Sunday, July 29, 2018

Another Note on Minnelli's AN AMERICAN IN PARIS

It's a lazy Sunday afternoon and, once again, the movie magic of director Vincente Minnelli hypnotized me into watching AN AMERICAN IN PARIS on TCM (Turner Classic Movies).  New TCM addition, Australia's own Alicia Malone, was the movie host and told us that "It won the Os-cah for Best Pic-cha of 1951."  AN AMERICAN IN PARIS stars Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.
When the movie ended, Ms. Malone noted that LA LA LAND was heavily influenced by the gorgeous, imaginative "An American in Paris" 17-minute ballet number that closes out Minnelli's movie to a happy ending.  She told us that the ballet was choreographed by Gene Kelly.
You can definitely see the influence in some of the art design and set decoration for the final number in 2016's LA LA LAND starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone seen in the photo below.  They're two good actors who are not known for their dancing skills like Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron were.
Kelly himself was greatly impressed with and artistically inspired by a British drama containing a ballet number that ran about 10 minutes or a little more in the middle of the film.  It's important to the film and drives the story.  The movie, a true classic, is 1948's THE RED SHOES directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.  The ballet of The Red Shoes is stunning and very cinematic, like Kelly's choreography for Gershwin's An American in Paris.  Both ballets were designed for film with its powerful luxury of editing and special effects.
Besides a celebrated ballet number, what does AN AMERICAN IN PARIS also have in common with 1948's THE RED SHOES?  A principal male dancer in the ballet number is also the person who choreographed the ballet.
Robert Helpmann plays Ivan.  Ivan was the partner to new ballet sensation Vicky Page played by Moira Shearer.  What a talent Robert Helpmann was!

He was a member of Anna Pavlova's dance company -- Pavlova, the legendary Russian ballerina.  Helpmann did other movies.  He played the Soviet boyfriend to Katharine Hepburn's Russian military character in the clunky comedy, THE IRON PETTICOAT.  Kate's leading man was Bob Hope.  Yes, an early 1950s comedy starring Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope.

In the 1960s, Robert Helpmann was seen by lots of kids in a much better and beloved movie.  He played the Child Catcher, the villain, in the 1968 musical fantasy CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG.

There you have it.  A little information about two terrific ballet numbers in classic films choreographed by two terrific male dancers.  See those classic films if you have time.

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