Saturday, June 23, 2012

Battle Royale #2: Battle of the Hollywood Hoofers

Welcome to the second Battle Royale here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.   It is an ongoing series that will pit two cinematic greats up against each other - and you can vote for who is the greater by clicking your choice over in the poll at the top of the sidebar.

For our second go-around of Battle Royale, we are going with a classic Hollywood musical bent.  There have been many great and talented song-and-dance men throughout cinematic history, and during the golden age especially, but no two have been more loved and more idolized than this pair of battlin' Hollywood hoofers.  This is a battle - a Battle Royale if you will - between classic old world charm and the more modernized world of choreography.  In the first corner we have the man that was famously, and probably apocryphally so, written about after a screen test as, "Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Can dance a little."  Born Frederick Austerlitz, the man who would become Fred Astaire, decked out in his finest bib and tucker, which usually meant tails and top hat (he even sang about as much), would tap dance his way (sometimes on the very ceiling) to super stardom, with a flair and grace that defined the era.  Partnered with Ginger Rogers for ten films, Astaire would attempt an early retirement, only to be forced out again to star opposite Judy Garland in Easter Parade, and later with Cyd Charisse in one of my all time favourite musicals, The Band Wagon.

Fred's competition comes from one of the most athletic dancers to ever grace the silver screen.  Gene Kelly,  may not have had the old world style of Astaire, but with his modernist style of choreography and unique song-and-dance innovations, he would transform the Hollywood musical into a whole other beast.  Starring in An American in Paris and my all time favourite musical (as well as one of my ten favourite films) Singin' in the Rain, Kelly was as much the epitome of new world charm as Astaire was of old world.  The two men only ever danced together once on screen (1946's The Ziegfeld Follies, from whence the pictures included in the post come) and it is certainly a shame we only ever got that one brief glimpse of these two great dancers together.   Cyd Charisse once claimed that the way her husband could tell who she had danced with was, "If I was black and blue, it was Gene. If I didn't have a scratch it was Fred."  I think that pretty much sums up the differing dance styles of these two combatants.

So go ahead and vote vote vote.  Go on over to the poll widget near the top of the sidebar and make your choice.  And please feel free to leave any comments you wish to on the subject, but also please remember that in order to have your vote (and your voice) counted, you must go over to the poll in the sidebar and actually vote.  No votes listed in the comments section can or will be counted.  But please go ahead and comment anyway (the more, the merrier) but do it after you vote.  Our first Battle Royale garnered fifty votes, but I believe we can do better this time around. You have just under three weeks to vote.  After that I will announce the victor and we will move onto Battle Royale #3 - whomever that may include.


Mark said...

Astaire all the way. I'm certainly a fan of both, but Fred's elegance and style were so perfectly in tune (ha!) with his era that Gene just doesn't stack up for me. Sure Kelly may have had more technical virtuosity, but film success has never really been about that. I vote Astaire for pure charisma.

Richard said...

Its a pre-war and post-war thing, but even if Kelly's vigor inspired everyone from Bob Fosse to Jackie Chan...and even if Kelly was in the single best musical ever made, he didn't have Astaire's kind of doubt and dignity in age (why does this mean more to me now that I'm 54? I know Astaire made numerous bad movies in the late 1950s, and 1960s. Where is Kelly's The Bandwagon?

Unknown said...

Oddly, I'm going to say the same thing I said about Bergman and Garbo. Kelly made better movies, and he had more of a sense of cinema style, but Astaire is the one that's more interesting to watch in any given moment, even if the movie is bad. I'd watch a bad Astaire movie over a bad Kelly movie.

Kevyn Knox said...

Jeffrey - I think the other way. I have always thought Kelly to be more interesting to watch. Astaire had this smooth graceful style, but Kelly was a lot more fun to watch.

Katie said...

Personally, I think it's unfair to compare them because their styles are completely different. Even though I love Fred, I find Gene more fascinating. He could use anything as a dance partner, mix styles, and masterfully combined sport and art in dance. It also helps he's easy on the eyes and pleasing to the ladies. ;)

Unknown said...

I'm a Fred fan all the way! I've liked a few of the films Kelly's made, but he's such a brute! Fred had class with a capital K! And he was so kind and gentlemanly. This is really a battle between romance and sex. I think they are comparable in the sense that they did overlap and they both danced with the biggest stars of their day and they made the same type of movies. True, their styles are different, but that's how you choose what you prefer.

Unknown said...
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Lori said...

Love them both!
Have written about their films
in a book of my own --
Movies and Music:
A Clinician's Guide
to the Classic Movie Musical
and Group Activity.
I find Gene to be the superior singer. Just love
The Heather on the Hill from Brigadoon !
The athleticism of his dancing
has no equal.
Think Summer Stock.
Who else would Dance with a newspaper?