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Musicals on Tap


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The Nicholas brothers may have been the best specialty act in Hollywood.  In one movie they do a very athletic dance while wearing turbans.  Later in the number, two top musical stars sing and dance to the song, which was a very popular tune from the 1920's.  Can you name the song, movie, and the two top musical stars featured?

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Very good, Starliteyes.  You will notice in this clip that the Nicholas brothers are not carrying any excess fat.  You will see Billy Gilbert as "The Sheik". 

 

 

 

The song was written in the early 1920's just after Valentino's movie "The Sheik" had become very popular.  Ray Stevens later did a parody called "The Sheik Of R&B", but I can't seem to find a recording of that.

 

It's your turn, Starlit.

 

 

 

 

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The jazz dancers who perform some tap steps sans taps in a routine, but who primarily perform acrobatic movement to music, comprise what we call a "Flash Act".

 

In the golden age of Hollywood there was one great "Flash Act" can you name them and at least one classic film they appeared in?

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Princess, I seem to recall that you posed a similar question a few years ago, and I did not know the answer then.  Could it be the Berry brothers.  They appeared in both "Lady Be Good" and "Panama Hattie".  Here they are in "Lady Be Good":

 

 

 

And here they are in "Panama Hattie":

 

 

 

Folks, don't try this stuff at home unless you are a pro.

 

 

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I swear Miles-- you must have been one of the tap students on the back row because that's the only way I would have missed you. You answered that like a pro! Very few non-tap dancers know what a Flash Act is.

 

You earned your Capezio taps with this one.

 

Miles,take a bow & take a turn--

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I swear Miles-- you must have been one of the tap students on the back row because that's the only way I would have missed you. You answered that like a pro! Very few non-tap dancers know what a Flash Act is.

 

You earned your Capezio taps with this one.

 

Miles,take a bow & take a turn--

 

Princess, I took a bow and a turn and I think I hurt myself.  No, I'm no dancer.  I just have a pretty good memory.  Some say I have a memory like an elephant, and believe me, the comparison ends there.

Now, what Princess calls "Flash Acts" are what I would refer to as "Specialty Acts".  That is, musical acts featured in movies that often have little or nothing to do with the story.  One such act was comprised of three men who often danced on platforms, table tops, and even pianos.  They were only in a few movies, but some of those movies featured people like Alice Faye, Abbott And Costello, and Ozzie And Harriet.  They popularized the sliding style of dancing.  Can you name them?

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Well,Partner Miles, you're in tap territory now. Believe it or not, I could once do a wing. I barely got off the floor but I could do it.

 

Once upon a time, there's a man named Frank Condos. Frank was bored one day and he created the five count wing. He was the first tap dancer to wing it off the ground. Then he taught his two brothers how to tap dance. All three of them tap danced for a while. Then only Nick and Steve tapped dance together in the old movies-- like Betty Grable's pin-up girl an Abbott and Costello in the Navy.

 

Also, Steve danced with all the master tap dancers in Gregory Hines' movie Tap.

 

They were definitely very special but the only confusion is your saying three.There were three at one time and then in the movies there are only two for the most part because Frank retired in 37.

 

If you're thinking of another specialty act, that's okay. There's always room for one more.

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Miles, I don't watch TCM. I rely just on my memory. And my memory is not as reliable as it used to be.

 

But Tip Tap and Toe are the only people I can think of that tapped in a threesome.

 

Their movies were: pardon my sarong with Abbott and Costello, honeymoon lodge with Ozzie and Harriet and you can't have everything with Alice Faye.

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Yes, It's Tip, Tap, & Toe.  They were in one more film with Ozzie and Harriet called Hi, Good Lookin'.  They danced on Broadway and in vaudeville.  After their brief movie career, they appeared in some early TV shows.  Here is a clip from You Can't Have Everything.  

 

 

 

That platform sure looked awfully slippery!  There are several clips of them available on YouTube.  OK, Princess, It's your turn to slide into the next question.

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OK, Princess I'll play along and say of course, she was a tap dancer.  Now, as a tapper, she wasn't in a league with Eleanor Powell or Ann Miller, but she did a pretty good job.  She must have been good enough, because she kept getting hired to dance in musicals.  Some might say that Fred Astaire was a dancer who also acted, while Ginger was an actress who also danced.  I think of her as a ballroom dancer in many of her movies with Fred, but she was often called upon to tap.  To support my point, I offer the following video evidence.  First is a clip from "Follow The Fleet" where Ginger taps to "Let Yourself Go".

 

 

 

Then, some thirteen years later, in "The Barkleys Of Broadway", Ginger and Fred do the following little number:

 

 

 

Now, I'm not up on all the technical aspects, but Ginger's tap dancing sure looks fine to me.  I will always contend that she was a better tap dancer than Ruby Keeler,  Now, Princess, what do you say to that?

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A little story - - once some tap dancers wanted to judge Ray Bolger and another tap dancer.

 

They got under the stage-- risers or something. And that's how they judged them. They did not look at them, they only listened to them.

 

Eleanor Powell said a tap dancer has the feet of a percussionist and the soul of a violinist.

 

Fred Astaire had a popular TV show in the golden age of Hollywood where he tap danced on air. Tap dancers are the only dancers that can perform on radio.

 

Just like a pianist or any musician you have to make the sounds. How many times have you seen people pretending they were playing the piano in a movie?

 

Indeed, Ginger Rogers danced. But she never tap danced. No one ever had any proof that she could make a sound that was acceptable with taps Because Hermes Pan dubbed all her taps.

 

I'm not being a stickler on this; she simply isn't a tap dancer. The publicity said that she was making so many movies she didn't have time to dub, but as far as other tap dancers are concerned she didn't know how.

 

Looks can be deceiving.

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Before he was Jed Clampett or Barnaby Jones, Buddy Ebsen was a musical performer in quite a few movies.  In one of them, he sang and danced to the title tune of the film, and then followed that up by dancing with Barbara Stanwyck.  Can you name that movie and the song that he and Barbara danced to? 

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Before Buddy Ebsen was in the movies,he was a tap dancer on Broadway, teamed with his sister Vilma. He & Vilma made several appearances tap dancing in the movies. Then he struck out as a single.

 

In Banjo on My Knee Buddy does the old soft shoe, tap dancing with star Barbara Stanwyck to Swanee River.

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Miles, Barbara was on Broadway dancing before she came to Hollywood.

As for Joan Crawford, she was a great movie star. But I had dance students who could dance better than her.

 

 

This next man was a movie dancer and a movie choreographer. He choreographed one well-known dance movie starring a well-known dance star. But it was a little known fact that he was assistant choreographer for this well-known dancer on a number of movies.

 

Can you name this unsung choreographer and the movie dancer that he so loyally served, plus several several of their movies?

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