Here’s a clip from the movie “Royal Wedding.” The movie was released in 1951 and it starred Fred Astaire and Jane Powell as a brother and sister dance team. Powell was actually the studio’s third choice for the role, probably because she is 30 years Fred’s junior. I guess, that’s technically possible but it’d almost certainly be a parent’s worst nightmare to have kids 30 years apart! The song here is “You’re All The World To Me.” It’s the famous number where Fred dances on the walls and the ceiling.
The airwaves are filled with talk of royal nuptials these days. Some people are concerned that real news is being overshadowed by pointless celebrity claptrap like this. Personally, I’m resigned to the idea that journalism has become infotainment so these sorts of “news items” are inevitable. I try to get my news from sources where I can ignore the fluff. I suppose though, as useless white noise stories go, this one is relatively harmless. It’ll likely bring a lot of revenue to the country and the wedding will probably be gorgeous. That’s nice for everyone who tunes in. I won’t be watching myself because I don’t give a tomato rat’s aspic about any of it. I did, however, just buy a box set of 50 musicals which includes the movie “Royal Wedding!” I watched it last night and I might just watch it again when those other royals get hitched. I figure, if my news is going to be overshadowed anyway, I’ll take Fred Astaire dancing with a coat rack over the latest shocking photos of Prince William’s receding hairline any day!
It blows my mind that this blog has nearly a year and a half worth of posts and, until last month, the song “Cute” never appeared. It was composed by Neil Hefti. I never knew it had lyrics but it does. The internet says they were written by Stanley Stein but I couldn’t verify that. It’s the perfect song for drum solos!
This excellent clip is from the show “The Hollywood Palace.” This particular episode is from the 1964 season. This version of “Cute” features an eye crossing talent roster! There’s an introduction from Victor Borge and drum solos by Loui Bellson, Philly Jo Jones, Shelly Manne and Irv Cottler plus the fantastic dancing of Caterina Valente.
Only one of these performers has been featured on this thread so far. There’s no way I’d do them all justice in one post so I have decided to bestow the music industry’s highest honor on them all and give them individual posts right here on this blog! I know it’s a huge honor but these kids have talent and I want to make sure they finally get the recognition they deserve!
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet John Jacobson. He’s a composer, choreographer, and a music educator who gives workshops at schools all around the country. He is also the founder of America Sings, a noncompetitive outdoor music festival for kids.
Okay yes I know, fashions from the 1987 JC Penny “Youth Minister Chic” catalog, needle on the enthusiasm meter is WAY buried, Lawrence Welk is at this very moment looking down from Heaven and saying “damn that song is bland” BUT… The guy writes music for children’s choirs and these videos (yes there are more) are meant to teach students and teachers the choreographed moves that go along with the songs. In other words we lovers of snark are not the intended audience. I was watching this while my built in Beautiful Target Audience was playing nearby. While I stared in mute horror, she LOVED it and her enthusiasm was contagious. It wasn’t long before both our Double Dream Hands were flying. I suppose I should be embarrassed about it but, in the words of the immortal Joel Hodgson, “Bite me, it’s fun!”
P.S. Guess what else John Jacobson got up to back in 2008:
I guess Dream Hands do not equal votes though.
“Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home” comes from the Broadway play “St Louis Woman” which is was a musical comedy about infidelity, domestic violence, and murder so you know it was hilarious! It is a fantastic song and Sammy sings it beautifully as always.
I’ll be packing up to head to St Louis myself this time next week where I will be a St. Louis woman for about 48 hours. I will try to keep the fisticuffs and gun play to a minimum but I can’t promise anything. After all, if musical theater says violence must ensue, I may be powerless to resist the thrall. In the meantime, we dance! Er… watch a clip of dancing anyway…
This is almost certainly from “The Sammy Davis Jr. Show” though I couldn’t find which episode. I have nothing more to add except tap dancing always makes me smile!
Grandma Beautiful’s crackpot Fred Astaire Theory: Fred was secretly Black. You could tell by the shape of his rump and by the way he danced.
“So Near And Yet So Far” is from the 1941 movie “You’ll Never Get Rich” which starred Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth in her first starring role. As part of the film’s promotion, Hayworth did a Life Magazine spread. A picture of her kneeling on her bed became the most popular pin-up of all time. Have a gander. Lovely isn’t she?
Here is a clip from the original film. The speaking parts are dubbed into Spanish. My meager and ancient high school Spanish chops are not equal to the translation task so I have little to no idea what they’re saying. The song is still in English and dance is a really cool rumba hybrid though so please enjoy!
I just finished watching “Ken Burns’ Jazz” documentary. People rib Burns about his “film a postcard and pluck a banjo” style of film making but I found this series really informative. I did think it was curious that Fred Astaire didn’t rate so much as a mention even though he was responsible for introducing the world to so many of the songs we now consider jazz standards. Of course the program’s main focus was African-American contributions to the art. If only Fred had had the courage to admit his secret Negrosity*, he could have totally dominated the show!
*Yes, I just made up a word.
Cole Porter died in 1964 but it seems back in 1991 the world celebrated his 100th birthday in a big way! There are at least 7.2 trillion Cole Porter centennial collection CDs. (Hyperbole? What’s that?) Happily a friend posted a video of one of his favorite songs on Facebook. From the 1930 musical “The New Yorkers,” here’s Lee Wiley singing “Let’s Fly Away.”
That song only seems to appear on the 1992 3-disc set “You’re The Top: Cole Porter in the 1930’s – Cole Porter Centennial Collection.” This set focuses on Porter’s most prolific decade. It contains a lot of songs I’ve never heard. For example here’s a nifty video I found of another song from this collection. It’s from the movie “Broadway Melody 1940.” Fred Astaire and George Murphy performing “Please Don’t Monkey With Broadway.”
I sure wish I was going to New York freakin’ City man! I don’t have a complete “B Goes to NYC” plan in place yet but I’m working on it. Tell me what you think so far:
1. Purchase straw hat, red gingham shirt, and one button overalls
2. Practice hanging onto my hat and gazing up in slack jawed wonder at the tall buildings.
That’s all I have so far but if I can just work in “befriend a street wise orphan and a hooker with a heart of gold,” I think I might just have a recipe for success!
Here’s Fred Astaire singing “Puttin’ On The Ritz.” I like it because we get to see Fred dance.
I stumbled across the movie “Top Hat” today. I’d seen clips before but never the whole thing. It led me to about 3 other Astaire films I’d never seen plus a bonus Yule Brenner flick! Best single chick Valentines Day ever!
I wanted to post some Cab Calloway. He’s one of my favorites and we haven’t heard from him yet. The clip is from the 1943 musical “Stormy Weather” and the song is called “Jumpin Jive.” It features my all time favorite tap dancers the Nicholas Brothers.
We are bracing for stormy weather around here. The forecast says 9-12 more inches of snow expected over night. I have decided to give winter my two week notice and then I’m resigning!
“Steppin’ Out: Astaire Sings” From 1945 to 1957 Norman Granz produced a series of concerts called Jazz At The Philharmonic (JATP). Fred was their featured artist on one of the 1952 tours and the recordings were taken from those performances. Granz was Oscar Peterson’s manager for most of his professional career but in 1952 they were just at the beginning of their working relationship. Internet music experts agree that the Peterson/Granz collaboration gave Fred an opportunity to really stretch as a vocalist. There are no songs from this album on YouTube that I could find, but here’s a song medley from Fred’s 1958 TV special “An Evening With Fred Astaire.” Almost all the songs in this medley are on the album. I think you can still hear the influence of the JATP experience in Fred’s phrasing here. Oh and there’s an extra bonus number on this clip too!
WARNING: In this section I shall be divulging a shocking and repulsive secret that I have kept hidden for three decades. Look away now if you have weakness in your stomach or heart.
I think Fred Astaire was one of the greatest dancers who ever lived. No, that’s not the shameful part. For several years in my early adolescence though, if you had asked me, I’d have said I preferred Gene Kelly. No shame in that either. Gene was also an amazing talent. My cousin and I had an ongoing Kelly/Astaire debate and I had what I felt was the definitive “Kelly is better” argument:
1. Gene is cuter.
2. He made more color movies than Fred. (I have no idea if that’s true but it seemed right to me.)
3. “Singing In The Rain” was like, totally tubular! (It was the 80’s. We were required by law to talk like that.)
Okay, perhaps it wasn’t the most cogent argument but I did win the debate. More importantly, I won it without having to reveal the horrifying, nauseating truth behind my early 80’s Gene Kelly preference. “Xanadu” yes, the 1980 Olivia Newton John stinkburger “Xanadu.” I tuned in our one and only cable channel one day and recorded it on the Betamax. I played the tape over and over until I wore it out. I loved that movie so much that it caused me to declare that Gene Kelly was the greatest dancer of all time simply because he was in it. If you must judge me gentle reader, pray judge with mercy. After all, hath not a “Xanadu” fan eyes? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you give us satin shorts and skates do we not roller disco?
I have been watching some amazing tap dance clips on YouTube because I love tap. There’s a great Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell dance number that makes my upper lip sweat with awesome but I couldn’t find it to post. There were so many great moments out there that I was hard pressed to find one replacement. This early Sammy Davis Jr number finally won on strength of cuteness. I’d give my eye teeth to know where it’s from.
I wanted tap dancing lessons as a kid. Tap lessons were surprisingly expensive so Mom signed me up for ballet. I was a fat kid stuffed in a pink leotard and tutu. I looked like a vienna sausage and I was about half as graceful. Mercifully the lessons didn’t last long. I never did get my tap lessons which is probably a good thing. Now I can pretend I would have been great at it without pesky truth interfering with my delusion.