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Americans in Paris [1950]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0044
Run Time
0h 12m 33s
Date Produced
Ruth Page choreographed one of the first ballet versions of "An American in Paris," an orchestral piece by George Gershwin (1928). Page's ballet was first staged in 1936 at the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens; at this premiere the leading roles were danced by Page herself and tap dancer Paul Draper. In 1950, the piece was performed as "Americans in Paris," part of a larger repertoire by Ruth Page & Bentley Stone's ballet company of the time, Les Ballets Americains, while touring Europe for the year. In her article “Paris Dance Audiences” (1950, housed at the New York Public Library's Jerome Robbins Dance Division) Page describes the scandal that greeted this Paris performance in particular. Members of José Limón's company (including Limón himself) accompanied them to Paris, though it is unclear whether this footage is from that Paris performance or elsewhere in Europe. The film canister label claims that Talley Beatty is among the dancers; for some reason it also mentions Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.
The film opens with an apparently Parisian scene--a backdrop of a crowded square containing a statue and some trees, in front of which enter a man apparently costumed as a French soldier, and a woman costumed as a young French maiden. The two dance with slightly different styles (the man's more reminiscent of tap; the woman's more balletic). Soon, they are joined by three other young women, all dressed more lavishly and apparently meant to connote Parisian fashion with their large hats. After they dance briefly, three American-costumed men enter: an Abraham Lincoln-type, a Native American modeled after a plains Indian Chief, and a baseball star. They dance with the three Parisian women. Next, all are joined by three men of color dressed as American naval officers; they perform a lengthy dance that includes many movements from American vernacular dance, including steps which emphasize hip mobility. The others watch them. Upon the officers' exit, the four other men replace them at center stage and dance in unison, interrupted by brief solos on the part of the baseball star and the Frenchman. Next, the women join in from the sidelines and all perform simultaneous pas de deux. Finally, all exit as the three officers return for a final jaunt around stage before they, too exit and the film ends.
00:12 - Film opens with a slightly out of focus view of a stage, whose backdrop seems to depict a crowded Parisian square with a statue in the center 00:15-00:23 - A woman and then a man enter, apparently costumed to be Parisian: she as a young maiden, he as a soldier 00:25-01:30 - They dance, with the woman as the main focus. She is en pointe; while not in tap shoes, he dances rhythmically 01:30-1:53 - Three more young Parisian women enter and dance; they are costumed to appear stylish, with large hats 01:53 - Three American men enter: an Abraham Lincoln-type, a Native American modeled after a plains Indian Chief, and a baseball star. They proceed to dance with the Parisian women. 02:13-3:00- Film comes into full focus 03:22 - This group exits and the initial couple reenters and dances together 03:38 - Most of the group also reenters, additionally joined by three men in naval uniforms, presumably American soldiers 03:45-09:00 - The trio of soldiers remains center stage and performs distinctly "American" vernacular-dance-inspired movements, often emphasizing movement in their hips. All three are notably men of color. 9:00-11:05 - The other 3 American men and the Frenchman then come to center stage and dance together in unison, including brief solos by the baseball star and the frenchman 11:09-12:05 - The women who had been watching on the sidelines run to center to join the men in a tight cluster at center stage, which then opens out into four couples dancing in unison 12:07 - The three naval officers reenter from stage left, walk to the downstage right corner of the stage, and then walk back off 12:33 - Film ends
Additional Credit
Gershwin, George (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Beatty, Talley (is performer)
Related Place
Europe (production location of)