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In Musical Movieland

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xianjiro
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In Musical Movieland

#1

Post by xianjiro »

I was thinking about something tonight: given that I've been more interested in dance, I think I'm more aware of the work of the choreographer but I got to wondering - after watching some early Rooney/Garland films - if they were responsible for the musical interpretation or if that falls to someone else on the crew. For one film IMDb lists a credit for "musical presentation" and another for "musical director". In all the making of documentaries I've seen, the only person who gets much recognition is the composer - not sure I've ever heard anyone talk about other jobs in the music department (okay, maybe some credit given to arrangers or performers on rare, special occasion).

I'd appreciate any thoughts, guidance folks might have.
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#2

Post by Onderhond »

Maybe because musicals were often seen as a vehicle for the music (i.e. the name of the composer also sells records, whereas the name of the dance choreographer isn't very marketable)? I'm guessing guys like Astaire and Kelly did some of the choreographies themselves, though I'm not sure they occupied themselves with bigger dance routines. I'm not very knowledgeable about the technical side of musicals though, I've just seen a bunch because my girlfriend loves them, so I'm afraid I can't be of much help.

I would like to make two side notes:
1/ It's interesting to note that martial arts scenes are often compared to "dance routines". The action directors in these film did get credit for their work and were able to make their names bankable (Corey Yuen, Woo-Ping Yuen, Sammo Hung, ...).
2/ Johnnie To once hired a dance choreographer to help with the flow of Sparrow (a typical To interpretation of pickpockets crime cinema). So I guess there is some respect for the trade.
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3eyes
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#3

Post by 3eyes »

So I looked up Bob Fosse on IMDb. He's listed as choreographer under "Additional crew."

Guys and Dolls has "Dances and musical numbers staged by" under Music Dept

Busby Berkeley is credited in a lot of different ways - take a look.
:run: STILL the Gaffer!
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xianjiro
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#4

Post by xianjiro »

Well I do know that Kelly was very involved with the choreography and additionally is credited as "dance director". I am pretty certain he was entirely responsible for the choreography on An American in Paris, but checking his IMDb filmography shows a number of other films I hadn't realized he'd been that involved in, but it makes perfect sense. Kelly was committed to dance and one documentary I remember talked about him wanting to create an American dance lexicon that was different from what was the norm in dance of the day. Not sure how he viewed the likes of Martha Graham, but that was clearly something different. Astaire has fewer credits, but my understanding is he was very much a technician who wanted it to be right before the camera started rolling. It's no surprise that both would go on to choreograph and I assume as they gained experience, there was always a give and take with whoever else was on the dance team.

But this is part of the reason for my curiosity related to musical interpretation. The number that got me thinking about it was relatively early in both Rooney's and Garland's careers, but I find it hard to imagine they were calling the shots artistically in their teens and even twenties - especially at the height of the studio system, especially at MGM. However I don't KNOW that. I don't mean to impugn the immensity of their talent in any way; I just think that there would be "adults" calling the shots. I'll probably do some digging on this a bit more later in the week.

I've always thought it odd that 'guys' hate dance but love fighting in the movies when both are subject to the same rigors: training, choreography (including fight choreography), rehearsal, and performance. Do some people really think those ten guys and Bruce Lee just kind of have a go and see what shakes out? No, I don't buy improvisational fighting: much, much too risky. Even someone like Jackie Chan rehearses and has been choreographing the fight sequences for some time. So yeah, absolutely, one has informed the other though I'm not familiar with many fight choreographers going on to consult on dance sequences. Not saying it hasn't happened, I'm sure it has because both are about bodies and movement though fight choreography has the added dimension of believability. In dance, either you catch your partner or you don't. In a fight, they don't want to connect, at least not to the extent that they want us to believe they connect when we watch the finished product.

There are so many departments in a feature film, so many people working to make us believe something is happening, and yet we know so little about most of them and what they do. I finally gave in and looked up the job "best boy" since I had no idea what that would entail though I knew the job was attached to the electrical department, especially lighting. Of course that information didn't stick with me very long.
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#5

Post by xianjiro »

3eyes wrote: March 29th, 2021, 9:17 am So I looked up Bob Fosse on IMDb. He's listed as choreographer under "Additional crew."

Guys and Dolls has "Dances and musical numbers staged by" under Music Dept

Busby Berkeley is credited in a lot of different ways - take a look.
yeah, one wonders what the differences are and if "dance numbers created and directed by" meant something different than "choreographer" and "dance director" back in the day. I'll admit, at this point I'm assuming dance director is different from choreographer in that one is responsible for execution, the other for creation. Clearly they don't have to be different people and sometimes are one person.
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#6

Post by blocho »

Fred Astaire designed all of his dance sequences himself, often in collaboration with a choreographer named Hermes Pan.
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