Gene Nelson, a singer and dancer from Hollywood’s golden age, reminds us that talent isn’t always enough. You need an intangible extra to be a star.
I need a break from politics, so I want to talk about something different, which is star power.
Star power is real, although some stars, like butterflies, have to grow up a bit before you see it. If you go back and watch 1939’s Stagecoach, which was John Wayne’s breakout role after he’d already been kicking around in Hollywood for almost a decade, you see star power. Apparently his good looks notwithstanding, that decade was necessary to bring his wattage to maturity.
Katherine Hepburn also had to grow into her star power. In her early movies, sometimes she was good (as in Little Women) and sometimes she overacted so badly it makes ones teeth hurt (as in Stage Door). No matter the role, though, and no matter the quality of Hepburn’s work, she draws you in. You can’t help but watch her.
Star power affected musical performers too. Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire had it. Both were superb dancers and okay singers. Gene was handsome; Fred dorky. In other words, they were like a thousand other talented Hollywood hopefuls but, when they’re in a scene, you watch them.
And then there’s Gene Nelson. If you’ve heard of him (and most of you probably haven’t), it’s because of his role as Will Parker in 1955’s Oklahoma. And if you do remember that movie, you probably remember Gene for this one song and dance (which is really more singing than dancing):
Even that limited number showcases Nelson’s virtues: Handsome; decent singing voice; elegant figure; and superb, athletic dancer. And when I say athletic, I mean it: [Read more…]