Act 2: The un-silent movie Quartet

Are they really together?

Original Choreography by: Marilyn Miller and Joe E. Brown (we think)

Choreography adapted by: Allison Robbins

Performed by: Emily Oleson & Matthew Olwell

Video Projection: Sally (1929)

Music performed by: Vitaphone Orchestra, Leo F. Forbstein, conductor

Music composition: “Look for the Silver Lining” by Jerome Kern and Buddy DeSylva

Concept/Background/Research/Process:

My friend Allison Robbins, who was getting her Masters at University of Virginia at the time, sent me a link to this scene back when it was up on You Tube, saying that it reminded her of me – which was extremely flattering.  The duet is what I would consider “eccentric dance” according to the way I understand genre distinctions in 1929.  There are some tap steps, but a lot of goofiness in between.

I got the idea for dancing with the projection also from Allison Robbins, who was doing this kind of work with early tap dance film in her studies.  I asked Allison if she would “consult” with me, and she did an amazing job notating the choreography and helping Matthew and I learn it.  We brainstormed about timing and blocking as well.

Interestingly, there is no choreographer credit that we can find for this dance, done to the song “Look for the Silver Lining” which became one of the better known songs from this show.  The film lists choreographers for “stage ensembles” and “ballet” numbers specifically, which would imply that those choreographers did not handle the tap numbers or the other duets and solos.  Allison postulates that Miller and Brown probably made up the choreography themselves, and from the way that they look at each other and have such loose unison in the scene, I feel this is a good guess.  Miller was a seasoned Broadway star at this point and Brown had been a child star in Vaudeville, they certainly could have thrown something together for themselves.  Sally is available for purchase from the Warner Archive Collection.

The movie was based on a play by P.G. Wodehouse, of Jeeves and Wooster fame, in my opinion one of the funniest comedic writers of all time.

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