way...why wasn’t Tommy Rall a bigger star? He was a wonderful partner for her! She was taller they most of the other women dancers at the time but she wasn’t really super tall. I did see her and Mickey Rooney on tour in Sugar Babies in Chicago. I took my 4 year nephew. Other members were amazed that he was understanding the jokes. Their performances were just magical.

I love this number with Ann, Tommy, Bobby Van, and Bob Fosse.

https://youtu.be/TEaZ5xotL_o

 

She had lead roles in B musicals at Columbia. But at MGM, she was typically supporting the bigger stars in A musicals.

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Ann Miller has never been a Star of the Month on TCM-- which seems quite surprising. 

Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 3.27.36 PM.jpg

EASTER PARADE and a batch of other musicals made during the golden age of Hollywood attest to her star quality as a dancer and actress.

Screen shot 2015-12-17 at 8.10.43 AM.jpg

She should be a Star of the Month on TCM.

National-Tap-Dance-Day-03.jpg
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That is surprising that she's never been Star of the Month. TCM has certainly saluted her in other ways (e.g, her birthday) on many occasions. As for Miller ditching her heels to dance with Astaire, I recall her laughing about it, saying that she had to do it so she wouln't be taller than he was onscreen. As for her being assigned second leads at MGM, I think she was simply too tall, statuesque and sensual to fit the conventional "ingenue/leading lady" mold of the time.

Another interesting tidbit about the TIMES attitude toward Miller and EASTER PARADE. As a lifelong classic film buff, when I was a kid I used to pour over the Sunday TIMES TV section to see what movies were going to be on for the week and read the TIMES' blurb about them. I recall that for EASTER PARADE the paper stated: "Everything a musical should be. Our pet: Fred and Ann's dance to "It Only Happens When I Dance With You."

(A number for which, of course, Annie has ditched her heels for ballet slippers!)

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2 hours ago, markus21 said:

That is surprising that she's never been Star of the Month. TCM has certainly saluted her in other ways (e.g, her birthday) on many occasions. As for Miller ditching her heels to dance with Astaire, I recall her laughing about it, saying that she had to do it so she wouln't be taller than he was onscreen. As for her being assigned second leads at MGM, I think she was simply too tall, statuesque and sensual to fit the conventional "ingenue/leading lady" mold of the time.

Another interesting tidbit about the TIMES attitude toward Miller and EASTER PARADE. As a lifelong classic film buff, when I was a kid I used to pour over the Sunday TIMES TV section to see what movies were going to be on for the week and read the TIMES' blurb about them. I recall that for EASTER PARADE the paper stated: "Everything a musical should be. Our pet: Fred and Ann's dance to "It Only Happens When I Dance With You."

(A number for which, of course, Annie has ditched her heels for ballet slippers!)

She was two inches shorter than Astaire. Did the heels make her tower over him?

She's had some birthday observances on TCM. Not too many to my knowledge. It would still be nice for her to be honored as Star of the Month. And since they have access to the RKO and MGM films she made, it would be fairly easy to do!

I think she was assigned supporting roles because the producers at MGM saw her as a specialty dancer But when she was under contract at Columbia in the early to mid-40s she was used as a lead. Films like CAROLINA BLUES and JAM SESSION are good examples.

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20 hours ago, markus21 said:

Believe it or not, THE NEW YORK TIMES thought Ann Miller was a better partner for Fred Astaire in EASTER PARADE than Judy Garland.  In its' review the TIMES said something like: "And Judy Garland gets some stiff competition from the long-legged Ann Miller. Miss Garland is a competent trouper: nimble on her feet and professional sounding vocally, but somehow we feel that Miss Miller teams better with Mr. Astaire."

I was surprised when I read that review, because Judy is so delightful in EP, but I agree that Ann Miller was a wonderful talent in her own right. It's no mean feat that she makes us enjoy her musical numbers so much despite the fact that "Nadine" is such an unlikeable character.

I love Garland and the "Couple of Swells" number, she certainly held her own with Astaire.  However, I agree with the Times.  If they had allowed Miller to  unleash and really dance with Astaire with the intensity that she brought to her solo number, "Shakin the blues Away"  - she  have would ran away with the film. Wisely, the Miller / Astaire    "It only happens when I dance with you" is subdued and looks more like a throw back to a 1930's Fred / Ginger dance routine (that routine could have easily been in TOP HAT).              

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

She was two inches shorter than Astaire. Did the heels make her tower over him?

She's had some birthday observances on TCM. Not too many to my knowledge. It would still be nice for her to be honored as Star of the Month. And since they have access to the RKO and MGM films she made, it would be fairly easy to do!

I think she was assigned supporting roles because the producers at MGM saw her as a specialty dancer But when she was under contract at Columbia in the early to mid-40s she was used as a lead. Films like CAROLINA BLUES and JAM SESSION are good examples.

I think those Columbia movies were considered to be "B" pictures. Ann Miller wasn't much of an actress or singer; she had a cinematic personality that would remind you a little bit of Ethel Merman.

She had a tremendous comeback with a TV soup commercial, I think in the 70s. The commercial itself was a mini production number of a kind that you never see on television anymore in a commercial or even in a variety show.

The last big comeback she had was in the 80s with Sugar Babies on Broadway with Mickey Rooney.   I had a chance to meet them during a press interview for the roadshow in Kansas City. 

It was amazing to see how those two tired senior citizens came to life when they got on stage.  Both of them had started very young in the movies and they were always troupers.

 

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5 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

I think those Columbia movies were considered to be "B" pictures. Ann Miller wasn't much of an actress or singer; she had a cinematic personality that would remind you a little bit of Ethel Merman.

She had a tremendous comeback with a TV soup commercial, I think in the 70s. The commercial itself was a mini production number of a kind that you never see on television anymore in a commercial or even in a variety show.

The last big comeback she had was in the 80s with Sugar Babies on Broadway with Mickey Rooney.   I had a chance to meet them during a press interview for the roadshow in Kansas City. 

It was amazing to see how those two tired senior citizens came to life when they got on stage.  Both of them had started very young in the movies and they were always troupers.

Yes I mentioned earlier in the thread that her pictures at Columbia were typically B films. Though I would say THE THRILL OF BRAZIL (in which she supported Evelyn Keyes) was an "A" picture. 

TCM could, and should, make her a Star of the Month. She deserves it.

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I enjoyed seeing Easter Parade yesterday when it was on TCM. The only problem I had was there was a thunderstorm coming and it restarted my electricity, including the cable box and the internet!

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I fell in love with Ann the first time I saw her. It was in Kiss me Kate and my mom put on You Can't Take it With You I could see her in a non musical role.  She is extraordinary. She could do anything and do it with spunk.  

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14 hours ago, MikeD31784 said:

I enjoyed seeing Easter Parade yesterday when it was on TCM. The only problem I had was there was a thunderstorm coming and it restarted my electricity, including the cable box and the internet!

Hate those annoying thunderstorms! 

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15 minutes ago, Chelle Belle said:

I fell in love with Ann the first time I saw her. It was in Kiss me Kate and my mom put on You Can't Take it With You I could see her in a non musical role.  She is extraordinary. She could do anything and do it with spunk.  

Have you seen her in David Lynch's MULHOLLAND DRIVE?

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I was fortunate to see her in Sugar Babies with Mickey Rooney back in the day. Ann Miller is also a favorite of mine. I just love watching her grow up in the musicals. She lied about her age so she could dance and, "get into the movies." I say thank God! She's fabulous in every movie I've seen her in. I'm so happy her talents are being represented in the films that are part of MAM on TCM.

Also, personally she bears an uncanny resemblance to my mother so each time I see Ann Miller remembrances of my mom flood my mind. 

 

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24 minutes ago, CynthiaV said:

I was fortunate to see her in Sugar Babies with Mickey Rooney back in the day. Ann Miller is also a favorite of mine. I just love watching her grow up in the musicals. She lied about her age so she could dance and, "get into the movies." I say thank God! She's fabulous in every movie I've seen her in. I'm so happy her talents are being represented in the films that are part of MAM on TCM.

Also, personally she bears an uncanny resemblance to my mother so each time I see Ann Miller remembrances of my mom flood my mind. 

What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.

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19 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

I think those Columbia movies were considered to be "B" pictures. Ann Miller wasn't much of an actress or singer; she had a cinematic personality that would remind you a little bit of Ethel Merman.

She had a tremendous comeback with a TV soup commercial, I think in the 70s. The commercial itself was a mini production number of a kind that you never see on television anymore in a commercial or even in a variety show.

The last big comeback she had was in the 80s with Sugar Babies on Broadway with Mickey Rooney.   I had a chance to meet them during a press interview for the roadshow in Kansas City. 

It was amazing to see how those two tired senior citizens came to life when they got on stage.  Both of them had started very young in the movies and they were always troupers.

 

Now that you mention it I recall that commercial. She was center stage somewhat subdued talking about this wonderful soup than if I recall correctly she whips off her skirt a la Ann Miller and there are those fabulous legs! Still! Then she begins strutting het stuff dancing crazy like only Miller could. I want to say she either had backup dancers or dancing soup cans but my memory fails me there. Still, what a great memory. Thanks for mentioning it.

PS I just watched the posted clip...thx. (That'll teach me to read posts from the bottom!) Fabulous. They just don't make commercials like they used to.

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I always laugh at Annie's performance in You Can't Take It With You (1938).  She flits about in toe shoes accompanied by Dub Taylor on the xylophone; she looks more like an Albatross than a Swan, hilarious! 

I was lucky enough to see her with Mickey Rooney in Sugar Babies; that was 1979 forty-one years later, she could still shake a leg, and they looked great to boot!

                                                      Image result for you can't take it with you

She was just 15!

I also remember the Campbell soup commercial, she's dressed like "Susie Homemaker" then whips off her apron, revealing a fire engine red gold fringed costume and proceeds to praise "The Great American Soup" through song and dance, complete with chorus girls and a Busby Berkely overhead formation.  I actually found the commercial on You Tube...ah, they don't make 'em like that anymore!

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There was a resurgence of interest in earlier musical stars in the 1970's.  Ruby Keeler appeared on stage in No No Nanette (1971), Debbie Reynolds in Irene (1973), later replaced by Jane Powell.  Also Sondheim's Follies (1971) featured Alexis Smith, Gene Nelson, and John McMartin.

I found this article of interest, talks about Ann Miller, Eleanor Powell and other tap greats: Tap Dance in America: A Short History

Quote

Miller's lexicon of tap steps was similar to Eleanor Powell's hip-strutting, head-to-the-floor back-bending, multiple-turning mercuric moves, but Miller preferred a vigorous approach to those steps that was athletic and speedy. She claimed to be able to dance at 500 taps per minute, which no one disputed. Remembered in the popular imagination as an athletic, long-legged tap dancer with lacquered raven hair and Nefertiti eye makeup, in the tap world she is renowned for her dazzling and gutsy style of dancing, one that was as brassy and good-hearted as the showgirl roles she played in her films. Blending glamour and razzmatazz with speedy precision, Miller came as close to hoofing in high-heels as any female dancer in the Golden Age of movie musicals.

 

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