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I have quite a collection of musicals and movies from the golden era - in 2005 I trawled through them all to produce this list which first appeared over several issues of Dance Expression during that year. 

Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list. There are hundreds more films with tap in them, sadly a lot of them are not available to buy or are so obscure that they will never be shown on television. Rusty Franks book ‘The Greatest Tap Dance Stars & Their Stories’ contains an enormous list of films from 1900-1955 which had known tap dancers in them (although they weren’t all necessarily tap dancing in that film). I hope you enjoy reading this series about tap dancing in film as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it, and that it has helped you choose which film to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

 

To buy/see these films: Some of them are unavailable to buy in the UK. To find out use a website such as uk.shopping.com which searches online shops. Films are more widely available in America and can be found via www.shopping.com.

A lot of out of print films can be bought on ebay (www.ebay.co.uk) - search for the film title but tick the Worldwide box to see sellers items from other countries.

Please note that if buying from abroad check your VCR can play NTSC (UK is PAL but most newer video machines play NTSC), or that your DVD is multi-region.

Some of the satellite channels also show the older films. The best one is TCM (Turner Classic Movies) on Sky 327, NTL 403, TWest 419 and TopUp 25. Sky Cinema 1 (Sky 310, NTL 704, TWest 411) and Sky Cinema 2 (Sky 311, NTL 713, TWest 412) also show older films.

For those without satellite TV or internet access, Dress Circle (www.dresscircle.com) has a large stock of musicals and can be contacted on 020 7240 2227.

Tap Dancing in the Movies - Part 1 A - D

 

42nd Street (1933) – In the finale sequence Ruby Keeler does a short but great dance. In Rusty Franks book ‘The Greatest Tap Dance Stars & Their Stories’ Ruby is quoted as saying that she did that sequence in her clogging shoes (which look a lot like today’s jazz taps).

A Chorus Line (1985) - Charles McGowan and Gregg Burge tap dance a little during the song ‘I Can Do That’, as the characters explain their stories.

A Damsel In Distress (1937) – This film is well known for the ‘Fun House Sequence’ starring Fred Astaire, George Burns and Gracie Allen. There is also some tapping and drumming by Fred to ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’.

A Star Is Born (1954) - 2 hours into the film Judy Garland performs a tap routine to the song ‘Loose That Long Face’ with the chorus and a couple of kids.

An American In Paris (1951) – Gene Kelly has a lovely scene where he is in the street with some children and they sing and dance to ‘I Got Rhythm’. Later he tap dances on a piano as Oscar Levant plays. There is also a little bit of tap in ‘S’Wonderful’ duet with Georges Guétary. The 10 minute long dream sequence at the end has some lovely dancing with a bit of tap.

Anchors Aweigh (1945) – Gene Kelly taps a great flamenco dance about a fantasy that he is a bandit and Kathryn Grayson is a princess. There is also some tapping during a sequence in the market square where Gene is with a little girl. This film also includes Gene dancing with Tom & Jerry as he tells a group of children a story about how he got his medal. Finally there is a fun song and dance with Frank Sinatra as they tell their navy mates about all the girls they’ve supposedly met. It’s not brilliant tap dancing but worth watching for the delight on Sinatra’s face at being allowed to jump on the bed!

Anything Goes (1956)  - Donald O’Connor dances with Zizi Jeanmaire on board the ship as they rehearse ‘You’re The Top’. He then dances a delightful duet with Mitzi Gaynor to ‘It’s De-lovely’ which is quite long. More tap from Donald when he visits the children’s area to return a ball, and ends up singing ‘You Can Bounce Right Back’ and taps whilst bouncing and kicking balls around!

Baby Take A Bow (1934) - Just a little bit of tap dancing from Shirley Temple in this film. First when she shows off her moves to her mother when she picks her up from dance class, then again as she sings and dances with her father (played by James Dunn) at a party.

Bamboozled (2000) – Strange, dark and thought-provoking film which some people may find offensive. A TV writer creates a show which has ‘blackface’ minstrels. He is sure everyone will hate it and he’ll get fired. However the show is a hit and the story continues of how he and others deal with racism. Includes some fabulous tapping from Savion Glover.

Billy Elliot (2000) - It’s mostly ballet in this film but there is a small section featuring tap as Billy (played by Jamie Bell) vents his frustrations after an argument and tap dances angrily down the street.

Blue Skies (1946) – This film contains a show sequence with Fred Astaire and Joan Caulfield. Astaire does a fantastic routine to ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’ which is a fairly long 4½ minutes and has some great cane tricks and interesting rhythms. Later there is a lovely comedy routine with Bing Crosby. During the song ‘Heatwave’ there’s some great tap, tempo changes and a dramatic ending!

Bojangles (2001) – Gregory Hines plays the lead in this film about the life of Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson. A great and moving portrayal showing both the highs and the lows. There’s brilliant tap throughout from Hines but also from Savion Glover.

Bootmen (2000) – Dein Perry’s (Tap Dogs) film about Australian steel-workers. Adam Garcia plays Sean, who gets hired for a show then fired because he tries to upstage the star (Dein Perry). He and his friends then decide to ‘put on a show’ as a benefit for the workers. Luckily it’s a tap show so it’s full of dance class and rehearsal scenes, as well as the show itself, which is a wonderful 10 minutes of great choreography, athleticism and amazing rhythms.

Born to Dance (1936) – Eleanor Powell’s character gives an impromptu performance of ‘Rap Tap On Wood’ which is swiftly followed by ‘Pretty Baby’, a waltz involving 3 couples. There are two more routines at the show rehearsal – the first features Buddy Ebsen and the second is Eleanor. On the opening night of the show the number ‘Swingin’ The Jinx Away’ lasts an astonishing 12 minutes, with a bit of tap from Ebsen and amazing stuff from Eleanor.

Brigadoon (1954) – Gene Kelly and Van Johnson join with the song and dance that welcomes them to the magical Scottish village. ‘Almost Like Being In Love’ sees Gene singing and dancing on the hillside.

Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) – Buddy Ebsen and his sister Vilma have a bit of a tap dance while the kettle boils, Eleanor Powell joins them for breakfast then they all sing and dance a bit more! There’s more tap from Buddy and Vilma during rehearsals and some fabulous tapping from Eleanor as she auditions pretending to be French. More Eleanor at the end in the ‘Broadway Rhythm’ routine.

Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937) – ‘Follow In My Footsteps’ sees Buddy Ebsen, Eleanor Powell and George Murphy dancing on a train with a couple of horses! Eleanor and Murphy then dance in the park in the rain to ‘Feeling Like A Million’. At ‘put on a show’ time Ebsen and Judy Garland dance together and Eleanor finishes the show with her usual top tapping and turns.

Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940) - Fred Astaire and George Murphy as a duo act perform ‘Don’t Monkey With Broadway’ as a comedy tap routine. Fred goes to watch a show in which Eleanor Powell performs. Fred’s character is in love with Eleanor’s and he dances to ‘I’ve Got My Eyes On You’ when he thinks no-one’s looking. They then go out for a meal and have an impromptu tap dance in the café. When George Murphy is too drunk to perform in the show, Fred takes his place, and the famous ‘Begin The Beguine’ routine follows - it’s just under 10 minutes long from start to finish. At the end all three dance to a reprise of  ‘I’ve Got My Eyes On You’.

Broadway Rhythm (1944) - More of a talent show than a musical, as the various acts audition for a new show. However, it’s a great showcase for artistes in the forties and includes some great tapping from Walter Long, and a bit from George Murphy at the end.

Cabin In The Sky (1943) - Although this film has the legendary ‘Buck & Bubbles’ in it, the tap dancing actually comes from Bill Bailey. He dances in the kitchen scene to ‘Taking A Chance On Love’.

Call Me Mister (1951) - Near the beginning Betty Grable and The Dunhills (Bob Roberts, Lou Spencer & Art Stanley) dance a 3 minute routine to ‘Japanese Girl Like American Boy’. A little later Betty and Dan Dailey perform a song & dance together. We are then treated to a fabulous routine from The Dunhills. There are several other tap moments during rehearsals. The final number of the show, and the film, is ‘Love Is Back In Business’ and features Betty, Dan and the chorus.

Carefree (1938) - Fred Astaire shows that there is no limit to the things he will use as props to enhance his dancing. This time it’s golf balls as he tries to impress Ginger Rogers with his tapping and golf skills. Later in the film the wonderful ‘Yam’ sequence involves several rooms plus outside and lots of  jumping on furniture.

Cover Girl (1944) - Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth and Phil Silvers entertain us with a song and dance number that starts in a café then moves out into the street. A little bit more tap later in some of the nightclub routines. However the best tap dancing is the fantastic ‘altar ego’ sequence where Gene Kelly dances with himself, which he described as the most difficult film sequence he ever did.

Curly Top (1935) - Shirley Temple tap dances whilst skipping, and then later on top of a piano to the title tune.

Daddy Long Legs (1955) - Near the start of this film Fred Astaire tap dances, drums and throws his drumsticks around (rhythmically of course!) Although the ‘Slew Foot’ routine isn’t really tap dancing it’s definitely worth a watch.

Dames (1934) - My video of Dames includes a 1934 short called ‘Hollywood Newsreel’. This shows Hal Leroy rehearsing for the film ‘Harold Teen’, and has some great close-ups of his tapping.

In the film Dames, which is about Dick Powell trying to put on a show, there is a little bit of tap from Ruby Keeler at the auditions, then a bit more from the chorus during the song ‘Dames’.

Dancing Lady (1933) - When Joan Crawford auditions for Clark Gable’s show, the Three Stooges try to put her off with their terrible music. She then auditions again for Gable (when they play properly), and of course gets the job. There’s a tiny bit more tap during a rehearsal for ‘Dancing Lady’. Fred Astaire then appears (as himself) to rehearse the opening number. At the end of the film in the show, Fred and Joan perform ‘Heigh-Ho, The Gang’s All Here’.

Deep In My heart (1954) - A musical about a composer who continues to write hit songs and shows. These are performed by various guest artists. The tap numbers are ‘Swimmin’ With Women’ performed by Gene Kelly and his brother Fred, and then Ann Miller performing ‘It’.

Dimples (1936) - The delightful Shirley Temple shows her stuff in the first song of this film. Just a few minutes later she’s at it again, this time with a couple of other kids.

Dixiana (1930) - You have to sit through nearly all of the film but it’s worth it to see Bill Robinson dancing. He performs a wonderful 3 minute dance incorporating stairs. Unfortunately his feet are just off camera for most of it, but it’s still great to hear the clear, crisp sounds.

Down Argentine Way (1940) - Betty Grable has a little song and dance to the title track near the start of the film. Later The Nicholas Brothers perform the same song and 3½ minutes worth of outstanding tap. There’s a tiny bit more from them at the celebration party.

Du Barry Was A Lady (1943) - Gene Kelly performs a wonderful 3 minute dance to ‘Do I Love You’ as part of the show at the nightclub where he works.