Pan, Hermes

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PAN, Hermes

Choreographer. Nationality: American. Born: Hermes Panagiotopoulos, Nashville, Tennessee, 1910. Career: Left school at age 12; worked in laboratories of Edison Company; then dancer in saloons and on stage (in Topspeed, 1929) and singer; 1933—first film as choreographer, Flying Down to Rio. Awards: Academy Award for A Damsel in Distress, 1937; National Film Award for achievement in cinema, 1980; Special Award from the Joffrey Ballet, 1986. Died: 19 September 1990, Beverly Hills, California.

Films as Choreographer:


Flying Down to Rio (Freeland)


The Gay Divorcee (The Gay Divorce) (Sandrich)


Roberta (Seiter); Top Hat (Sandrich); Old Man Rhythm (Ludwig); I Dream Too Much (Cromwell); In Person (Seiter)


Follow the Fleet (Sandrich); Swing Time (Stevens)


Shall We Dance (Sandrich); A Damsel in Distress (Stevens)


Carefree (Sandrich); Radio City Revels (Stoloff)


The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (Porter)


Second Chorus (Potter); That Night in Rio (Cummings); Moon over Miami (W. Land) (+ ro as dancer); Sun Valley Serenade (Humberstone); Rise and Shine (Dwan); Weekend in Havana (W. Lang)


Song of the Islands (W. Lang); Footlight Serenade (Ratoff); My Gal Sal (Cummings) (+ ro as dancer); Springtime in the Rockies (Cummings)


Coney Island (W. Lang); Sweet Rosie O'Grady (Cummings)


Pin Up Girl (Humberstone) (+ ro as dancer); Irish Eyes Are Smiling (Ratoff)


Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe (Seaton); All-Star Musical Revue (short) (co)


Blue Skies (Heisler)


I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now (Bacon)


That Lady in Ermine (Lubitsch)


The Barkleys of Broadway (Walters)


Let's Dance (McLeod); Three Little Words (Thorpe); A Life of Her Own (Cukor) (+ ro as dancer)


Texas Carnival (Walters); Excuse My Dust (Rowland)


Lovely to Look At (LeRoy)


Kiss Me Kate (Sidney); Sombrero (Foster)


The Student Prince Thorpe); Hit the Deck (Rowland)


Jupiter's Darling (Sidney)


Meet Me in Las Vegas (Rowland)


Silk Stockings (Mamoulian); Pal Joey (Sidney)


Porgy and Bess (Preminger)


Can-Can (W. Lang)


The Pleasure of His Company (Seaton) (co); Flower Drum Song (Koster)


Cleopatra (Mankiewicz)


The Great Race (Edwards)


Finian's Rainbow (Coppola)


Darling Lili (Edwards)


Lost Horizon (Jarrott)


By PAN: articles—

Classic Images (Indiana, Pennsylvania), October 1982.

Cineaste (New York), vol 12, no. 4, 1983.

American Classic Screen (Shawnee Mission, Kansas), May-June 1983.

Inter/View (New York), September 1985.

On PAN: articles—

Classic Images (Indiana, Pennsylvania), January 1983.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 24 September 1990.

Obituary in Dance Magazine, January 1991.

Film Dope (Nottingham), April 1994.

* * *

Hermes Pan began his career as a Broadway dancer and stayed in New York for three years. During this time, he met Ginger Rogers when they danced together in the show Top Speed. Both dancers soon moved to Hollywood. Pan first met Fred Astaire on the set of Flying Down to Rio in 1933 at a time when dancing pictures hardly existed. The two men bore an uncanny physical resemblance to each other, not only facially but in their slim physiques, elegant personal style, professional modesty and professionalism. Astaire once told Pan that he was the only person who could dance the way Astaire did. They became very close friends as well as collaborators and it is reported that their artistic relationship even extended to Pan sometimes doubling as Astaire in long shots as well as taking the woman's role opposite Astaire in preliminary rehearsals. "We thought so much alike about music and rhythms. The minute I saw him dance I said 'Oh, this is the kind of dancing I love.' He seemed to be able to do everything I felt inside and wanted to do."

Pan became dance director on all of Astaire's films and choreographed nine of the 10 films pairing Astaire with Ginger RogersRoberta, Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, The Barkleys of Broadway are amongst the best remembered.

In the 1950s Pan choreographed a series of slick musicals transposed from stage to screen including Kiss Me Kate with Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and Ann Miller, Flower Drum Song, SilkStockings, Pal Joey, The Student Prince, Finian's Rainbow and Can-Can. The sleekest of all was My Fair Lady, and he also designed the non-dancing but nevertheless spectacular staging of Cleopatra in 1963 starring Elizabeth Taylor.

Occasionally, he would appear on screen performing his own dance steps—in Moon over Miami, My Gal Sal, and with Lana Turner and Ray Milland, in A Life of Her Own. He also was able to choreograph off the dance floor onto ice for Sonja Heine and in water for Esther Williams. All in all, Hermes Pan provided the routines for 55 films, and other notable dancers who appeared in his films included Juliet Prowse, Cyd Charisse, and Betty Grable.

Together with Astaire, Hermes Pan changed the face of the screen musical, dispensing with the accepted practice of frequent cutting during numbers, and creating routines so meticulously for the camera that the dances give an impression of being filmed in a continuous take. Their collaboration resulted in dance scenes of wit, mastery, elegance, and spontaneity. Pan will always be remembered as one of the great names of the Hollywood musical along with Busby Berkeley, Robert Alton and the Kelly-Donen team.

—Sylvia Paskin