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Monday, May 05, 2008

I, THE AUDIENCE: Dancing Lady 

Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, The Three Stooges ... No matter how bad it is, you can't go wrong!

In 1933 the young Joan Crawford was still in her dancing stage. A 1928 film called "Our Dancing Daughters" made her famous and she hoofed her way through a number of films in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Robert Osborne says that these were seldom all-out musicals like the kind with Astaire and Rogers. They might be dramas or comedies, and Joan was a girl who liked to dance or a show girl, and there might be two musical numbers.

So along came "Dancing Lady" in 1933. A spectacularly silly movie that WILL NOT NEGOTIATE! You accept it on its own terms or you go home. (And do something sensible.) "Dancing Lady" transcends your mundane conceptions of good and evil and it cares not a whit about your conventional thinking.

Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) wants to dance. She really likes to dance. She's working at a burlesque house and it gets raided and she goes to jail half-naked. She gets pestered by a a smarmy arrogant rich guy. She pounds the pavement looking for that big break.

She gets a job in a show where Clark Gable is the director, Larry plays the piano, Curly is on percussion and Moe plays the spoons. (I'm not kidding!) She dances with Fred Astaire. The rich guy keeps bugging her. The show gets cancelled! The show is back on! She goes to Cuba! The main musical number is about beer and a flying carpet that transports Joan and Fred to a magical Biergarten in Bavaria!

It's like this:

Joan is Ginger Rogers.

Fred Astaire is Fred Astaire. (His character is actually named Fred Astaire. Clark calls him Freddy.)

Nelson Eddy is Nelson Eddy.

Franchot Tone is Franchot Tone.

Clark Gable is Busby Berkeley.

Ted Healey is the stage manager.

Larry Fine plays the piano.

Moe Howard and Curly Howard (billed as Jerry Howard) are stagehands who sit in with Larry for Joan's first audition. (Clark wants to get rid of her at first.)

Highly recommended for people who like those 1933 movies that make the Great Depression look like an acid flashback.

Robert Osborne says that Joan stopped doing the dancing thing because of dancing stars like Ginger Rogers and Eleanor Powell, and Joan realized she couldn't really compete. I don't know if it's true. But Joan did all right.

MUSHTOWN MEDIA CORP. BONUS JOAN CRAWFORD TRIVIA: Have you ever heard those persistent rumors that Joan Crawford was in a stag film to pay the bills before she was a star? Here's a few paragraphs about that from the Joan Crawford Encyclopedia.

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