The Cinémathèque Française in Paris celebrates Stanley Donen and offers the public all of his films from June 29 to July 31, 2022.
The story of an amitious young man
Fellowship, work, emulation, genius for encounters and unbridled creativity. The life of Stanley Donen, the story of an ambitious young man who rose through the ranks solely on the strength of his talent, could be told by aggregating several sequences from his films. As a teenager, he moved to New York to become a dance teacher, then chorus dancer and choreographer on Broadway for theater producer Georges Abbott; he is barely 17 years old. Eager to enter show business, he moved to Hollywood, met his accomplishment Gene Kelly and became the assistant of all the big names in musicals : Vincente Minnelli, George Sidney, Charles Walters, Busby Berkeley. He choreographed and staged several musical numbers, and a few pieces of bravery that have remained in the annals: Gene Kelly dancing with his double in The Queen of Broadway by Charles Vidor, or in the company of Jerry the mouse, in Escale à Hollywood.
Fueled by his techincal skills
Much of Donen’s fame is fueled by his technical skills. He manages to follow the musical scores and the choreographies without breaking the momentum of the dancers, thanks to ample fluid camera movements or, on the contrary, to an almost choppy editing. After Picnic in Pajamas (1957), produced in collaboration with George Abbot, Stanley Donen launched into pure comedy with Indiscreet (1958). Here he juxtaposes cinematic language and a deliberately theatrical script. This same contrast is used in the detective comedies Charade (1962) and Arabesque (1965). In 1968, L’Escalier, the story of two aging homosexual hairdressers, was a failure. In the 1970s, he returned to Hollywood musicals. This resulted in Folie, folie (1978), in which he affectionately parodied the musicals of the 1930s. He tried his hand at science fiction with Saturn 3 (1980). The eye of the choreographer and the practice of the dancer are the essential qualities that have allowed Stanley Donen to be one of the “four musketeers” of the musical, alongside Gene Kelly, Charles Walters and Vincente Minnelli.
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