Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and his Moves

Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and his Moves

by Stephen M. Silverman

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Overview

The first book to explore the life and extraordinary work of the legendary moviemaker who directed Singin' in the Rain, On the Town, and Funny Face, from the author of David Lean ("Silverman has captured one of the world's truly great filmmakers"—Billy Wilder). Stanley Donen is the man who forever changed the Hollywood musical, moving it away from the Busby Berkeley extravagance to a felt integration of the songs and dances. He is also the man who helped shape the sophisticated romance exemplified by Indiscreet and Charade.

The author, with Donen's cooperation, has brilliantly revealed Donen's fifty-year career—first in the theater, next in Hollywood, and then abroad. We see Donen's collaborations with Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Gene Kelly, and Frank Sinatra. And we see his work with Rodgers and Hart, Alan Lerner, Comden and Green, Roger Edens, Arthur Freed, Michael Kidd, and Bob Fosse. 

We watch Donen growing up in the South in the 1930s, seeking refuse at movies, watching Fred Astaire dance on the screen, and forever changed by it.

And then at sixteen, fleeing to New York, where he lands his first job in the chorus of the groundbreaking musical Pal Joey, directed by George Abbott, starring Gene Kelly...and appearing next in Best Foot Forward

We follow Donen west to MGM (first he was a chorus boy, then assistant choreographer)...next embellishing Anchors Aweigh, dreaming up the almost technically impossible notion of having its star, Gene Kelly, dance with a cartoon character, Jerry the Mouse...and in the next decade making one great musical after another.

We hear Donen's recollections of life and work on the sets of Singin' in the Rain, Royal Wedding, Funny Face, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, On the Town, The Pajama Game, Indiscreet, Charade, Two for the Road, Arabesque, Bedazzled, and other movies he directed. We see him through the eyes of more than one hundred of his contemporaries whom, in addition to Donen himself, Silverman has interviewed at length, from Kay Thompson and Billy Wilder to Deborah Kerr, Audrey Hepburn, Debbie Reynods, Gregory Peck, and Cyd Charisse.

Dancing on the Ceiling
gives, close up, a great director and a lost Hollywood on whose silver screen wit and charm abounded.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525657941
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/03/2019
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 418
File size: 60 MB
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About the Author

Stephen M. Silverman has taught at the Columbia University School of Journalism. He is the author of four books. His articles have appeared in Vogue, Mirabella, The London Times Magazine, and Travel & Leisure. He lives in New York City.

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Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and His Movies 2.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Book Report: Really now, how mysterious is the subject treated in this book? It's a professional biography/filmography of the life of ace director/former wunderkind Stanley Donen, of "Singin' in the Rain", "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", "Indiscreet" and "Charade" fame. Being a professional biography, don't expect his personal life to come under salacious scrutiny, or hear whimperings and moanings from ex-wives (five!) or sons (three). Darn it.My Review: The author knows his subject. Personally. And it shows: The anecdotage of any Hollywood player can come across as a personal hagiography, and so the trend towards memoir ("I remember") by these folks. Donen clearly cooperated with the author, and clearly smoothed his path to the major players in the Donen life story. There is some sense of stuff not gone into that a less involved and more prurient biographer, one bent on delivering the sense of the man to the detriment of the sense of the player, would have pursued. In some ways that feels like a loss to me, but overall I really was not aware of the small smears of whitewash that might or might not have been applied to certain passages in Donen's remarkable career until I had sat down to cogitate for this review.From unpromising beginnings in middle-class Columbia, South Carolina, Donen ran far away to glamourous exciting New York City at age 17. He was in every right place at every right time for the next 20 years and became a close work associate of Gene Kelly's, leading him to Hollywood and to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, THE place for a dancer/choreographer/aspiring director to break into the biggest time musicals anywhere ever. There he worked on a long series of projects for Arthur Freed, a legendary producer of MGM's top-flight musicals. It was a good association, though Freed seems never to have fully appreciated the talent and the drive of Donen. He wasn't above making use of the man, though, and it's to our lasting benefit as filmgoers that he did.At the end of the rainbow for musicals, about 1958, Donen had already read the tea leaves and fled Hollywood for London. There he produced and directed some of his best and worst stuff: "Indiscreet" (mature love affair between equals) and "Charade" (delightful caper dramedy about secrets, lies, and how gorgeous Audrey Hepburn was), some of the best work ever, both starred Donen's friend Cary Grant and are even today delightful and watchable. "Arabesque" and "Staircase", Donen's remake of "Charade" without Grant or Audrey Hepburn, and his sole effort at directing a story about gay men, were the pits.But the two films that, I venture to say, will be remembered by cineastes long long after you and I are dead, are the 1957 musical "Funny Face" starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, and "Two for the Road" starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. Both are *achingly* romantic. Both are gorgeously filmed, well acted, and far deeper than a casual glance at their stats will show. And both get a good long treatment in the book, the author and the director seeming to agree that here are monunments too large to ignore. The only other film so treated is "Singin' in the Rain," which has emerged as a major classic since the 1970s. And in every case, the stories told and the pitures painted are satisfying to the fan, and informative to the curious reader. In fact, that can be said of every part of the book.I have to say that I'd've given the book a higher rating if it had gone into more personal detail...not prurient stuff, but more about Donen's off-set, off-screen life...than it does. I can understand the choice made by the author to focus on the *work*--probably required by the man written about, is my guess--but a **little** more than cursory mentions of marriages and divorces would not have come amiss. The book has photos throughout the text, which I prefer to photo inserts, even though there is some sacrifice of quality. It seems worth it to me, I like seeing the pho
Oldfan More than 1 year ago
<B>The Book Report</b>: Really now, how mysterious is the subject treated in this book? It's a professional biography/filmography of the life of ace director/former wunderkind Stanley Donen, of "Singin' in the Rain", "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", "Indiscreet" and "Charade" fame. Being a professional biography, don't expect his personal life to come under salacious scrutiny, or hear whimperings and moanings from ex-wives (five!) or sons (three). Darn it. <B>My Review</b>: The author knows his subject. Personally. And it shows: The anecdotage of any Hollywood player can come across as a personal hagiography, and so the trend towards memoir ("I remember") by these folks. Donen clearly cooperated with the author, and clearly smoothed his path to the major players in the Donen life story. There is some sense of stuff not gone into that a less involved and more prurient biographer, one bent on delivering the sense of the man to the detriment of the sense of the player, would have pursued. In some ways that feels like a loss to me, but overall I really was not aware of the small smears of whitewash that might or might not have been applied to certain passages in Donen's remarkable career until I had sat down to cogitate for this review. From unpromising beginnings in middle-class Columbia, South Carolina, Donen ran far away to glamourous exciting New York City at age 17. He was in every right place at every right time for the next 20 years and became a close work associate of Gene Kelly's, leading him to Hollywood and to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, THE place for a dancer/choreographer/aspiring director to break into the biggest time musicals anywhere ever. There he worked on a long series of projects for Arthur Freed, a legendary producer of MGM's top-flight musicals. It was a good association, though Freed seems never to have fully appreciated the talent and the drive of Donen. He wasn't above making use of the man, though, and it's to our lasting benefit as filmgoers that he did. At the end of the rainbow for musicals, about 1958, Donen had already read the tea leaves and fled Hollywood for London. There he produced and directed some of his best and worst stuff: "Indiscreet" (mature love affair between equals) and "Charade" (delightful caper dramedy about secrets, lies, and how gorgeous Audrey Hepburn was), some of the best work ever, both starred Donen's friend Cary Grant and are even today delightful and watchable. "Arabesque" and "Staircase", Donen's remake of "Charade" without Grant or Audrey Hepburn, and his sole effort at directing a story about gay men, were the pits. But the two films that, I venture to say, will be remembered by cineastes long long after you and I are dead, are the 1957 musical "Funny Face" starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, and "Two for the Road" starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. Both are *achingly* romantic. Both are gorgeously filmed, well acted, and far deeper than a casual glance at their stats will show. And both get a good long treatment in the book, the author and the director seeming to agree that here are monunments too large to ignore. The only other film so treated is "Singin' in the Rain," which has emerged as a major classic since the 1970s. And in every case, the stories told and the pitures painted are satisfying to the fa
Guest More than 1 year ago
Silverman's book bored me. Full of contradiction, it seethes with poorly researched data, questionable 'facts' and is, in a word or two a 'Donen Diatribe'. Using repetitive jibes at such greats as Gene Kelly, both the writer and his subject utilize 3/4 of the tome blaming others, fault-finding and whining that Donen was not the mentor, the legend, the venerated ONE. How sad that a life or life's work is so pitiably sprinkled into one chapter of the 28 presented here, and that the author found himself compelled to throw in almost 40 unnecessary pages at the end to fill up the otherwise laborious vituperation. I'm so glad I got a library copy instead of having purchased it.