PERFORMING WARRIORS FILM & TV SELECTIONS!
Dear Film Buff,
Much of the text on this page comes from writers writing in the website newsletter.
The video clips below are my own choice and I have tried in all instances to give essential credits (when available).
The camera can capture performances that would not be possible to be shown in a live context. Or appreciate by standing as a spectator in one place. And I’ve had fun on this page by stretching the limits of what some consider a performance, or a performer.
And yes, it was the only way I could bring in bikes and metal! But every video clip displays, in its own way, a high degree of art.
It’s also my view that the forgotten world of the silent cinema has more in common with dance/drama or physical/theatre than it does with any text based play or film. And we should cherish it.
by William Shakespeare
This is the first known film of a Shakespeare play. With Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree as King John in this final scene of his death (this is only one of the four scenes that survive).
With three directors: Walter Pfeffer Dando, Laurie Dickson and William Kennedy the movies obviously started as they meant to go on!
JOE TREMAINE writing in the Newsletter:
“A night at the Friars Club in Beverly Hills in 2003”
…Florence Henderson was there, as was Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Joey Heatherton (anyone remember her? oh God, I choreographed for her too!.
“MUSIC FOR ONE APARTMENT AND SIX DRUMMERS”
by OLA SIMONSSON
and JOHANNES STJARNE NILSON
This brilliantly clever film takes the art of the drummer into another sphere. The performers are as cool as cool can be. As is this film and its soundtrack.
Film does not always need people rushing around sound stages to display its physicality. And the performers here are:
and Anders Vestergard.
From Palm Springs, California, USA:
JACK MOORE writing in the Newsletter:
I was researching the use of a credit for “choreography”.
I called the Motion Picture Academy in the fall of 1995 and spoke with a woman there. In the wee recesses of my mind, I think she might have mentioned one credit in the late 1920s but I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.
Anyway, she said they lumped FRED ASTAIRE’S special Oscar with the other choreography ones; even though it really wasn’t…
by LUCKY BOYS CONFUSION
With Jack’s words above, this would be an appropriate place to host a video clip of Fred Astaire. And let’s face it, it would not be possible to have a page mentioning working in front of the camera, without featuring, in some way, Mr. Astaire and his career.
Unfortunately, for copyright reasons, the sleek footed wizard cannot be featured at this time.
But fortunately, by way of a dedication, the great group, LUCKY BOYS CONFUSION with an early live version of their song, “Fred Astaire” can be. Thanks lads.
Er … that’s not a personal thank you…
But here’s, Lead Singer: Stubhy
Guitar Vocals: Adam Krier
Guitar: Joe Sell
Bass: Jason Schultejann
And on the Drums: Ryan Fergus
With … “I never got to be your Fred Astaire…”
JACK MOORE continues:
…Onna White’s was the only Oscar that mentioned an actual movie, “Oliver”. It is right on the base of her Oscar which she has, I believe, given to her son and wife.
At the Malibu beach house it was kept in a closed cupboard in the buffet in the dining room because the sea air would have pitted it. Occasionally, we had sit-down dinners with Onna and me at the head and foot of the table. If conversation lagged (the dinners were usually people neither of us knew well) I would turn around in my chair, open the cupboard and plop the Oscar on the dining table. That picked up conversation! And secretly pleased Onna no end. And when we moved back into West Hollywood it was able to be left out.
Hers is one of the old ones that weigh a ton. You used to see, before they lightened them, people almost drop them because they were unexpectedly heavy.
Incidentally, remember Stanley Donen tap dancing his acceptance speech? It was charming…
“A Failed GAP COMMERCIAL”
by SPIKE JONZE
This website is about all sorts of physical performance and not just dance. Here, this brilliantly directed Gap Commercial by Spike Jonze was apparently tested by Gap but did not get aired nationally.
The failed bit in the title is not my wording as the energy and power generated in this short film more than succeeds and hypnotises the observer.
writing in the newsletter about the director, TERRY GILBERT, who was giving notes on a scene in a rowing boat and wanting more noise and confusion than he was getting from the actors:
…we serious actors were convinced this was an important scene of inner angst and conflict … Terry, who was probably not a big fan of Stanislavsky, looked uncomprehending at the troubled actor, who stood up – agitated – and said:
“But what is the motivation for this scene, Terry? We don’t understand it?”
Terry struck a pose with his arms waving above him in the air and said:
“Oh, darling…it’s Giselle…it’s Giselle.”
“THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH”
by Edgar Allen Poe
There have been a number of film adaptations of Poe’s work and this trailer from new film makers on the block: SPEAR, CROOKS AND FIGUEROA looks interesting.
I worked with a number of dancers from the 1964, Roger Corman directed production, so the use of digital effects – at least in the trailer here – would have kept them out of a job! But it uses to good effect the music of Clint Mansell, and targets its niche audience well.
The premiere is at Schott’s in Los Angeles sometime this season. But it’ll be red carpet and every seat is taken.
From Tokyo, Japan
LARRY BILLMAN writing in the Newsletter:
David Alder’s recollections of Jane Seymour’s beginnings triggered lots of memories for me.
I am currently writing “Film Dancers” and I cannot tell you how many dancers morphed into celebrated actors and actresses.
Here in Tokyo, they have been showing “Secret People” in which a young Audrey Hepburn performs several ballet sequences. Watching her reminds me of where her bearing, stature, grace and elegance came from. They were all attributes that enhanced her natural charm to make her the Super Star that she continues to be.
Shirley MacLaine has said it very well about what “Dance” gave her: discipline. She said that every time she walks onto a movie sound stage, she instinctively knows her place, her position and her “spot” in the whole.
So, Jane Seymour is merely one of those former dancers to find success with their acting skills such as (in chronological order):
and Zhang Ziyi (of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”).
You can’t hold center stage until you’ve been Third Boy from the Left!
From Perth, Australia:
ALEX POOR writing in the Newsletter:
…I came across some shows I did on London TV back in the ’60s and ’70s, my BRIEF appearance on “Top Of The Pops – Pop Go The Sixties” with Cliff Richard. The dancers were backing him whilst he sang Bachelor Boy and Congratulations.
I hadn’t seen it before because I think it was aired live back in those days. Anyway, I spotted myself a few times in the background and in the shadows. What a shame that we spent a week rehearsing two routines that were hardly appreciated by the director/producer of Top Of The Pops with very little of the routines shown on camera – and we were way in the background, rather than right behind Sir Cliff!
THE ACADEMY OF DANCE ON FILM – based in Los Angeles and founded as a charitable organisation six years ago by author and current Disney executive and show director, Larry Billman.
The Academy of Dance on Film is commited to preserving filmed dance and other movement in the commercial film. Their archives contain rare footage, memorabilia, and much more, all relating to dance and movement on the silver screen. If you are searching for some long lost footage, this is the first (I could say only) place to look.
Filmed on the 24th September, 1894, at Edison’s Black Maria Studio is this piece of recorded history from North America. There is no sound; just shadows from the past.
From Palm Desert, California, USA:
SHEA NEW writing in the Newsletter:
…on AUDREY HEPBURN…
Eugene Loring use to tell a wonderful story about Audrey Hepburn whom he adored. He was hired to give her a ballet class on the set. He did not consider her a dancer with real training. So at her first lesson, he proceeded to issue the beginning barre plié combination solely in french. He smugly looked at her and asked her if she understood? “Yes, Mr. Loring,” she answered, ” is that fourth position ouvert or fermé?”
“CHESTER STARRING AS BULLIE ELLIOT”
I can’t help it. This makes me laugh.
The director has cunningly disguised his star’s shocking lack of classical ballet technique by using still frames. And it works.
And with such subtle political comment: Wales in recent years being granted its own governing Assembly; now they want their own National Ballet?
Ye Gods. The dogs are at the gates…
From Llangollen, Wales:
ALAN BIRD writing in the newsletter
All films are subversive? No, they ain’t. When they’re not baby food, they are soporific or full of infantile effects which disguise the lack of any true motivation or even of plot…
ROSA VON PRAUNHEIM The bad boy of German film with courageous and adventurous productions over the last thirty years. His favourite subjects have been older women, homosexuality and New York City. And he has been studying cannabilism for twenty years.
He’ll never film the sequel to The Sound of Music…
I admit to a slight personal connection here: in the early 1970s, I was living in Berlin, which was West Berlin then, appearing in a production of Hello Dolly starring Marika Rokk, and doing some television.
By lucky chance, I was living in Rosa von Praunheim’s apartment (he was living elsewhere at the time) and I have fond memories of climbing the stairs one evening, afraid to enter, as we’d received a bomb threat that day. Nowadays, we’d inform the police. Then: I just, trembling, put my key in the lock.
His films have ever aroused strong passions.
“THOSE AWFUL HATS!”
by D. W. GRIFFITH
A short from Biograph from one of the masters of the silent screen. This brief film drills home a special message to its audience.
We have all been at the cinema or theatre and encountered the problems displayed here. But I’m not certain we have all watched a movie in the middle of an earthquake? I’m assumming that’s the intent when the walls wobble?
No, no, it’s not a cheap shot. I’m a big fan and this film features Mack Sennett as The Man in the Checkered Coat and Flora Finch as The Woman in the Largest Hat.
It was made in 1909.
Choreographer of the American TV series ‘THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW’ in the 1950/60s, died in 2004 in Miami.
Here are some tributes from our newsletter:
From Tokyo, Japan:
June Taylor, the famous American TV choreographer, passed away on May 17, 2004 in Miami, Florida at the age of 86. She is recognized as one of the first television choreographers to incorporate the camera into her weekly dance numbers on the “Jackie Gleason Show” during the Golden Age of TV in the 50’s-’60’s.
She founded the June Taylor Dancers (a precision line dance team) in 1942 which made their TV debut on Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town” in 1948. Using many of Busby Berkeley’s overhead photographed floor patterns as highlights, the wonder of that “idea” is that they were filmed “live,” rather than having the luxurious time schedule that Berkeley had. Her dance/camera collaborations were honored with an Emmy Award in 1954.
After the Gleason show went off the air, June became the choreographer for the Miami Dolphins cheer leading squad. She was also honored as part of the 1984 Emmy Awards Show by the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences in a special tribute to television choreographers including Debbie Allen, Ron Field, Ernest Flatt, Peter Gennaro, Alan Johnson, Anita Mann and Michael Peters.
Over the years, June Taylor hired – and inspired – hundreds of dancers, as well as making “The June Taylor Dancers” a household name.
Other than hearing many wonderful stories about her from Grover Dale and other dancers and choreographers who admired and had worked with her, my only contact (?) with the famous Miss Taylor was when a nightclub act I was performing in rehearsed in the Jackie Gleason studio in Miami. The minute the star of the act, (Sheila Macrae), choreographer (Miriam Nelson), and the two Here-She-Is!-Boys (Garrett Lewis and I), entered the rehearsal hall and saw the formation patterns on the floor, we all ran, laid down and made an instant formation for the wonderful woman!
Hopefully the men (and women) who danced can add more remembrances as their tribute.
From Las Vegas, Nevada, USA:
LIZ ELLIOTT LIEBERMAN
June Taylor came to see Florida Follies in January, as one of our dancers had worked for her back in the ’60’s (Louise Farrand, aged 81). She came with Jackie Gleason’s widow and we met them both backstage afterwards. She was charming and very complimentary about the show. Sorry to hear of her passing. She was a legend in TV history here in the U.S.
From Palm Springs, California, USA:
I was a June Taylor dancer in 1957, the last year of the black and white, ‘live’Gleason show. I taught for June (and her sister, Marilyn, now the widow of Jackie Gleason) at their respective schools.
And no, we boys didn’t do the overhead pattern numbers – however we did do the high kicks once – why, I’ll never know – on stepped platforms yet, with the girls.
Among the eight boys that year was Ron Field, George Foster (who lives here and was Ernie Flatt’s ass’t for many years), Hank Brunjes and Victor Duntiere who were both Broadway gypsies; Marty Allen who was one of Onna’s ass’ts and I, at this moment, don’t recall the other two…
From Los Angeles, California, USA:
I too was saddened by the passing of June Taylor! I feel as tho’ working for June for a year was like getting a Masters Degree in show biz.
I auditioned for June in 1966 for a show at Jones Beach called “Mardi Gras”. It starred Guy Lombardo, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and an up and coming Joey Gray! June hired me for the job along with a cast of 100. It was a very fun show. But then about 8 weeks or so into the show June pulled me and several other dancers and took us to Miami Beach to do a season on the Jackie Gleason Show. 8 boys added to the 16 girls….. 1966-67 season. And yes we ( the boys ) did lay on the floor in a circle and do ‘ography! Of course we were peeing laughing.
The other boys that I can recall were her assistant Peter Gladke, Steve Bookvor (sp?), Carlos Bas and Bob Ellis. June’s other assistant was the lovely Mercedes Ellington (Duke’s granddaughter) whom I see in NYC from time to time.
We had a wonderful season on the show and June was an amazing choreographer. She was rough to work for….. had to be focused at all times and she didn’t put up with any crap.
About 20 years or so ago, not long after I had started Tremaine Dance Conventions and Competitions, I invited June to teach/lecture at one of my workshops. She was brilliant of course. Over the past years as June would visit the West Coast I would always take her and her friends to dinner.
June Taylor one of the greats!
I will miss her!
“RIDING THE DUTCH MOTORWAY!”
I dare you to keep still while this is playing.
It’s such a great track accompanying the bikers: Screwed, Blue’d ‘n Tattooed by SLEEZE BLEEZ, and with expert camera and production from Frank Jacobs. You might not wanna put on leather but you will wanna dance!
From Tokyo, Japan:
Writes about the late JANET LEIGH
Janet Leigh’s passing triggered many memories for me too. I interviewed her for the “Film Dancers” book and enjoyed every minute of her memories. She began talking with the self-effacing statement “I am NOT a dancer.” She may not have been a classically trained dancer but the lady worked hard at mastering the choreography that was given to her for films and always participated in the annual SHARE charity shows, usually “fronting the line” because of her enthusiasm for dance – and her glowing physical beauty. The SHARE show director, Miriam Nelson, told me that when they decided the ladies would do “Web” work in a “Circus” Opening number, Janet was the first to volunteer and performed with great physical expertise. She was a beloved supporter of the Professional Dancers Society and often attended the Summer picnics that the group held. Perhaps she wasn’t a “Dancer,” but she certainly was a “Gypsy.”
Her dance in film work began with “Two Tickets to Broadway.” Under contract to Howard Hughes, she was cast in a musical with Tony Martin, Ann Miller, Gloria De Haven and Barbara Lawrence. While attending the Coconut Grove in Hollywood one evening, she saw Marge and Gower Champion’s sensational nightclub act and was so impressed with them that she requested they choreograph the film. Hughes agreed.
Rehearsals began, with Marge giving Janet basic ballet training. As Howard Hughes’ eccentric idea of time kept rehearsals going for many months, Marge and Gower were offered a contract at MGM (and film success) and left the project. Busby Berkeley was then hired to be the”Dance Director” (with Jack Baker doing the actual choreography). Janet performed most of her own dancing and kept up with the other ladies. In one lyrical dream sequence, her dancing is “Ghosted” by Patricia Denise (Jack Baker’s sister-in-law), about whom Janet spoke with great respect and admiration.
Janet’s next musical was “Walking My Baby Back Home” with Donald O’Connor for Universal Studios, in which she did all of her own dancing.
When Columbia cast her in the musical version of “My Sister Eileen” with Jack Lemmon, Betty Garrett and Tommy Rall, Bob Fosse was signed to choreograph it – his first full blown musical film. He insisted that Janet fly to New York to “audition,” as he was uncertain of her ability. She spent nearly an entire day dancing for Fosse, trying everything he asked of her. At the end of the day, he told her, “Well, you are obviously not a trained dancer. But you work hard, have great discipline and can learn. Let’s do it!”
She recalled that working on the film was the most fulfilling job she ever had…enjoying every minute of the dance rehearsals. In the film, she and Fosse do a lyrical adagio in the the courtyard of a Greenwich Village apartment complex. She admitted: “In the release print, at the end of the dance, the expressions on Bob’s and my faces appear as if we are so in love with the other when, in reality, we are merely relieved that I finished the dance in his arms and didn’t fall down!” She recalled that Fosse was a gentle genius….guiding her patiently to a wonderful dance performance.
“Bye Bye Birdie” was not a pleasant experience for her from the start.She knew that she could never meet or match Chita Rivera’s brilliance in the role and was daunted by attempting it. Sitting in the theater at the premiere and seeing Ann-Margret’s celluloid- sizzling opening number (tacked onto the film without her or co-star Dick Van Dyke’s knowledge) shocked them both. Not one bad word about Ann-Margret, only expressing that she did not think she or the film were particularly what they could/should have been. But words of praise about Dick Van Dyke, Onna White and Ann-Margret.
As the rest of world recalls her career as a shocking death in a Hitchcock Shower, I will think of her dancing…working harder than anyone on the set, pushing her limits and being a good friend to all of the dancers and choreographers she felt honored to be working with. She’s dancing with the angels.
(ed: Larry Billman is the founder of The Academy of Dance on Film: www.danceonfilm.org, and is currently writing his next book: ‘Film Dancers’.)
ON TAPPING FOR THE CAMERA:
Having had the benefit of collecting dance history captured by the camera, this seems to be a dialogue that is age old. Tap dancing can certainly be classified as Street dance – although that “street” was primarily the backstage and dressing rooms of countless vaudeville, nightclub and minstrel venues. What began as “something that is in your soul,” was refined, defined and codified by hundreds of artists to become a classic dance form which requires training and technique.