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  • mistermuse 12:00 am on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Fred Astaire, , , , , , Pick Yourself Up, Swing Time   

    A MAN AND HIS ‘DOGS’ 

    dogs, Slang. The feet: My dogs are killing me!  fantasy, n.  A play of the mind; imagination; fancy; a picture existing only in the mind. –World Book Dictionary

    A footnote to the World Book definition of fantasy: it is personified, in my view, by one man — fittingly so, because beyond his pictures he still dances in the mind, as timeless as imagination….no less real than the Hollywood from which such flights of fancy emanated and stars were born. That ethe-real man is Fred Astaire, the pictures were his movies, and this day is his birthday (May 10, 1899).

    Astaire’s “dogs” may have been what carried him across the dance floor with Ginger Rogers in his arms, but it was his persona that took us with him. I like to think that what Santa Claus embodied for children, Fred Astaire embodied for my parent’s generation as teenagers/young adults, epitomizing easy grace and the allure of dreams more enticing than any toy that Santa could promise.  No other hoofer in film history even comes close to capturing his magic….which is why he survives his and my parent’s generation, just as any great artist lives on in what he or she creates.

    In my favorite scene from my favorite Astaire-Rogers film (SWING TIME, 1936), professional dancer Astaire comes to New York and, after a chance street encounter with Rogers doesn’t go well, he follows her to the dance studio where she is an instructor. Pretending to be a novice, he botches the dance lesson. She insults him and is fired. As she is leaving the studio….

    Of course, many elements must come together to produce movie magic, and SWING TIME had the good fortune to combine the talents of the stars with those of a great director (George Stevens), a fine supporting cast (including Eric Blore, seen in the above clip), and one of the best composer/lyricist teams of the Golden Age (Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields). In addition to the ‘dance lesson’ song PICK YOURSELF UP, their outstanding score includes A FINE ROMANCE, NEVER GONNA DANCE, and this love song:

    On this May 10 celebration, let’s end appropriately with this:

     

     

     

     

     
    • scifihammy 4:58 am on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Movie magic indeed. 🙂 Always a pleasure to watch these two together and the ease with which Fred Astaire sings and dances 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Don Frankel 6:18 am on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      You know I’ve heard and more than once that song writers wanted Fred Astaire to sing their songs. Not Sinatra as he might change the lyrics on them or any of the other big time singers of the era but Astaire. If you listen to the respect and the tenderness with which he handles the words it makes sense.

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      • mistermuse 7:42 am on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Exactly right, Don. To quote from one of my Astaire record album covers: “In creating these songs, it almost seemed as if five of the undisputed masters in the field–Irving Berlin, Ira and George Gershwin, Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern–were stimulated by their assignments to out-do themselves in the quality of their work. And the reason was undoubtedly Fred Astaire himself. What songwriters loved about him was that, despite his admitted vocal limitations, he brought to each song a personal involvement that never distorted either the meaning or the melody.”

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    • Midwestern Plant Girl 6:35 am on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I always loved the quote, “Ginger Rogers did everything the great Fred Astaire did backwards and in high heels.” 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • arekhill1 9:14 am on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I ask you, Sr. Muse, in your capacity as a semi-official curator of proclaimed national and world-wide days, should Astaire’s birthday be celebrated as White Guys Who Can Dance Day?

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    • mistermuse 9:37 am on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds good to me. I’d also proclaim Oct. 2o and March 17 as Black Guys Who Could Dance Like No White Guys Did And Become Legendary Day (the birthdays of the fabulous Nicholas Brothers, Fayard and Harold).

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    • Cynthia Jobin 12:17 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      The kind of art that Astaire personified is one (of only a few, mind you) reason I wouldn’t mind returning to that era…

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 1:40 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      My sentiments exactly, Cynthia. But at least we still have Turner Classic Movies to go to whenever it’s worthwhile returning to that era, such as today when TCM is running a number of old Astaire films, such as CAREFREE at three P.M. Eastern Daylight Savings Time (SWING TIME was on this morning).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Cynthia Jobin 1:51 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      That’s our cable channel 42 here in Maine….ROYAL WEDDING is on now…thanks for the tip!

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 2:24 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      You’re more than welcome. ROYAL WEDDING (for me) doesn’t have the magic of the Astaire-Rogers films (or even DAMSEL IN DISTRESS with Astaire-Joan Fontaine, which was on earlier), but it’s still worth a view or two. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • BroadBlogs 5:01 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      That man is sure light on his feet!

      If someone made a list comparing slang for dogs and cats, wonder what we would find?

      Liked by 1 person

    • D. Wallace Peach 6:21 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Awesome scenes. When my daughter was about 4 years old she LOVED these old movies. We would snuggle on the couch and watch Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, and the rest. Great dancing and so much romance. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 6:55 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        It’s good to expose children to what was good about the good old days, so that they realize there’s a lot more to life than just the current culture. The more expansive their upbringing, the more well-rounded they will be when they’re on their own. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 6:37 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      If you’re a lucky dog , BroadBlogs, what you find would be the cat’s meow, otherwise you’re barking up the wrong tree. That’s a short list, but if I made it longer, it would be so bad, we might fight like cats and dogs. 😦

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  • mistermuse 12:00 am on December 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Fred Astaire, Harold Adamson, hit songs of the 1920s-1940s, , , , , , , , V-Discs   

    HIGHER AND HIGHER 

    This post isn’t about what you may think it’s about (like maybe mountain climbing, drugs or seduction). No, friends — just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge the title of a post by its lover.

    And what am I a lover of? Faithful readers know that from time to time, I indulge my love for 1920s-1940s popular music/jazz with a post honoring a songwriting giant of that era (forgotten though he or she may be today). Dec. 10 is the birthday of one such songwriter, and this is such a post (sorry about the letdown).

    Lyricist Harold Adamson was born on this date in 1906. He studied law at Harvard, but songwriting had a greater appeal and, as luck (and talent) would have it, his first published song became an all-time standard: Time On My Hands, written for the 1930 stage show SMILES, starring Fred and Adele Astaire….and who better to do it justice than Billie Holiday, backed by Teddy Wilson, Lester Young & other jazz greats:

    Working with such composers as Jimmy McHugh, Vincent Youmans, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Vernon Duke and Victor Young, Adamson went on to write lyrics to such hits as Manhattan Serenade, Everything I Have Is Yours, It’s A Wonderful World, It’s A Most Unusual Day and many more. Here, from the 1936 film SUZY starring Jean Harlow and a very young Cary Grant, is one of Adamson’s lesser known songs (and the only time Cary Grant ever sang in a movie):

    In 1943 (at the height of WW II), Adamson teamed with McHugh to write the songs for Frank Sinatra’s first starring movie, HIGHER AND HIGHER. Quoting McHugh:

    Adamson and I trekked into our office at RKO and found the script glaring coldly at us from the top of the piano. It informed us that there’d be a minor lover’s quarrel in the story, also the need of a big production number. Nothing happened with us that first day, but at 3 a.m. the next morning, Adamson phoned me and said he’d been listening to a musical shortwave program that suddenly had been cut off for a news announcement.
    “There’s our title for the production number, Jim,” he said, “The Music Stopped.”
    Then I began concentrating on the lovers’ spat and came down with insomnia. As the thousandth  sheep jumped over the fence, both tune and title landed: “I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night.”

    But to my mind, the best of the McHugh-Adamson songs from that film is this one:

    Note that the above recording is a V-Disc, which is a story in itself. James Petrillo, head of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), had called a national ban on recording by its members in 1942, meaning no new recordings could be made by commercial record companies using AFM musicians. To get around this ban, songs were recorded a capella, without instrumental accompaniment. However, there was an exception for records, called V-Discs, made for American troops overseas….thus the orchestral accompaniment for this song from the film’s CBS rehearsal session was recorded as a V-Disc. This, and many other V-Discs, survive to this day because, although such discs were supposed to be off-limits in the U.S., this edict was largely ignored by returning GIs.

    I close at the bottom of  this HIGHER AND HIGHER post with the title song from TOP OF THE TOWN, a film with screenplay co-written by humorist Robert Benchley:

     

     

     

     

     

     
    • linnetmoss 7:45 am on December 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Wonderful! Especially the incomparable Cary Grant. I didn’t realize he ever sang in a film 🙂 He’s not bad! Also love the Axel Stordahl years of Sinatra. My kind of music.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 9:10 am on December 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I agree – Cary Grant’s singing of “Did I Remember?” is not only “not bad,” it’s a sheer delight. And it was indeed Alex Stordahl who arranged and conducted the orchestra in the Sinatra V-Disc.

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

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    • Resa 4:40 pm on December 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      A truly fabulous post! Enjoyed Billie & Jean & Cary immensely.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 7:14 pm on December 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you so much!

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    • Don Frankel 8:07 am on December 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Where did it go? I posted a comment here and poof. Maybe I didn’t hit the right button.

      Anyway I was surprised to hear Cary Grant sing and I wondered what army he was in. I mean it looked like he was wearing one of Major Strasser’s uniforms.

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    • mistermuse 11:46 am on December 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Don, as someone who has had his share of comments disappear into cyberspace, I offer my makes-my-blood-boil-to-think-of-it condolences. May the cyberspace gods become blinded by the brilliance of our missing comments and get lost forever in the netherworld of their perfidious malevolence (or worse — if this comment doesn’t get through).

      As for Cary Grant, he played a French aviator in the film, and Jean Harlow is an American showgirl in Paris as WW I begins. As I recall, the film isn’t as good as it should’ve been (given that it was co-scripted by Dorothy Parker), but the song “Did I Remember” did get an Academy Award nomination.

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    • literaryeyes 10:05 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I saw a film last night, apropos of the 1920s-40s, starring Deanna Durbin. She sang “Night and Day” and hit the right tone on the nuances. Some of those old “movie stars” could sing.

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    • mistermuse 12:49 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I own well over a dozen Deanna Durbin records (both 78s & LPs) and love her voice. I don’t think NIGHT AND DAY is her best song, though I like the “big finish” she gives it in the film (her orchestral accompaniment doesn’t seem right for the song, which doesn’t help). It’s not that she doesn’t sing it well – it’s just that I’ve heard it sung better by others.

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    • RMW 2:55 pm on December 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Just listening to Cary Grant sing made me high… too bad he didn’t sing in more movies… he was one of a kind!

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 4:53 pm on December 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      And to think his real name was Archibald Leach!
      But you’re right – he was a “peach.”

      Liked by 1 person

  • mistermuse 8:25 pm on December 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Buster Bailey, , Cootie Williams, , , Fletcher Henderson, Fred Astaire, George Stevens, , J.C.Higginbotham, , , Red Allen, Rex Stewart, Sid Catlett   

    SMACK AND GEORGE 

    Today I’d like to pay tribute to two giants of jazz and film born on this date: Fletcher Henderson, jazz immortal, born Dec. 18, 1898, and George Stevens, master film director, born Dec. 18, 1904. Though gone from the scene for decades, both have left records of creative achievement in their respective fields which have stood the test of time for mortals who appreciate such things.

    FLETCHER HENDERSON, nicknamed “Smack” for his habit of smacking his lips, was a trailblazing jazz arranger and leader of outstanding big bands for two decades. At various times from 1924 to 1935, his band included such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Rex Stewart, Cootie Williams, Red Allen, Buster Bailey, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Sid Catlett and J. C. Higginbotham. In early 1935 he broke up his band and began arranging for the fledgling Benny Goodman Orchestra, launching the new and exciting sound of the swing era which would define American popular music until WWII. Although he put together another band in 1936 and had one hit record, within a few years Henderson had disbanded in the face of heavy competition. Thereafter he worked primarily as an arranger between short stints leading big bands. He suffered a major stroke in 1n 1950 and died Dec. 29, 1952. According to jazz critic Stanley Dance, Henderson’s was the first big jazz band and set the standard for many to come. Here is a typical Fletcher Henderson swinger:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0Ts6vZNyqk

    GEORGE STEVENS, though you may not remember his name, directed some of the best movies you have seen, if you are a classic-film fan. These include (in chronological order):

    ALICE ADAMS (1935), starring Katherine Hepburn and Fred MacMurray.
    SWING TIME (1936), the best (in my opinion) of the Astair-Rogers musicals, with outstanding Jerome Kern-Dorothy Fields songs, including the Oscar-winning “The Way You Look Tonight.”
    A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS (1937), the first Astaire musical without Ginger Rogers, nonetheless notable for its George Gershwin score (his last before his premature death that same year). Joan Fontaine co-stars as the English “damsel in distress.”
    GUNGA DIN (1939), starring Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

    WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942), starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in their first picture together. Oscar-winning screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr. and Michael Kanin.
    THE TALK OF THE TOWN (1942), starring Cary Grant, Ronald Colman and Jean Arthur.
    THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943), starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn. Stevens was Academy Award nominee for Best Director.

    A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Academy Award winner for Best Director.
    SHANE (1953), one of the all-time great Westerns, starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur and Jack Palance.
    GIANT (1956), starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. Academy Award winner for Best Director.
    THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1959). Film version of well-known true story of Jewish refugees hiding in WWII Amsterdam. I can especially relate to this film, having actually been decades ago in the building (now a museum) where Anne hid with her family and others and wrote her diary.

    Here is a clip from Stevens’ A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS, in which Fred Astaire is doing his best to escape detection behind the chorus during a function at the castle where damsel Joan Fontaine resides:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1C-_Adawq8

    THE END of our post (but not of our inheritance)

     
    • Michaeline Montezinos 8:21 pm on January 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I was more interested in the movies you selected that were directed by George Stevens than the music, sorry. I have watched each and every one of these films many times and they are some of my favorites, I used to watch a lot of television during my recovery periods after my joint replacements. Of course, I had to go out for the physical therapy but it was a pleasure when my husband set up the old Samsung in my room. I appreciate the Barbra Striesand movies more now although they tend to be more like musicals, Just saw THE WAY WE WERE with Robert Redford last night while I was puttering around. I did not have the opportunity to visit the room where Anne Frank stayed in Amsterdam as you did but I did get a copy of her book from the library. I cried after I finished it.

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    • mistermuse 10:28 pm on January 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I love almost all of the George Stevens’ movies listed in this post, but the one I’ve seen the most and could still see again and again is SWING TIME. I just checked a youtube clip of the “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off” scene where Fred dances Ginger around the dance studio floor to show her boss how much she has taught him – it has had an amazing 5,722,000+ views, so obviously I’m not alone in my admiration. I first saw this about 60 years ago in an “art theater” before it began appearing on TV, and I’ll never forget the audience spontaneously & loudly applauding at the end of that scene — something almost unheard of in those days. .

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