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Billy Sunday (Angel & Billy - Wise & Foolish Virgins - Devil’s Dance) [March 23, 1948]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0015
Run Time
0h 10m 28s
Date Produced
March 23 1948
This original Ruth Page ballet was conceived in 1941 but not premiered by her company until December 13, 1946 in Mandel Hall at the University of Chicago (as a workshop version, with incomplete staging and no scenery or costumes). The full version was presented by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the New York City Center on March 2, 1948. Page originally approached Kurt Weill to compose the score but he fell through, so Page then considered John Cage, Virgil Thomson, and Nicholas Nabokov, before finally settling on Remi Gassman. There was also originally the possibility that Alexander Calder would design for the ballet but this also fell through, so Paul du Pont was chosen. "Billy Sunday" is based on the life and sermons of the American baseball player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday. This film appears to depict a rehearsal of three scenes from the ballet at the University of Chicago, recorded just weeks after the ballet's debut. It is heavily edited; the reel includes 20 splices. Jerome Andrews performs the role of Billy Sunday.
The film begins in the middle of a rehearsal. It seems to be shot from a balcony, looking down over a stage without any sets in place. On the stage, 5 dancers in practice clothes are finishing up a scene. Then an angel (signified by a dancer wearing angel wings in addition to her practice clothes) enters from the back curtain and performs a solo; she then dances a pas de deux with the Billy Sunday character. Then two groups of women enter, identified on the film canister label as the "wise virgins" (standing) and the "foolish virgins" (sitting). The two groups briefly interact, and then the wise virgins watch a long ensemble dance by the foolish virgins, who are joined by a male dancer. Eventually, the foolish virgins and their accompanying male dancer exit, and the wise virgins perform an ensemble dance. Next, the man returns and performs a "devil dance" solo, surrounded by the foolish virgins on the ground. After all dance together, the women surround him as if to worship him. Then Billy Sunday returns and attempts to shoo them away. The film ends before he succeeds.
00:06-00:09 - Film opens onto a shot of a stage, apparently from a balcony. Onstage are 5 dancers, all in practice clothes. Two men restrain a third (the Billy Sunday character) off-center and a fourth is supporting a female dancer, who is slowly backing off stage right in a deep plié. 00:10-00:50 - An angel enters from the back curtain (signified by wings added to the practice clothes) and dances a brief solo; she then excuses the men restraining Sunday by gently pushing them offstage via the back curtain. 00:51-02:35 - The angel dances a pas de deux with Sunday, and then exits stage left 02:26-02:52 - Left alone onstage, Sunday reaches after the angel, puts on a jacket, and gives a brief sermon to the audience 02:53-03:13 - Two groups of 5 women ("virgins") enter, one from the back curtain and the other from the wings. They pose in 2 rows (the "wise" group standing, the "foolish" group sitting) at center while Sunday says more. 03:13-04:29 - Sunday exits stage left and leaves the two groups of women to their ensemble dances. After interacting briefly, the group of "wise" virgins huddles in a cluster at stage left while the "foolish" ones dance at center. 04:29-05:12 - A man enters from stage right to join the foolish virgins. Apparently upset, the wise ones move upstage and face the back curtain. Eventually, they turn back around to watch, scandalized. 05:13-08:09 - One by one, the wise virgins hop around to stage right and the foolish ones huddle at stage left. Then the foolish virgins and their male escort exit off stage left and the wise ones slowly cross the stage in a row, perform turns en manège, and continue into an extended ensemble dance. Eventually, they exit off stage right. 08:09-09:50 - As the wise virgins exit stage right, the male who accompanied the foolish virgins reenters from stage left, briefly taunting the exiters and then followed onstage by the foolish virgins. All perform an ensemble dance; then the women melt to the ground and the man performs a solo at center which incorporates vernacular dance; the virgins stand up to join him one at a time. 09:50-10:12 - All rise again and dance together; eventually the foolish virgins surround the man, as if to worship him 10:12-10:20 - Billy Sunday strides back onstage from stage left and orders the group away before pacing the stage. As he does so, the other man pushes the women away and they reach for him from the ground. 10:20-10:28 - Sunday returns to center, assessing the situation and apparently speaking. He walks upstage and abruptly turns toward the audience with a grand arm gesture. The film ends here.
Additional Credit
Gassmann, Remi (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Andrews, Jerome (is performer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)