Monday, 6 October 2008

Sunday Night at the Movies - 5 October

Spare a Thought for Fred Astaire

Another week has gone by without being able to watch a movie. With my thesis due in a couple weeks, Isabel being sick, and subsequently ME getting sick there has been little time to enjoy a movie. So, I decided to write a little something about my favorite hoofer of the silver screen, Fred Astaire.

To watch Fred acting, singing, or just walking around isn't very impressive. He was a wiry little man, with a large, kind of funny looking head. Goofy, may actually be the best way to describe him. But, oh, to watch him dance. The films Swing Time and Top Hat are truly masterpieces. To watch Fred Astaire dance with Ginger Rogers is to gaze at a great piece of artwork, like Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party". It looks so simple, yet is so beautiful and provocative that one must stare transfixed until the dancing concludes.

To watch Astaire in The Gay Divorcee, Shall We Dance, The Barkley's of Broadway, Royal Wedding, and The Band Wagon are truly magical, but the lesser known Silk Stockings is one of my all time favorite films. It is a remake of the Lubitsch film Ninotchka and stars Cyd Charisse as the Russian agent who becomes entranced with the city of Paris and begins to question her stolid communist orthodoxy. The scene where Charisse changes from her woolen socks to pure silk stockings is one of the most beautiful I've ever witnessed. To watch Charisse and Astaire share the screen together is really something special.

I know that there are many out there who would disagree with me, and herald Gene Kelly as the greatest of Hollywood's leading male dancers. But for all Kelly's dashing good looks, masculine appeal, and exquisite choreography, he just can't match the sheer grace and poetry Astaire imbues in his dancing. Astaire's dancing is made all the more extraordinary when most of his other actions look decidedly awkward. He truly is one of the greats.

-by dallas


booktapes said...

I can't comment very much on Fred Astaire, as I have seen not one of his movies and only short clips of his dancing. But in the interest of commenting on something, I'll say that when I was a kid I thought that he and Nat King Cole were the same person. Not that I confused them on appearances, (because how could I?), but that for whatever reason I thought that the guy who sang with Nat King Cole's voice and the guy who danced with Fred Astaire's body were the same person. I think it was actually a Bugs Bunny cartoon that disavowed me of this mistake; Bugs danced like Fred Astaire, (don't ask me how this was supposed to be communicated via a cartoon) and then sang like Nat King Cole and was obviously doing two separate people. That's what you call accidental edutainment!

Matthew S said...

Just Googled a slew of Fred and Ginger videos and was pretty impressed. It's a shame they don't make movies like that any more. The closest attempt is perhaps "Down with Love", which I rather like.