Dance, Girl, Dance


1h 30m 1940
Dance, Girl, Dance

Brief Synopsis

A ballet dancer and a burlesque queen compete for a wealthy suitor.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
Have It Your Own Way
Genre
Drama
Musical
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Aug 30, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono (RCA Recording System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,051ft

Synopsis

While dancing at the Palais Royale in Akron, Ohio, Bubbles, a cynical blonde chorine, and Judy O'Brien, an aspiring young ballerina, meet Jimmy Harris, the scion of a wealthy family. Both women are attracted to Jimmy, a tormented young man who is still in love with his estranged wife Elinor. Back in New York, Bubbles finds work in a burlesque club, while Madame Basilova, the girls' teacher and manager, arranges an audition for Judy with ballet impresario Steve Adams. En route to the audition, Madame Basilova is run over by a car and killed, and Judy, intimidated by the other dancers, flees before she can meet Steve. As she leaves the building, Judy shares an elevator with Steve, who offers her a cab ride, but she is unaware of who he is and rejects his offer. Soon after, Bubbles, now called Tiger Lily the burlesque queen, offers Judy a job as her stooge in the Bailey Brothers burlesque show and, desperate, she accepts. One night, both Jimmy and Steve attend the performance, and Judy leaves with Jimmy and tears up the card that Steve left for her. The next night, while at a nightclub with Judy, Jimmy has a fistfight with his ex-wife's new husband, and the next day their pictures appear in the newspaper. Bubbles, furious with Judy for stealing Jimmy, appears at the girl's apartment, where she finds Jimmy drunk on the doorstep and sweeps him away to the marriage bureau. Meanwhile, Steve's secretary, Miss Olmstead, also sees Judy's picture in the paper and identifies her as the dancer who had come to audition. That night, Steve attends Judy's performance at which the audience is given a lecture by Judy about the evils of viewing women as objects. This is followed by a fight between her and Bubbles over Jimmy. Hauled into night court, Judy is sentenced to ten days in jail but is bailed out by Steve. The next day, when Judy goes to meet her benefactor, she recognizes Steve, who hails her as his new discovery and promises to make her a star.

Film Details

Also Known As
Have It Your Own Way
Genre
Drama
Musical
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Aug 30, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono (RCA Recording System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,051ft

Articles

Dance, Girl, Dance - Dance, Girl, Dance


A troupe of nightclub dancers led by the charismatic but provocative "Bubbles" (Lucille Ball) find themselves out of a job when the cops bust their club for illegal gambling.

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) follows the mercurial fortunes and misadventures of two members of the troupe -- the innocent, dignified Judy (Maureen O'Hara) who longs to become a legitimate ballerina and her friend and rival Bubbles, who hopes her racy dance routines will land her a cash-flush husband. When Bubbles finds an enthusiastic reception for her sexy numbers on the burlesque stage as Tiger Lily White, she invites Judy along to serve as a high falutin' ballerina stooge for her act. Scenes of the crude, raucous audience, who relish Bubbles's sultry numbers, but boo and jeer during Judy's classy ballerina routines, make for a surprisingly realistic portrait of the divisions between high and low theater at the time.

While Bubbles and Judy occupy opposite ends of the entertainment spectrum, they also vie for the same boyfriend, the wisecracking high society playboy Jimmy Harris (Louis Hayward).

The oddball marriage between Bubbles's sassy bump and grind gyrations and Judy's dignified aspirations to better things have made director Dorothy Arzner's film into something of a feminist cult classic. It's particularly unique for its presentation of a realistic female friendship between Judy and Bubbles and for a climactic scene where Judy stops her ballet midway to berate her audience of hecklers for their lowdown ways and bad manners. "Go on. Laugh!" she jeers. "Get your money's worth. Nobody's going to hurt you. I know you want me to tear my clothes off so's you can look your fifty cents worth. Fifty cents for the privilege of staring at a girl the way your wives won't let you. What do you suppose we think of you up here - with your silly smirks your mothers would be ashamed of?" In a surprising response, the knuckle-draggers end up applauding the prim ballerina for her gutsy speech.

Like their characters, O'Hara remembered that she and Ball "were competitive, but in a friendly way." According to Kathleen Brady in her biography, Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball, "they charged admission the day of the filming [of the fight scene] and donated the money to charity. 'Anyone who wanted to watch us beat each other up had to pay, and we battled like tomcats, ' said Maureen. When the battle broke, the combatants left the arena together to have lunch. It was while standing in the commissary with her hair falling forward over a black eye, the vision of a 'two-dollar whore beaten by her pimp, ' that Lucille met Desi Arnaz. 'It was like Wow! A bolt of lightening! Lucille fell like a ton of bricks' said O'Hara. Friends and family warned Ball away from Arnaz as their courtship heated up, but Ball was inflexible. 'I had flipped, ' she admitted."

To prepare for her role in Dance, Girl, Dance, Ball changed her auburn hair color to blonde and starting visiting South Main Street in downtown Los Angeles where she could regularly attend burlesque shows and study the dancers and strippers in action. She also had Hungarian-born choreographer Ernst Matray teach her some tricks of the trade like slapping her thighs in rhythm while performing a bump and grind number. It paid off because Ball received most of the praise when the film was released. One reviewer wrote, "If RKO accomplishes nothing else with the venture...it has informed itself that it has a very important player on the lot in the person of Miss Ball, who may require special writing. But whatever the requirements, she has the makings of a star."

As for director Dorothy Arzner, she spent 30 years in the movie business, beginning her career in Hollywood as a script typist for William C. DeMille and later as an editor at Realart. But it was while observing Cecil B. DeMille at work that Arzner decided directing was her true calling. "I remember making the observation, 'If one was going to be in this movie business, one should be a director because he was the one who told everyone else what to do." The remarkably versatile Arzner went on to direct a number of films featuring strong-willed female protagonists including Christopher Strong (1933) and The Bride Wore Red (1937), but also did her part for the war effort by producing training films for the military. The director was known for drawing wonderful, naturalistic performances from her female stars in her sophisticated productions, of which Dance, Girl, Dance and Christopher Strong with Katharine Hepburn are the most famous.

Arzner spent her "retirement" from Hollywood directing 50 Pepsi-Cola commercials for good friend Joan Crawford (married at the time to Pepsi's chair of the board) and teaching filmmaking at UCLA in the 1960s before her death in 1979. In the 1970s, feminist film scholars applauded Arzner as a key pioneer in the small ranks of women directors working in classical Hollywood, with Dance, Girl, Dance often cited as a prime example of the Arzner touch. Arzner, some have said, undoubtedly drew upon her longtime companionship with choreographer Marion Morgan in depicting the modern dance ballet troupe led by Steven Adams (Ralph Bellamy), which Judy aspires to join.

Scripted from a story by Grand Hotel (1932) author Vicki Baum, Dance, Girl, Dance was mired in production troubles. The original director, Roy Del Ruth, quit after two weeks of shooting because the script lacked a clear point of view or storyline. Arzner refashioned the film from scratch, determining that the essential drama was class-based: "I decided the theme should be 'The Art Spirit,' (Maureen O'Hara) versus the commercial 'Go-Getter' (Lucy Ball)." The film -- whose strange mix of romance, backstage drama, girl rivalry and class drama its studio justifiably had a hard time marketing -- lost $400,000 for RKO. Arzner made only one more film after Dance, Girl, Dance, the 1943 adventure of a female spy played by Merle Oberon, First Comes Courage, which was finished by Charles Vidor when Arzner became gravely ill with pneumonia.

Director: Dorothy Arzner
Producer: Erich Pommer
Screenplay: Tess Slesinger and Frank Davis based on a story by Vicki Baum
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Production Design: Van Nest Polglase
Music: Edward Ward, Chester Forrest, Robert Wright
Cast: Maureen O'Hara (Judy), Louis Hayward (Jimmy Harris), Lucille Ball (Bubbles), Virginia Field (Elinor Harris), Ralph Bellamy (Steve Adams), Maria Ouspenskaya (Mme. Lydia Basilova).
BW-90m.

by Felicia Feaster
Dance, Girl, Dance  - Dance, Girl, Dance

Dance, Girl, Dance - Dance, Girl, Dance

A troupe of nightclub dancers led by the charismatic but provocative "Bubbles" (Lucille Ball) find themselves out of a job when the cops bust their club for illegal gambling. Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) follows the mercurial fortunes and misadventures of two members of the troupe -- the innocent, dignified Judy (Maureen O'Hara) who longs to become a legitimate ballerina and her friend and rival Bubbles, who hopes her racy dance routines will land her a cash-flush husband. When Bubbles finds an enthusiastic reception for her sexy numbers on the burlesque stage as Tiger Lily White, she invites Judy along to serve as a high falutin' ballerina stooge for her act. Scenes of the crude, raucous audience, who relish Bubbles's sultry numbers, but boo and jeer during Judy's classy ballerina routines, make for a surprisingly realistic portrait of the divisions between high and low theater at the time. While Bubbles and Judy occupy opposite ends of the entertainment spectrum, they also vie for the same boyfriend, the wisecracking high society playboy Jimmy Harris (Louis Hayward). The oddball marriage between Bubbles's sassy bump and grind gyrations and Judy's dignified aspirations to better things have made director Dorothy Arzner's film into something of a feminist cult classic. It's particularly unique for its presentation of a realistic female friendship between Judy and Bubbles and for a climactic scene where Judy stops her ballet midway to berate her audience of hecklers for their lowdown ways and bad manners. "Go on. Laugh!" she jeers. "Get your money's worth. Nobody's going to hurt you. I know you want me to tear my clothes off so's you can look your fifty cents worth. Fifty cents for the privilege of staring at a girl the way your wives won't let you. What do you suppose we think of you up here - with your silly smirks your mothers would be ashamed of?" In a surprising response, the knuckle-draggers end up applauding the prim ballerina for her gutsy speech. Like their characters, O'Hara remembered that she and Ball "were competitive, but in a friendly way." According to Kathleen Brady in her biography, Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball, "they charged admission the day of the filming [of the fight scene] and donated the money to charity. 'Anyone who wanted to watch us beat each other up had to pay, and we battled like tomcats, ' said Maureen. When the battle broke, the combatants left the arena together to have lunch. It was while standing in the commissary with her hair falling forward over a black eye, the vision of a 'two-dollar whore beaten by her pimp, ' that Lucille met Desi Arnaz. 'It was like Wow! A bolt of lightening! Lucille fell like a ton of bricks' said O'Hara. Friends and family warned Ball away from Arnaz as their courtship heated up, but Ball was inflexible. 'I had flipped, ' she admitted." To prepare for her role in Dance, Girl, Dance, Ball changed her auburn hair color to blonde and starting visiting South Main Street in downtown Los Angeles where she could regularly attend burlesque shows and study the dancers and strippers in action. She also had Hungarian-born choreographer Ernst Matray teach her some tricks of the trade like slapping her thighs in rhythm while performing a bump and grind number. It paid off because Ball received most of the praise when the film was released. One reviewer wrote, "If RKO accomplishes nothing else with the venture...it has informed itself that it has a very important player on the lot in the person of Miss Ball, who may require special writing. But whatever the requirements, she has the makings of a star." As for director Dorothy Arzner, she spent 30 years in the movie business, beginning her career in Hollywood as a script typist for William C. DeMille and later as an editor at Realart. But it was while observing Cecil B. DeMille at work that Arzner decided directing was her true calling. "I remember making the observation, 'If one was going to be in this movie business, one should be a director because he was the one who told everyone else what to do." The remarkably versatile Arzner went on to direct a number of films featuring strong-willed female protagonists including Christopher Strong (1933) and The Bride Wore Red (1937), but also did her part for the war effort by producing training films for the military. The director was known for drawing wonderful, naturalistic performances from her female stars in her sophisticated productions, of which Dance, Girl, Dance and Christopher Strong with Katharine Hepburn are the most famous. Arzner spent her "retirement" from Hollywood directing 50 Pepsi-Cola commercials for good friend Joan Crawford (married at the time to Pepsi's chair of the board) and teaching filmmaking at UCLA in the 1960s before her death in 1979. In the 1970s, feminist film scholars applauded Arzner as a key pioneer in the small ranks of women directors working in classical Hollywood, with Dance, Girl, Dance often cited as a prime example of the Arzner touch. Arzner, some have said, undoubtedly drew upon her longtime companionship with choreographer Marion Morgan in depicting the modern dance ballet troupe led by Steven Adams (Ralph Bellamy), which Judy aspires to join. Scripted from a story by Grand Hotel (1932) author Vicki Baum, Dance, Girl, Dance was mired in production troubles. The original director, Roy Del Ruth, quit after two weeks of shooting because the script lacked a clear point of view or storyline. Arzner refashioned the film from scratch, determining that the essential drama was class-based: "I decided the theme should be 'The Art Spirit,' (Maureen O'Hara) versus the commercial 'Go-Getter' (Lucy Ball)." The film -- whose strange mix of romance, backstage drama, girl rivalry and class drama its studio justifiably had a hard time marketing -- lost $400,000 for RKO. Arzner made only one more film after Dance, Girl, Dance, the 1943 adventure of a female spy played by Merle Oberon, First Comes Courage, which was finished by Charles Vidor when Arzner became gravely ill with pneumonia. Director: Dorothy Arzner Producer: Erich Pommer Screenplay: Tess Slesinger and Frank Davis based on a story by Vicki Baum Cinematography: Russell Metty Production Design: Van Nest Polglase Music: Edward Ward, Chester Forrest, Robert Wright Cast: Maureen O'Hara (Judy), Louis Hayward (Jimmy Harris), Lucille Ball (Bubbles), Virginia Field (Elinor Harris), Ralph Bellamy (Steve Adams), Maria Ouspenskaya (Mme. Lydia Basilova). BW-90m. by Felicia Feaster

Dance, Girl, Dance - Maureen O'Hara & Lucille Ball in DANCE, GIRL, DANCE on DVD


It is one of Hollywood's most revered myths-the talented yet undiscovered starlet from some flyover backwater, desperate to make it big in the city. Forget American Idol, this stuff goes all the way back to the dawn of mass media. You could be forgiven for wondering which was more numerous: the wanna-be stars or the movies made about them.

One of the earliest strains of the form came in the charming 1926 comedy Ella Cinders starring Colleen Moore. She wins a contest that sends her off to Hollywood for a big break, only to discover to her heartbreak that the competition was a sham and she is now lost and alone in LA. Moore finds laughs in the material, but in 1926 there was a brewing scandal in the industry about the hapless young girls who washed into town because of phony prizes only to be forced into prostitution to pay the bills.

This then is the ugly underbelly of the great Hollywood myth: for every star that is discovered there are countless others who are not. The line between using one's beauty and body to entertain strangers for money and exploiting one's beauty and body to sexually gratify strangers for money is thin enough to be easily blurred. In MGM's 1933 feature Dancing Lady, a ravishingly young Joan Crawford plays a dancer whose struggle to find meaningful and artistically valid employment obliges her to perform half-nude in burlesque houses along the way (an idea repeated in Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong).

The 1940 RKO romantic comedy Dance, Girl, Dance wades in the same pool, but with its own distinctive voice. Roommates Judy and Bubbles are aspiring dancers who ply their trade anywhere their intrepid manager (Maria Ouspenskaya) can finagle them a gig. Judy (top-billed Maureen O'Hara) is a serious artist with some genuine god-given ability and a schoolmarm's personality that works against her own interests. By stark contrast, her friend and rival Bubbles (played by the brilliant Lucille Ball more than ten years before making TV history) has little more than moxie, but when it comes to shaking her booty she does it with a wild abandon that Judy could never muster. Bubbles gets the breaks, and quickly makes a name for herself-as a top stripper!

Say what you will about the respectability of Bubbles' career-erm, sorry, she's now called Tiger Lily White-at least she lives well and on her own terms, while Judy faces despair and ruin. Judy takes a humiliating job as Tiger Lily's stooge, interrupting the striptease routine with some highbrow ballet intended to rile the audience into heckling her offstage.

In taking the job as Tiger Lily's stooge, Judy has to retreat emotionally into herself. Whatever artistic value her dancing has is (as far as she knows) recognized only by her, and earns her nothing but ridicule and hostility from her audience. Yet it also brings her money, stability, even some fame-and creates opportunities that her previous career path could not. For all the film does to plod through the shopworn story beats of the Star is Born paradigm, this question of Judy's career choices and what they mean is the true meat of the movie.

All this, and a Lucy striptease too-the girl has moves! Tiger Lily is a savvy businesswoman in a film full of sharp women, turning her liabilities into strengths as she shores up an entertainment empire, much as the real-life Lucy would do over the next four decades.

Both Tiger Lily and Judy are insecure, frightened girls, who conceal their self-doubt inside an increasingly brittle shell of cynicism. Over the course of the film, both women become alarmingly harsh, until all their pent-up aggression is unleashed in a violent catfight, and a chilling screed by Judy as she attacks her own fans. Dance, Girl, Dance winds itself up in a somewhat bland courtroom denouement, but after such riveting drama before hand, a softball ending is almost welcome.

The DVD box thoughtfully signals that this underrated treat comes courtesy of one of the only woman filmmaker in classical Hollywood, Ms. Dorothy Arzner. Actually, the box says she was the only one, but Ida Lupino fans may beg to differ. Nevertheless, Arzner's womanly insight combines with her two strong stars, Maureen O'Hara and Lucille Ball, to give an overused story setup some remarkably fresh air. The male leads are no slouches either: Ralph Bellamy plays a dance maestro honestly scouting Judy for her talent, while the always fun Louis Hayward plays a drunken philandering rich reprobate.

There are lots of movies about young talents yearning for their big break, few have this much kick in the bottle. Warner Brothers is packaging this with other early Lucy Ball films, which might confuse some buyers into expecting more Lucy than you actually get here. As is common with Warner's classic releases, they pair Dance, Girl, Dance with a vintage Vitaphone comedy short and a Looney Tunes cartoon. Neither is germane to the main feature, but both are more than welcome besides.

For more information about Dance, Girl, Dance, visit Warner Video. To order Dance, Girl, Dance, go to TCM Shopping.

by David Kalat

Dance, Girl, Dance - Maureen O'Hara & Lucille Ball in DANCE, GIRL, DANCE on DVD

It is one of Hollywood's most revered myths-the talented yet undiscovered starlet from some flyover backwater, desperate to make it big in the city. Forget American Idol, this stuff goes all the way back to the dawn of mass media. You could be forgiven for wondering which was more numerous: the wanna-be stars or the movies made about them. One of the earliest strains of the form came in the charming 1926 comedy Ella Cinders starring Colleen Moore. She wins a contest that sends her off to Hollywood for a big break, only to discover to her heartbreak that the competition was a sham and she is now lost and alone in LA. Moore finds laughs in the material, but in 1926 there was a brewing scandal in the industry about the hapless young girls who washed into town because of phony prizes only to be forced into prostitution to pay the bills. This then is the ugly underbelly of the great Hollywood myth: for every star that is discovered there are countless others who are not. The line between using one's beauty and body to entertain strangers for money and exploiting one's beauty and body to sexually gratify strangers for money is thin enough to be easily blurred. In MGM's 1933 feature Dancing Lady, a ravishingly young Joan Crawford plays a dancer whose struggle to find meaningful and artistically valid employment obliges her to perform half-nude in burlesque houses along the way (an idea repeated in Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong). The 1940 RKO romantic comedy Dance, Girl, Dance wades in the same pool, but with its own distinctive voice. Roommates Judy and Bubbles are aspiring dancers who ply their trade anywhere their intrepid manager (Maria Ouspenskaya) can finagle them a gig. Judy (top-billed Maureen O'Hara) is a serious artist with some genuine god-given ability and a schoolmarm's personality that works against her own interests. By stark contrast, her friend and rival Bubbles (played by the brilliant Lucille Ball more than ten years before making TV history) has little more than moxie, but when it comes to shaking her booty she does it with a wild abandon that Judy could never muster. Bubbles gets the breaks, and quickly makes a name for herself-as a top stripper! Say what you will about the respectability of Bubbles' career-erm, sorry, she's now called Tiger Lily White-at least she lives well and on her own terms, while Judy faces despair and ruin. Judy takes a humiliating job as Tiger Lily's stooge, interrupting the striptease routine with some highbrow ballet intended to rile the audience into heckling her offstage. In taking the job as Tiger Lily's stooge, Judy has to retreat emotionally into herself. Whatever artistic value her dancing has is (as far as she knows) recognized only by her, and earns her nothing but ridicule and hostility from her audience. Yet it also brings her money, stability, even some fame-and creates opportunities that her previous career path could not. For all the film does to plod through the shopworn story beats of the Star is Born paradigm, this question of Judy's career choices and what they mean is the true meat of the movie. All this, and a Lucy striptease too-the girl has moves! Tiger Lily is a savvy businesswoman in a film full of sharp women, turning her liabilities into strengths as she shores up an entertainment empire, much as the real-life Lucy would do over the next four decades. Both Tiger Lily and Judy are insecure, frightened girls, who conceal their self-doubt inside an increasingly brittle shell of cynicism. Over the course of the film, both women become alarmingly harsh, until all their pent-up aggression is unleashed in a violent catfight, and a chilling screed by Judy as she attacks her own fans. Dance, Girl, Dance winds itself up in a somewhat bland courtroom denouement, but after such riveting drama before hand, a softball ending is almost welcome. The DVD box thoughtfully signals that this underrated treat comes courtesy of one of the only woman filmmaker in classical Hollywood, Ms. Dorothy Arzner. Actually, the box says she was the only one, but Ida Lupino fans may beg to differ. Nevertheless, Arzner's womanly insight combines with her two strong stars, Maureen O'Hara and Lucille Ball, to give an overused story setup some remarkably fresh air. The male leads are no slouches either: Ralph Bellamy plays a dance maestro honestly scouting Judy for her talent, while the always fun Louis Hayward plays a drunken philandering rich reprobate. There are lots of movies about young talents yearning for their big break, few have this much kick in the bottle. Warner Brothers is packaging this with other early Lucy Ball films, which might confuse some buyers into expecting more Lucy than you actually get here. As is common with Warner's classic releases, they pair Dance, Girl, Dance with a vintage Vitaphone comedy short and a Looney Tunes cartoon. Neither is germane to the main feature, but both are more than welcome besides. For more information about Dance, Girl, Dance, visit Warner Video. To order Dance, Girl, Dance, go to TCM Shopping. by David Kalat

Quotes

Trivia

The original director assigned to this movie was Roy Del Ruth, but he quit over creative differences with producer Erich Pommer, so Dorothy Arzner was assigned the job.

Notes

The working title of this film was Have It Your Own Way. It was also reviewed as Dance, Girls, Dance. Hollywood Reporter production charts list Joseph August, not Russell Metty as photographer. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Dorothy Arzner stepped in to direct this picture after Roy Del Ruth quit over creative differences with Erich Pommer.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1940

Released in United States June 1995

Released in United States on Video September 27, 1989

Shown at New York Lesbian & Gay Film Festival June 1-11, 1995.

Released in United States 1940

Released in United States June 1995 (Shown at New York Lesbian & Gay Film Festival June 1-11, 1995.)

Released in United States on Video September 27, 1989