Thursday, October 8, 2020

Remarkable Tommy Rall

He passed away this week in Santa Monica, California. He was 90 and I read that he passed away peacefully after having read lots of fan letters letting him know that his work was loved. That made me smile. He was the extraordinary dancer, singer and actor Tommy Rall.
His name was not as well and widely known as fellow male dancers who performed in classic Hollywood musicals -- specifically Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor. But, wow, was he wonderful to watch onscreen. When I was first introduced to classic movie musicals, I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles. I watched them on TV. Tommy Rall's remarkable dancing pulled my attention to the TV screen like a magnet. I had to know his name. I waited for the closing credits. I looked him up in movie books at the neighborhood library. Tommy Rall was truly a triple threat in movies. He was handsome. The camera loved his face. In addition to that, he was a great dancer, he had a solid singing voice and he could act. Rall had a gift for comedy as you can see in the MGM musical, KISS ME KATE (1953). In that he was paired with Ann Miller, at her peak, as her constantly gambling, fellow Broadway dancer boyfriend.
That MGM musical was a very clever adaption of the hit Broadway musical with a score by Cole Porter. Rall was a Broadway dancer and, in the film, he danced with another Broadway veteran -- Bob Fosse. The two had a challenge dance in an original 1955 musical. MY SISTER EILEEN was a hit comedy starring Rosalind Russell in 1942. Russell repeated her role in 1953's WONDERFUL TOWN, the hit Broadway musical version of MY SISTER EILEEN. Hollywood did its own musical version and kept the original title. In the 1955 film, Rall and Fosse play rival suitors out to win the heart of Eileen's sister. Her sister is a Broadway hopeful.
Tommy Rall was one of the backwoods brothers in the classic musical, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), he danced with Barbra Streisand in FUNNY GIRL (1968) when Streisand as Fanny Brice did a parody of the "Swan Lake" ballet with Rall as the prince and, in his 50s, he was still a charismatic, graceful, athletic dancer. We saw that in the 1981 film, PENNIES FROM HEAVEN. In that, he's a member of the "It's The Girl" musical trio number with Steve Martin. Tommy Rall left us with some marvelous work to enjoy. What a great talent he was. I loved his work. Here's another number from KISS ME KATE.

8 comments:

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