Archive for the ‘ Tango In Film ’ Category

2006, April 7 – PREMIERE OF “TAKE THE LEAD”

Pierre Dulaine, is a kind of a special person; Antonio Banderas who plays him in “Take The Lead” called him “the invisible man”… in the film when Dulaine’s dance group of unlikely heros is victorious, instead of joining in the celebration, he simply turns around and walks out, hence “the invisible man”…Banderas says of the real Pierre Dulaine, “that’s the way he really is; that’s the way he does everything…his capacity to love and share without expecting anything in return”...the two tenants of his teaching method are “Respect and Compassion” and it is indeed these two elements which in real life led him to volunteer to teach dance to inner city trouble kids to give them hope…out of the effort was born Dancing Classrooms which helps young people to acquire life lessons of self esteem, respect, team work…the program has been duplicated in hundreds of schools throughout the United States…Pierre Dulaine was born in Jaffa, Palestine to a British officer, and a mother who was half French and half Palestinean…

***

They later settle in Amman Jordan where he learned to speak French, Arabic and English…in 1956 because of the Suez Crisis, they family had to leave in a hurry and leave everything behind; they settle in Birmingham England…His early days were difficult, he was shy and unsure in an alien evnviornment where his accented english did not help him to get accepted…at the age fourteen he discovered dancing … by his own admission he was not good but he liked it; eventually he went on to win ballroom dancing’s most prestigious awards….today it is part of his teaching philosophy, “if you like dancing you can become a good dancer even if you are not particularly gifted”, he says…eventually he settled in New York where he met his dancing partner Yvonne Marceau..Antonio Banderas was personally inspired by the whole idea and in fact during the rehearsals he would invite the dancers to his house for dinner so that he could get to know them better and he had long conversations with Pierre Dulaine…film critic Tony Medley summarized the film accurately when he said, “it held my interest throughout and passed the watch test with flyng colors”

____________________

CLICK HERE – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEwZIufmafo to see the tango scene in Take The Lead

Advertisements

1955, March 19 – SATCHMO RECORD, “KISS OF FIRE” (EL CHOCLO)

Lester Allen and Robert Hill were basking in the fame and glory of their new hit “Kiss of Fire”, when someone finally noticed that it was oddly similar to the immortal tango “El Choclo”…in fact after intense proceedings they finally conceded that it was in fact “El Choclo” and thereafter, on all sheet music, the name of “Angel Villoldo” the orignal composer, preceded theirs…Kiss of fire was a major hit for Georgia Gibbs in 1952 reaching all the way to number 2 on the Billboard Charts…another popular version was the one by Louis Armstrong “Satchmo” which was recorded on March 19, 1955…other celebrated versions were by Nat King Cole, Connie Francis and in Finland, by the “King of Finnish Tango”, Olavi Virta…seeking to capitalize on the immense popularity of  ”Kiss of Fire” a film, directed by Joseph M. Newman and starring Jack Palance, was released in 1955…part of the background music is a flamenco like version of “Kiss of Fire”…

***

Angel Villoldo, the original composer of “Kiss of Fire” (El Choclo) was a fascinating man, a sort of Ernest Hemingway and Bob Dylan all in one…he was born on February 16, 1861 into a destitute family in the neighborhood of Barracas, Buenos Aires…he quit school early to work and did many jobs including teamster, herdsman and circus clown before devoting himself to music…..he would become a prolific composer and lyricist of some of the most beloved tangos in history…”El Choclo” became instantly popular all over the world and the story is told that German officers wishing to honor a visiting Argentinean dignitary mistakenly played “El Choclo” believing it to be the national anthem…when it first premiered in the exclusive “El Americano” restaurant in Buenos Aires, the leader of the orchestra had to disguise it by calling it “Danza Criolla” as tango was considered music of the pimps and prostitutes

______________

CLICK HERE– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCXxJFmfGVc&playnext=1&list=
PL2E1CB4660C675B65 Louis Armstrong “Sarchmo” sing “Kiss of Fire (El Ch0clo)

1914, March 9 – PREMIERE OF “TANGO TANGLES”

By now tango madness  had swept the world over, it was all the rage in Paris, Berlin, London and so when director Mack Sennet read in the newspaper about an upcoming tango contest, he had a flash…he would send his film crew to the dance hall and improvise one of his famous “shorts”…in fact the whole of “Tango Tangles” is only twelve minutes long…”shorts” were low-budget, fast directed, improvised films which the viewing public at the turn of the century learned to love…actual tango dancing in Tango Tangles appears only briefly in the opening scene where a couple is dancing what appears to be a parody of a tango which metamorphosis into a ballet style movement…Charlie Chaplain plays an inebriated dandy who shows up at the “Dark Town Strutter Ball”, a  masked affair, makes a pass at the hat-check girl played by Sadie Lamp….

***

Her favors however are being sought by two other characters, the orchestra leader played by Ford Sterling and the clarinetist Roscoe Arbuckle, all legends of the silent movie era…there is of course the requisite slapstick, with the long punches and the inadvertent falls, a genre created by director Mack Sennet which would lead to stellar success for his Keystone Studios; it was he who discovered Chaplain about whom George Bernard Shaw would say, “he was the only genius to come out of the movie industry”…Chaplain’s role was one of the few where he did not appear as his signature “tramp and mustache” character…Chaplain’s many loves would include the sex goddess Louise Brooks…Mack Sennet, Canadian born actor, comedian, musician and director, would produce more than 1000 silent films in his 25 year career …his short “Wrestling Swordfish” won an academy award in 1932…..in the final scene of Tango Tangles, Ford Sterling and Charlie Chaplain have punched each other out and are lying on the floor exhausted and Sterling finally says, “I don’t want her, you can have her”

_________________

CLICK HERE– http://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=YqgSgkz_Obw to see “Tango Tangles” directed by Mack Sennet

1921, March 6 – Premiere “Four Horsemen and The Apocalypse”

Julio is beguiled by the seductive girl dancing the tango…with a confident, menacing stare he strides to the center of the dance floor, with gaucho whip in hand and asks the man let him cut in….in a cavalier manner the man simply ignores Julio and continues to dance with the girl…Julio is enraged and shoves the man brusquely away from the girl…the man takes his knife out and lunges at him but Julio adeptly evades the knife and hits the man on the head with the handle of his whip.. the man falls down and Julio takes over the girl to finish with a spectacular tango dance to the enthusiastic applause of the audience...it is precisely this scene from “Four Horsemen and the Apocalypse” which launched the tango craze throughout the world…based on Vasco Ibanez’s classic novel, several studios had tried unsuccessfully to adapt the novel but it was writer June Mathis who finally succeeded…it was she who hired Rodolfo Valentino, an obscure B film struggling actor who had worked as a taxi dancer…the tango scene in fact was not part of the original story but Mathis included to take advantage of Valentino’s dancing skills

***

It premiered to great acclaim and had a huge cultural impact; it became the top grossing film of 1921 and the first ever to earn one million dollars at the box office…it turned Rodolfo Valentino into a superstar and launched the tango craze; June Mathis would become one of the first powerful women executives in Hollywood…Valentino was born in Castellaneta, Puglia to an Italian father and a French mother…he spent some idle time in Paris and finally returned to Puglia but unable to get a job he left for the United States and arriving there on December 23, 1913…he ran out of money and for a while he lived on the streets of New York…he eventually moved to Los Angeles where he taught dancing to older high society women…on August 15, 1926 he collapsed at the Hotel Ambassador in New York; he was operated on, for a ruptured appendix; surgery had gone well and a recovery was expected…however, he unexpectedly developed pleuritis in his left lung and fell into a coma..he passed away on August 23, 1926; he was 31 years old…interestingly, the film inspired a young Betty Davis to try acting; in 1999, the American Film Institute rated Davis as number two on the list of the “Greatest Female Stars of All Time”

___________________

1994, March 4 – “RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES” AS TANGO

“He is the last of a dying breed and the first of a new one” is how one critic described Richard Grayson…he has been called a genius for his ability to improvise on the spot, in any melody, in any key, in any rhythm, in any style…it is said  J. S Bach was one of a very few musicians in history who had this ability…in fact, as Richard himself points out, in the Baroque and Renaissance period it was customary for classical musicians to learn to improvise; today that talent is most often associated with Jazz musicians…in fact tango dancing, which is strictly improvisational shares this tradition with them…Richard started studying piano when he was six years old and as a child he loved to just sit at the piano and improvise on the sounds that he was hearing and feeling…he was  a winner of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship which enabled him to study with renown masters in Europe…

***

He later received a Ph.D in composition from UCLA and taught until retirement at the Occidental College in Los Angeles…he became legendary for his unusual concerts where audience members would challenge him on the spot to improvise on a suggested theme….out of his copious compositions perhaps his two most popular are “Mr. 528″ and“Shoot the Piano Player”…Ride of the Valkyries occurs in the beginning of Act III of “Die Walkure”, the second of  Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”….”Valkyries” has been used in many films starting with W. D. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” in 1915 and more recently in 1979 in Francis Ford Coppola’s, “Apocalypse Now” in the horrifying scene of  helicopters attacking a Vietnam Village …according to Guy Sajer, a German tank officer in World War II, in his book “A Forgotten Soldier”, “Valkyries” was played on their short wave radios before attempting a breakthrough in the “Battle of Memel” on the eastern front

______________

1915, February 27 – BIRTH OF OLAVI VIRTA

Singer, Composer, Lyricist (Pisces) – A silence fell on the theater at the sight of this decrepit, thin, man being helped on to the stage where he shuffled to the microphone with the help of a cane; the audience was stunned…so this was what had become of the legendary King of Finnish Tango, Olavi Virta…but when he began to sing the Olavi that had been so beloved came back, his voice, his manner, the sensitivity that had made his “Tango Desiree” popular all over Europe…there was a sadness in the enthsusiastic applause that followed and more than one misty eye…in a few months time, in a state of absolute poverty, he  would be dead from diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver; he was 57 years old…Olavi Virta was born in the town of  Sysma, Finland to a father who was a cobbler and a mother who was a seamstress but it was a musical family; both his father and his grandfather were singers…his parents however, would divorce when he was still young…from an early age he was interested in music and at the age of eight he began taking violin lessons; he joined the youth orchestra and the choir of the local church Sornaisten…

***

His first taste of notoriety occurred at a masked ball where, dressed as a clown, he sang“Orchids to My Lady”; the response from the audience was enthusiastic…he soon won a contest singing three songs including “La Cumparsita”…basically self taught, he dreamt of singing opera like his idol Beniamino Gigli…his first break came in 1937 when he was recruited by Harold Rainbow Orchestra; he recorded for the first time the following year…in 1939 he starred his first film “Rich Girl”…begining in 1940 his career would explode with performances, films, theatrical productions to a degree that went beyond his dreams; he was called a “living legend”…but it was also a time when his drinking began to increase…he met Dorthy Irene Kaarela with whom he would marry and have three children but his worsening alcoholism took its toll and after fifteen years of marriage she left him…he was known for his beloved Ford Fairlane which he drove fast while swigging his bottle of whiskey…Olavi Virta’s career was cut short by a scandalous arrest for drunken driving in 1962, it was continuously talked about in the press which mockingly called him “The Singing Meatball.”; he never really recovered from it.

_____________________

1923, February 18 – VALENTINO DANCES AT TRIANON BALLROOM

By the 1920s several dance crazes had swept American, non more than tango….but politically powerful anti vice forces also criticized dance halls and in particular tango  as unhealthy, immoral venues for the seduction of women and the practice of prostitution…hoping to capitalize, Andrew Karzas, invested one million dollars into the construction and promotion of a new dance hall on the South side of Chicago, “The Trianon Ballroom”…the interior was designed to accommodate enormous crowds of up to 3ooo dancer in the main hall and another 3000 in the upper floor…to protect his investment against the moral reformists, Karzas instigated strict rules of conduct which were enforced by six men and women who would evict offenders…a prominent sign read, “we do not allow spooning or petting between the dances” …it is in this atmosphere that Karzas took the courageous act of booking living legend Rodolfo Valentino.

***

Born in Italy, Valentino danced with his second wife Natacha Rambova to the delight of six thousand delirious fans some of which, it is said, actually fainted…  Natacha Rambova was a costume designer and art director when he met her on the set of the film “Uncharted Seas” in 1921…he married her in Mexicali Mexico but as soon as he returned to California, he was arrested for bigamy as California law required a one year waiting period between marriages…Natacha was a disaster; she was controlling and unsocial causing him many problems personally and professionally; two years later they had a bitter divorce…at the news of  Valentino’s sudden death, 2000 people crammed into the Trianon Ballroom to hear a eulogy from Judge Francis Borelli, president of the Valentino Memorial Association who said of Rodolfo, “he was ever the personification of romance, he was the ideal of love at once Cyrano, Romeo and Don Juan”

___________________