Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cinema Tuesdays {Damn Yankees}

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This 1958 adaptation of the smash hit Broadway show not only retained the cast, but also the writer/director George Abbott (co-directed the film with Stanley Donen) and the original choreography by young Bob Fosse!
Damn Yankees is a modern day retelling of Faust, but with baseball and a happy ending, because you can't exactly have a Fifties musical with the Boy being sent to Hell, can you?
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This is Joe, a middle-aged, married, former high school athlete and die-hard Washington Senators fan. After one terrible game where the Yankees clobbered the Senators, Joe utters those fateful words: "I'd sell my soul for one long ball hitter"
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Look at who appeared in a puff of smoke after hearing those words. It's Mr. Applegate! Guess who he is?
Mr. Applegate offers Joe the chance not only to turn back into a fit 22 year old athlete, but the greatest baseball player ever and play for his beloved team! For a small fee, of course.
If anyone offers you a deal that's too good to be true, check his socks. If he's wearing red socks, think twice about it.
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Joe agrees, but only after adding in an unprecedented escape clause, since Joe doesn't want to totally abandon his wife. Mr. Applegate agrees, but only because it's a very stressful time in his line of work, with the elections coming up, you know.
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With a wave of his hands and a gleeful grin, Mr. Applegate turns Joe into Tab Hunter (the only member of the cast not to have been in the Broadway show).
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"Just let the boy hit a few"
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Check out the massive handbag the lady reporter is carrying!
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Joe's a baseball hero and he drags the Senators out of their losing slump. Cue baseball players dancing Fosse style. So cool.
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Joe misses his wife, so he turns up and asks to rent a room.
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Her friends think it's a great idea to rent a room to a complete stranger. What could go wrong?
It's a 1950's musical set in a small town, nothing goes wrong and all strangers are friendly and safe.
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Mr. Applegate doesn't like this. Wives and homes are bad for his business.
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So he calls up Lola, the best homewrecker on his staff.
Gwen Verdon is just incredible in this film! I wish she had stared in more movies, but she did with her second Tony for playing Lola.
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Mr. Applegate also has to deal with that nosy lady reporter.
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And that pesky escape clause is really coming back to bite him.
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Have you ever seen this number and wondered why she pauses at certain points? That's because on the stage, Gwen Verdon did some amazing and suggestive bumps and grinds, but you can't do that in a Code picture, so she pauses instead and you can use your imagination.
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Lola tries her best to vamp it for Joe
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But Joe just isn't going for it. He'd rather go home to his wife
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Not even Lola's strip routine can change his mind, but it does cause Lola to rethink her life's work.
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Poor Mr. Applegate! Things just aren't what they used to be and way less gory.
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Lola tries a new approach as the honest fan club member.
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Meanwhile, with the date of the escape clause looming, Mr. Applegate mentions something to the lady reporter.
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This is the only time in which Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon (who married in 1960) danced together on screen. You can see both of them here demonstrating the choreography process for the "Whatever Lola Wants" number.
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Meanwhile, Mr. Applegate questions Lola's commitment to her job.
I would totally wear that sweater, would you?
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So, does Mr. Applegate win Joe's soul?
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Or does Lola double cross him?

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