Friday, January 3, 2014
Fred Astaire...What Else Can I Say?
Over the winter holidays, we have a movie tradition. Your family probably has a bunch of old chestnuts you watch for variou reasons. For me,"It's a Wonderful Life" is a must because it always makes me cry. And my son and I usually watch the entire extended version of Peter Jackson's epic "Lord of the Rings." Just because.
This year, I pulled out an old VHS copy of "Holiday Inn," with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. They play New York song and dance men, hoofing up a storm until Bing decides he's had it with show business. He buys a New England farm, where he plans to settle down with the third member of the act, a comely dancer. Surprise, that doesn't work out. Bing is stuck on the farm with no visible means of support. Until he decides to transform his adorable farmhouse into a nightclub. A nightclub that's only open on holidays.
The plot has a few more twists: boy and girl meet cute, girl leaves, girl returns. It also has a classic score by Irving Berlin. But what really transforms "Holiday Inn" is Fred Astaire's dancing. I have loved Fred Astaire since girlhood. Even when he's paired with a woman who's as technically adept as him, Fred tends to steal the spotlight. It's not that he's particularly handsome, because he's not. It's the way he moves.
I hadn't really been able to pinpoint what about that movement was so alluring until I watched this particular film again. It's almost like Fred's torso is moving on a hydraulic suspension above his legs, which are doing something entirely separate. And he looks as light as a feather while he spins around the shiny floors. (Incidentally, I've heard all the stories about how tyrannical he was about keeping those floors shiny. I'm sure it was a pain for the film crews, but boy does it pay off for the audience.)
What really sings in "Holiday Inn" is this number:
Fred is dancing, cigarette in his mouth, hands in his pockets, and fists full of firecrackers. Give it a watch and you'll almost feel like strapping on some tap shoes yourself
.Fred Astaire in "Holiday Inn"