Euphoria #58: Pass the Peace Pipe

Just found this on good old low-res YouTube. David Ehrenstein suggested it MONTHS AGO as an example of Cinema Euphoria, that sensation of deep well-being evoked by certain movie scenes — many of them musical.

I’ve still not seen GOOD NEWS, the musical from which this scene derives, but I clearly must.

Hell, I only went into further education because I thought it’d be like this — what a disappointment I was in for.

Goody!

11 Responses to “Euphoria #58: Pass the Peace Pipe”

  1. Once seen in full Good News inevitably leads to a serious discussion of Charles Walters. Rivette prefers him to Minnelli and if you’re familair with the mise en scene of Out One you’ll know why. But the basic thing is he began his career as a dancer and never really left it. He was in Cole Porter’s DuBarry Was a Lady on Broadway. MGM bought the show and a number of people in it — Walters included. They were looking for someone capable of working both on-screen and off. And Walters fit the bill. That’s him dancing with Judy in the finale of Presenting Lily Mars and the “Embraceable You” number in Girl Crazy. TCM occasionally shows a marvelous musical short he made in 1945 called Spreadin’ the Jam — which greatly influenced Rivette’s Haut/Bas/Fragile.

    As Good News was a hit he became a hot property, and repaid the investent with such smash hits as Easter Parade and High Society. In the latter a number was needed for Frank and Bing. So Cole decided to borrow from himself, taking the “Well Did You Evah” number from Du Barry Was a Lady and adapting it for the stars. Originally it was performed by Chuck Walters and a young actress MGM passed on — Betty Grable. Fox snatched her up and the rest is history.

    After they were married Judy found it impossible to take direction from Minnelli. But Chuck was no trouble at all. She adored the “Couple of Swells” number from Easter Parade, and when she performed it in her 1951 Palace show had Chuck dance Astaire’s part with her. She loved his raunchy gayness. At the end of the “Friendly Star” number in Summer Stock — which ends with a Big Fat Close Up — Chuck yelled out “Somebody throw me a towel — I’ve just come!”

  2. Oh and above allGood News was of pivotal import to Comden and Green. When they were assigned the project they had no idea why MGM thought their New York sophsitication was what a “naive” college musical needed. But they learned important lessons abotu structure that served them for the rest of their lives. The central armature of the movie is “The French Lesson” — an original number that both defines the characters and the plot and leads in to “The Best Things in Lide Are Free” — the show’s biggest hit. No wonder in later years C&G said “We always say the three greatest pictures are The Birth of a Nation, Battleship Potemkin and Good News.”

  3. Ooooooooooooookay, I’ll order myself a copy! The camera moves in that number are terrific.

    I liked Easter Parade and High Society but haven’t seen them in ages.

  4. Excuse the Franco-American but that was FUCKING AWESOME! Especially the backwards and forwards tracking with the lead dancer in central position. Jeez, I’d actually go to cafes on a regular basis if this shit happened.

  5. You can almost hear Craft Services yelling in the background “MORE SUGAR!!!”

  6. If it’s MGM they’re probably all on speed.

    I would say it integrates a bit of Busby Berkely type movement into the MGM style. It’s certainly super-duper-cinematic.

  7. You can really *feel* the buildup during the backwards track, her subtle swaying and the obscured (out-of-focus) background dancers, until it reaches a crescendo and the whole screen explodes through the cut to long shot. That’s absolutely monumental.

    Just ordered the DVD, ffs.

  8. Oops! I meant forwards track.

  9. For what it’s worth, I posted this very same video at my own site, only to receive an *extremely* negative reaction to the McCracken performance — from the person whose approval I most sought. wouldn’t you know? Not that he changed my mind, of course …

    One thing the nay-sayer did point out, though, was the similarity of this number to “Cleopatterer” in “Till Clouds Roll By.” Which was, I’d imagine, also choreographed by the uncredited Charles Walters.

  10. A biography of Joan McCracken was published a few years back entitled The Girl Who Fell Down in honor of her role as “The Girl Who Falls Down” in the original Broadway production of Oklahoma!. She was married to Jack Dunphy, a novelist. He left her for Truman Capote — and she took up with Bob Fosse.

    I find her sauciness delightful in Good News — remindful in some ways of Myrna Loy’s sexual eagerness in Love Me Tonight.

    Ray MacDonald was also in Til the Clouds Roll By — memorably accompaying June Allyson in dancing the title number. Sadly MGM passed on renewing his contract after Good News — and that was that.

  11. People’s reactions to performances are unpredictable and very personal. But there’s SO much more than acting going on here!

    Well, I’m definitely going to see the whole film as soon as possible.

    I have Till The Clouds Roll By, just because it was on the same disc as Swiong High Swing Low, which I HAD to have. Never watched it. Now I will!

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