Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Stanley Donen, born April 13th, 1924!
Stanley Donen has a special place in my heart. Though never reaching the levels of cultural fame achieved by his peers such as Vincent Minnelli or frequent co-worker Gene Kelly, his contribution to the movie musical is undeniable.
Like most musical directors, Donen got his start on Broadway where he performed in the chorus line. He went to Hollywood in the early 40’s and thanks to his buddy from Broadway, Gene Kelly, managed to get a job choreographing a few numbers for the Gene Kelly/Rita Hayworth film Cover Girl. From there, he would go on to choreograph Anchors Aweigh, a film famed for its musical number featuring Gene Kelly dancing with his cartoon comrade, Jerry the Mouse. And although this type of technical innovation is reason enough for me to appreciate Donen, his innovation of the movie musical form is what makes me respect his talents as a director.
Donen found that the musical as a story-telling device was underutilized in favor of the spectacle. Continuing in the tradition of the Fred and Ginger musical, Donen integrated singing and dancing into world of the film. Not content with the musical number as separate from the over-all plot, Donen used the song and dance number to further both plot and character development. The line between plot and musical number blurred until they were invisible. Donen created worlds where a barn-raising brawl turned into one of best-choreographed numbers in musical history and a rainstorm became the set of a dancing man’s confession of love.
So, since it’s his birthday today, I have a little assignment for you. Go to your local netflix URL and watch Funny Face. Why Funny Face? Well, it’s the only one of these films currently available on Netflix Instant.
Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub