Cast & Crew
Roy Del Ruth
As sailors Gunny Saks and Ted Barker prepare to return to New York after a four-year voyage, Gunny's wife Jenny puts their daughter Sally to bed. Jenny wonders if she really loves Gunny, whom she hastily married after being his partner in a marathon dance contest, and hasn't seen him since shortly after their wedding. Because Gunny does not know about Sally, Jenny plans to keep her existence secret until she is sure about him. Jenny, who manages the New York Lonely Hearts Club, has just befriended Nora Paige, a terrific dancer from a small town who yearns to star on the Broadway stage. When Gunny arrives at the club to see Jenny, Nora meets Ted, and the two fall in love.
The next day, Lucy James, a Broadway musical comedy star, goes to the sailors' ship for publicity and Ted rescues her pet pekinese after the dog falls into the water. James McKay, Lucy's press agent, thinks that Lucy can get some great publicity for her new show out of the incident and convinces Lucy to ask Ted out to thank him. Ted reluctantly agrees to go to dinner with Lucy, partially to be polite, and partially to pay back McKay for getting Nora a job as Lucy's understudy. When the date is written up in a newspaper column, however, Nora is hurt and thinks that Ted does not love her any longer. Because his hitch is up, Ted decides to leave the navy to be with Nora, but she refuses to see him. Meanwhile, McKay thinks that Lucy would get even more publicity if she announced her engagement to Ted. Lucy has now started to fall in love with Ted, however, and does not want to use him, so she warns McKay that she will walk out of the new show if another word about her and Ted is printed in the papers.
Learning this, Ted gets the idea to call McKay's contact at a newspaper and, pretending that he is McKay, plants a story that Lucy is going to marry him right after the show opens. The next morning, a furious Lucy walks out of the show, thus enabling Nora to go on in her place. Though Nora is a sensation, she is broken-hearted over Ted until Jenny, who has known about the plan all along, tells her about Ted's scheme. Nora and Ted are then happily reconciled, but Jenny and Gunny's happiness is once again interrupted. Gunny is overjoyed to learn that Sally is his daughter, but because Jenny was so secretive, Gunny believed that she had been cheating on him, and in desperation he signed up for another four years in the navy.
Roy Del Ruth
Georges And Jalna
J. Marshall Smith
L. Dwight Snyder
Charles Levinson Lane
J. D. Jewkes
B. G. Desylva
Harvey S. Haislip Comm., U.s.n. Ret.
Edwin B. Willis
Best Dance Direction
Born to Dance
Powell began dancing professionally in her early teens. By the age of 17, she was on Broadway. In 1935, she made her first two film appearances, in George White's Scandals at Fox, and in Broadway Melody of 1936 at MGM. After a brief return to Broadway, Powell was offered a long-term contract by MGM, and she returned to Hollywood permanently. Among the provisions of the contract was that Powell, who had always choreographed her own numbers, would have 12 weeks per year to create her routines and rehearse them (dancers rarely did their own choreography; Fred Astaire was one of the few who did). The meticulous Powell would also perform her routines silently, on a mattress, during recording of the music, so the orchestra would have the correct tempo. When the number was shot, she danced to a recording of the orchestra, but the film was shot silent, and she dubbed the taps later.
Born to Dance (1936) would be her first film under the new pact, and was the first time Powell was billed above the title. The film is typical of most of Powell's vehicles. She plays an aspiring dancer, this time working in a lonely hearts club. Her first number in the film establishes her as a talented hoofer waiting to be discovered. Romance comes into her life in the form of James Stewart, playing a sailor on shore leave. There's the falling-in-love number, set in a park, with Stewart (improbably) crooning Easy to Love, and Powell dancing. And there's the huge, elaborate finale, which takes place aboard a battleship, in which Powell's character dances her way to stardom.
Born to Dance went through many changes before the film finally made it to the screen. Cole Porter had been signed to write the score even before the script was written. The film had originally been planned for British dancer Jessie Matthews, who was to co-star with Robert Montgomery. However, the British studio which had Matthews under contract refused to loan her for the film. Once Powell was cast, and the comic supporting characters were written in, Montgomery realized the leading man didn't have much to do and backed out. Allan Jones was then chosen to play Powell's love interest, before being replaced by James Stewart. A very young Judy Garland was at one time considered to play one of Powell's pals at the club, but the role went to Frances Langford, who had originally been set for the part of the musical star (a part eventually played by Virginia Bruce).
Cole Porter himself was responsible for the casting of Stewart. The gangly young actor was still in his apprenticeship period, having been signed to an MGM contract the previous year. Born to Dance was his sixth film, and his first as an MGM leading man (he'd been loaned out to Universal for 1936's Next Time We Love, opposite Margaret Sullavan). In a diary entry, Porter noted that he'd suggested Stewart for Born to Dance, and MGM had agreed, as long as Stewart could prove he could sing. "He sings far from well, although he has some nice notes in his voice, but he could play the part perfectly," Porter wrote. Stewart's singing was underwhelming, yet oddly charming. One critic wrote that it reminded him of "the hired man calling in the cows for supper. They come in with a smile, but they look rather surprised....Stewart is very much like the rest of us average guys. Only, our singing, like his, should be reserved for the shower." The reviews were more enthusiastic about Porter's score, which included another song which would become a standard, I've Got You Under My Skin. The song was nominated for an Oscar®, but lost to The Way You Look Tonight, from Swing Time. And while the critics admitted that Powell still wasn't much of an actress, they agreed that as a dancer she was sublime. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that her dancing "seems more magical each time one sees and hears it."
Director: Roy Del Ruth
Producer: Jack Cummings
Screenplay: Jack McGowan, Sid Silvers, based on a story by McGowan, Silvers, & B.G. DeSylva
Cinematography: Ray June
Editor: Blanche Sewell
Costume Design: Adrian
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Cole Porter
Principal Cast: Eleanor Powell (Nora Paige), James Stewart (Ted Barker), Virginia Bruce (Lucy James), Una Merkel (Jenny Saks), Sid Silvers (Gunny Saks), Frances Langford (Peggy Turner).
BW-106m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri
Born to Dance
New on CD - The Original Score to Born to Dance
Virtually all of the musicals produced in 1929 and 1930 were . . . well, terrible. Stodgy, stagy, and wooden, these creaky creations sounded the death knell for the genre. It wasn't until 1933's one-two punch of Busby Berkeley's 42nd Street at Warner Bros. and the arrival of Fred & Ginger at RKO that the musical got a second lease on life-one that lasted for decades. Most studios jumped on the musical bandwagon full force at the time, but M-G-M, lacking musical stars, basically stayed away from it. Aside from Joan Crawford's Dancing Lady in 1933 and the beginning of Jeanette MacDonald's cycle of operettas, musicals were not on the studio's horizon in the early '30s. Then along came Eleanor Powell.
Fresh from triumphs on Broadway, Eleanor Powell signed a one-picture deal with Fox to perform in George White Scandals Of 1935. Although she was not pleased with the film, audiences were-they went crazy over her amazing skills. She promptly turned down Fox's offer for a contract, as well an even more attractive deal from rival M-G-M. Instead, she returned to Broadway to star in At Home Abroad, with which she had great success.
By 1935, musicals were once again in favor at every studio, and Metro was determined to have another stab at luring Eleanor Powell away from Broadway and back in front of the cameras. Thanks to a huge offer-one that she simply couldn't refuse- she finally relented, landing a contract at the studio that afforded her a bit more freedom than the usual contract players. The studio built a huge musical extravaganza around her to ensure her stardom and show off her amazing talents. With a new, original, hit-laden score by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, and a cast also featuring Jack Benny, Frances Langford, June Knight, and new matinee idol Robert Taylor, Broadway Melody Of 1936 was a box-office smash and cemented Eleanor Powell's position as a major motion-picture star.
Before the picture was even completed, the studio was planning their next venture for Powell, an original musical based on a story by B.G. DeSylva, Jack MacGowan, and Sid Silvers. M-G-M snared the composing services of Broadway legend Cole Porter to write an entirely original score for the picture, which was initially entitled Great Guns. Until this time, Porter has resisted the lure of Hollywood, which had attracted virtually every other famous stage composer. However, in 1935 Metro put some much-needed investment coin into Porter's struggling stage musical Jubilee, and his gratitude to the studio led to what would be the first of many assignments to create an original score for an M-G-M picture.
By the time production was ready to begin, the studio had renamed Great Guns. The new title was Born To Dance. The success of Broadway Melody Of 1936 led Metro to put Powell's name above that new title. The film's threadbare plot cast Powell in the familiar role of a would-be show-business hopeful who runs into a handsome, young sailor on leave, played by 28-year-old James Stewart. Stewart becomes the object of the amorous attention of a big Broadway star (Virginia Bruce). The predictable complications ensue. By the finale, Eleanor gets to star in the big Broadway show, and she is romantically united with Stewart. In short, audiences were left with a big smile on their faces by the time "the end" appeared on the screen.
Porter's score for the picture produced two monstrous hits, which had already become standards by the time the film was released: "Easy To Love" and "I've Got You Under My Skin." He also provided some nifty additional songs that were a lot more fun and free-wheeling than his typically more sophisticated works. Powell's introductory number, "Rap Tap On Wood," and the charming "Hey, Babe, Hey!" were particularly delightful, the latter also showcasing additional cast members Frances Langford, Una Merkel, Buddy Ebsen, and Sid Silvers.
In Broadway Melody Of 1936, Powell's big finale was a nearly nine-minute spectacle, "Broadway Rhythm." The studio topped that in Born To Dance with the gargantua "Swingin' The Jinx Away" finale, which ran 15 minutes and showcased every dance specialty that Powell could offer. The sequence became famous for its re-creation of a battleship, complete with firing cannons at the climax.
Released in November of 1936, Born To Dance was a massive money-maker and led to Porter and Powell reuniting a year later for Rosalie, and then again for Broadway Melody Of 1940, in which Powell teamed for the only time with Fred Astaire.
Unfortunately, that was to be Powell's last big hit. Subsequent pictures, such as Lady Be Good, Ship Ahoy, and I Dood It, garnered less and less popularity with audiences and critics, and Powell retired from the screen soon thereafter, focusing instead her home life with her husband, Glenn Ford, and their son Peter. She returned to Metro for a guest appearance in 1950's Duchess Of Idaho, but it was an isolated appearance, and her only work before the cameras in the following years was on a religious television series. Meanwhile, her marriage to Ford hit the skids, and the couple eventually divorced. Powell made a brief comeback with a nightclub act in Las Vegas, which was met with great acclaim, but after a few more isolated appearances in clubs and on television, she permanently retired from show business.
The ensuing years found Powell virtually forgotten, until the 1974 release of M-G-M's hit compilation That's Entertainment!, which showcased clips of the actress at her greatest. Renewed interest in Powell and her films led to several retrospectives, and she even made a public appearance at 1981's AFI Tribute to Fred Astaire. Sadly, it was to be her last, as she succumbed to cancer only a few months afterward. Happily, home video and television availability of her few films have kept interest in Eleanor Powell's unique talents alive and well since her passing. Turner Classic Movies Music and Rhino Handmade are proud to present this first-ever complete soundtrack album of Cole Porter's score for Born To Dance (available in May 2003). This collection has been produced using the original 35mm optical prerecordings made in 1936, several of which were recorded using multiple microphones, thereby enabling us to present these recordings in stereophonic sound.
New on CD - The Original Score to Born to Dance
Hello.- Ted Baker
Hello, what's the thing about?- Nora Paige
Well, boy meets girl.- Ted Baker
Oh, I see. Well, boy loses girl.- Nora Paige
Boy gets girl back.- Ted Baker
Gunny, Sally is our child.- Jenny Saks
That's a fine time for telling me.- Gunny Saks
Why?- Jenny Saks
I've joined the the Navy again- Gunny Saks
I'll see you in four years.- Jenny Saks
Is that your daughter?- Nora Paige
Yes, first prize at the Marathon Dance.- Jenny Saks
I guess your daddy is proud of you.- Nora Paige
I've never seen my daddy.- Sally Saks
Why haven't you told him?- Nora Paige
Because someday we're gonna surprise him.- Sally Saks
I've got a inventive mind.- 'Mush' Tracy
*Most* sailors have.- 'Peppy' Turner
No fooling, I've invented something right now, and if I get it working, I'll sell it to the government for plenty of dope.- 'Mush' Tracy
What's that?- 'Peppy' Turner
I'm crossing parrots with carrier pigeons.- 'Mush' Tracy
But Jenny, I'm your husband.- Gunny Sacks
Don't remind me.- Jenny Sacks
'Garland, Judy' was originally cast as one of the three girls at the club, with Frances Langford as Lucy James. Garland was replaced by Langford, and Virginia Bruce replaced Langford as Lucy.
'Jones, Allan' was intended for Ted Barker, but the role went to 'Stewart, James' .
According to a news items in Hollywood Reporter, backgrounds for the film were shot on Santa Catalina Island, CA, and still photographer George Hommell took over for Eddie Croninworth when Croninworth was assigned to After the Thin Man. The Hollywood Reporter review notes that Born to Dance was Jack Cummings' first assignment as a producer. British actor-comedian Reginald Gardiner made his American motion picture debut in the film. It was also composer Cole Porter's first original musical for M-G-M. Modern sources state that Porter "hand picked" James Stewart for the male lead in the picture and in later years said that non-singer Stewart sang the song "Easy to Love" as well as any professional singer. According to the M-G-M music collection at the USC Cinema-Television library, Jack Owens, a baritone, did record a version of "Easy to Love" that was to be dubbed for Stewart's voice, but it was apparently discarded in favor of Stewart's own tenor voice. Born to Dance May be the only film in which Stewart sang a complete song. The ship set used in the "Swinging' the Jinx Away" number, as well as much of the choreography, was used again the 1943 Vincente Minelli directed M-G-M musical I Dood It!, starring Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton.
Released in United States 1936
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States 1936