All That Jazz
a kate west favorite
"All That Jazz" has been compared to Federico Fellini's semi-auto-biographical "8 1/2". It may seem egotistical to portray yourself on the big screen and certainly Bob Fosse didn't have any self-esteem issues. At least not in how he projected himself to the outside world. True geniuses are often given a lot of leeway. A wildly talented and famous choreographer, Fosse made a huge impact on every person he came into contact with. That couldn't have been the most pleasant of experiences, as he was always more brutally honest than tactfully kind (he wanted what he wanted), but it probably changed lives.
The movie itself is brilliant, ego and all. From the precisely coordinated and edited opening sequence of dance scenes to all the elaborate musical numbers, it is quite the Broadway and Hollywood coupling. Fairly true to life, Fosse did have a heart attack while directing "Chicago" for Broadway and did suspect the producers and insurers were trying to double cross him. He did have an ex-wife (Gwen Verdon) who was over-the-hill by show standards and he did have many, many women, including Ann Reinking, who basically plays herself in the film. Story is he actually made her audition over and over for the part, too, sadist that he could be. He also made the movie "Lenny" around the same time he did the Broadway show, riding his editing staff for perfection. Dustin Hoffman got the Lenny Bruce role in real life and Fosse graciously gave Cliff Gorman the pretend role in the film, as he did the stage role. (Lenny Bruce was a famously controversial comedian who shocked audiences by supposedly promoting stereotypes, while actually demystifying "bad" words.)
For all Fosse's apparent viciousness though, he understood real style and beauty and could be very tender when he felt so moved. A complex man. The plot of the movie concerns Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), famous Broadway choreographer, directing a controversial new show in danger of losing financing when he collapses from a heart attack. Jessica Lange plays the Angel of Death, who flirts shamelessly with him throughout the movie, the only female capable of seducing him for a change. Interspersed with flashbacks, dream sequences, fantasy projections, reflections and present day perilous relationships, the Joe Gideon character is revealed to be a carbon copy of Fosse himself. He directs the film himself, with one impressive scene after another, including the moments before his coronary, when everything seems to stand still and voices fade away until you can only hear the closest isolated moments. Very effective.
Of course the dance numbers are all stunning, including the rehearsals where we learn that in order to sleep with the boss you better be a hell of a dancer. Every moment thoughtfully coordinated, it is a fascinating look into the mind of a master. While he does portray himself as rather a bastard, he is still glamorized and beloved by everyone, especially in the final spectacular "Bye, Bye, Life" scene with the perfect Ben Vereen. Roy Scheider (who virtually embodied the man himself) said that during the final shots of the movie, he goaded Fosse into trying the end experience himself and to his surprise and delight, Fosse found that everyone forgave him as readily as they did his alter ego.
Perhaps only a tortured soul is capable of creating such passion and art. And Fosse did indeed give us many riches, from his legendary signature bowler hat dance style to his multi-award winning Broadway shows and Hollywood movies ("Chicago", "Cabaret", "Sweet Charity" and "Damn Yankees" to name but a few). He made a star out of Liza Minelli and seared his mark on the world forever. "All That Jazz" is the culmination of everything that he was and you could not ask for a better legacy. And of course it has a kick ass soundtrack.
Robert Alan Aurthur
Roy Scheider ... Joe Gideon (Bob Fosse)
Jessica Lange ... Angelique
Leland Palmer ... Audrey Parism (Gwen Verdon)
Ann Reinking ... Kate Jagger (Ann Reinking)
Cliff Gorman ... Davis Newman
Ben Vereen ... O'Connor Flood
Erzsebet Foldi ... Michelle Gideon (Nicole Fosse)
Michael Tolan ... Dr. Ballinger
Max Wright ... Joshua Penn
William LeMassena ... Jonesy Hecht
Irene Kane ... Leslie Perry (as Chris Chase)
Deborah Geffner ... Victoria Porter
Kathryn Doby ... Kathryn
Anthony Holland ... Paul Dann
Robert Hitt ... Ted Christopher
David Margulies ... Larry Goldie
Sue Paul ... Stacy
Keith Gordon ... Young Joe Gideon
Frankie Man ... Comic in strip club
Alan Heim ... Eddie
John Lithgow ... Lucas Sergeant
Cliff Gorman .... Davis Newman (Dustin Hoffman as Lenny Bruce)
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All That Jazz