by Robert Wilkinson
Today is the birthday of one of the most incredible dancers ever to hit the silver screen, the amazing Harold Nicholas. If you want to see a tap dancer considered to be perhaps one of the two greatest in the 20th century, check out the links if you want to see some amazing moves!! Our other birthday boy, Thorne Smith, gave the world “Topper,” as well as a host of other novels whose plots have been used in countless movies.
Harold Nicholas (March 27, 1921 – July 3, 2000) was a choreographer, dancer and actor. With his brother Fayard, these dynamic dancers used a highly acrobatic technique called flash dancing, as well as a high level of artistry and daring innovations. These guys were considered two of the greatest tap dancers of their times.
From Wikipedia, we read that "by 1940, they were in Hollywood and for several decades alternated between movies, nightclubs, concerts, Broadway, television, and extensive tours of Latin America, Africa, and Europe.
The Nicholas Brothers taught master classes in tap dance as teachers-in-residence at Harvard University and Radcliffe... Among their known students are Debbie Allen, Janet Jackson, and Michael Jackson."
For your enjoyment and amazement, the Nicholas Brothers!
From "Stormy Weather," here are the Nicholas brothers doing "The Jumpin' Jive" with Cab Calloway.
When they were kids, a bit called "Tap Dance."
From 1936 and still young, an excerpt from the all-black musical "The Black Network." Here are Fayard and Harold Nicholas singing and dancing in "Lucky Numbers."
From “the Big Broadcast of 1936,” here are the Nicholas Brothers with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson knocking it out of the park! “Miss Brown to You”
From the finale of the 1940 movie "Down Argentine Way," the Nicholas Brothers doing the title song, "Down Argentine Way."
In one of their more well-known performances from the 1941 movie "Sun Valley Serenade," here are Dorothy Dandridge and the Nicholas Brothers backed by Glenn Miller doing "Chattanooga Choo Choo."
Here’s a 7 minute interview with Fayard Nicholas titled “Mister Nicholas and Mister Astaire”
A great find, definitely worth the watch if you’re into “high flying dancing” and “virtuosity, charm, and athletic grace!” From “Biography,” here’s a 44 minute documentary titled “The Nicholas Brothers Documentary”
We’ll close this birthday celebration with a great performance at the Kennedy Center in 1981! For your enjoyment, "Max Roach and Harold Nicholas at the Kennedy Center Tribute to Duke Ellington."
Here’s the Nicholas Brothers Website if you want to know more about these amazing dancers!
Born in segregated America, Harold and his brother Fayard lived to be world acclaimed artists, universally respected for their talent. RIP, gentlemen. You certainly raised the bar for all who followed!
Now we turn to celebrate the life and works of one of the truly great original American authors, Mister Thorne Smith (March 27, 1892 – June 21, 1934). Even if he had only given the world “Topper” his success would have been assured.
But after Topper, Thorne Smith went on to create some of the most memorable comedic novels ever written. The sad part is that the vast majority have been out of print for many years, depriving the world of some of the most genuinely wholehearted laughter I’ve ever had this life when I was younger.
From Wikipedia, we read he was:
… an American writer of humorous supernatural fantasy fiction under the byline Thorne Smith. He is best known today for the two Topper novels, comic fantasy fiction involving sex, much drinking and supernatural transformations. With racy illustrations, these sold millions of copies in the 1930s and were equally popular in paperbacks of the 1950s.
Smith drank as steadily as his characters; his appearance in James Thurber’s The Years with Ross involves an unexplained week-long disappearance. Smith was born in Annapolis, Maryland, , the son of a Navy commodore and attended Dartmouth College. Following hungry years in Greenwich Village, working part-time as an advertising agent, Smith achieved meteoric success with the publication of Topper in 1926. He was an early resident of Free Acres, a social experimental community developed by Bolton Hall according to the economic principles of Henry George in Berkeley Heights New Jersey. He died of a heart attack in 1934 while vacationing in Florida.
If you go to the Wikipedia entry, it has a list of all his novels and what they’re about. I read either 4 or 5 of them when a teen, and while they were racy for the times (and maybe even today for some people!), they were also bare bones about blending life, humor, fantasy, and deep truths about human nature.
”Topper,” of course, was made into a box office hit and a television series. “Turnabout” was also made into a movie and a television series. And to note, some of the hit movie “Cocoon” sure seems like it could have incorporated elements of “The Glorious Pool.” His tales were/are timeless, and he’s a true American original! Thanks for the laughs, Brother Aries!
Here’s a link to “the Thorne Smith biography that’s never been written.”
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson