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Dryden Theatre sings and dances with Minnelli’s MGM Musicals

Series in November and December features nine films, including em>Meet Me in St. Louis, Gigi,Brigadoon

Rochester, N.Y., October 15, 2009—The Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House presents a rollicking series of films this November and December — MINNELLI’S MGM MUSICALS. The featured films of Oscar®-winning director Vincente Minnelli star Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Lena Horne, Judy Holliday, and Dean Martin, among many others. The films in the series are all from the archives of George Eastman House — which holds the world’s largest collection of Technicolor films.

Minnelli began his Hollywood career as a set and costume designer on Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland vehicles. While he also directed several comedies and melodramas, Minnelli is best known for his work on musicals. He was embraced by the French auteurist critics associated with Cahiers du Cinéma due to his idiosyncratic visual style characterized by film writer Joe McElhaney as “a highly mobile frame marked by complex tracking and crane shots and a frequent use of long takes, a choreographer-like attention to the staging of action, and an expressive sense of décor and colour.” American critics both admired and admonished the director for his obsessive focus on costume, set, and décor. 

Minnelli followed the precedent set by Josef von Sternberg, who was notorious for cluttered mise-en-scène and privileging aesthetics over storyline. Such exacting attention to visual detail was hardly surprising from Minnelli, who had a background in window dressing and designing opulent theatrical spectacles. Cabin in the Sky (screening Dec. 8), a musical with an all-black cast starring Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, and Louis Armstrong, was Minnelli’s directorial debut. His third film was Meet Me in St. Louis (Dec. 19) starring Judy Garland, whom he would later marry.

Always employing the most talented of contract players at MGM, where the director himself was under contract, Minnelli made the best use of Fred Astaire as an aging song and dance man in The Band Wagon (Nov. 3); as a con artist visiting the fictional South American nation of Patria in Yolanda and the Thief (Nov. 10); and for a variety of musical numbers in Ziegfeld Follies (Nov. 17), one of which is the only screen pairing of Astaire and Gene Kelly in a classic MGM musical. Kelly collaborated with Minnelli again in the Oscar®-winning An American in Paris (Dec. 22), where he plays an ex-pat painter attempting to seduce Leslie Caron (who replaced an expectant Cyd Charisse). Brigadoon (Dec. 1) reunites Kelly and Charisse, and is perhaps best described as a time-traveling musical tale set in a Scottish Shangri-La. Minnelli won a Best Director Academy Award® for Gigi (Nov. 24), starring beloved French stars Caron and Maurice Chevalier. Bells Are Ringing (Dec. 15) was Minnelli’s last MGM musical, featuring Judy Holliday in her final film as a busybody telephone operator, whose advice changes Dean Martin’s life for the better.

Admission to each film is $7 general admission and $6 students and members. For more information please visit dryden.eastmanhouse.org or call (585) 271-3361. 

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