Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor - Where Did You Learn to Dance?

I'll be honest: I don't think Debbie Reynolds is a great dancer. If I ever decide to post about "Good Morning" from Singin' in the Rain here (which I'm sure I will, it being my favorite film of all time), I will probably point exactly when she starts cheating her steps. That's probably unfair, given the circumstances surrounding the shooting of that number, but I am what I am; I just can't help it!

I will say, however, that I find her so gosh-darn likable that I hardly ever actually care about her dancing. Even when she's putting all her effort in to getting the steps just right, she never betrays how hard she's working. She's just downright delightful to watch all the time. And that's doubly true here, in this number with Donald O'Connor (one of my favorites) from 1953's I Love Melvin (the song starts at about a minute in to the clip above).

Both Debbie and Donald are just a joy to watch here, easily navigating Robert Alton's busy choreography on and around a carpet, a table, a chair, and a sofa. I've not seen the film, but this is apparently the only dance number the two of them shared, a year after Singin' in the Rain (and even still, I'm very interested in seeing it after watching this number). Debbie's tapping is far better here than it was in their previous film, even though quite a bit of it soft-shoe on the carpet. She even manages to out-mug Donald O'Connor at one point (I love the man, but he was a ham of the highest order)! There's a lot going on here, but the choreography somehow never seems too much. Given that this is a story about a model and a photographer, it makes sense that Debbie would be posing a lot, but there's more than a few points where she's posing on every. single. beat. for bars on end. It should come off as choppy or schizo, but it somehow doesn't. The pair of them are in constant motion - when they're not moving their bodies, their eyes do the dancing for them, something probably only these two performers could pull off without seeming stupid. In fact, I can't think of a single performer of this era other than Debbie Reynolds that could have pulled off those precious poses while wearing that skirt (which spins quite fantastically), without coming across as completely juvenile. Such is the power of Debbie Reynolds: She's cute, but there's a maturity somewhere in there that cuts through the sweetness. In fact, I'm far more annoyed by the moment where the carpet gets in the way of Donald's tapping than by anything Debbie does throughout the whole number.

Like I said: She's just so gosh-darn likable!

Favorite Moment(s): Debbie's leap off the table and Donald's cartwheel over it
Length: approx. 3:20
Number of Cuts: 4

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