Song of the Day #4,428: ‘On Broadway’ – George Benson

Continuing my personal ranking of the 25 movie musicals deemed essential by the American Film Institute…

#24. All That Jazz – 1979
(#14 on the AFI list)

Director Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical musical drama is one of a few tragedies on this list. It depicts the death bed memories and fantasies of a womanizing choreographer played by Roy Scheider.

As this is a film about a Fosse-like character, it features a ton of Fosse’s signature dance routines — lots of hats and jazz hands.

My aversion to extended group dance sequences rears its head again, making most of the musical aspects of this musical a bust. I do like the opening sequence (featured as today’s SOTD), which captures the chaos of a Broadway cattle call audition to the funky tune of George Benson’s ‘On Broadway.’

Musical numbers aside, I had a hard time sympathizing with Scheider’s self-destructive Joe Gideon. He pops pills, smokes cigarettes and beds women on repeat, ignoring his doctor’s orders even after a major heart attack. Are we supposed to feel bad for him? Believe that his excess is a necessary ingredient of his art? I did neither.

Fosse definitely has a unique vision as a director (like Stanley Donen, he’ll show up again higher on this list). He helmed only five films and was nominated for Best Director for three of them. Quite the batting average.

In addition to the Director nod, All That Jazz was nominated for eight other Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor. It won for Score, Art Direction, Editing and Cinematography. I can’t argue with any of those wins — this is a stylish movie. But it’s not one I’d want to revisit anytime soon.

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway
They say there’s always magic in the air
But when you’re walking down that street
And you ain’t had enough to eat
The glitter rubs right off and you’re nowhere

They say the women treat you right on Broadway
But looking at them just gives me the blues
‘Cause how you gonna make some time
When all you got is one thin dime
And one thin dime won’t even shine your shoes

They say I won’t last too long on Broadway
I’ll catch a Greyhound bus for home, they all say
But they’re dead wrong, I know they are
‘Cause I can play this guitar
And I won’t quit til I’m a star on Broadway

I won’t quit til I’m a star on Broadway
No, no, no, no
I won’t quit til I’m a star on Broadway

Do do do do

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,428: ‘On Broadway’ – George Benson

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I saw this film only once when it came out. I recall generally appreciating it, but it is far from a favorite.

    To your question, I don’t think you were expected to feel sympathy for Fosse, sorry for him or believe his excesses were necessary to create great art. I think we were seeing a talented but flawed human being laid bare, and I suspect he represents the inherent conflict and irony found in so many great artists who create profound, beautiful, inspiring work, yet are so often flawed, troubled, even cantankerous human beings.

  2. Peg says:

    I missed Fosse\Verdon on television. Would like to see it mostly because Sam Rockwell plays Fosse and Michell Williams plays Gwen Verdon. Apparently they had a long relationship.

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