This one's for you, Terry.
No sooner had Astaire arrived in Hollywood than – diverging from the Busby Berkeley model already established at Warner Brothers – he set new directorial standards for how dance should appear on screen. “Either the camera will dance,” he said, “or I will.” The main Astaire rules for filming dance were as follows: Show the dance from head to toe without close-up, film it in as few takes as possible, and run it from start to finish without reaction shots. Though the Astaire films didn’t invariably follow all these rules to the letter, few subsequent dance films have even tried. It’s dismaying to see how often, even when a ballet is being broadcast live, camerawork chops up the dancing. Fred and Ginger, by contrast, really do dance several of their duets in a single take, some of them almost three minutes in length. In the annals of cinema, these takes should stand beside the finest feats of D. W. Griffith, Ernst Lubitsch, Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Welles. You may easily forget the camerawork altogether, such is the art concealing the art. No films have trusted dance, and dancers, the way Astaire’s did. [via, again, GreenCine]
[Astaire's line reminds me of Leni Riefenstahl's great pronouncement to the documentarians making The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl: "I will walk, or I will talk, but I will not do both."]
The cinetrix urges--no, commands--everybody to read the rest of Alastair Macaulay's TLS review of the nine Astaire-Rogers films. Lit folks, take note: The piece begins with Graham Greene's 1935 review of Top Hat.
Yeah, you heard me. That Graham Greene.