Monday, November 8, 2010

Joan Dances!

Dancing Lady, which stars Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, was not the first time Ms. Crawford had danced, but it certainly put her in with the most illustrious dancing company of her career.  Her partner, in his screen debut at MGM, is none other than the magnificent Fred Astaire, playing himself.  Of course, he would not continue with MGM, moving over to RKO, where he would find fame with a remarkably better dancer named Ginger Rogers.  Crawford plays Janie Barlow, a would-be dancer who becomes involved with playboy Tod Newton (Franchot Tone).  Tod quickly falls in love with Janie, first trying to help her career by getting her a job with Patch Gallagher's (Clark Gable) new show; then sabotaging the show after he gets Janie to promise to marry him if the show flops.  Of course, Janie is a hit, and Tod must give in gracefully.  

As with everything she does, Crawford attacks her dancing with a vengeance.  She is all arms and legs and ENERGY.  When she dances with Astaire, quite honestly,  your eyes do keep moving over to Astaire, whose grace and screen presence are already well in evidence.  However, when she dances alone, Crawford's joy is transparent.  Even though she is not the best in the world, she is fun.  She makes you smile as you watch her.  

Gable is at his manly best as Patch.  Witness the exercise scene with Crawford.  The sexual tension that bounces between the two of them is transparent. (It's also very clear that this IS a pre-code film!)  You can feel the attraction through a screen (and through the many years).  With Tone (who would later become her husband), there is more of a sibling relationship.  It is interesting to note that Tone and Crawford remained friends for life, and that Crawford actually looked after Tone in his senior years when he was no longer able to care for himself.

Much like Grand Hotel, MGM is showcasing some of there talent here.  We have The Three Stooges throughout the film (sorry, we are not fans, and could have lived without them).  Nelson Eddy briefly appears in the final play as himself.  And, of course, Astaire.  Another nice surprise is Eve Arden as an actress trying to land a part by affecting a southern accent.  Any time one gets even a peek at Eve Arden, it's a good day.

We had actually seen this movie before - when we did the Precode series, and I had blogged about it then. But, as with all good movies, each time you see something a little different. This time, our concentration was on Ms. Crawford.  I hope we are not being redundant when we revisit a movie!  Here, we'll show you a scene without any music - just Crawford and Gable:




We hope to see you next time, with another early Crawford film.

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