I’d only ever heard the Joe Jackson recording of this song. It’s …okay.
Had the pleasure of meeting Fayard at the Banff TV Festival back in the 90’s (can’t remember what year). Incredible energy and charisma, a real gentleman. And this sequence - holy fuck - it doesn’t get better than that.
Oh, now check out Eleanor Powell. The tap dancer even the Nicolas Brothers had the greatest respect for and who Fred Astaire found intimidating to dance with. Personally I think she’s was the best tap dancer that’s ever lived. And many other tap dancers agree.
And here she is in a famous scene with Fred Astaire. It is still one of the highlights in the history of tap dance.
Shit. With that band behind ya, well…even the worstest dancer would get a bit better. As for the best dancers? To tha moon!
i said the same thing. mind blowing. no wonder astaire lauded them.
Even before checking, I knew if had to be the Nicholas Brothers, they being contemporary with FA! They were the best. Those staircase splits gotta hurt!
Wow, those guys had timing, rhythm and grace in a way that almost none of us are blessed with.
Gravity. flexibility, anatomy, those are just details!
About one take/no rehearsals: Notice the ten cuts in that sequence? Then there’s the usual practice of filming to a pre-recorded music track, which allows precise camera-dancer synchronization–and, if necessary, retakes.
It’s not taking anything away from the Nicholas Brothers to say that this routine was almost certainly not shot in a single, unrehearsed take. Unless, of course, the scene was set up with multiple cameras–and even then, the positioning of the cameras would require knowledge of what part of the set the dancers would be moving to, which suggests at least some planning. (And while I don’t have time for a deep research dive, I suspect that I would find that this big sequence is made up from pieces of the Brothers’ repertory of moves and routines.)
However, Fayard did tell an interviewer that the finale–each jumping over the other’s head down the staircase–was done in a single take.
This one-take/no-rehearsal factoid, by the way, seems to originate with a year-2000 book review of Constance Valis Hill’s Brotherhood in Rhythm, and it shows up all over the internet.
I would imagine that it was only one take jumping over each other down the stairs because after that they had to force their hips back in their sockets and have someone suck their balls back out of their body. Those are hard landings.
Gene Kelly had to fight to get them into “The Pirate” so they had the respect of the two biggest WHITE dancing stars of their times.
I had the good fortune to see the Nicholas Brothers at Harvard Film Archive once upon a time. They spoke, took questions, and even danced a little bit. This was back in the 1990s and I’m sure they both had had hip replacements or knee replacements by that time. Still incomparably elegant and graceful even at that late date.
Since we’re (sort of) on the subject, here’s what may be the first performance (captured on film) of The Moon Walk (courtesy of Bill Baily; starts at ~2 minute mark.
It’s simply a joy to watch.
RIP The Nicholas Brothers, whom I didn’t know about until the Five Heartbeats film back in the 90’s.
“Now pay attention and you might learn something.”
Mostly they danced side-by-side facing the camera.
Not to take anything away from an incredible performance, but “unrehearsed” makes it sound like they just came up with it all off the top of their heads. Except the cameramen had to follow them, so they must’ve mapped out what they were going to do beforehand in order to get it all in one take.
Plus, as with any high level jazz musician, I’m sure they practiced a lot of their steps in other venues and performances, so when the time came they could just do it without thinking; Charlie Parker famously practiced eight hours a day for years before he went pro, so every improvised solo was an extension of those years of practice.
I’m most curious about how this was recorded: this is pre tape technology, I don’t see mics, I automatically assumed lip-syncing, but I can’t figure out how it could’ve been “dance-synced.” It must’ve been recorded live but Cab’s vocals and the band are so clear sounding with no mics anywhere near them.
(oops, I see @Russell_Letson already addressed a lot of this.)
The goofy looking gent who offers her a drink in the first vid is Burt Lahr- The Cowardly Lion.
Wow! All that and Cab Calloway too!
I’m not sure about the band but I’ve read multiple times that all the sounds of the musical tap routines during the period used to be re-recorded in specialized sound studios and dubbed into the soundtrack in post-production. The studios where the filming was done usually didn’t have the wood floors to produce a good tap sound and besides it was impossible at the time to adequately record the tapping on a large stage. The tapping had to be very “clean” as we call it. Often it was less known but very talented black hoofers who did the tapping in the sound studios in place of the stars seen in the movies!
I’m assuming the bands were re-recorded too.
Among other things, they’re such fine American athletes! An excellent video to watch during the current Olympics.