Monday, December 24, 2007

R.I.P. Michael Kidd: 1915-2007

It happens almost every year, alas: A major showbiz figure (or two, or three) will die during the final days of December, long after most newspapers and magazines have printed (or pre-printed) year-end wrap ups, and the bad news about great talent(s) is insufficiently noted. All the more reason to make the effort to take the time and honor Broadway and Hollywood choreographer Michael Kidd, the man who tuned "Lonesome Polecats" into lithe terpsichoreans. As the Associated Press notes:

"To moviegoers, Kidd was best known for the 1954 film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, in which a bunch of earthy backwoodsmen (some of them really stage dancers) prance exuberantly with their prospective brides.

"He also directed dances for Danny Kaye in Knock on Wood, took Fred Astaire out of his top hat to play a private eye in a Mickey Spillane spoof in The Band Wagon, and taught Marlon Brando how to hoof for Guys and Dolls."

In addition to directing for stage and television, Kidd worked sporadically as an actor -- most memorably, in Michael Ritchie's 1975 cult-fave Smile, masterfully playing Tommy French -- a sly, sardonic beauty pageant choreographer ("No, dear, if you kick and bend at the same time, you're going to knock yourself out!") whose inspirational speeches to comely teen-age contestants are somehow all the more effectively uplifting for being transparently (to the audience, at least) bogus.

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