HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Iceman
Blue Sky
Tokyo Dragon Chef
Pittsburgh
12 Hour Shift
Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud, The
Spoilers, The
Killer Therapy
Man Upstairs, The
Bloodhound, The
New Mutants, The
Tesla
Flame of New Orleans, The
Ham on Rye
Imperial Blue
Tenet
August 32nd on Earth
Don is Dead, The
Seven Sinners
Body of Water
Away
Soul
About Endlessness
Let It Snow
Ava
Deliver Us from Evil
Shark Attack 3: Megalodon
Midnight Sky, The
Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, The
Mon Oncle Antoine
Blast of Silence
Blackout, The
Stars in Your Eyes
Alone
Climate of the Hunter
Farewell Amor
Let's Scare Julie
Okko's Inn
Shaolin vs. Wu Tang
Fatman
   
 
Newest Articles
The Price of Plague: The Masque of the Red Death on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Ring of Spies
Chaney Chillers: Inner Sanctum Mysteries - The Complete Film Series on Blu-ray
Adelphi Extras: Stars in Your Eyes on Blu-ray
Toons for the Heads: Fantastic Planet and Adult Animation
Nature Girl: The New World on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Perfect Friday and Robbery
Network Double Bills: The House in Nightmare Park and The Man Who Haunted Himself
Newley Minted: The Strange World of Gurney Slade on Blu-ray
Bad Love: The Night Porter on Blu-ray
Brevity is the Soul of Weird: Short Sharp Shocks on Blu-ray
Get Your Ass to Mars: Total Recall on Blu-ray
Call the Professionals: Le Cercle Rouge on Blu-ray
When There's No More Room in Hell: Dawn of the Dead on Blu-ray
The Butterfly Effect: Mothra on Blu-ray
Living Room Theatre: Play for Today Volume 1 on Blu-ray
Didn't He Do Well: The Bruce Forsyth Show on DVD
Blood Wedding: The Bride with White Hair on Blu-ray
The Inhuman Element: The Ladykillers on 4K UHD
As You Like It, Baby: Breathless on Blu-ray
Stargazing: Light Entertainment Rarities on DVD
Down to the Welles: Orson Welles Great Mysteries Volume 2 on DVD
Herding Cats: Sleepwalkers on Blu-ray
Confessions of a Porn Star: Adult Material on DVD
They're Still Not Sure It is a Baby: Eraserhead on Blu-ray
   
 

A Regular Terpsichore: Dance, Girl, Dance on Blu-ray

  Dance, Girl, Dance came and went in 1940 without anyone paying it much attention, indeed it was a box office flop, and this in an era when backstage musicals and movies where the characters "put on a show!" were commonplace. Maybe too commonplace - audiences simply thought it would be more of the same and they weren't interested in seeing the Quasimodo's love interest from The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the lead of her own picture. But this had an ace up its sleeve as far as investment in the future went, for its director, despite her protestations latterly, was quite unusual for this time and place.

She was Dorothy Arzner, and she was the only female director of the Hollywood Golden Age. She had started in silents, working her way up from menial jobs on set to gaining importance until she was offered the chance to helm her own projects. She wasn't the only woman in Hollywood who directed in the silent era, but the others fell by the wayside before sound came in, leaving Arzner last one standing. She was the only representative, not only of females but of lesbians, to be making movies from the earliest sound efforts up to the early nineteen-forties, whereupon she turned to documentaries for the war effort.

And later, commercials - her great friend Joan Crawford hired her for Pepsi, for instance, though she would be most significant for teaching students at UCLA, including Francis Ford Coppola in the sixties. As for her own body of work, her Katharine Hepburn vehicle Christopher Strong may be her biggest hit, though it was not an easy film to make thanks to Hepburn not taking her seriously (to Hepburn's detriment), and Merrily We Go To Hell, a light drama whose title was considered daring for mentioning what was classed as a swear word by the incoming censorship rules of the benighted and troublesome Hays' Code.



Those were pre-Code efforts, and we can only guess at what Arzner would have been able to do without the constrictions of the censors for the rest of her career, but she did have one other work in her canon that went on to be a legitimate cult movie for feminists in the sixties who were looking for someone to champion amidst the boy's club of filmmakers from Hollywood. That was of course Dance, Girl, Dance, a movie that Arzner did not begin, but was brought onto a couple of weeks into shooting to make and complete the rest of it, for she was regarded as a safe pair of hands, which is just as she would have wanted.

There was nothing flashy about her, and she would resist being defined by her gender or sexuality in later years when that was all that was brought up about her in relation to her career, but in the twenty-first century identifying a pioneer such as her, even if she did not view herself as such (apart from as the inventor of the boom mike, perhaps), was important, this need to find figures of influence who were not the usual straight, white males meaning Arzner commanded attention. In truth, you would have to be truly seeking out any gay or female elements to her direction or choices, but crucially they were present.

There's a danger of perceiving material or intentions that were not there from the perspective of the time they were made in reassessing older pop culture, that prism of whatever era you happen to be in leaving its mark for how you approach it being a double-edged sword. But Dance, Girl, Dance with its very female-centric plot, where Maureen O'Hara yearns to be a serious dancer but cannot get a foothold in the business, was not quite like the other so-called women's pictures around in the decade before. Yes, there was suffering as all these films featured, but the focus was on the lead character's career more than her family.

O'Hara had a co-star here who would become just as famous, in a different medium, for Lucille Ball was having a great time as the brassy Bubbles, the friend O'Hara's Judy at first thanks for getting her a job, then begins to resent as that job is humiliating, her stooge in a burlesque show. Along the way, she loses her mentor (an immediately pre-The Wolf Man Maria Ouspenskaya) in a somewhat absurdly abrupt accident, tries to be wooed by rich but troubled playboy Louis Hayward, and has a near miss with supportive producer Ralph Bellamy. This all leads up to the most famous scene where Judy stands at the front of the stage and harangues the audience for being so obnoxious, which was a great sequence, yet maybe the most poignant part was she realises at the end she didn't need to go through all the heartache, and her fulfilment was there for the taking all along. But her hard knocks have built her personality, one supposes. All in all, essential for more reasons than one.

[The Criterion Collection release this title on Blu-ray with these features:

New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New introduction by critic B. Ruby Rich
New interview with filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Plus: An essay by critic Sheila O'Malley.]

Author: Graeme Clark.

 

< Back to Article list

Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Stately Wayne Manor
Enoch Sneed
  Geraint Morgan
Paul Smith
  Lee Fiveash
   

 

Last Updated: 31 March, 2018