Greatest Song and Dance
Musical Moments and Scenes

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Greatest Song and Dance Musical Moments and Scenes
S (continued)
Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

State Fair (1945)

Best Original Song: It Might As Well Be Spring

This rose-colored, picture postcard Americana musical from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (their first filmed musical and their only musical written directly for the screen) was directed by Jose Ferrer and Walter Lang. It had two Oscar nominations, including Best Musical Score, and won only one award: Best Song.

It was a musical version of Fox Studio's 1933 non-singing hit (with Will Rogers, Janet Gaynor, and Lew Ayres), a Best Picture nominated film. There was also a 1962 rendition of the film with Ann-Margret and Pat Boone. It also became a Broadway hit musical in 1996.

The film's main plot was about the life of the farming Frake family (including father Charles Winninger and mother Fay Bainter) and their three-day adventure at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines in 1946. The main characters were:

  • Margy Frake (Jeanne Crain with singing voice by Louanne Hogan), a lovely, long curly-haired, teen-aged ingenue
  • Pat Gilbert (Dana Andrews), a fast-talking journalist and Margy's ultimate love interest
  • Wayne Frake (Dick Haymes), Margy's brother
  • Emily Edwards (Vivian Blaine), a singer, and Wayne's ultimate love interest

Musical numbers included:

  • the show-stopping opening number Our State Fair (pictured), sung after the opening title credits, (with each verse rotated through and sung by members of the Frake family, in a fake farm setting): "Our State Fair is a great State Fair..."
  • the Best Song Oscar-winning It Might As Well Be Spring (pictured), sung by Jeanne Crain as she was packing in her bedroom for the fair

Other hit songs in the score included:

  • the oft-repeated It's a Grand Night for Singing (pictured often), a lilting love song, first sung on stage by a band, and then passed from one couple to another at the Iowa fairgrounds - on the merry-go-round and on other carnival rides
  • All I Owe Ioway (pictured)
  • and the bandstand-delivered That's For Me (pictured), sung by Blaine

Stop Making Sense (1984)

Jonathan Demme and David Byrne's innovative and amazing Talking Heads concert film/art performance piece was shot by cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth during three nights of live shows in 1983 at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood.

It began with Psycho Killer (pictured), which Byrne sang solo with an acoustic guitar on an empty stage, accompanied by a simple electronic drum percussion from a tape-deck. Occasionally, Byrne memorably staggered with "machine gun" bursts. The stage slowly added musicians and their equipment (one new band member arrived with every song).

There was also:

  • Heaven (pictured), Byrne and Tina Weymouth's acoustic guitar duet: ("Oh, heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens")
  • the high energy "aerobic exercises" during the lively Life During Wartime (pictured) that featured Byrne and his chorus jogging or marching in place, making swimming motions with his arms, etc. ("This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' around!")

Other memorable numbers included:

  • Once in a Lifetime (pictured) (with an incredible long, unbroken chiaroscuro shot of Byrne)
  • the famous gigantic "Big Suit" worn for Girlfriend Is Better (pictured)
  • the show-stopping Burning Down the House
  • the climactic rendition and reimagining of Al Green's Take Me to the River (pictured)

Stormy Weather (1943)

# 30 "Stormy Weather"

This was one of the greatest and most entertaining of the all-black musicals, along with MGM's Cabin in the Sky (1943) in the same year.

The 20th Century Fox film included the ravishing Lena Horne (as pretty singer Selina Rogers), lent by MGM Studios to Fox.

She crooned what would become her signature song Stormy Weather (composed in 1933) in a lengthy song-dance sequence (pictured twice).

There were other great songs, dance and band routines including:

  • Fats Waller's piano rendition of his own song Ain't Misbehavin' (pictured)
  • Horne's singing of I Can't Give You Anything But Love (pictured) with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (in his final film appearance)
  • Horne's There's No Two Ways About Love (pictured) sung with Cab Calloway and Robinson
  • the spirited singing of conductor Cab Calloway with his Orchestra, followed by the dancing duo of the Nicholas Brothers performing an acrobatic flash-dance to Calloway's own Jumpin' Jive (pictured below) - including a tap dance (performed in unison) through an orchestra's music stands, more taps on a grand piano, and an amazing set of splits while jumping down a gigantic flight of white stairs
The Nicholas Brothers
  • and the elaborate production dance number The Cakewalk (pictured twice), with Horne and Robinson joining in the dance at the end

Stowaway (1936)

The adorable Fox star Shirley Temple (as Barbara "Ching-Ching" Stewart) sang this memorably happy song for Depression audiences in this film:

  • You Gotta S-M-I-L-E To Be H-A-Double-P-Y

"You've got to S-M-I-L-E, To be H-A-Double-P-Y, Keep it in mind when you're blue, It's easy to spell and just as easy to do, You gotta S-M-I-L-E, It's gonna help considerably..."

Strictly Ballroom (1992, Australia)

Director Baz Luhrmann's (his feature film debut) bright, gaudy, and off-beat comedy/romance retro-chic dance/musical film featured extensive ballroom dancing scenes, including:

  • the climactic, competitive ballroom dancing championship - the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Amateur Five Dance Latin Championship Final - where Australian ballroom dancer Scott (Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice) performed and wowed audiences with their unconventional choreography

During their spirited and competitive performance, the electricity was deliberately shut off by Charm Leachman (Kris McQuade) and their music stopped playing. The scheming Barry Fife (Bill Hunter), the president of the Australian Dancing Federation, unfairly ruled that they were disqualified, but they continued to dance anyway when encouraged by the crowd - which had created their own rhythmic, clapping beat. Soon after, the duo's music was restored, audience members joined them on the dance floor - and the growing love affair between Fran and Scott was reaffirmed with a kiss.

Summer Holiday (1948)

This was a mostly-forgotten and unpopular 'musical play' (released 18 months after it was finished) from director Rouben Mamoulian (his third Hollywood musical) and producer Arthur Freed.

It was a musical remake of Eugene O'Neill's 1933 play Ah, Wilderness! The play first opened on Broadway in 1933, and was made into a film of the same name in 1935 by director Clarence Brown.

This conventional MGM film told about the middle-class family of the Millers in Danville, Connecticut, at the turn of the century (in 1906). Dialogue from the play was integrated into the film as song and dance numbers. The two main stars were:

  • 27 year-old Mickey Rooney as the oldest, idealistic teenaged son Richard Miller just about the graduate from high-school and on his way to Yale [Note: Rooney functioned as Eugene O'Neill's alter-ego]
  • Gloria De Haven as Rooney's sweet conservative girlfriend Muriel McComber

The Technicolored film opened with newspaper editor/father Mr. Nat Miller (Walter Huston) singing Our Home Town (pictured) to introduce the setting (when he placed a pin to locate the state of Connecticut on a United States wall map), followed soon after by a July 4th picnic sequence:

"Our town isn't found on the map, though we're part of Connecticut. There is nothing much to tell you but our history relates, we've a public school where Daniel Webster used to give debates. It's a nice town, and we don't mean to crow, though we owe a lot to it. There was nothing ever done to carry off a crown, no one ever won very much reknown, but it's our home town, it's our home town..."

Rooney also sang the upbeat song The Stanley Steamer (pictured) as he drove an open convertible (known as a 'Stanley Steamer') through town.

There was also the dazzling scene of Richard's drunken bar-room encounter with floozy chorus girl Belle (Marilyn Maxwell) after breaking up (temporarily) with his girlfriend Muriel. Belle sang I Think You're the Sweetest Kid I Ever Knew (pictured) to Rooney (embracing him close to her) while her dress changed colors from muted yellow to tempting red, reflecting his growing drunkenness.

Summer Stock (1950)

# 61 "Get Happy"

This likeable and brisk but uninspiring MGM musical, directed by Charles Waters, was Judy Garland's last MGM film (and last pairing with Gene Kelly on-screen) due to personal problems (including drug addiction). It featured a top-notch Harry Warren score and great dance numbers.

Garland starred as small-town New England (Connecticut) farmer Jane Falbury who was having financial difficulties due to poor crop yields over three years. Her spoiled sister, actress Abigail (Gloria DeHaven), invaded with a troupe of actors to use her barn as a theater for their Broadway-bound musical play. The one requirement was that the city-slicker actors had to pitch in and help with daily farm chores. Jane began to find romance with the group's bankrupt writer-director Joe D. Ross (Gene Kelly) who was engaged to stage-struck Abigail.

It was notable for Judy Garland's famous male drag solo performance of Get Happy (pictured) (filmed after the movie wrapped when Garland was much slimmer) in the final song-dance number (with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Ted Koehler), in the musical show-within-a-show:

"Forget your troubles, Come on, Get Happy!"

In the euphoric performance, she wore black nylon tights, half a tuxedo (the dark dinner jacket), black shoes, and a tilted black fedora hat.

Garland also energetically sang If You Feel Like Singing, Sing (pictured), first while showering and continuing as she completely dressed herself one happy morning.

She also shared a "nice, easy dance" duet with Gene Kelly in You Wonderful You (pictured). Another of their dance duets, one of Garland's career finest, was The Portland Fancy (pictured) - it began as a square dance and became a lively challenge dance between the two. Kelly also performed Dig-Dig-Dig Dig For Your Dinner (pictured) about how the troupe had to work for their keep.

The film was also noted for Kelly's brilliant dance solo (pictured) in which he performed on the bare stage of a dark barn theatre and used various props of his surroundings (shuffling with a single sheet of newspaper, squeaking floor boards) and incorporated them as dance partners.

Sunnyside Up (1929)

Janet Gaynor's first all-talking film appearance was in Fox's popular early musical, one of the first musicals created directly for the screen - and featuring the film debut of young 7 year-old Jackie Cooper.

Janet Gaynor (as poor working-girl heroine Molly Carr) was again teamed with her silent film romantic partner Charles Farrell (as Jack Cromwell) (they were known as "America's Favorite Lovebirds") for the first time in a talkie.

In the familiar Cinderella tale, Gaynor sang:

  • I'm a Dreamer (Aren't We All?) (pictured)
  • If I Had a Talking Picture of You
  • and the radiant title song Sunny Side Up (pictured) at a neighborhood block party

The finale's bizarre, erotic and uninhibited production number Turn on the Heat (pictured thrice), partly tinted in Multi-color, has been considered the 'first purely cinematic' number of its kind.

36 chorines (emerging from igloos), led by flapper Jane Worth (Sharon Lynne), were dressed as Eskimos.

Soon after, when their ice-bound set became hot, and palm trees sprouted on the tropical island, they flung off their fur parkas and wildly danced.

Then, when the island went up in flames from underground smoke (lava fissures?), they jumped forward into the water in their skimpy summer bathing suits.

Sun Valley Serenade (1941)

Scandinavian ice-skating champion and Olympic Gold Medal winner Sonja Henie appeared in a number of Fox films (such as Thin Ice (1937)) (pictured). Her appearance in this 1941 film was one of the best of the lot. It was also band leader-musician Glenn Miller's first film as an actor. This was the first of the only two films featuring his Glenn Miller Band.

The setting was the famed Idaho ski resort where Norwegian refugee Karen Benson (Henie) staged an ice show.

The film was highlighted by Dorothy Dandridge's famous song-and-dance with the Nicholas Brothers to the Oscar-nominated Best Song Chattanooga Choo Choo (pictured).

Other songs played by the Glenn Miller Band included the In the Mood sequence.

Thin Ice (1937)

Sun Valley Serenade (1941)

Sweet Charity (1969)

Loosely adapted from director Federico Fellini's Nights of Cabiria (1957, It.), this marked the feature-film debut of excessive director/choreographer Bob Fosse.

It was Universal Studio's feature film version of the Neil Simon-Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields stage musical (originally with Gwen Verdon). The film received three Academy Award nominations (with no wins): Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Musical Score (Cy Coleman), and Best Costume Design (Edith Head).

It starred Shirley MacLaine in the title role as dance-hall 'hostess' Charity Hope Valentine.

It was best known for:

  • the show-stopping song Hey Big Spender (pictured) (sung by the dance hall girls of NY's dingy dime-a-dance Fan Dango Ballroom, including Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly)
  • MacLaine's rendition of If They Could See Me Now (pictured)
  • Sammy Davis Jr.'s song-dance performance of The Rhythm of Life
  • in the number I'm a Brass Band, (pictured) MacLaine goose-stepped through the streets of New York dressed in a brilliant red majorette's uniform in the company of a marching band

Swing Time (1936)

# 43 "The Way You Look Tonight"

Best Original Song: The Way You Look Tonight

This RKO film, a screwball comedy-musical directed by George Stevens, was considered one of the greatest Astaire-Rogers teamings because it integrated many of the Jerome Kern songs into the story. Its sole Oscar nomination and win was for Best Original Song (music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Dorothy Fields).

The musical marked the sixth film starring Astaire and Rogers.

  • Fred Astaire (as incurable gambler/dancer John "Lucky" Garnett)
  • Ginger Rogers (as dance-school instructor Penelope "Penny" Carrol)

It featured many famous musical numbers, including:

  • the film's early light courtship dance "Pick Yourself Up" (pictured), performed during a dance lesson taught to a clumsy "Lucky" on the bare floor of dance instructor "Penny's" dance practice room at the Gordon Dancing Academy
  • while Penny was shampooing her hair in the next room, Lucky sat down at a piano and serenaded Penny with the lyrical, romantic, melancholy, Oscar-winning ballad: "The Way You Look Tonight" (pictured) (also reprised later) - an exaltation of her charming beauty
  • during a music audition in the Silver Sandal nightclub, Lucky and Penny performed the romantic duet Waltz in SwingTime (pictured) in a spotlight and backed by a small orchestra; she was wearing a light colored evening dress while he was formally attired in a tuxedo - the audition appeared to be a success and Penny and Lucky were falling in love
  • in a snowy winter wonderland sequence, in a snow-covered gazebo, "Lucky" and Penny" were again tempted to flirt with each other - but Penny realized he was holding back and complained by singing the bitter, accusatory, sarcastic song "A Fine Romance" (pictured) (also reprised at film's end)
  • Lucky performed the magical and imaginative blackface solo dance "Bojangles of Harlem" (pictured) (his first and last blackface performance - a tribute to dancer Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson) in which he danced with three back-projected shadow-silhouettes of himself
  • Lucky's and Penny's romantic fortunes and future seemed dashed; as the couple spoke to each other on the deserted and quiet dance floor of the Silver Sandal nightclub, Lucky told Penny: "I've danced with you. I'm never gonna dance again" - and then sang "Never Gonna Dance" to appeal to her as she stood on a staircase slightly above him - he told her of his broken heart and frustration, and how forlorn, pained and sad he would be without her; the song transitioned to their stunning dance number "Never Gonna Dance" (pictured) - the film's song and dance highlight
  • in the final sequence in the film, all loose ends were tied and the two protagonists were re-united, as expected; both of them were able to escape their prior marital engagements or entanglements and find love with each other
  • as the film ended, Lucky serenaded Penny with a bit of her song "A Fine Romance," and she counterpointed him with his song "The Way You Look Tonight," as they both overlooked a snowy scene above Central Park through a picture window

"Pick Yourself Up"

"The Way You Look Tonight"

"Waltz in Swing Time"

"A Fine Romance"

"Bojangles of Harlem"

"Never Gonna Dance"

Greatest Song and Dance Musical Movie Moments and Scenes
(alphabetical by film title)
Introduction | A-1 | A-2 | B-1 | B-2 | B-3 | C-1 | C-2 | D-1 | D-2 | E | F-1 | F-2 | G-1 | G-2
H-1 | H-2 | I-J | K | L-1 | L-2 | M-1 | M-2 | N-O | P-1 | P-2 | R-1 | R-2 | S-1 | S-2 | S-3 | T | U-V | W | X-Z

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