Slaughter on Tenth Avenue

I don’t know if it’s as simple as being back in New York after the better part of a year away, but for whatever reason I woke up this morning with Rodgers and Hart on the brain. I know I’ve evangelized their cinema showcase Words and Music (1948) for years, and have probably already subjected most of my friends to this clip more than once, but it’s hard to top the 7-minute splendor of Gene and Vera in Rodgers’ “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.” Choreographed by Balanchine, it originally appeared in R&H’s 1936 Broadway musical On Your Toes:

And you can’t mention that version without a nod to this remake:


Or this one, perhaps even more brilliant:

Maybe when I’m a little less jet-lagged next week I’ll have more to write about the culture shock of returning to the city after our first academic year away.

7 responses to “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”

  1. T-Mo says:

    I’ve never seen Words & Music. That’s a great number! I love the sets and costumes. Looks like something to be seen on the big screen. Speaking of Gene Kelly and musicals, J-Man and I just saw Singin’ in the Rain at Cinefamily last week. Great fun, and the Technicolor dream of it all!

    I love the Mick Ronson version and immediately thought about linking to it in a comment until I scrolled down and saw that you had embedded it.

    Welcome back to the US of A! It must be a little strange to see things on the streets of NYC that could get people jail time in AD.

  2. Bryan says:

    I think I’ll have more to say abt AD & NYC next week, but it’s true that there are some differences. Maybe not as dramatic as you’d expect, but some subtle ones.

    One of my favorite experiences of the last few years was watching Words and Music with my grandparents, maybe four years ago. They both passed last year, so I’m glad I pushed them to watched it with me when I did. My grandpa, it turns out, had a real sweet spot for Rodgers and Hart. He knew all the songs and sang along in soft tones as we watched. And my grandma had worked in a small-town cinema in a town not far from the one I grew up in. When it was through she said that she had seen it in the theater in ’48 or ’49, and that it had been just like sitting in the best seats in the house on Broadway. That’s one of the funny things about W&M: it’s not a film of a Broadway musical — it’s a cinema showcase of all their hits from several different musicals, placed in a film biopic about R&H. Mickey Rooney plays Hart. It’s really quite amazing, full of knock-out guest performances. Totally recommended, even on the small screen. I’d love to see it on a huge old-fashioned movie screen though: very envious of your Singin’ in the Rain story.

  3. Bryan says:

    And how about that Ventures performance? It’s funny to think that 1966 was only 30 years from 1936: they were closer in time to the Broadway original than we are to them, and yet the translation from Rodgers & Balanchine on Broadway to surf rock in Japan seems like a pretty huge one.

  4. Smearcase, Mr. says:

    On Your Toes is also, I find upon googling, the source of “Glad to be Unhappy”–one catchy, mentally ill little number that also lived on in covers–from Billie Holiday to The Mamas and the Papas.

  5. Bryan says:

    Now I want to do nothing but search for pop/rock renditions of Rodgers & Hart songs.

  6. T-Mo says:

    Why limit yourself to R&H? Here’s my favorite pop/rock cover of a Cole Porter song, from a very cute ’90s Australian romantic comedy, Love and Other Catastrophes. Not usually my genre, but for some reason I quite like it.

  7. Bryan says:

    Oh, I love other songwriters from that era, of course, esp Porter & the Gershwins, but I have a real soft spot for R&H. We should work on a playlist of songs from the 1910s-40s that somehow survived rock and roll, though. Others?