Thursday, May 17, 2018
DANCING ON THE CEILING: STANLEY DONEN AND HIS MOVIES
From Broadway chorus boy to choreographer to director of several famous movies, Dancing on the Ceiling charts the course of Stanley Donen's Hollywood career with insight and admiration. Whether Silverman succeeds in making his case that Donen was one of the great directors, I'll leave to the individual viewer. Donen's romantic life follows an all-too-familiar course, with several failed marriages, including one to a woman nearly forty years his junior. Silverman briefly goes into these marriages but dispatches with them quickly, as he seems much more interested in Donen's career than his personal life, and as good as the book is, one might come away from the tome without ever really getting that much of a sense of Donen the person. However, the book certainly gives Donen his due as an important figure, detailing his triumphs and not skirting over his failures. Donen began co-directing with Gene Kelly on such films as On the Town, It's Always Fair Weather and Singin' in the Rain, then went strictly solo with such films as Royal Wedding, Funny Face and the excellent Damn Yankees. Later he became known as the "sophisticated" director of such films as Charade and Indiscreet. His misfires included the gay farce Staircase, Saturn 3, which he disavowed, and two movies with Yul Brynner, but he got some positive reaction to Two for the Road with Audrey Hepburn (with whom he worked several times) and Albert Finney. Written with Donen's cooperation, Dancing on the Ceiling is bolstered by many interviews with people who knew and worked with Donen, (although the device of quoting Betty Comden and Adolph Green as they affectionately discuss and disagree on several points eventually becomes tiresome).
Verdict: If this doesn't give you a new appreciation of Donen's work, nothing will. ***.