Happy Birthday, Bob Fosse!

I found this great link online (click on it to make it bigger) – called “A Step-by-Step Tour Through the Moves of Bob Fosse”. It details his slinky anti-gravity counter-intuitive completely recognizable style.

Check out how the hands go. It’s opposite of what is expected. Same with the way the bodies lean out like a flat board. It’s off kilter. It’s sexy, but in a kind of sick way.

And here he is directing Liza in the film of Cabaret:

Liza was one of the quintessential Bob Fosse dancers. When you watch her in her prime – doing that choreography – you are witnessing perfection.

Here he is with Gwen Verdon, his wife. Their insane marriage was immortalized, by Fosse, in All That Jazz. I love this picture.

Verdon had this to say about Fosse: “I was a great dancer when he got hold of me, but he developed me, he created me.”

So many dancers have similar memories of him.

Ann Reinking … who was brilliant in his All That Jazz … basically holds the legacy to the Fosse style. She was already an incredible dancer when he got hold of her … but he transformed her, morphed her, twisted her – Phenomenal to watch.

He was a brilliant film director as well. All That Jazz comes pretty close to greatness in my opinion. Star 80 is fantastic, with some great acting by Eric Roberts – but it’s a bit too unrelentingly dark for my taste. Cabaret is amazing – but, to me – All That Jazz is one of the most audaciously personal films ever made. He films his own death. He fantasizes about it. He enacts it. But … the film isn’t self-indulgent at all. Or … it is so blatantly self-indulgent that we verge on genius here. Genius as in: indulging in his own fantasies to such a degree that most people never allow. He just GOES there. It’s brutal. He imagines his own death as an opera, with a cast of thousands. There’s a beautiful woman in white (Jessica Lange) beckoning him on. This was his daily life, the siren song of death always in his ears.

Not a happy man. But he had work to do – and he did it.

More information about him here.

Quite a legacy.

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14 Responses to Happy Birthday, Bob Fosse!

  1. Emily says:

    I love that first picture of Fosse. SOOO old school. Kind of reminds me of the old pictures I’ve seen of early Tour de France races with all the cyclists smoking. They’re great.

  2. DBW says:

    “But he had work to do – and he did it.”

    I like this observation. Too many of us have work to do, but we never get around to doing it. And I mean ‘work’ in the sense you use it. Talent lacks substance without the motivating drive to work behind it.

  3. red says:

    Yeah – good point. I mean work like “life’s work”. He just got to it.

    Stella Adler said, “It is not that important to know who you are. It is important to know what you do, and then do it like Hercules.”

  4. Hunter says:

    Shiela, you are so gay!

  5. red says:


  6. red says:

    Hunter –

    Perhaps I need to do a post about Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

    Whaddya think?

  7. JFH says:

    Ironically, I was just discussing Fosse and The Pajama Game with my dad last night (I was in Dallas on business). He claimed that in the movie version, Shirley MacLaine sang “Steam Heat” but I was sure it was somebody different. I told him, “Just a sec, let’s ‘imdb’ the movie” (I now use that as a verb ‘cus Ms. O’Malley does).

    As your probably aware it was Carol Haney, who when injured after a month of the play version opened in Broadway, gave Shirley MacLaine her “big break”. Who, obviously, was coached by both Foess AND Verdon in Sweet Charity

  8. MikeR says:

    It’s been a long time since I saw All That Jazz, but it made a major impression on me. It’s not a genre I would naturally gravitate to – I went in with some skepticism, but ended up being blown away. I think it is brilliantly self-indulgent in a way that most people would have neither the courage or the skill to pull off. Probably one I ought to own…

  9. brendan says:

    for some strange reason i had to watch ‘all that jazz’ in a classroom in high school. can that be possible? i hated it with a passion. i can’t remember why. but i’m sure i’m right about it! i like to laugh about the jets and the sharks every now and then. they just seem so dangerous! what on earth will i do to stop these scary dancing gangs? oh, i know, i’ll blare the smiths’ ‘this charming man’ and point out that someone is wearing a brown belt and black shoes.

  10. red says:

    JFH – beautiful trivia!! Yes! That’s one of the all-time coolest show biz stories.

    It’s even cooler because on the night that MacLaine went on for Haney (with not one rehearsal!!) Alfred Hitchcock just HAPPENED to be in the audience … he was very taken with MacLaine … and cast her in her first film role in Trouble with Harry.

    MacLaine has joked, “You see why I believe in destiny?”

    Every person who has EVER understudied has dreamt of having something happen to them like happened to MacLaine. hahahaha

  11. We watched “The Trouble with Harry” just a few weeks ago. I saw that MacLaine was in it but I forgot until, well into the movie, I realized who she was. Shocking to think that was her movie debut. She looked so comfortable and so competent, and it was a major part, in what was a pretty crazy movie.

    brendan, don’t you be dissin’ the sharks and jets. They aren’t dancing gangs. They are fighting gangs whose story is told using dance, as well as music and dialog.

  12. brendan says:

    no dis whatsoever but c’mon…they are dancing gangs. love the jets and sharks.

  13. Just1Beth says:

    Umm.. scuse me but the jets and the sharks are in West Side Story. And, as femme as they may be all dancing and whatnot, all breaking out into songs and fake fights, I still find them sizzling hot. And I always hope that gangs of hot boys will bust into song and dance spontaneously. Alas, it never happens. I don’t really understand where the fantasy stems from… But then again, I have always had a thing for Latino men. Yum yum.

  14. Missy says:

    I saw All That Jazz on my first date–really. We went across the river to Canada to make sure we wouldn’t be carded at the door. We both *loved* it–there was, like, nothing to say afterward. Just wow. wow. “it’s showtime!”

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