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THAT'S DANCING


Guest dredagain
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wow what a stinker... the hosts talked and talked, gushing about each dancer. Too bad they showed so many lousy clips. The Jane Powell "dance" with Fred Astaire from ROYAL WEDDING was totally embarrassing.

 

The deleted scene from THE WIZARD OF OZ was lousy also. About the best part of the "documentary" were the clips from Busby Berkley films....

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So.... can you (easily) name five singing and/or dancing movies you think are superb? I've gathered from other times/places that musicals are NOT your cup of tea, unless you like something else about them than the dancing and singing.

 

Whereas many of us are "suckers" for almost any of them that were made over a wide time span, and not just from MGM. And not just Technicolor. And sometimes with people who couldn't really sing or dance (in the 1940's-MGM-style, anyway) - Ruby Keeler being an easy example. Yet, unless we detest her (and others), we love her (and others) because they come across as "normal," "I-could-do-that, too" types we can feel close to. And the more escapist the better.

 

And the chance to see stuff that didn't make it to the final print (often because of movie length) is fascinating beyond reason to some of us.

 

All that said, I have to admit that "That's Dancing" has NEVER done it for me like the other "That's" movies. Too much modern stuff. (At the risk of reviving the old discussion - not argument, of course - of just what IS a classic movie) But we do get to see a quick trip through the TravelTalks series, at the beginning, in much better color/sharpness than we usually do in the complete shorts on TCM. The Japanese segment was wonderful 1935 color, if I remember rightly.

 

Bill

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I love musicals.... I just thought this film was a huge let-down. It wasted a ton of time on ballet and ballet dancers (aside from Moira Shearer) who had virtually nothing to do with film but ignored totally Martha Graham as well as Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis (who choreographed many silent films, including INTOLERANCE). But it did a bit on Isadora Duncan (also non-film). It's all just a matter of taste. I liked the bits on Busby Berkley and even the great dancing in WEST SIDE STORY. But it wasted time on the hideous dance with Astaire and Powell, the blah dance from IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER, and that lousy cartoon thing with Gene Kelly which went on forever.

 

On the plus side, it showed two numbers from the great Eleanor Powell, mentioned Loie Fuller (really amazing), and a nice solo number from Bill Robinson.

 

Shown in flashes but never mentioned were scenes from THE BOY FRIEND (one of my all-time favorite movies), Joan Crawford's famous Charleston, and the superb "Pass That Peace Pipe" number from GOOD NEWS, featuring Joan McCracken and Ray McDonald.

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I agree with you about Gene Kelly did you notice he always wants to be the whole sh-bang!

and if you notice he repeats the same steps in all his movies--If I see him 'singing in the rain' one more time I'll scream-and that dance he does with Leslie Caron under the bridge, with their hands

held behind them is pedestrian. Plus he is always wearing that s*** -eating grin in all his movies.

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I think Kelly was much more limited as a dancer than Astaire and much more repetitive. You do notice the same basic dance moves over and over in his films... although he's great in specific production numbers, especially from SINGIN IN THE RAIN and ON THE TOWN.

 

Astaire did more kinds of dances than Kelly did and (in my opinion) his ballroom dancing with Ginger Rogers is much more interesting and timeless than Kelly's faux ballets with say Cyd Charisse.

 

One fascinating detail that came up in this dance movie was that Astaire and Rogers NEVER kissed. I don't think I had ever noticed because their dancing is so intimate. Kelly hardly ever touches his female partners unless it's to pull off a dance move.

 

The other tidbit was that Astaire demanded to always be shown in full figure. No zooming closeups of feet or smiles or flinging out the arms in a "ta-daah" move. Because newer musical movies do not follow this dictum, we get robbed of seeing anyone actually dance. It's all flashy editing (think of CHICAGO)---which I blame on music videos.

 

It's odd that in watching John Travolta dance in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, there are a lot of cuts, BUT at least you see him dance. By the time they did the sequel STAYING ALIVE, the director (Stallone?) had already moved to the music-video flash style (as in flash but no substance).

 

The last musicals that allowed us to see any real dancing were probably CABARET, HELLO DOLLY, and THE BOY FRIEND.... and what a joy they are to watch.

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Boy, I'm with you on the incredibly annoying short-attention-span editing that is done in most filmed dance numbers these days--though I've seen some Bollywood and other foreign musicals that don't seem to resort to it as much. I think it has to do with the lack of big-name musical stars in American movies; filmmakers just get well-known actors to do the singing and "dancing," and if they aren't terrific dancers, the editing can make them look to some extent as if they are impressive.

 

I understand (and agree with) the point you are making about Astaire's romantic dances, but Astaire and Rogers DID do some kissing in their movies. Their fans wanted them to--there were even late-1930s fan magazine articles asking "Why won't Fred kiss Ginger?" (the inaccurate rumor was that his wife didn't "allow" it). Their first seven movies featured some near-kisses or brief pecks, but in "Carefree" he really lays one on her--in slow motion, yet. Then in the ninth and tenth of their movies, they kiss still more--although he rarely looks completely comfortable with it. Check out the end of "You Were Never Lovelier," though--he seems to be enjoying that one. WELL, when your partner is Rita Hayworth...

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  • 3 weeks later...

I got the DVD and watched it a few days ago. It's a mixed bag, for sure!

 

The good thing that this documentary has going for it is that it doesn't concentrate solely on MGM movies, so you get a bit of WB movies, the early Busby Berkeley, etc. and also The Red Shoes. However many of the introductions are flat, and the clips that they chose for the last 10 minutes or so are absolutely dreadful, because they suffer so badly by comparison with the clips from the Golden Age of Hollywood, the 30's and 40's and 50's musicals.

 

I think they really should have focused solely on the movies from the classic age, maybe up to the late 60's at most or even early 70's, and just forget about stuff like Flashdance and especiallyMichael Jackson.

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This film was a major disappointment and I believe a flop too. Omitting Rita Hayworth from this film was unforgivable. Hayworth was a major dancing star in the 40's and she danced with both Astaire and Kelly at Columbia. At least they could have cleared the footage with Sony or even used stills.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I agree with those that think this film is bad. Dreadful film.

 

Well, it isn't as good as it could have been. But I doubt that anyone who appreciates musicals would truly think that absolutely every single clip used in the movie is dreadful, because it does IMHO include at least a few worthwhile clips. Anyone who would hate every single clip in this documentary probably doesn't care much for classic musicals, period.

 

But I would agree that it is a mixed bag, at best.

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  • 1 month later...

Agreed. That's Dancing! is not a great film about film musicals. The Berkeley and Astaire offerings are the most satisfying in the entire film. Hayworth was left out because Columbia was NOT willing to loan out rights for any of their films. You'll also notice that the film does not contain a single clip from Universal musicals.

 

The omissions are glaring and many. Perhaps someday we'll get a five or six part documentary about 'The Hollywood Musical' - something lavish and entertaining like the three part MGM: When The Lion Roars or the upcoming release of "You Must Remember This" - a tribute to Warner Bros. illustrious history.

 

Frankly, I've always felt that after the first "That's Entertainment!" - a magnificent movie on every level - the rest was decidedly down hill. That's Entertainment II did not show its clips in sequential order, omitted the 'star' narrations in favor of some goofy 'new' dance routines between an aged Kelly and Astaire - neither tripping the light fantastic as light or fantastic as their fans remembered - and finally, it inserted clips of dialogue here and there from non-musical MGM movies.

 

That's Entertainment III was fairly interesting - though it recycled Eleanor Powell's Fascinating Rhythm with some backstage footage that showed how the number was shot. It also took too long to get off the ground in my opinion.

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