Monday, May 07, 2012

Lunedi Lunacy

Back in the 50s when my father would take me downtown to the Imperial Theatre  (one of the grand old movie palaces in Toronto - marble sinks, two story high mirrored stairways, plush seats) to see first run movie amongst the most anticipated where anything with Danny Kaye.   Kaye was a master of the tongue twister, the slightly-frantic and the most wonderfully funny facial contortions that a 10 year old could ever want to see.
A true "movie palace" - the Imperial Theatre was pretty much this grand when my father and I went to see films there in the 1950s.  No longer used - as it was in this photo from the 1920s - as a vaudeville house it still retained all the grandeur that made a trip to the movies a special event.
On re-viewing its also apparent that his films were erudite, witty and never played down to their audience.  It was a time when "culture" wasn't considered a filthy word and if you included a ballet or operatic aria in your movie you weren't playing to the "elite".   Often the dance or musical interlude took the mickey out but in a loving, knowing way.

Perhaps the most spectacular dance sequences in any Kaye movie where those created for Zizi Jeanmarie and Erik Bruhn by Roland Petit (now that's class!) for Hans Christian Andersen that delightful 1952 fantasy based more on the stories of the Danish writer than his actual life.  But dance also figured - tongue very much in cheek - two years later in Knock on Wood.  As a neurotic American ventriloquist whose dummy seems to have taken over the act Kaye gets involved with spies, counter-spies and dead bodies.  He spends most of the film changing disguises as he runs for his life ending up in a ballet sequence that out-exotics anything that the Ballet Russes ever came up with.  Choreographed to a fare-the-well by Michael Kidd (more class) and featuring Diana Adams - of the New York City Ballet (even more class) - as a rather nonplussed prima ballerina partnered by a danseur less than nobile it is a brilliant send-up of all the cliches beloved of classical dance. 



I'm posting this with a big hug to my darling Simonetta - who drew me more into the world of dance than I had ever been and in the process gave me a new love and appreciation of it as an art and as an entertainment.  Baci cara and 1000 grazie!

May 7 - 1920 – The Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, opens the first exhibition by the Group of Seven.

3 comments:

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

I loved him...always made me laugh..and that theater is so beautiful...wish we could bring all those old beauty's back to life.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I adored Danny Kaye when I was a kid too. He was one of the very few actors specifically known as a "children's entertainer." How things have changed.

Anonymous said...

I love the Imperial Theatre. Gives one a sense of occasion when you go to such a grand place. Did you ever go to the Chicago Theatre in Chicago? It's very similar and it's huge. Saw Richard Chamberlain as Henry Higgins in a My Fair Lady touring company there. Paxton Whitehead was Col. Pickering. Excellent show.

CP