Kidd, Michael

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KIDD, Michael

Choreographer. Nationality: American. Born: Milton Greenwald in Brooklyn, New York, 12 August 1919. Education: Attended New Utrecht High School, Brooklyn, graduated 1936; studied chemical engineering, City College of New York, 1936–37; attended School of American Ballet, 1937–39. Family: Married 1) the dancer Mary Heater, 1940, two daughters; 2) Shelah Hackett, one daughter, one son. Career: Copyboy on New York Daily Mirror; dance photographer; 1941–42—dancer for Eugene Loring's Dance Players, and for Ballet Theatre, 1942–47; 1952—first choreography for film, Where's Charley.

Films as Choreographer:


Where's Charley (Butler)


The Band Wagon (Minnelli); Knock on Wood (Panama and Frank)


Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Donen)


Guys and Dolls (Mankiewicz)


Merry Andrew (+ d)


Star! (Wise)


Hello, Dolly! (Kelly)


Peter Pan (Hemion)


Movie Movie (Donen) (+ ro)

Other Films:


It's Always Fair Weather (Kelly and Donen) (ro)


Your Key to the Future (d—short)


Smile (Ritchie) (ro)


Actor (Lloyd) (ro)


Skin Deep (Edwards) (ro)


The Making of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Benson— doc for TV) (ro)


By KIDD: articles—

"The Camera and the Dance," in Films and Filming (London), January 1956.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1957.

Positif (Paris), July-August 1997.

On KIDD: articles—

Film Dope (Nottingham), September 1984.

Variety (New York), 3 March 1997.

* * *

Throughout the 1950s, Michael Kidd ricocheted repeatedly between Broadway and Hollywood, enlivening the American musical with his fanciful and unabashedly energetic choreography. Yet, despite the conspicuous contributions that Kidd made to both the stage and screen musical during that decade, particularly at MGM, the tremendous success of his work on Broadway (Kidd received four of his five Tony Awards for productions he choreographed in the 1950s) has long overshadowed his role in revitalizing the Hollywood musical.

Although Kidd's style of choreography—a heady blend of ballet, acrobatics, and folk, jazz, and modern dance—was undoubtedly influenced by the training he received in the late 1930s when the American dance, itself a powerful mixture of various dance forms, was born, his work has been too consistently singular to be considered a clever variation on some grand theme. With the 1945 premiere of his first choreographed piece, On Stage!, which he performed, Kidd established himself as a distinctive choreographer, one capable of creating inventive and visually arresting dances. Of even greater importance to Broadway and Hollywood, On Stage! revealed Kidd's talent for using dance to communicate with and entertain an audience.

Nowhere is Kidd's choreography for the motion picture better displayed than in a handsome trio of MGM musicals: Vincente Minnelli's The Band Wagon, Stanley Donen's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Guys and Dolls. The versatility of Kidd's dance compositions is manifest in The Band Wagon, which boasts such disparate musical numbers as the thematic "That's Entertainment," with its music-hall exuberance, and "Girl Hunt," the sleek and steamy satire that ends the picture. In Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Kidd celebrated the dancer as artist and athlete through a broad and colorful palette of spectacular dance numbers, represented best by the unforgettable barn-raising ballet. By recreating the dance routines he composed for the 1950 stage production of Guys and Dolls, Kidd provided the film version of Damon Runyon's story with its full-blown vitality and metropolitan rhythm.

During his association with MGM in the 1950s, Kidd also made his on-screen debut in Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's It's Always Fair Weather. Describing Kidd's performance as ex-soldier/hot-dog stand proprietor Angie Valentine for the New York Times, the critic Bosley Crowther noted the naturalness and agreeableness of Kidd's acting, which was "somewhat in the style of Frank Sinatra," adding "and—needless to say—he can dance." Before leaving MGM and Hollywood near the end of the decade, Kidd, who had recently directed and co-produced Li'l Abner on Broadway, completed his sole directorial effort in film, Merry Andrew.

In the 1960s and 1970s Kidd concentrated on choreographing, directing, and occasionally co-producing a number of Broadway productions—Wildcat, Skyscraper, The Rothschilds—though not to the exclusion of working in film. Kidd rejoined director Gene Kelly in 1969 to choreograph Hello, Dolly!, whose excessive budget provoked Pauline Kael to decry in The New Yorker nearly everything about the movie, including its "asexual and unromantic" dancing, an assessment that was countered by several other film critics (Time's critic, for example, thought Kidd's dances "blithe and sumptuous"). In 1975 Kidd again performed on-screen in Michael Ritchie's satirical Smile, playing with charm and a touch of irony a Hollywood choreographer hired to stage a small-town beauty pageant.

—Nancy Jane Johnston

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