Since one of my undeniable pleasures on days off is watching movies, I think it may be best to ease into the work week with a dance movie recap. And so, today I share with you Firebird’s 1st “Dance Movie Monday!”
To start things off, I want to share a dance movie that I very recently discovered called The Unfinished Dance. Released in 1947 (two years after Meet Me In St. Louis) and starring Margaret O’Brien, Cyd Charisse, Karin Booth and Danny Thomas, this MGM film takes a backstage look into the backstabbing world of ballet… I cannot believe that I never heard of this movie till now! This is like Black Swan before Black Swan, and far more disturbing, creepy, honest and entertaining (because for heaven’s sake it’s Margaret O’Brien!)
In this film, O’Brien plays a slightly maniacal little girl named Meg who is completely obsessed with ballet. “If I don’t dance I’ll die,” she exclaims dramatically (in that O’Brien voice) early on in the film. She also has a strangely intense infatuation with the principal dancer of her school’s company, Ariane Bouchet, played by Cyd Charisse. So when a guest prima ballerina, Mademoiselle Darina (Karin Booth) shows up to open the new season in the lead of Swan Lake (or course) Meg takes some pretty extreme action. (Without giving anything away, let me say this: She makes Natalie Portman look like an amateur when it comes to ballet crazy!)
The Verdict: I feel like this is one of those ridiculous dance films that every dancer should see simply because it’s such a melodramatic representation of a ballet school when you’re young (including girl-fights in the dressing room.) But consider yourself warned – It’s definitely a dramatization.
The dancing is also pretty atrocious, (from everyone) but I suppose somewhat charming in its way… It’s also interesting in the way it shows how so many young girls were given pointe shoes at far too young an age when they are lacking the proper strength and training. There is one scene in particular where a tiny girl tries to make her way through a variation on pointe with pirouettes and more… While the adult cast watches with smiles that seem to say “oh how cute,” in my opinion it was simply cringe-worthy to watch! The kid was seconds away from breaking her ankle!
What is good in this movie is Margaret O’Brien’s acting. As always, she is so convincing and in this particular role she is actually flat out disturbing. I’m actually rather surprised that MGM allowed her to play such a dark character, but she does so beautifully – blending the perfect amount of intensity with charisma. By the end, I found myself rooting for her. What we get in The Unfinished Dance is an intense melodrama into a very fantastical perception of ballet, complete with plenty of Russian side characters, beautiful costumes, and conniving little girls (as well as grown up girls) who commit no sin, but to love ballet too much!
Have a Dance Movie you want to suggest? Be sure to contact me with your suggestions!