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MotherofZeus

Perfect Foils in Classic Musicals: Oscar Levant

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So, I know An American in Paris, is NOT recommended viewing for the "Mad About Musicals" course, but who can do a musical course without watching it?  Consequently, I'm thinking a great deal of how wonderfully Oscar Levant plays in this film. His cynicism and resignation to the status of obscure starving artist is played to perfection and contrasts so well with Gene Kelly's bright-eyed and busy-tailed lead. I think despite the age disparity between leading man and leading lady, the romance works in part because Levant's character helps to make Kelly's veteran of WWII still the cockeyed optimist musicals need at that time. 

What other foil or second banana in musicals makes the lead that much stronger? Or feel free to just bask with me with me in how Oscar Levant  reflects on one of Hollywood musicals' underrated joys of classic cinema.

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Glad you mentioned Oscar Levant.  He's an amazing talent as a pianist and I always enjoy seeing him in movies, even though he generally plays second fiddle to the star.  If you get a chance to see The Barkleys of Broadway (Fred and Ginger, 1949), just watch his fingers on the keyboard as he plays Tchaikovsky's 1'st Concerto, or Khatchturin's Sabre Dance, and you'll be blown away.   

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Couldn't agree more about his performance in Barkleys. I know he had his inner demons, but he is delightful on screen and tv.  I find him exceptionally talented, urbane, self-facing, and fascinating. His stories with harpo and John Barrymore are real gems.

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And as a friend of George Gershwin, he was a personal link to the film's composer.  He plays a hypochondriac again in The Band Wagon.

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Oscar Levant took the concept of foil or second banana to an entirely new level! He truly was a genius!

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