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JackBurley

Everybody Sing! Everybody Die!

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As I type this, TCM is playing the Dick Powell 1937 movie The Singing Marine. This movie features a production number with a beautiful Harry Warren/Johnny Mercer number "Night Over Shanghai". This is a staged musical narrative within the movie that tells a tragic story ending with the murder of the damsel (Doris Weston). It seems these dramatic numbers within otherwise light-hearted fare was somewhat of trend. Can you think of other dark numbers that were nestled within happy movies?

 

42nd Street- 42nd Street: Urban life keeps dancing as domestic abuse turns murderous in the opening of this production number.

 

Gold Diggers of 1935- Lullaby of Broadway: After a night of excess, Wini Shaw is forced by a legion of tap dancers to take a fall from a skyscraper's terrace. [Note: That's three for Dick Powell. Does someone have to die in his numbers?]

 

Ziegfeld Follies- Limehouse Blues: Shot by a stray bullet, Fred Astaire's character goes into a balletic delerium before his expiring finale.

 

The Band Wagon- Two dark numbers in this one: The quick parody of a pretentious musical version of Oedipus Rex; and The Girl Hunt Ballet, a Mickey Spillane pulp fiction spoof that opens with a barrage of gun fire and ends in an explosive dual of the guns ("Killers have to die!").

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Marco, is not the Girl Hunt Ballet in BANDWAGON a take on the Slaughter on Tenth Avenue ballet from ON YOUR TOES? Maybe 'rip-off' would be a better noun, only they didn't say that back then.

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Thank you! I was trying to think of the name of that number. The ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue was featured in Words and Music, the biopic of Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart. Instead of "rip off", we could always say "inspired by"... but with the popularity of 1950's pulp fiction, I can easily imagine The Girl Hunt Ballet being created even if Slaughter hadn't preceded it.

 

There was a movie version of On Your Toes with Vera Zorina, though I don't think I've ever seen it. Did they perform the original stage version of Slaughter in this? If so, I wonder how it differed from the Vera Ellen/Gene Kelly version.

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Wasn't there some awful ballet in Oklahoma? I mean awful as in tragic or dark, as you put it. It was just between Gordon, Shirley, and Rod.

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Yes! Excellent choice! I think that was the only movie appearance by the Broadway legend Bambi Linn. She played the Dream Laurie. Seedy dancehall girls; and poor Jud on a murderous rampage...

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SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE: I know that I have seen this, somewhere, in some form. Of course after all these years, I can't remember where - film, excerpt on TV . . . . .

 

I do recall being absolutely blown away by Ray Bolger's dancing - it made me a fan of his for life. He did have some sort of variety show in the 50s, maybe one of those "summer replacement" shows, and I remember his dancing there as well. What you see in the few films of his that are broadcast these days doesn't begin to represent his talent. He was a strong, graceful and balletic dancer, much like Gene Kelly, but moreso. He didn't have that muscular, macho thing going that Kelly liked to use (one exception to that is Kelly's "Chocolat" scene in "An American in Paris," wherein he dances much more in the Astaire style). Not that I don't love Kelly, I do. But Bolger was a beautiful dancer, and he is now forgotten, save for playing the Scarecrow in You-Know-What, and most his his dancing there was cut.

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A version of "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" was performed in the movie version of On Your Toes, which is an absolutely dreadful movie. I like Eddie Albert in Roman Holiday, but as the lead (Ray Bolger role) in this he doesn't do most of his own dancing, and it's very obvious. Particularly disappointing as Donald O'Connor plays him as a youngster. If only they'd made the film a few years later with Donald--or cast Ray Bolger. Or cast James Cagney, since it was a Warner Brothers picture. It relegates most of the show's marvelous Hart-Rodgers songs to background music and is generally a mess.

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I have seen that not very good version. Why do they DO things like that!!

 

But I'm sure I've seen Bolger dancing it. I seem to have a vague recollection that it was when I was in college. Maybe a filmed record of the stage performance, or perhaps a re-creation he did for a TV show. Hmmm.

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Yeah the first thing that came to mind when i thought of depressing musical numbers was Slaughter on 10th Avenue (but Words and Music wasnt completely light and cheery) and The Limehouse Blues number. Even though Slaughter on 10th Avenue is depressing it is one of my favorite dances and I think one of Kelly's finest.

 

Another sad number is Lets Face the Music and Dance (Fallow the Fleet). Where a broke Fred Astaire is going to commit suicide by shooting himself when he sees Ginger Rodgers about to kill herself by jumping into the water. He saves her and sings about how they should dance now while there's music ex cetera, ex cetera.

 

Suicide in a 1930's musical! That just shouldn't be! lol

 

Also I don't agree with Chocolat being "Astaire Style". In fact i don't see how you could see even a little bit of Fred Astaire in that number. I do think that the Girl Hunt ballet is very Kelly though and, if i remember correctly, it was a spoof of the recent Kelly ballets.

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