|Stanley Donen between takes for 'Two For The Road'|
with Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn
I have to think about Stanley Donen on a daily basis, it can't be helped. I'm aware of his profound influence on so much of our 20th century pop culture favorites. His impact is unfathomable, its enormity too great to capture.
|Albert Finney, Stanley Donen and Audrey Hepburn |
on the set of 'Two For The Road'
|With Bob Fosse (left) and Debbie Reynolds|
|Fred Astaire, Stanley Donen (second from right) and Gene Kelly|
|Gene Kelly and Jerry|
|Fred Astaire dances on the ceiling in Royal Wedding|
He gave us everything charming in FUNNY FACE. (Think Pink!)
These days, it's a thrill when a filmmaker has made two or three movies I truly love in the span of his or her career. I can't count the number of Stanley Donen films I LOVE with all my heart. It's fair to say that Stanley Donen is the very last of the greats.
|Audrey Hepburn and Richard Avedon |
with Stanley Donen and company
|Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen|
Stanley Donen gave us a look at Audrey Hepburn at her most natural, free, and beautiful in 'Two For The Road'.
And back to topic, on point with the title of this blog post, Stanley Donen gave us Audrey Hepburn's most exuberant on-screen moment: dancing in 'Funny Face'. And here begins that 'benchmark' I mentioned earlier in the post.
Stanley Donen has described their collaboration in 'Funny Face': 'She was wonderful.... We only had one disagreement.... On Funny Face. There was a scene where she danced in a black slacks and top. She said [I want to wear] black socks and I said no, white socks. She said it will ruin [the uniformity]. You can’t have white socks. I made a test with her in the white socks and she kept saying black socks. We were right up to the moment of starting the sequence. I went into her dressing room and said, “Audrey. We are never going to agree — you will have to wear the white socks.” She said all right. When the rushes came in she wrote me a little note: “Dear Stanley, you were right about the socks.”'
Aside from the rare account of friction with stars like Humphrey Bogart (who felt agitated while working with her) she was easy to work with and highly professional.She was also smart (on point, one could say) in terms of what looked best on her, visually. She had a strong and defined perspective in matters pertaining to her own style and appearance. And she tended to be right.
For Audrey Hepburn to go as far as she did––to insist, against her director's wishes, that she needed to wear black socks for her dance scene in 'Funny Face'––was atypical. She was obviously passionate about this issue, concerned with the way the line and 'uniformity' of her look would appear in the scene if she were to wear those white socks as Stanley Donen so adamantly instructed.
She never agreed to it. But she finally (reluctantly) gave in.
She was soon to discover as we all have, ever since, when watching the sequence, that when it comes right down to it––Stanley Donen was not only right about the white socks, YOU CANNOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF OF THEM THE ENTIRE TIME.
Those white socks that Stanley Donen insisted upon actually make this memorable and influential dance sequence in 'Funny Face' what it is.
This brilliant visual tactic, one Audrey Hepburn resisted (and perhaps a lesser director would have just melted and given in to her desperate pleas) would be used again by other dancing artists to equally memorable effect.
Just like the man who was likely his greatest influence, Stanley Donen.
There is a now famous clip on YouTube of Bob Fosse performing (wearing dance shoes with white spats, not unlike the visual effect of wearing black loafers with white socks) in 'The Little Prince' as the Snake In The Grass. Watch it here:
The first moonwalk is highly debatable since there have been quite a few notable, earlier incarnations of the move prior to Michael Jackson's adopting it around the time of his Thriller album.
What I find far more interesting (and this can actually blow your mind) is that this scene was directed by none other than... Stanley Donen!! 'The Little Prince' is a Stanley Donen film(!) Both he and Bob Fosse were great choreographers. Therefore: Wouldn't it be difficult to say where Stanley Donen's influence in this clip would begin––or end?
So. Bob Fosse (and 'The Little Prince') influenced Michael Jackson.
But Stanley Donen influenced Bob Fosse in order to create what influenced Michael Jackson.
You do the math.
Stanley Donen is the true source and core of inspiration here.
I wouldn't hesitate to consider how much Audrey Hepburn's loose, modern, balletic dancing with white socks and black loafers in Stanley Donen's 'Funny Face' also influenced Michael Jackson's dancing and style. Again, that's 100% Stanley Donen.
Michael Jackson was not once, but twice, deeply and heavily influenced by Stanley Donen.
Just have a look at the style of dress and the dancing that made him uber-famous around the time of Thriller. This was all Stanley Donen.
Is your mind blown yet? Mine was. I want to know how no one has made this connection before? In researching, I didn't see anything connecting The King of Pop to Stanley Donen. Only to Bob Fosse. And now you know: Stanley Donen was behind that connection. It's about time we more credit to Stanley Donen where credit is due.
These are just some of a multitude of reasons why I can't help but think about and appreciate Stanley Donen –– for all of his contributions (even down to the way we dress) every day. He is one of my personal heroes And he is certainly a living, walking, breathing legend to whom our entire culture of entertainment owes so much.