When I was growing up – as far as I remember, at least – there was little daytime TV programming, so afternoons were filled with reruns of old movies made in the 40s and 50s. They ran from around 3:00 PM to the early evening – which was right between the time I got home from school and my parents returned from work for dinner
Though some might have shunned such programming, I was actually into it. I recall watching classics like “Rebel Without A Cause,” “The Wild One” or forgotten crap like Elvis Presley’s most forgettable films (would it have killed them to run “King Creole” or “Jailhouse Rock?”). But what I was really into was when they showed those wonderful MGM musicals – you know, films like “Easter Parade,” “On The Town” or “Anchors Aweigh,” which featured guys like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.
Watching those movies was a form of musical education for me. The songs were fantastically orchestrated, and of course the choreography – especially Kelly’s – was a sight to be seen. Sure, sometimes the songs were a little tacky for someone growing up around rock music. But today, I understand their cultural significance, and whenever I hear contemporary jazz singer doing updates on tunes like “Good Mornin’” (from Singin’ In The Rain) or “Our Love Is Here To Stay” (By Gershwin, featured on “An American in Paris”) it brings me a smile to my face.
Actually, I remember watching “Xanadu” as a teenager and being delighted by the scene when a 68-year old Gene Kelly did a duet with Olivia Newton-John on the oldie-sounding “Whenever You’re Away From Me,” which to me is the one redeeming moment in that film (OK, I enjoyed it when I was 13, but I don’t think I could sit through it as an adult). Kelly uses many of the moves from his previous films – possibly a nod to his older fans that might have gone to the theater to see him tap one last time.
I recall that I was such a big fan of these films that I urged my mom to allow me to take tap dancing classes – but I turned out being shot down – I think my parents (my father specially) were afraid I would turn out gay or something – even if neither Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire were homosexuals. Go figure their state of mind back then.
Anyway, I still enjoy watching these old films from time to time. Just recently, I picked up “An American In Paris” and “Singin’ In The Rain” from the library and watched them once again with my wife, who is not really into musicals. But guess what, she actually enjoyed watching them. Now excuse me, I’m going to pick up “Anchors Aweigh” while I still have her attention.