“Something that'll send me”

Todd Decker

in Music Makes Me

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780520268883
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950061 | DOI:
“Something that'll send me”

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Fred Astaire worked on a relatively small scale, trying always to stay within what he once called the “welcome limit.” Part of the task of routine making involved forging a unified, original structure that combined musical, choreographic, and cinematic choices into a satisfying whole. Astaire solved the question of cinematic unity by framing his dancing figure in its entirety, from head to toe, in a full shot and only rarely allowing cutaways from the dance. He stuck to this approach across his entire career and thereby made his routines legible, first and foremost, as dances. This chapter analyzes three idiosyncratic routines from the late 1940s—a period of aesthetic and commercial uncertainty in popular music, jazz, and the film musical alike—from three successive films: The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), Three Little Words (1950), and Let's Dance (1950). This triptych demonstrates Astaire's ability to work without the formal “net” of conventional song forms.

Keywords: Fred Astaire; routine making; cinematic unity; dances; popular music; jazz; film musical; Barkleys of Broadway; Three Little Words; Let's Dance

Chapter.  9467 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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