Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Royal Wedding | Astaire best known solos

Royal Wedding (MGM) is a 1951 Hollywood musical comedy film set in London in 1947 at the time of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, and stars Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, Sarah Churchill and Keenan Wynn. Although none of the songs are considered standards, dance-wise, it is notable for the inclusion of not one but two Astaire solos, both of which are amongst his best known works.

"Sunday Jumps": Astaire credits the idea for this famous solo to his long-time choreographic collaborator Hermes Pan. In it, Astaire parodies himself by dancing with a hatstand and appears to parody his rival and friend Gene Kelly by inserting a mock bodybuilding episode during which he kicks aside some Indian clubs in a reference to Kelly's routine with The Nicholas Brothers in The Pirate. The fame of the dance rests on Astaire's ability to animate the inanimate. The solo takes place in a ship's gym, where Astaire is waiting to rehearse with his partner Powell, who doesn't turn up, echoing Adele Astaire's attitude towards her brother's obsessive rehearsal habits to which the lyrics (unused and unpublished) also made reference. Controversially, in 1997, it was digitally manipulated to show Astaire dancing with a vacuum cleaner in Dirt Devil commercials. In a missive, later published in Time Magazine and Variety, Astaire's daughter Ava severely criticized the corporation's president, writing: "Your paltry, unconscionable commercials are the antithesis of everything my lovely, gentle father represented." This number has been referenced by Mel Gibson in What Women Want and by David Byrne in the live film of his band, Talking Heads, as well as parodied by Kermit the Frog in The Great Muppet Caper.

Fred both dances with a hat rack and parodies a scene from "The Pirate" (1948).

"You're All The World To Me": In one of his best-known solos, Astaire dances on the walls and ceilings of his room because he has fallen in love with a beautiful woman who also loves to dance. The idea occurred to Astaire years before, and was first mentioned by him in the MGM publicity publication Lion's Roar in 1945. The number was filmed by mounting the camera and operator in a cage which rotated with the room. The same technique would later be used to simulate a zero gravity environment in 2001: A Space Odyssey, to allow Clark Kent to walk up walls to change a light bulb in the pilot episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and in the music videos for "Fly" by Sugar Ray and "Slash Dot Dash" by Fatboy Slim. Burton Lane's music originally featured in the 1934 Eddie Cantor film Kid Millions, in the number "My Minstrel Man", sung by a ten year-old Harold Nicholas to lyrics by Harold Adamson.

"You're All The World To Me" Fred Astaire dances on the floor, the walls and the ceiling.

Royal Wedding is one of several MGM musicals (another being Till the Clouds Roll By) that have lapsed into public domain. As such it is widely available on Video and DVD, but the quality of these versions varies. In February 2007, Warner Home Video announced plans to issue a restored version of Royal Wedding on DVD.[www.hometheaterforum.com/chat]
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