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A Year: Day to Day Men: 2nd of December,  Solar Year 2018

The Craving of Human Touch in Form

December 2, 1933 was the release date of Fred Astaire’s first film, “Dancing Lady”.

“Dancing lady” is a 1933 pre-Code musical film directed by Robert Z. Leonard and produced by David O Selznick and John W Considine, Jr. It starred Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, and featured Franchot Tone, Fred Astaire, Robert Benchley, and Ted Healy and His Stooges, who later became the Three Stooges. It was also one of Eve Arden’s first uncredited appearances on film.

The film featured the film debut of extraordinary dancer Fred Astaire, who appears as himself, as well as the first credited appearance of actor and singer Nelson Eddy, a classically trained baritone who became the highest paid singer at that time in the world. The film was a box office hit upon its release, receiving many positive reviews from critics.

After appearing in “Dancing Lady” for MGM Studios, Fred Astaire returned to RKO Radio Pictures and received fifth billing In the 1933 Dolores del Rio film “Flying Down to Rio”. It was in this film that Astaire first danced with Ginger Rogers. Astaire was reluctant to become part of a dance team; however, the obvious public appeal of the pairing persuaded him. The Astaire-Rogers partnership, and the choreography of Astaire and collaborator Hermes Pan, helped make dancing an important element of the Hollywood film musical.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made nine films together at RKO, including the 1934 “Gay Divorcee”, “Top hat” in 1935, the 1936 “ Swing Time, and “Carefree” released in 1938. Six films of the nine became the biggest moneymakers for the RKO studio, bringing the studio the prestige and artistry it coveted. The Astaire-Rogers partnership elevated them both to stardom.

Fed Astaire was given complete autonomy over the dance production. He is credited with two important innovations in early film musicals: Astaire insisted that a closely tracking dolly camera film a dance routine in as few shots as possible, typically with just four to eight cuts,  while holding the dancers in full view at all times. This gave the illusion of an almost stationary camera filming an entire dance in a single shot.

Astaire’s second innovation involved the context of the dance. Astaire was adamant that all song and dance routines be seamlessly integrated into the plot lines of the film. Instead of using the dance as a spectacle such as a Busby Berkeley routine, the dance was used to move the plot along. A typical Astaire film would include three dance routines in the plot: a solo by Astaire, a partnered comedy dance, and a partnered romantic dance routine.

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