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A black and white, and sometimes Technicolor, dance fest: Movies that showcase unforgettable dance moves

Posted September 11

While reality dance shows are currently all the rage, sometimes waiting between seasons, or even episodes, can seem too long. These five family friendly movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood display epic dance sequences that are just as deserving of praise as today’s more contemporary moves.

'Lady Be Good'

Eddie Crane and Dixie Donegan are a dynamic husband-wife songwriter duo, and they also madly in love. But all too soon the glitz and glam of Hollywood lures Eddie away from his composing duties. Upset he is leaving the work that helped them bond, Dixie seeks a divorce. But first, she has to tell their story to a judge. “Lady Be Good,” is the tale of how Dixie and Eddie met, fell in love and then realized they were still in love despite their struggles.

Although the main stars in “Lady Be Good” were Robert Young and Ann Sothern, Eleanor Powell received top billing. Powell, who was referred to as the best female tap dancer in the United States in her obituary in The New York Times, deserved all the accolades she received. “Lady Be Good” showcases several of her more popular dance scenes, including a sequence in which she dances with a dog that Powell trained herself, according to TCM.com.

In addition to the movie's music and dancing, the film also stars Red Skelton and has an appearance by the dancing troupe The Berry Brothers. This 1941 black-and-white romantic comedy can be seen on Google Play, iTunes, VUDU or on TCM Sept. 9 at 8:15 a.m. MT.

'Cover Girl'

Rusty Parker is happy with her job as a chorus girl at boyfriend's, Danny McGuire, nightclub. Then she hears about “Vanity” magazine’s contest to find a new face for its magazine, so she tries out for the spot. Worried about losing the woman he loves, Danny tries to sabotage her efforts. But “Vanity’s” publisher saw Rusty perform and has become smitten with her resemblance to his long-lost love. After Rusty is hired, Danny is faced with the options of leaving her to her newfound glory or working at getting her back.

Rita Hayworth, one of the most popular pin-up girls of World War II according to Time magazine, and Gene Kelly, who Biography.com says transformed male dancing, star in this Technicolor 1944 movie. Hayworth dances through elaborate sequences, but it is probably Kelly’s solo number, “Alter Ego,” where he dances with his own image, that this film is known for. “Alter Ego” was a first in its time for the special effects used to achieve double imagery, according to TCM.com.

Eventually, “Cover Girl” proves that love conquers all in this delightful musical romance. This movie, which won several Academy Awards, can be seen on Amazon video, Google Play, iTunes and VUDU.

'Wonder Man'

Buzzy Bellew is a popular nightclub entertainer, but he’s been hanging out with the wrong crowd. Slated to testify against mobster Ten Grand Jackson, he’s also getting ready for his wedding. But Buzzy’s days are numbered and he’s murdered by Ten Grand’s thugs. Unable to accept his fate, Buzzy’s ghost appears to his twin brother Edwin, a shy genius who has tried his best to stay out of harm’s way. Bent on seeing Ten Grand pay for his crimes, Buzzy talks Edwin into letting him inhabit his body when it’s time to testify. But first, Edwin needs to stay away from mobster thugs and continue wooing the woman he loves.

Danny Kaye stars in this 1945 Technicolor movie that won an Academy Award for special effects. Known for his comedic skills, Kaye also lights up the screen when he dances with the highly talented Vera-Ellen in her first starring role. These two dancers would go on to pair in other movies, with “White Christmas” as their best-known collaboration.

Unseen, but very much felt in “Wonder Man” was Kaye’s wife, Sylvia Fine, a songwriter who according to TCM.com composed many specialty numbers for her husband in this movie and many others.

Watching “Wonder Man” online can be difficult, but many third-party sellers on sites such as Amazon and eBay sell this DVD for affordable prices.

'Kiss Me Kate'

Although they were once married, now divorced musical theater actors Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi have decided they are mature enough to put their past behind and star in a Broadway musical together. But when memories and emotions from their former relationship continue to crop up, the two wonder if they should continue the show. Unfortunately, the show must go on, especially when two gangsters, who have been told the only way to collect a debt owed by one of the supporting castmates is for the show to open, force their performances.

“Kiss Me Kate” is a 1953 movie full of dancing, music and heaps of acting talent. With singing greats Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson in the main roles, it also stars dancing phenomenon Ann Miller. Tommy Rall, a great, but lesser-known, dancer in his own right, stars opposite Miller as her love interest and the two perform several energetic routines together. Miller’s tap dancing sequences, such as, “It’s Too Darn Hot,” are both amazing and thrilling to watch.

Based on Shakespeare’s, “Taming of the Shrew,” this movie helps make it easy to understand the great playwright’s work. While, “Kiss Me Kate” has been a popular Broadway play for some time, this version changed a few lyrics that were considered too racy for film, according to IMDB.com.

This Technicolor movie, along with its plentiful singing and dancing routines, can be seen on Amazon video, Google Play and VUDU.

'The Gay Divorcee'

Mimi Glossop is tired of her husband’s negligence and wants a divorce. The only problem is her husband refuses to give it to her. Fortunately, her lawyer has a fool-proof way to grant her freedom. The plan is to hire someone to impersonate her lover and then “catch” the two of them in Mimi’s room, thereby forcing a divorce. But when Guy Holden, an American dancer Mimi is starting to fall for, unwittingly steps into the impersonated lover’s shoes, chaos ensues in a series of mistaken identities. Ginger Rogers stars as the happy woman getting divorced and Fred Astaire stars as Guy Holden.

Although they had danced together in their first movie pairing the year before, “The Gay Divorcee” was the first film Astaire and Rogers were billed as the star actors, according to TCM.com. According to IMDB.com, it also has the longest Astaire-Rogers dance ever filmed, the whopping 17½-minute long sequence, “The Continental.” This tune would go on to win the first-ever Academy Award for best song, according to TCM.com.

While, “The Gay Divorcee” is a frothy film, filled with more comedic dialogue and dancing than actual plot, watching Astaire and Rogers float across the floor together is a delight. This black-and-white flick can be viewed on Google Play, iTunes, Vudu or on TCM Nov. 25 at 8:30 a.m. MT.

Elizabeth Reid has bachelor's degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. She blogs at agoodreid.blogspot.com.

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