Saturday, October 17, 2009

Giving Gravity an Asswhuppin'

Just a word about about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' "Pick Yourself Up" number from Swingtime.. Put your DVD on quadruple fastforward to zip and skip through the klunky early scenes if you can't bear them....they scarcely matter. It's all about the dance, the lyrics, the music. Imagine the audience, in the depths (1936) of the Depression watching this. It's set up by Fred, already broke, pretending he can't dance......and doing it so well he gets dance instructor Ginger fired. So now they both have nothing...but each other, and their flying feet...and they go back on the floor and suddenly catch fire and win Ginger back her job and then some. Perhaps the best moment among countless wonderful moves is when they casually hurdle the little fence that pens them in. Because there's no fencing these two in any longer. Now that they're transformed, limits are laughable, mere opportunities to show their magical stuff. Plenty of the original watchers, back in 1936, were out of a job or knew all too well what it was like to be down with no hope on the horizon. So imagine the effect the lyrics must have had on them: Nothing's impossible I have found,For when my chin is on the ground,I pick myself up,Dust myself off,Start All over again.

Don't lose your confidence if you slip,Be grateful for a pleasant trip,And pick yourself up,Dust yourself off,Start all over again.

Fred and Ginger are flying, they're giving gravity an asswhuppin', they're suddenly brilliant, they're geniuses, they can do no wrong, Fred has gone from being a klutz to did it happen? Who cares? It happened! They're Americans, aren't they? And isn't everyone an American, in the sense that there's always hope, always the chance to turn things around? No matter how crazy that may seem? No matter how low and hard they fall, they can pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again! And this time the world will be wonderful, and they'll be wonderful... And imagine yourself, unemployed and despairing, in the depths of the Depression, with no reason for hope, sitting in the dark in that theater, listening to those lyrics, watching those dancing demigods. How many millions of people, in the U.S. and all over the globe, walked out of the theaters with their crushed hearts lightened, with hope, with a sense of the future, with an renewed confidence? Those movie houses were places of worship, sacred temples, admission two bits, when moments like that happened. And their gospel was lyrics like these from Dorothy Fields: Will you remember the famous men,Who had to fall to rise again?So take a deep breath,Pick yourself up,Dust yourself off,Start all over again.Because there is greatness in all of us, and we find it when things seem darkest, lowest, most hopeless. And the amazing thing is that you, now, perhaps discouraged by the latest financial collapse, and whatever reversals you and your family and community and society have suffered, can still watch that wonderful number, take in those beautiful swirling bodies, that startlingly spontaneous, surprising, sparkling choreography, listen to the resilient, inspiring, lyrics, and feel not only a connection to the brave Americans of an earlier era, but feel that courage pour into your own, dented, heart. Go out and rent it today and see if I'm wrong. And finally, a word about Ginger. When the music stopped playing, when she stopped flying, when she was merely acting, she could look a bit pie-faced and pugnosed, one might even notice her platinum dye job. But when she was in motion, spinning, her gown in one hand, scissoring those perfect legs, that flawless back, that exquisitely trim waist, she was the most beautiful woman in the world, an angel, an goddess who briefly dropped in to show us mere mortals how it was done, what it looked like. She was everybody's muse. Don't take my word for it----take a look and listen for yourself. Now that's what you call a pick-me-up.


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