Avocado Weekly Movie Thread (3/12)

“Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did… but backwards in high heels.” The phase has been embraced by a lot of women, namely politicians. Hillary Clinton did a proof of concept once by dancing with her husband onstage. President Barack Obama even mentioned the line when referring to his tough rival at the 2008 Democratic primary. The quote has erroneously been attributed to both Ann Richards (Texas treasurer who quoted the line at the Democratic National Congress) and Ginger Rogers herself.

But, in the weirdest crossover with both the Politics Thread and the Comic Strip Club, the quote actually comes from Bob Thaves in a 1982 Frank & Ernest comic.

While there are some calls to retire the phrase, it persists because it’s true. Rogers was a professional, and like Astaire she took her role seriously. There are stories of her performing take after take of a dance routine, unsatisfied until the routine was just right. “The climax dance scene Never Gonna Dance took 47 takes in one day to shoot and by the end Ginger Rogers’ feet were bleeding,” says Hollywood Classic Central. You don’t hear many stories of Fred Astaire’s feet bleeding, probably because he wasn’t wearing high heels.

You will see none of that pain in the finished product, though. They make it look so effortless. The grace, the poise, the footwork, the rhythm, the emotion…. the way they ascend up the stairs as if they were gliding … the sense of space and location to know where they are in relation to each other and the camera… the coordination … and it’s shot mostly in a long unbroken take.

When I proposed Women in Action Roles last week, I was stumped to think of anything prior to 1970. Was there… maybe… a popular female action star in Western movies? Spy movies? I suppose there’s some, but they never came close in popularity to their male counterparts. But while 1936’s Swing Time isn’t an action movie, per se, it does display moments of athleticism. I’m exhausted watching these two. And that’s just watching them once… not 47 times.

That’s guts.

So here’s this week’s prompt in celebration of Women’s History Month: When you think of the phrase, “Backwards and in high heels”, what actor/director/screenwriter comes to mind?

  • Is it Mary Harron, who stepped in for David Cronenberg (and was threatened to be taken off in favor of Oliver Stone) and delivered a classic violent horror satire, American Psycho, on a budget of $10 Million? (Harron also wrote the screenplay with her friend, Guinevere Turner.)
  • Is it Patty Jenkins, who parted ways with Marvel over creative differences on Thor 2 but proved that she could direct a big budget superhero movie with Wonder Woman?
  • Is it Amy Heckerling, who can stand alongside John Hughes as the voice of two decades of adolescents with a double whammy of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless?
  • Or maybe it’s Josephine Baker, who endured bigotry in the United States and became a huge superstar in Europe, becoming the first African-American to star in a major motion picture (Siren of the Tropics)?

As always, talk about the movies you’ve seen recently! Streaming movies invited!

Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Live-action Edition. Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier
LGBT Movies: Mothers and Sons
Made Overseas: Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings (2018)
Millennial Malaise 09: Johnny Mnemonic
In Captain Marvel, the Struggle (to Embrace ’90s Cheese) Is Real
WTF ASIA 46: Little Moth (2007)
Awash In The Stream -Tu Hijo (Netflix 2019)