Tag: Vincent Minnelli

April 13, 2009 / / Main Slate

The Red Shoes -1948 – dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

“Why do you want to dance?” asks Anton Walbrook as the ballet impresario Boris Lermontov in an early scene of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 classic The Red Shoes. “Why do you want to live?” is the immortal reply from flame-haired Moira Shearer’s Victoria Page, her words pinpointing the themes that The Red Shoes holds closest to its heart. That moment, and the film as whole, has carried incredible resonance for those who make or love art of any kind, those who see little to no difference between the will to create and the will to live.

May 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Jeremy Quist

USA, 1946. 110 min. MGM. Cast: Astaire, Kelly, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Lena Horne, Esther Williams, and William Powell; Music: George & Ira Gershwin, Arthur Freed, Roger Edens, Giuseppi Verdi; Dance Director: Robert Alton; Produced by: Arthur Freed; Directed by: Vincent Minnelli, George Sidney, Charles Walters, et al.

Unless you are familiar with the elements that constituted the Follies shows, you might expect an actual plot from Ziegfeld Follies, the 1946 musical extravaganza from producer Arthur Freed. You might also assume the film to be a sequel to the blockbuster The Great Ziegfeld, winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture ten years prior. But this is not a continuation as much as a reference, and instead of a story there is simply a concept. The title refers to the elaborate theatrical revues created by Florenz Ziegfeld in 1907. These lavish productions were essentially Broadway variety shows, mixtures of sketch comedy and grand musical performances. Around the early 1930s, the popularity of the Follies died when Ziegfeld himself did. How appropriate that the film should begin in heaven.

May 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Paul Monticone

Singin’ in the Rain. USA, 1952. 103 min. Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagenl, Cyd Charisse; Songs: Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed; Choreography: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen; Produced by: Arthur Freed; Written by: Betty Comden and Adolph Green; Directed by: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

Band Wagon. USA, 1953. 112 min Cast: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray and Jack Buchanan. Songs: Howard Deitz and Arthur Schwartz; Choreography: Michael Kidd; Produced by: Arthur Freed; Written by: Betty Comden and Adolph Green; Directed by: Vincent Minnelli

By the early 1950s, Hollywood sensed a sea change. Due to suburbanization, television, and a Supreme Court antitrust ruling against the studios, movie-making had to become a more efficient enterprise. While the other major studios cut overhead—dropping contract players and disbanding their armies of salaried technicians—MGM remained dedicated to lavish musicals, and it was at this time that Arthur Freed’s production unit made two of the last masterpieces of the studio era.

May 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Jeremy Quist

USA, 1951. 113 min. MGM. Cast: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary, Nina Foch; Music: George and Ira Gershwin; Choreography: Gene Kelly; Cinematography by: John Alton and Alfred Gilks; Produced by: Arthur Freed; Written by: Alan Jay Lerner; Directed by: Vincent Minnelli

Musicals were once both a critically and commercially successful genre. With An American in Paris, producer Arthur Freed and his creative team were bringing the Hollywood musical to its height of popularity. Audiences ate up the romance, Gershwin tunes, Parisian joie de vivre, and Gene Kelly’s choreography, but there is more to the film than song and dance. While the lavish finale, a dream ballet inspired by Impressionist paintings, remains the most commonly cited aspect of the film, I find myself captivated by the subtly complex opening sequence, which introduces three central characters.