Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Harem dancers (centenary celebration edition): Maria Montez, Queen of Technicolour

The poll results are in! I say that like it’s a new thing, but they’ve been in for ages and I just haven’t done anything about it yet. Frankly, the voter turnout was so small that it was hardly worth my while. You know those ads for beauty products where they say “90% of women agreed!”, but what they mean is “90% of the ten women who bothered getting back to us agreed, but the other 11,990 women just didn’t respond and for all we know they’re in hospital because our product made their faces melt off”? Well, like that. But without the face melt.

Anyhoo, the results of the poll to determine whether or not this blog’s readers were OK with all the ‘harem dancing’ posts were as follows:
  • 8% said “I don’t care, post what you want.” (I can see why they felt compelled to have their say.)
  • 16% said “Yes, I do like dance scenes from old movies and this blog should have more of them.” (Bless!)
  • A whopping 75% said “Yes, I do like dance scenes from old movies and the balance on this blog is about right.” (Kissing up gets you nowhere.)
That is a Putin-esque landslide victory for the Chiffon Shimmiers right there, folks.

So although I've posted some harem dancers since the poll closed, this lady is possibly the grande dame to end all grande dames as far as harem dancing is concerned -- "The Carribean Cyclone" herself, Maria Montez. Had she not drowned in the bath in 1951, at the ripe old age of 39, today she would have turned 100.

You can read all about Montez's posthumous influence on experimental film maker Jack Smith here, but meanwhile please enjoy these visual treats.

From the wind-swept set of Arabian Nights (1942) comes this Asmahan-esque entrance. I can't even begin to tell you how hilarious I find the moves that kick in around the 2.58 mark. Even the girl sitting in the lower left of the screen at about 3.18 looks like she rolls her eyes!



The 'human sacrifice' dance from Cobra Woman (1944). Although the dance itself is underwhelming, the next time you're confronted with rude audience members I urge you to recall this scene and pretend that you've got the power of life and death over them. It's really charming that the real snake in the close ups is plainly not the vacuum cleaner hose that Maria is wriggling around, and the way the crowd pumps its fists in the air looks a bit odd because heavy metal hadn't been invented at the time of filming:



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