There are the Castles, the Murrays, Astaire and Rogers. And then there are the Champions - Marge and Gower Champion. They are the last great dance team. The top.
Just a quick post about their memorable "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" number from Lovely to Look At (1952).
The lady has resisted the gentleman's overtures until now, but everything - the music, the atmosphere, her own emotions - conspires against her and she gradually relaxes and goes with the flow. He has already told her that "dancing is the whistle stop before romance," so she knows what she's getting into here. In fact, it's her suggestion to dance in the first place.("You practically have me on the floor already. So why don't we do it the right way?")
After the fun little polka, after the kiss that transports them from a cafe and into outer space, they slowly sway. This little movement is one of my favorite parts of the number. It introduces a completely new dance and a new theme - romance among the stars.
How many times does Gower pick Marge up off the floor, making it appear as if they are both floating in the air? I haven't counted, but it's a lot of times. What strength they both have. What athleticism.
And they do it all without forgetting to act, which is nice since, unlike onstage, we are seeing closeups of people who are supposed to be carried away by love. Grimaces, grunts and contorted faces would take me right out of the moment, thank you very much. But nope, we get beautiful faces on talented people. You feel as though you're right there with them, truly dancing with the stars.
I've just found this trailer for a documentary featuring Marge Champion and dance partner Donald Saddler. Released in 2009, the 21 minute film is called Keep Dancing.
|Turnbaugh / Vander Veer Productions|
After celebrated careers, legendary dancers Marge Champion and Donald Saddler became friends while performing together in the Broadway Show Follies (2001). When the show closed, they decided to rent a private studio together where they have been choreographing and rehearsing original dances ever since. At 90 years old, they continue to pursue their passion for life through their love and mastery of dance. It is this passion that has allowed them to persevere through times filled with great joys and heartbreak....Sounds great!
In the intervening years since posting this article, this page has become a place in Google search results to discover why the Champions divorced. This is due to a question in the comments about their breakup. I'll bring the answer from the comments up to the body of the article.
On Why Marge and Gower Champion Divorced:
"According to the Marge Champion-approved biography BEFORE THE PARADE PASSES BY by John Anthony Gilvey, as Champion began fixing Broadway plays on the East Coast, Marge and the children were still on the West Coast filling up their lives without him.
'Each time they get back on the same side of the country, it takes a little bit longer to meld because each one has filled in those periods of separation and loneliness with other activities.'
Champion was away from his wife most of the time, also having a mid-life crisis during the sexual revolution - more temptation. All of this didn't help their marriage. They would eventually divorce.
Yes, there was a chorus girl who was to debut as a star in 42ND STREET under Champion's direction on the day that he died.
***I highly recommend the book.
***Here's a PEOPLE Magazine article about Champion and the chorus girl: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20077450,00.html"