Adrianne Haslet-Davis dances again for the first time since the Boston terrorist attack last year.
When the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon finish line, Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost the lower half of her left leg in the explosion. She’s a ballroom dance teacher, and she assumed she would never dance again. With most prosthetics, she wouldn’t.
But Hugh Herr, of the MIT Media Lab, wanted to find a way to help her. He created a bionic limb specifically for dancers, studying the way they move and adapting the limb to fit their motion. (He explains how he did it here.)
At TED2014, Adrianne danced for the first time since the attack, wearing the bionic limb that Hugh created for her.
Hugh says, “It was 3.5 seconds between the bomb blasts in the Boston terrorist attack. In 3.5 seconds, the criminals and cowards took Adrianne off the dance floor. In 200 days, we put her back. We will not be intimidated, brought down, diminished, conquered or stopped by acts of violence.”
Amen to that, Hugh.
Summer Stock (1950)
Judy Garland’s inner demons were in full swing prior to the filming of Charles Walters’ Summer Stock, which also stars Gene Kelly. She had been removed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) from 1950’s Annie Get Your Gun as she needed to be treated for drug abuse. Head MGM executive Louis B. Mayer - never known for his benevolence for those not toeing the studio line and performing at peak efficiency - showed some understanding and decided to give Garland a second chance by endorsing her casting alongside Gene Kelly. In a statement that served as truth and foreshadowing, Mayer noted that Garland should be, “[given] one more chance”, and that killing the production of Summer Stock would spell the end of her career. Looking at the results of the light, breezy, Summer Stock, we should be thankful that Garland was given that chance.
Summer Stock is another one of those we’ve-got-irreconcilable-differences-that-somehow-get-reconciled-and-so-we’ll-put-on-a-song-and-dance-show musicals that MGM specialized in through its golden years. Garland plays Jane Falbury, a down-and-dirty farmgirl who owns and does everything on the family farm. Her sister Abigail (Gloria DeHaven) has long been away from home with a travelling musical theater troupe that is in constant need for a rehearsal facility. Without Jane’s permission, Abigail’s troupe has arrived at the family farm to use the large barn as their makeshift theater and rehearsal facility. Jane is initially livid but, in true MGM fashion, relents to the director Joe Ross’ (Kelly) persuasiveness. And oh yes, there is a love triangle but to spare your eyes and to not enflame my temper, let’s just say the love triangle is thankfully not as overbearing as it could have been.
With starpower such as Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, mediocre musical material can be elevated to passable B-level joyousness. And that is very much the case with Harry Warren and Mack Gordon’s bland, but pleasant collection of songs. Many of the early songs are very context-specific and don’t have much a life outside of the film (in how many instances would you find yourself singing "(Howdy Neighbor) Happy Harvest"?). In fact, the film’s most memorable musical moment is not even a song composed by Warren and Gordon for the film. The iconic “Get Happy” segment - where Garland dons that black fedora and that suit - was composed by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler for the 1930 musical The Nine-Fifteen Revue. From the musical arrangement to the choreography by Skip Martin, “Get Happy” has been devoured as a magnificent representative of what an MGM musical could be capable of during the studio’s and the genre’s unmatchable zeniths. “Get Happy” was the last piece of the film shot as Garland required a rest after the absolute hell she faced during production (more on this in just a moment). With the assistance of a Santa Barbara hypnotist, Garland refocused if just to shoot a 2 1/2-minute musical number and it just looks so damn effortless. Indeed, it was Ms. Garland at her best. She only required two takes and nails every single note in that raw voice of hers. Her performance of “Get Happy” has continued to be referenced periodically in American popular culture, most notably in many of Michael Jackson’s performances of his single “Dangerous”. There is no evidence of personal turmoil in “Get Happy” or in the rest of the film, something truly remarkable considering the circumstances.
What about Gene Kelly? Only a year before An American in Paris and two years before Singin’ in the Rain, he has only begun the most dazzling series of performances of his career. Most memorable is the reprise of lyricless "You Wonderful You" where he dances with a newspaper. Aided by creaky floorboards, those few minutes are just plain irresistible. The rough-and-tumble Kelly, perfectionist as he always was, is operating at levels where he might as well be sleep-dancing through the entire film and we would not have noticed any difference in the film’s quality. There are missteps, such as the awkward “Heavenly Music” segment, but they never ruin the film.
At so many twists and turns during the film’s hellish production did it look like Summer Stock would be driven to such ruins. As a teenager, Garland had been prescribed a volatile mixture of sleeping and psychiatric pills that contributed to her almost-omnipotent erraticism, leading to an addiction to drugs and alcohol that plagued Garland’s later career. Producer Joe Pasternak, Walters, and especially Kelly all loved Garland and understood the difficulties she had been facing in recent years and felt that they needed to help her with this career and psychological boost. It was not to be. On numerous occasions, Garland was in such a bad physical state she could barely stand or control her emotions. Garland was also overweight at the beginning of production and so insecure about her appearance was she that costume designer Walter Plunkett attempted to conceal that gain. This became a vicious cycle of negative emotions on set and emotional breakdowns - and her untimely absences on key shooting days - became more commonplace as shooting proceeded. This would be Garland’s final film for MGM and she would have one final true cinematic triumph following her release from the studio.
In other hands, Summer Stock would be a disposable piece of MGM musical trifle. But with the always-masterful presence of Gene Kelly and a seemingly solid performance from Judy Garland, the level of stardom in this film is too bright to ignore. For both Kelly and Garland, Summer Stock would serve as a musical dress rehearsal for more incredible things to come (for Kelly, An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain is him at his choreographic finest and for Garland, A Star Is Born is a heart-shattering dramatic/musical performance that can never be replicated). In absolute turmoil and despondency lies absolute ingeniousness and inventiveness. Summer Stock might be a small triumph, but a necessary one.
My rating: 7/10
^ Based on my personal imdb rating.
This film was a demonstration of pure love. Gene hated to be assigned to it, but he did it for Judy because he loved her so much. The supporting cast was assigned and their goal was to support Judy. The love in their gazes was for the wonderful woman who was destroyed by MGM.