Cast & Crew
In a lively Italian town square, the curtain opens on a road show circus where a sad clown watches as a young maiden swoons over a man courting her with the lute. Wishing to be her suitor as well, the clown disguises himself and plays the instrument for her, but her suitor soon unmasks the clown, to the delight of the audience. The clown feigns heartbreak, but when show closes, he is visibly distraught over the female dancer's interest in the tightrope walker. Meanwhile, the performance continues on the stage with elaborate displays of acrobatics, juggling and balancing feats. When the curtain opens again, dancers pluck instruments from the clown's costume, revealing rings of bells on the his wrists, ankles and hat, make a melody as he frolicks in dance. The audience soon turns to the tightrope walker, who performs dangerous somersaults and flips high above them. The clown watches as the female dancer gazes admiringly at the tightrope walker. At the close of the circus, the clown, stricken with jealousy, ruefully walks through the excited crowd. That night the clown watches as the tightrope walker, who is the dancer's lover, and his beloved perform their intimate ballet, each joyously performing solos to entice each other's passion. As the tightrope walker carries the beloved away, she leaves behind her red cape, which the clown uses gingerly to dance with as a partner. When the beloved returns and witnesses the clown's folly, he cries in humiliation. She tries to comfort the clown, but the tightrope walker returns, misconstrues her pity and flies into a rage, accepting none of her explanations. Unable to comfort the distraught woman, the clown climbs the ladder to the tightrope and inches his way across the wire. Frantic to save the clown, the beloved calls to the circus performers, who watch as the clown falls to the ground onto the red cape. Grabbing the hand of the tightrope walker, the clown releases the beloved into his care, clutches the cape and dies.
At a lively party filled with guests gossiping, dancing and drinking, the hostess is flattering an artist, when her husband returns home. Despite being jealous, the husband presents his wife with an anniversary present, a beautiful bracelet, but then leaves her to delight in the artist's attentions. At his studio, the artist is so enamored with his model that he hands her the same bracelet as a token of his affection. Sometime later at the backstage door, several suitors anxiously tap in anticipation of their dates' arrival. Soon the model arrives wearing the bracelet. Her suitor, the sharpie, jealously eyes it and later that evening it is in his possession when he visits a femme fatale at a nightclub and presents the bracelet to her. On stage a crooner sings a ballad, causing an entire female audience to swoon at his feet except for the femme fatale, who calmly leads him off stage with her sexy swagger. Later, the crooner is playing a tune on the piano when the club's hat check girl notices the bracelet on his wrist. After a jazzy dance duo ending in an embrace, she receives the token. Sometime later, she meets her lover, a Marine. Seeing the bracelet, the Marine assumes she has been unfaithful, yanks it from her wrist and leaves for a bar. Later the drunken Marine wanders through the streets where a girl on the stairs asks for a light and pulls the Marine into a sultry dance. After receiving the bracelet from the Marine, the girl walks past a hotel, where the hostess' husband spots it on her wrist. The husband buys the bracelet from the girl and returns home, where his wife rushes to him, moved by his return.
One afternoon, while ambling about a foreign marketplace, Sinbad the Sailor buys up trinkets including a lamp and a book. Later that night, he rubs the lamp in an attempt to shine it and a small boy genie rises from a cloud of smoke. At first Sinbad believes the apparition is a ruse and tries to sneak away; however, when the genie charms a cobra with his flute, Sinbad finally realizes his luck. He then rubs the lamp to request a matching sailor outfit for his young friend and the two playfully kick up their heels at their good fortune. Enticed by the book's elaborate illustrations of a magical land, Sinbad rubs the lamp again. The two then shrink in size and climb into a page of hillsides covered in sparkling gems. When Sinbad picks up a large diamond, a ferocious dragon suddenly captures him with her tail. After the genie uses his flute to tame the creature, the dragon is transformed into a veiled seductress, who dances a duet with Sinbad. While trying to pick up another gem, Sinbad is confronted by two knife-wielding guards and taken to their leader, a sultan who orders Sinbad's death; however, the genie uses his flute to charm the guards into dancing with Sinbad instead. Sinbad is soon smitten with one of the shyer maidens of the palace and whisks her away into a wind-swept meadow filled with swirling leaves and flowers. The couple leaps through the air, skates on lily pads, swings on vines and then falls asleep. Waking at the palace, Sinbad is surrounded by guards who throw dozens of knifes at the sailor's feet, but Sinbad adeptly jumps from handle to handle, narrowly escaping their aim. The guards then join Sinbad in a tap dance, but are still unwilling to let him go. Sinbad quickens the tempo, spinning the guards so rapidly that they turn into bouncing balls that he kicks away. The genie and girl then return and the three dance off into the meadow.
Wesley C. Miller
Irving G. Ries
A. W. Watkins
F. A. Young
Invitation to the Dance
MGM decided to make Invitation to the Dance at Elstree Studios in Boreham Wood, fifteen miles from London. This was done because the studio had millions in frozen assets in the United Kingdom and they could not take that money out of the country. By employing British artists and using British studios, they could use those funds. In the summer of 1952, Kelly moved his family and his assistants Jeanne Coyne (later to be his second wife) and Carol Haney (who would play Scheherazade in the "Sinbad the Sailor" sequence of the film) to France where they worked out the choreography.
When the sets were ready they moved to England where the production became mired down in difficulties. The camera crew were unfamiliar with the type of crane Kelly wanted, and he found, to his frustration, that the things that were so easily accomplished in the gigantic factories of the Hollywood studios took much longer in the smaller British studios. It didn't help that Britain was still rebuilding from World War II and there were still shortages. And then there were the dancers. From all over Europe, Kelly had recruited some of the best, Russian dancers Tamara Toumanova, Igor Youskevitch, and French ballerina Claude Bessy among them. Because the dancers had other commitments, Invitation to the Dance had to be shot in bits and pieces to accommodate them. Injuries also occurred, as Youskevitch later said, "There were times, I think, when [Kelly] overdid things. He rehearsed us all so rigidly - and on cement floors! - that it required superhuman energy not to collapse. I remember one day he wanted me to do five double turns in a row and always land exactly on the same spot. He didn't want the camera to move at all, which meant that after each turn I had to remain totally in frame. Well, as any dancer will tell you, it's very hard to land on the same identical spot each time...He worked me for an hour of this until finally I injured my knee and he realized he was wrong. A couple of days later, when I was able to continue working he agreed to move the camera slightly for me to keep me in the frame. Which he did, though in the picture you can hardly notice it."
Kelly had problems with Tamara Toumanova, who had difficulty adjusting to Kelly's type of choreography. Kelly later said, "Tamara was a terrific dancer, but there were certain things she was just not able to do in modern dance. It wasn't her fault. Her orientation was completely different. I worked as hard as I could in the time available, and she was a marvelous sport, anxious to learn. But it was all too new for her. I just couldn't cut together what I'd shot and the result was disappointing. With more time maybe, I could have got it to work."
After filming was complete in England, Kelly returned to the United States, where the "Sinbad the Sailor" segment was completed. The MGM animation department took more than a year to animate the sequence, using nearly forty artists under the supervision of Fred Quimby, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.
As Hugh Fordin wrote "For the next three and one-half years the picture was intermittently tampered with: cut and recut, dubbed and redubbed. In October 1954, Tommy Rall was called in to redub his taps. In 1955, Kelly and Coyne redubbed Kelly's taps. And there it sat until 1957. One might pose the question why it took MGM so long to release Invitation to the Dance. Most likely the answer can be found in a number of adverse circumstances. What was the sales potential of the picture? As an art film it would play - at best - to limited audiences...[large theaters seating thousands of viewers] were not feasible for a ballet picture with Gene Kelly as the only big name on the marquee. There was the opportunity of booking into independent chains and theaters, but the distribution division was confronted with a lack of interest. Another negative aspect was the rapidly declining motion-picture attendance, which shook the industry and with it the management of MGM...It was under [Benny] Thau's new regime that Invitation to the Dance was taken off the shelf and premiered at the Plaza, an art theater in New York, on March 1, 1957. By this time the accumulated cost was $1,419,105. It grossed $615,000."
Producer: Arthur Freed
Director: Gene Kelly
Screenplay: Gene Kelly
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg, Freddie Young
Film Editing: Adrienne Fazan, Raymond Poulton, Robert Watts
Art Direction: Randall Duell, Cedric Gibbons, Alfred Junge
Music: Malcolm Arnold, Roger Edens
Cast: Gene Kelly (Host/Pierrot/The Marine/Sinbad), Claire Sombert (The Loved), Igor Youskevitch (The Lover), Daphne Dale (The Wife), Tommy Rall (Flashy Boyfriend), Tamara Toumanova (The Girl).
by Lorraine LoBianco
The World of Entertainment: Hollywood's Greatest Musicals. The Freed Unit at MGM by Hugh Fordin.
The Films of Gene Kelly by Tony Thomas
Gene Kelly by Clive Hirschhorn
The Internet Movie Database
Invitation to the Dance
It was filmed and produced in 1952 and shelved by horrified MGM bosses after bad previews. Kept on the shelf until 1957 when it played the art-house circuit.
Invitation to the Dance consists of three dance sequences without dialogue which each tell a distinct story. The opening credits list most production credits for the entire film; however, before the beginning of each story, music and cast credits specific to that sequence are listed. In addition, at the beginning of "Ring Around the Rosy," all of the cast for that sequence dance in a circle and are then shown individually onscreen with their cast names. The first story of the film, "Circus," opens with character "Scheherazade" sitting cross-legged holding a lamp and a book and pantomiming the introduction to the story. This is followed by a semi-classical ballet also using some pantomimic technique. "Ring Around the Rosy" uses modern dance and theatrical gesturing to tell the story. Animation is used throughout "Sinbad, the Sailor," particularly when the live action characters of "Sinbad" and the "Genie" dance within frames of a cartoon for their scenes inside the illustrated book.
According to an June 11, 1956 Time article, director Gene Kelly had the idea for the all-dance feature for many years before convincing M-G-M to produce the film in 1952. A September 3, 1952 Variety article states that M-G-M contracted with the estate of the late Arthur Schnitzler to purchase the rights to story of the 1950 French film La Ronde as the basis for the sequence "Ring Around the Rosy." According to a October 21, 1953 Variety article, after five months of shooting most of the film at the M-G-M's studios outside London, the production returned to the M-G-M Culver City lot for final shooting on the "Sinbad" sequence in February 1953. A March 17, 1954 Variety article states that M-G-M announced its plan to complete the cartoon sequence by June 15, 1954. Although 1952 Hollywood Reporter news items add The Liazeeds, George Carden, January Wilson and dancers Tommy Ralls, Paddy Stone and Beryl Kaye to the cast, their appearance in the film has not been confirmed.
As stated in a September 14, 1952 New York Times article, the film marked the first time that Kelly had the sole directing credit for a film. Although Invitation to the Dance received the award for Best Picture at the Berlin Film Festival and was lauded in several reviews for its inventive use of dance, it was not a successful feature for M-G-M, which, according to the Hollywood Reporter review, delayed the film's release for several years, possibly out of skepticism about its critical reception. A June 1956 Dance Magazine article criticized Kelly for using predictable dance solutions for the film's choreography, but credited him with having the courage to make the "first all-dance feature."
Winner of the Best Picture Award (Kelly) at the 1956 Berlin Film Festival.
Released in United States Fall November 1956
Released in United States March 1977
Film was shot in 1952 and 1953.
Released in United States March 1977 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Mighty Musical Movie Marathon) March 9-27, 1977.)
Released in United States Fall November 1956