Complete final transcript _ Broadway Goes Hollywood by shuifanglj



On October 6th 1927 a revolution sweeps Hollywood : the first film that not only talks, but
sings, has just been released !
“The Jazz Singer”, is the first film musical, putting Warner Brothers ahead of the
competition. The voice of Al Jolson is welcomed with thunderous applause in every movie
theater in the country.
All the other studios are in a panic stricken.

Clip “Singin’ In the Rain”
« Hold it Dexter…
Man 1:…go home, we‟re shutting down for a few weeks.
Man 2: What?!
Man 1: Well don‟t just stand there, tell‟em!
Man 2: Everybody go home until further notice! What it this?
Man 3: Yeah, what‟s the matter, Arthur?
Man 1: The jazz singer, that‟s what‟s the matter, the jazz singer!
Cosmo (playing the piano and singing): “oh my darling needn‟t many, now she has a baby.
My little baby‟s coming…”
Man 1: No, no, this is no joke, Cosmo, it‟s a sensation, the public is screaming for more!
Man 3: More what?
Man 1: Talking pictures! Talking pictures! »

Onscreen: Hollywood in the ROARING 20’s !

Onscreen: and the “Talkies” started to SING !

With the arrival of talking pictures, the film companies have to say goodbye to the old
glassed-in studios and build sound proof stages.
After sound is introduced, many of the prominent silent film actors under contract can‟t
sing and dance, or even speak well enough on camera, and a large number of them do not
survive the “talkies”.
Irving Thalberg, a famous producer at MGM, decides to produce the studio‟s first musical
comedy in 1928. He hires a certain Arthur Freed, a New York song writer and lyricist, who
a few years later would become the greatest musical comedy producer at MGM.
Freed writes all of the songs for “Broadway Melody” which is the first MGM musical to win
an Oscar for best film in 1929. Musical comedies start to flourish.

At the beginning of the „30s, America is in the midst of the great depression, and the
studios are in trouble.
Warner Brothers is in serious financial difficulty until the producer Darryl Zanuck has a

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stroke of genius. He hires the famous choreographer, Busby Berkeley to work on a series
of musical comedies, and the studio is saved from bankruptcy. The first of this series is
“42nd Street”.

Onscreen: A GLIMPSE into the production of « 42nd STREET »
Clip “42nd Street” : « In Hollywood, the sensation of the moment is the picture called “42 nd
Street” into which Warner Brothers have put stars, girls, beauty and talent in lavish
quantity ».

Berkeley is given carte blanche. The musical numbers in “42 ndSteet” cost up to 10 000
dollars a minute, an enormous amount for the period. At a total cost of 400,000 dollars, the
film earns 10 times that for Warners.
Part of the film‟s huge success is due to the studio‟s decision to base it on the economic
and political realities of the day. Jack Warner openly sides with the New Deal policies of
the newly elected President, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Jack Warner makes an ingenious deal with General Electric, that provides him with a
special “42nd Street” train to help promote the film.
The train leaves from Denver, and after traveling throughout the United States, is
scheduled to arrive in Washington on the day of Roosevelt‟s inauguration.

Onscreen :
Los Angeles : – City officials, film stars, and thousands of fans throng Santa Fe Station to
speed Warner Bros. “42ND STREET” Special to the Presidential Inaugural.

Archive Off : « Looks like another Hollywood premiere, but it‟s just Hollywood‟s
acceptance of President Roosevelt‟s invitation to be his guests at his inauguration in
Washington – a carload of beauty in a setting of gold and silver ».

“Gold Diggers of 1933" is released just after “42nd Street”. Few film musicals have ever
gone this far in depicting a disheartened America.
For the “Forgotten Men” dance sequence, evoking the misery of the depression, Berkeley
is inspired by the veterans march on Washington of May 1932.
Recognizing the power of this sequence, Jack Warner and Darryl Zanuck ask him to make
it the closing scene of the film.

Hermes Pan arrives in Hollywood during this period.
He would become one of the greatest choreographers of musical comedy, working with
the biggest stars : Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse, Rita Hayworth.

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Hermes Pan
My mother and my sister and myself decided to go to California.

Hermes Pan
Because we heard that there were many musicals being made, Busby Berkeley was
making a lot of shows. So I thought, well, having Broadway experience, it would be easy to
get a job. So we bought a second-hand Chevrolet, for about a hundred dollars (laughs).
And we arrived in California with seven dollars. And we didn‟t know a soul. (5‟25)

Hermes Pan
I would go on interviews for Berkeley, Bobby Connolly, different choreographers… And
they would all line up and they would say “you, you, you, you… and the rest of you go
home.” And I never got picked once. Never got a job. And this went on for oh, quite a
while. So finally I got a job... somebody told me that Dave Gould, at RKO, was looking for
an assistant. When I started to work, the first day, he said “well, I want you to go up on
stage 8 and Fred Astaire is up on stage 8, and tell him that you are my assistant and ask
him if you could be of any service.” And I said “oh me, be of service to Fred Astaire ?” I
was frightened because see what his reputation… And so I sneaked in the door very
quietly and he was sitting at the piano, he had a towel around his neck, he was playing the
piano… And I went up to him and I said : “my name is Pan” and he said “oh ! Pan !” And
he said “I‟m glad to know you.” I said “I‟m the assistant” and he said “yes, you‟re a dancer,
aren‟t you?” He said “well, that‟s good because, you know, Dave Gould is not a dancer.”
And you know, in those days, choreographers mostly were not dancers, they were idea-
men with a camera. They would move a camera around rather than dancers. They would
have top shots or… they made the camera dance rather than the people. (7‟27)

And so, he said “well I‟m working on a dance, but it‟s not finished”, said “I‟d like for you to
see it and see what you think of it.” And I said “oh, I‟d love to see it”. So, he called the
piano solo and he went through the dance, most of it, and he said “right here”, said “I‟ve
gotten to a place that I… I don‟t know what to do”. He said “I need some step, some
break.” A break is something they do, dancers do, after 8 bars of music, they go… So, I
happened to think of a break that I had used somewhere, and I said “well, how about this?”
Then I went (does dance steps). That wasn‟t exactly the step… But I could show you later
but… He said “oh, I like it!” He said “that‟s good, do it again!” That‟s… (dance steps) And
he said… So, he said “ok, I‟ll use it”. So I was elated, I said “if the great Astaire, you know,
likes what I can do”… said “maybe I‟m not so bad!” (8‟37)

Hermes Pan
And so, from then on, Fred Astaire would always say “where is Pan? I want Pan to be
here!” He said “nevermind Dave Gould”, said “I want Pan!” So every day, I would work with
Fred Astaire... And I found that Fred and I had the same ideas about rhythms and they
were both black rhythms, that he incorporated into his ballet. Now, that‟s very strange
because he wasn‟t just a jazz dancer, he would do rhythmic jazz movements combined
with perfect ballet. And it was the first time people had ever seen any dancing of that type
before. It‟d never been seen. And that‟s why, I think, he was such an immediate success in
films. (10‟21)

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Clip from “Second Chorus”
« Astaire : Solid, Jack
Band: Solid, Jack
Band: Can you sing and dance?
Astaire: I‟ll take a chance
Band : Are your boots on right?
Astaire: I got‟em laced up tight.
Band: Is Miss Miller a killer?
Astaire: From a Spanish Villa
Band: Is her dancing mellow?
Astaire: Why, mellow as a cello.
Band: Then it seems to me, obviously, you want to go right into your terpsichore. »

Hermes Pan
Music with a strong beat, and especially an after-beat. And… Like (sings a jazz tune)… It
has a swing and an after-beat.
I have often observed that, among whites and blacks, you find the whites, when they clap
hands (claps hands) to a beat, they always clap on the beat: (sings and claps on the
beat)… Whereas the black, this way (sings and claps on the offbeat)… And it‟s an
observation of mine from some time. It‟s unusual… to me, that is a natural way and more
earthy and jazzy, and it affects the way they dance, naturally. And, like Sammy Davis told
me, he said “you don‟t dance like a white man”. He said “you have a black rhythm” and I
think it‟s true because I‟ve grown up around that. (12‟00)

Archive : Bill Robinson
« I hope I get it. »

Hermes Pan
I always enjoyed watching dancing. I never studied dancing but I always observed, mostly
among the blacks, and I learned most of my steps and beginnings of dance from the
blacks. (12‟25)
The name of the dance that we first worked on was a number called The Carioca, written
by Vincent Youmans. And it was a wonderful piece of rhythmic music. He just made you
wanna dance because of the… They had these South-American instruments of drums and
percussions. I started off the step with two heads together, because the lyrics said two
heads together, two heads are better than one, two heads together, that’s how the dancers
begun. So I said “well, it‟s natural” so I got them to put their heads together and not touch,
only their foreheads and then they would dance with their feet and their hips, but keeping
their heads close together. And it turned out to be a smash (13‟33)

While it was previewed.... After the dancers finished, the people actually stood up in their
seats and applauded. And that‟s something that had never happened. The producers
looked at each other like “what have we got here?” said that… you could see… you could
see their brains turning… that “oh, we‟ve got a fortune!” And that was the beginning of
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, which got RKO out of the red. RKO was about to go
under. It was so much in the red… in debt… until Astaire and Rogers did The Carioca.

Clip from “Carioca”
« - Astaire: So that‟s the Carioca!
Rogers: What this business about the foreheads?

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Astaire: Mental telepathy.
Rogers: I can tell what they‟re thinking about from here! »

Hermes Pan
The first step of The Carioca, and it‟s the first step that I had shown Fred Astaire, that he‟d
liked and he said “oh, I‟ll use it in the routine.” And, of course, that gave me great
encouragement. After that, I started to work with Fred every day and also with Ginger. And
one of the things… Sometimes, Ginger would be working on another picture. And she
wasn‟t available so I would be Ginger and do her part and Fred would do his part. Then,
later on, when Ginger Rogers came in to rehearse with Fred, I would show Ginger what I
had been doing. So it was a sort of a strange situation that, during rehearsal I would be
Ginger and then I would be Fred with Ginger, when I was teaching her what we had been
rehearsing before. (15‟30)

Clip fromp “Swing Time”
« -Rogers : One, two, three, time! One, two, three, one, two, three ! »

Hermes Pan
This developed into a seven-year relationship in which we did many pictures.

Clip from “Top Hat”
« -Rogers: Make them play the Piccolino, the catchy Piccolino. And dance to the strains of
that new melody.
- All: Make them play the Piccolino, the catchy Piccolino. And dance to the strains of that
new melody. The Piccolino! »

Hermes Pan
We would do the sound – the taps – later. Like you can‟t shoot the taps at the same time
you photograph the dance. We would put the taps in after we had shot the dance. So, I
would always put in Ginger‟s taps and Fred would do his. It was quite a complicated thing
to put the sound in afterwards. You would have to watch the screen and put on earphones
and listen to the music… Because you can‟t… If you shoot the sound of the taps and other
things, it makes very bad sounds. So it‟s quite a complicated situation.

Hermes Pan
And, finally, after two pictures, after Flying down to Rio and [The] Gay Divorcee, they gave
me a contract for the rest of the Astaire-Rogers pictures.

Cyd Charisse
It‟s really hard to say why these musicals were so very successful but perhaps it has
something to do with censorship. Because I believe the censorship started in 1933, just
about the time that Rogers and Astaire were becoming such an enormous success with
their dancing. And perhaps it‟s because that… romantically, what you could not do in a
dramatic scene, that Fred Astaire and Ginger could do… to dance and to music. And of
course, their films were the most romantic. And… The good things about their films is it
would progress the story. Instead of a scene, a love scene, they would do it with dance.
And, of course, that‟s why I… One reason, I believe, those films were so received with the

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public, it was so warm and light and fun and gay and romantic. And I do think that
censorship had a great deal to do with that. (18‟51)

Cyd Charisse
But I do think that censorship has always played a large part in how much you can do on
the screen and how much you can‟t and you could express yourself in dance. They were
much freer to allow you to do that than they were when they read it on the page.

In the wake of numerous scandals, Hollywood must submit to pressure from the League of
Decency. The conservative senator, Will Hays is put in charge of enforcing a moral code in
the world of show business.
All the studio heads are given precise rules : nudity and revealing costumes are banned;
sexually suggestive dances, or other indecent movements, are now considered obscene.
As for screen kisses, they must not last for more than 30 seconds.

Archive Will Hays
The Court sets up high standards of performance for motion picture producers. It states
the consideration which good taste and community value makes necessary in this
universal form of entertainment : respect for law, respect for every religion, respect for
every race and respect for every nation. (20‟26)

Directors and script writers use musical comedy to get around censorship, especially
restrictions on sensuality or sexuality, by creating dance numbers that are often very
Will Hays goes as far as sending his men on the film sets to check the length of skirts and
the camera angles. The often erotic dancing of Cyd Charisse would earn her especially
close surveillance.
Thus musical comedy serves as a means to flout the code.

Cyd Charisse
Arthur Freed heard about my dancing and asked me to come over to MGM. Well, I danced
for Arthur Freed and he said “oh well, would you like to have a seven-year contract?” Well,
I really didn‟t know what a seven-year contract was. So he advised me to find an agent
and come back. So I did. And, as I was signing the contract, he said to me “we have to
change your name”. So I said “no. I‟ve had so many names in my career. I prefer my own.”
So he said “oh, alright. But we‟ll change the spelling of Sid”. So Arthur Freed, that
wonderful producer, was responsible for my name: Cyd, C Y D, Charisse. (21‟36)

Cyd Charisse
They were looking for a dancer to dance in Ziegfeld Follies, to dance on point and they‟d
heard I was around. I first met Mr. Freed when I walked in in his office and he talked to me
for about fifteen minutes and he said “how would you like to have a seven-year contract?”
Just like that… That‟s how I came to be at MGM, where I danced in a lot of soap bubbles!

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And I wasn‟t supposed to dance with Fred Astaire but I was dancing around Fred Astaire
again. (22‟20)

Cyd Charisse
I feel I was very fortunate to have been signed under contract to MGM in those days,
especially by Arthur Freed. They were making those great musicals at that time and the
studio was at its greatest success. And they always had the finest writers, the finest
costume designers, the dancers were under contract so all the dancers were at the
fingertips (22‟48)

In 1938, Arthur Freed becomes a producer at MGM. He decides to adapt a best selling
children‟s book, “The Wizard of Oz” as a musical. It stars the very young Judy Garland,
who will become his protege.
The phenomenal success of the film catapults Freed to the head of MGM‟s musical
comedy department, soon to be nicknamed “The Freed Unit”.

Clip from “Wizard of Oz”
Toto, I feel like we‟re not in Kansas anymore.

One week after the opening of “The Wizard of Oz”, Germany invades Poland and Europe
is at war. The American Film industry rapidly feels the effects.
The major studio‟s annual production drops from 60 to 40 movies a year. Ticket sales are
in free fall. Americans prefer to stay home and listen to the radio and news of the war in
On December 7th 1942, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. 90 million Americans are tuned
to the radio as President Roosevelt addresses the nation and declares war on Japan.
Hollywood is hard hit: half of its actors are conscripted and sent off to war.
Betty Davis opens the Hollywood Canteen, providing both entertainment and free meals to
members of the armed forces before they are shipped out.
Thousands of stars, directors, producers, script writers, technicians, and dancers offer
their services for free.
Among them, the famous black tap dancer, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson also performs on
tour for the GIs.

Archive GI’s and Bill Robinson :
Man: Honestly it‟s a thrill to see all you boys with all these smiling faces. May I introduce to
you one of the greatest entertainers that we have on the stage today. A big, big hand for
Bill Robinson, come on! Let‟s give him a big hand. Come on out here. Here he is, Bill

In 1943, while most of America is segredated, including the armed forces, “Stormy
Weather” an “all black” musical comedy opens, featuring only black performers such as Bill
Robinson, Lena Horne, and Fats Waller.

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A few similar films, such as King Vidor‟s “Hallelujah” in 1929”, Minnelli‟s “Cabin in the Sky”
in 1942, and Preminger‟s “Carmen Jones” in 1954 are made, but for the most part they are
deemed too risky for the studios at a time when many movie theaters refuse to show them,
and where in the theaters blacks are forbidden to sit with whites.

After the end of the war, during the 40s and 50s, MGM dominated the scene thanks to the
Freed Unit, managed by Arthur Freed.
New stars appear, like Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. The world needs glamour and
dreams. And MGM will provide them.

Cyd Charisse
Whatever film they made, you knew that they had the best songwriters the best
scriptwriters, the best costume designers, the best people that you had the privilege to
work with.
So I always learned so much at MGM coming as a dancer. And the studios system at
those days, they… First you studied drama, you studied singing, you did publicity… You
learned and you grew. And as you grew, you were given more and more and many more
roles. I started out dancing a little ballet number around Fred Astaire, not with him. And
then Arthur Freed saw my dancing and you know, you are as you are beheld, so he‟d cast
me in many kinds of roles. I got to play the wonderful „nightclub girl‟ in Singing in the Rain,
and then I played Brigadoon, which was a lovely romantic role and I had opportunities [to]
do many, many different things. And in those days, we made twenty musicals a year at
MGM alone. And the pool (??) was going… everyone knew how to make a musical and
they were in the swing of making musicals. And the more they made, of course, the better
they got. (28‟32)

 “On the Town”, co directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, a full three years before
“Singing in the Rain”, marks a decisive turning point in musical comedy : it is the first film
of this genre, which, in the interests of realism, shoots many of its exterior scenes on
location in New York.

Clip from “On the Town”
As our three happy guvs and three happy girls walk merrily toward the setting sun, we
reluctantly say farewell to them and hello to Metro Goldwyn Mayer‟s “On the Town”

Cyd Charisse
And of course, there were always those very glamorous opening nights for the strobe
lights in Hollywood Boulevard and the cameras and the limousines driving up and… front
of Chinese… Grauman‟s Theatre which was so very glamorous. And everyone in black tie
and off to very elegant, beautiful parties, and dancing. They photographed it all and it was
so glamorous to the public. It was rightly called, I should think “the Golden Era”. (29‟48)

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Cyd Charisse
And then you know, after you are under contract for a while at a studio, they insist that you
make a screen test, even though they just studied acting, singing and working very hard,
they have to see the results. And usually, it‟s because they want to know whether or not
they should pick up your option.

I found myself a contract play at MGM and this was a whole different life for me, from
being in a ballet company, I found myself going to drama classes and speech classes to
lose my Texas accent. And, of course, the publicity was very important, in those days, to
the studio. So if you really had nothing too much to do, they would send you immediately
over to the gallery where they did their still photography. And for every holyday in the year,
you would have a costume and a photograph taken, whether it was Christmas or New
Year‟s or Thanksgiving or Mother‟s Day or Valentine‟s Day, you were dressed in a heart or
you… in turkey feathers, they had you dolled up in something. (31‟00)

And then, all during the year, they would send these pictures all over the world, so every
holyday there were magazines and newspapers using the pictures of their… people that
they had under contract. And that was one way they had of making the public aware of a
young talent that was coming up at MGM Studios. (31‟16)

Hermes Pan
I worked with Esther Williams. And I did an underwater ballet. And they had a big tank of
water in the back lot, and we spent practically half of the day in this water. And the
cameras and lights and everything, were underwater. And I was amazed that, like, the arc
lights could be put under water without being electrocuted. You probably have wondered…
So they would have to dive down and put their feet in the cleats and get their positions.
Then the music would start and Esther would come in and they would pass her from one
to another, cause you move very slowly in the water. We had to do bit by bit. It was a very
complicated operation. The tank had glass windows on the sides, which you could see
through and see what‟s happening, but the camera was in the water. And the cameraman
had a plate on, a[n] eye plate, so he could see, because in the water, you can‟t see… it‟s
muddy. And for rehearsal, we rehearsed with the plate on, to see where we were going
because you can‟t see.
When Esther would dive in and the boys who, naturally, didn‟t have a plate, but they can
see well enough to grab her hand and pass her around between them. And we had to let
the camera start first so people wouldn‟t drown, you know. They had the camera going and
then „action‟. And then, after everything [was] set, the… they would dive in and take their
places, and then go for maybe a minute of… for a shot. (33‟24)

Hermes Pan
Fred and I used to have a way of creating a number. We just… so from music and props
and ideas. And sometimes he would call me in the middle of the night and say “well, what
do you think of this?” And I‟d say “well, ok” and I‟d call him and tell him something. (33‟49)
One time, I called him one night, I remember, I said “I‟ve got an idea”, said… he said “it‟d
better be good!” You know, he was always kidding. And I said “to dance with a hat rack

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instead of a girl”. He said “what?!” I said “well, let me explain to you when I see you”.
I said “if the bottom of the hat rack is round so it can… and weighted and… would come
back and fall down… And you can dance with it and roll it around you and jump over it and
think…” And he said “that‟s great!” (34‟30)
It‟s one of those things… It just happened ! You can‟t explain these things. Sometimes it
works and sometimes it doesn‟t. (35‟13)
He did it and he said “that‟s easy!” And he tried it again, he said “well, that‟s easy!” I said “I
can‟t do it!” And he used it. But things like that happened, you know, just out of the sky.

Clip from “Singin’ In the Rain”
Onscreen Title : In the SPIRIT and FUN OF “AN AMERICAN IN PARIS”
The BIG, BIG Musical Show of the year
“Singin In The Rain”

Cyd Charisse
I think that carries over in everything you do, if you become interested in everything you do
as a dancer, everything you do with your clothes, you become, of course, the role that
you‟re going to play, you become very, very fascinated with all the details of that.

Cyd Charisse
Gene was very strong and he was a man of the streets, he wanted to be the blue-collar
guy here. My husband always used to say “I can always tell who Cyd is working with. If it‟s
Gene Kelly, she‟s black and blue.

Cyd Charisse
But there are so many elements that come end-to-end to a motion picture, for example in a
musical that Gene Kelly would make, you have to have a great choreographer, you have
to have great sets, you have to have talent. And there‟s so many elements to the producer
who hires most of these talented people. (37‟54)

Cyd Charisse
Gene was a perfectionist. He knew just what he wanted. He didn‟t wanna hear “no” and he
always said “that‟s the way it‟s gotta be and that‟s the way it is”! And he was right because
he was absolutely brilliant and terribly talented man. (38‟12)

Cyd Charisse
We are speaking about the costumes from Singing in the Rain. Of course, they were very
revealing but they… I think they were allowed to do this with the censors because it was a
period film and it was done in the twenties. So all the costumes were really authentic
twenty designs because the twenties clothes, they did look that way – the long waist and
the split skirts and my green dress in Singing in the Rain was very twenties dress. And, of

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course, the other white long crazy veil, if you happen to recall that ballet, went on for a
block. (38‟54)
I mean a full stage length of MGM was this crazy veil we used to call, it was a long, long
piece of China silk that we rehearsed with, for hours and hours. Because it had to be timed
and the silk had to go up at the same moment that the music was playing that note. So we
had... that had to be controlled with a huge, huge electric fence to make it move with the
wind. So when you happen to look at an old film of Singing in the Rain and that „crazy veil‟,
we called it, it was many, many hours on a rehearsal stage. (39‟25)

Cyd Charisse
When you walked on any set at MGM, it was very glamorous. It was like a whole world
of… We had different producers on the lot, of course, and they were three major musical
producers, I guess you would say – one was Arthur Freed. He changed the look of
musicals, they suddenly were not old-fashioned looking anymore. (39‟49)

Cyd Charisse
Once you‟re a dancer and you dance on floor, you have to be so involved with every detail
that… The shoe has to be right if you‟re dancing. The floor must be right and you learn to
look at the floor and the shoes… And the tights must be right. And the dress has to fit a
certain way so that you can move your shoulders and your arms. And Vincente Minnelli
was a great help with me there because he was a fanatic, he was a perfectionist and
everything had to be absolutely perfect. (40‟41)

Cyd Charisse
And when I worked with… in Las Vegas with Eugene Loring and Hermes Pan, I had so
much dancing to do in that film that you come in at seven and you‟re really in those shoes,
if you‟re on point, at nine o‟clock in the morning, and you dance all day. And the same
thing with the Hermes Pan: you come in and you start working Frankie and Johnny and
that continues all day, all day, all day… So it is a very hard process and you do have to
have a lot of strength. And fortunately, because I did all that work with the Ballet Russe de
Monte-Carlo, learning Swan Lake backstage, I built up a great deal of strength and I was a
very strong dancer at the time. (41‟37)

Cyd Charisse
Well, Vincente Minnelli was a very wonderful director and very artistic and he had many
problems on Brigadoon because the set was built indoors instead of outside. And he was a
perfectionist so he wanted the heather to look like real heather growing and the trees to
look like real trees growing. And it took us hours everyday to bring the trees in from the
nursery and get the flowers in and to get it perfect to his eye, that he would approve of it.
So we would arrive and make up at seven and on the set, ready to shoot, at nine. And
then we would wait because it would take hours, believe me, to get organized…
Sometimes, at six o‟clock in the evening, we didn‟t have a shot in the camera. Then he
would be ready to shoot at… very, very late which, of course the front office was a little
hysterical. But we would shoot very late at night, then we would run very late shooting.

IN THE EXCITING DANCE – “Love‟s Awakening”

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Cyd Charisse
I must say, about MGM, that they gave me a great deal of opportunities. Because when I
came to MGM, I was just a dancer, another dancer. And they insisted that you study
dramatics and voice and, if I was put in a character such as Ninotchka, I‟d had to be
trained for a Russian accent or if it was Brigadoon, I had to have a Scotch accent.

Clip from “Silk Stockings”
« Astaire: Oh no! It can‟t be!
Charisse: I don‟t look too foolish?
Astaire: Foolish?! Why, you‟re only the most beautiful girl in Paris! I‟ll prove it to you. We‟ll
cover the town. »

Hermes Pan
Cyd was one of the great dancers. Besides her beauty, she had the… great grace, her
style and she moved with just a… poetically. (43‟51)

Hermes Pan
Rita Hayworth was a dancer since she was a child. Usually, dancers don‟t know just what
to do if they‟re doing a song. Like in Pal Joey, she had to do a song, Bewitched. She said
“what‟ll I do?” I said “well, it‟s just what you would do as you were thinking of the lyrics.” So
I had her waking up in bed and she was thinking about this Joey that she would have
fallen in love with. And she was stretching and putting on a negligee and, as she sang the
lyrics, and then the lyrics sort of suggested the movements themselves. I suggested it
finished that she went into the shower, closes curtain. (44‟47)

Hermes Pan
I had Sinatra, who was not very good as a dancer, but he sang a song. As I remember, it
turned out quite well !

Clip from “Pal Joey”
She likes the theatre, never comes late. She‟d never bother with people she‟d hate. That‟s
why the lady is a tramp.

In spite of some successes like “The Band Wagon” in 1953, or “Pal Joey”, the Freed Unit
is finally running out of steam.
Deciding to go out in a blaze of glory, Arthur Freed asks Vincente Minnelli to direct one last
musical comedy for MGM : “Gigi” !

Clip from “Gigi”
This story‟s about a little girl. Her name is Gigi. Ah, she looks adorable. So fresh, so eager,
son young !

                                                                                   Page 12 sur 14
It takes several years before “Gigi” can go into production. The Hollywood censors take a
very dim view of the immoral story of a young girl raised to become a courtesan.
Once again, the musical comedy form allows the film to escape the censors.
According to Leslie Caron the film could never have been made except as a musical

The film is one of the biggest successes of the year, winning 9 Oscars, including best
director and best film.
“Gigi” is the last great musical from MGM ; its the end of an era, just before the beginning
of the social and cultural turmoil of the 60s.


Archive Oscar
Gigi, Vincente Minnelli.
Off: Vincente Minnelli receiving his Oscar from Millie Perkins and Gary Cooper.

Archive Oscar
Bergman: The winner are, again, Gigi!
Off: Producer Arthur Freed proudly accepts.
Freed: For this honour I am deeply grateful and I‟m doubly honoured tonight in receiving
this presentation from Miss Bergman. Thank you.

In 1961, “West Side Story” again redefines the musical genre.
At first Jerome Robbins wants the story to be about the conflict between Jews and Irish
Catholics. He soon abandons the religious theme to focus on two burning issues of the
day, Porto Rican immigration and the associated gang warfare.
The film revolutionizes the world of musical comedy as it was known in Hollywood, and
torpedoes the myth of the melting pot in a rapidly changing American.

Clip from “West Side Story”
“You hoodlums don‟t own the streets."
"Go play in the park!"
"Keep off of the grass."
"Get outta the house!"
"Keep off the block!"
"Get outta here!"
"Keep off of the world ! " A gang that don‟t own the street is nothing! »

                                                                               Page 13 sur 14
During this period the studios are again in financial difficulty. Fox needs another
blockbuster production like “The Sound of Music” which is released in 1965, and is an
immense success. That same year, Fox pays 2 million dollars for the screen rights to
“Hello Dolly”, one of the greatest Broadway musicals.
Directed by Gene Kelly, and with an astronomical total budget of 26 million dollars, “Hello
Dolly” is a nostalgic homage to the golden age of musical comedies.
In spite of critical success, the film is a failure at the box office and practically ruins the

Newspaper :
„Sound of Music‟ a Staggering Smash


20th Paying $2 Mil For „Hello Dolly!‟

When it is released in 1969, the film is completely disconnected from the America of
hippies, protests, flower power, acid rock, and the Viet Nam war.
America is undergoing a political and cultural revolution. A new generation of liberated film
makers arrives in Hollywood, no longer tied to the conformism of the 50s. The era of the
big musical comedy with gorgeous costumes and spectacular sets, is out of context in this
new era

Milos Forman, part of this new wave of film makers, adapts the Broadway success “Hair”
for the screen; “Hair”, directly tackles two major issues of the time ; the hippy movement
and the war in Viet Nam.
“Hair” remains the only film musical based on these themes.

At the end of the 70s, one studio after another closes its musical comedy department.
Annual production drops from 40 films, in 1950, to 2 or 3 in the beginning of the 80s.
In spite of a few successes like “Grease” or “The Blues Brothers”, musical comedies are
destined to go through a long eclipse until the last few years, when they appear to have
become fashionable again. But the glamour and the magic of the golden age of Hollywood
seems to belong to a distant past.

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