Sunday, January 24, 2016

6 Films for 2016

A few weeks ago I shared the results of my 10 for 2015 movies-to-watch list. I managed to view a measly 50% of the films on the list, so I am giving myself a more attainable goal for 2016. (I figure I can always increase the goal in 2017 if I succeed. It's kind of like training for a big marathon. You don't run the full 26 miles at the beginning. You work up to it. At least, that's what I've heard...)

Here's the plan: view one movie from the list every other month. This will give time to watch, process, write about the movie, and also allow for uncharted film discoveries along the way. 

The grand total comes to 6 films for 2016:

2015 TCM Film Festival missed it, want to see it

1) Why Be Good? (1929) - This movie keeps popping up on the Twitter feed. With a title to match the Jazz Age attitude and a pixie flapper like Colleen Moore, I expect this film to be a time capsule of the Roaring Twenties. Can't wait to travel back to fringe, speakeasies, and the Charleston.
Source - TCM Forums


2) Baby Face (1933) - I am ashamed to admit I have never viewed this pre-code staple. I hear Barbara Stanwyck gives a phenomenal performance as a tough broad who uses her sex appeal to rise through the ranks of society. Looking forward to another strong Stanwyck character and seeing how far the filmmakers go in the absence of enforced code.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Tribute to African American Dancers of '30s & '40s

A combination of prep work for this year's Dancing Legs quizzes and a star search for In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and The Wonderful World of Cinema's Marathon Stars Blogathon brought me to the sad realization that many of the world's greatest tap dancers are missing from our public consciousness and film library. Dancers who made possible the likes of Fred Astaire, Hermes Pan, and Eleanor Powell but were pushed aside due to the color of their skin. Dancers who were as talented as Ann Miller or Gene Kelly but never given a fighting chance in Hollywood. Instead their dance routines are limited to decaying film reels or descriptions in a textbook. Today's post is a small step in trying to ensure their legacy is not lost.

For the record, I strongly believe that the celebration of these dancers should not be limited to one day or even one month of the year. I plan to make a concerted effort throughout 2016 to view the rare film appearances of these incredibly talented dancers.

Jeni LeGon

Jeni LeGon was a solo tap dancer whose athletic movements were every bit as good as the male dancers of her day.  After dancing with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in RKO's Hooray for Love (1935), she scored a contract with MGM. According to dance historian Constance Valis Hill, LeGon was slated to perform in Broadway Melody of 1936, an Eleanor Powell star vehicle, but was taken off the assignment after LeGon "stopped the show" at a promotion event that included Powell. Per LeGon in 2006:
It was a color thing. They said they couldn't use two tap dancers, but that was bull corn.  
From then on, MGM neglected her talent, opting to put her in servant roles instead. The biggest snub must have been when she played maid to dancer Ann Miller in Easter Parade (1948). It is a crime that her dancing skills were squandered.

Jeni LeGon and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in a publicity shot for Hooray for Love (1935)
Click here to sample their dancing. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

10 for 2015 Recap

Last year I set out to view 10 films that would broaden my movie horizons. Here is how I did:

Movies in my collection:
1) American Madness (1932)
2) My Man Godfrey (1936)
Sometimes the grass is greener in other pastures. In other words, I opted for the movie on TV or the ClassicFlix DVD over the movies I own. "I'll get to it later," I kept saying. Still haven't gotten to them. Some day... 

Movies to complement my reading list:
3) Sorrowful Jones (1949) - Cute. Richard Zoglin's Bob Hope biography inspired this pick.
In addition to Hope's funny asides, there is heart in this film. We see his character, Sorrowful Jones, transform from miserly coward to protective father-like figure, willing to put his wants aside for a child (played by the adorable Mary Jane Saunders). Lucille Ball plays his former girlfriend Gladys O'Neill, a tough dame who won't be pushed around by her night club boss (Bruce Cabot) or his thug sidekicks. She also has a soft spot for the orphaned Martha Jane and is instrumental in pushing Sorrowful in the right direction when needed. Ball is wonderful in the role. 

Our family will be watching Bob Hope and Lucille Ball in Sorrowful Jones for many years to come.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Dancing Legs Quiz ~ Jan 2016 Edition

Welcome to the first Dancing Legs Quiz of the year! In 2016, the partial pictures will feature dancers whose birthdays are in the month of the quiz. New quizzes will be posted on the first Sunday of the month.

Give yourself a bonus point if you can name the movie in addition to the birthday star.



Good luck!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Torch Song (1953) ~ Crawford's Return to Dancing

Part of 10 for 2015
From the first number, Torch Song gets off on the wrong foot. While Joan Crawford's legs are exquisite, they dance to a song, "You're All the World to Me," already covered by Fred Astaire's feet two years earlier in Royal Wedding (1951). It's not likely audiences would have forgotten the number either--he dances on the walls and ceiling.

The opening shot of Crawford's gams attempts to establish her great musical comeback. The dance that follows is lackluster.