Monday, July 22, 2019

GWEN VERDON AND THE FOSSE YEARS (PART II)

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

After winning four Tony Awards and marrying Bob Fosse in 1960, Gwen Verdon took a break from performing to produce their daughter, Nicole Fosse, in 1963.


Nicole Fosse, Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon
April, 1986

"Verdon resumed working alongside Fosse in the title role of Sweet Charity on Broadway three years after Nicole was born. That was their last collaboration as husband and wife.

'I was living like a wife and a mother, which was really what I wanted to be, but I was the wrong kind of wife for him,' Verdon told the New York Times in 1981. 'I think Bob outgrew me. Bob started writing and he was involved in all kinds of things, and I was so involved with Nicole I didn't really care if I worked or not.'" (source: The Oprah Magazine)

I have my doubts about Fosse outgrowing Verdon, as if he were superior to her. It seems more likely that she knew she couldn't continue to let her star fade as her husband f***ed their marriage away. 

So she created the role of Charity Valentine in Sweet Charity, choreographed and directed by Fosse.



I'm sorry, but I don't know the year of this television appearance by Gwen Verdon and don't
 know what show it was. Maybe the Tony Awards?

In 1969, Fosse directed and choreographed a movie for the first time. It was Sweet Charity, not starring Gwen Verdon. Her part went to Shirley MacLaine because the studio wanted a young, fresh face. Verdon taught MacLaine the steps and assisted Fosse with directing.



She received no credit, but in the end, maybe she didn't mind because the film flopped.

Fosse got another chance at directing a movie in 1972 with Cabaret. As usual, Verdon pitched in and did whatever was needed, although their married life was coming to an end. Fosse/Verdon portrays Verdon as begging Fosse to end his affair with the film's German translator because she's humiliated by it. She flies to the U.S. to get, of all things, the gorilla head that was used in the movie. She returns to their hotel room to find Fosse in bed with the translator. An article I read said that he was in bed with two women.

That was it. They never divorced. They continued to work together. Verdon stated in many interviews that Fosse made her into a better dancer. Fosse was quite dependent on Verdon to "help" him with his work. When he won The Best Director Academy Award, he thanked his friend, Gwen Verdon, among other people.

As Fosse/Verdon continues, Verdon goes after the rights to Chicago with a vengeance, telling Fosse over and over that if they can do the musical with her in the role of Roxie Hart, then Nicole will be "set for life." Fosse always responds that Nicole will be fine, Nicole is set, they don't have to do Chicago. He tells Verdon that she's too old to be an ingenue, but finally, they bring Chicago to the stage in 1976.

The show didn't start out as a huge success, but it certainly wasn't a failure. When Verdon needed surgery and had to take six weeks off, Fosse brought in Liza Minelli to play Verdon's part. People flocked to the show and didn't stop coming when Verdon returned.

Fosse did a couple more Broadway shows and directed a few movies––some successes, some failures. He and Verdon worked together on a revival of Sweet Charity in 1987. On the way to the premiere, he had a heart attack and died in Verdon's arms.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Fosse and dancer Ann Reinking were partners from 1972 to 1978. She played Katie Jagger, the character based on herself, in Fosse's 1980 autobiographical film, All That Jazz. Leland Palmer played "Audrey Paris," the Gwen character. In her only film, Erzsébet Földi plays daughter Michelle. Roy Scheider had the Fosse role of Joe Gideon. All That Jazz has more than one great number, but I'm going with this one because it includes the three female leads.







23 comments:

  1. Perhaps he was a sex addict? Or has he already claimed that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't remember anyone talking about sex addiction back then. Now Fosse certainly would have had a skewed vision of women and sex because of his childhood experiences dancing in bars and burlesque houses, but maybe it was an excuse he used because he loved to control women.

      Delete
  2. Ann Reinking has the longest legs I've ever seen on a human. I may have to pull out that DVD and watch it, yet again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! She's 5'7", but her legs look as if they're 6 feet long by themselves.

      Delete
  3. I like the "Fosse style" of choreography but that's all I like about the guy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, yeah. The way he treated women was horrible, but at the time it was more likely to be tolerated, especially if the man was famous.

      Delete
  4. Many artist are difficult people, not to be confused with saints. Their work is what we admire.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. I think it's interesting to learn about people's lives and try to understand what drove them, but ultimately, we can remember Bob Fosse for brilliant musical theater and some great movies. I think Cabaret is a masterpiece. For me, the most important aspect of the Fosse/Verdon series was Gwen Verdon finally getting some recognition for her part in Fosse's success.

      Delete
  5. Thanks for introducing me to the Fosse/Verdon mini series, Janie and for all the extra biographical information. It led me to watch "All That Jazz" again, too. It seems that Gwen Verdon had a real soft spot for her cad of a husband, despite everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I imagine her closest friends heard about some of the sorrows of her marriage, but I've never read anything that included negative comments from her about Fosse. She seems to have reconciled herself to getting what was good from the relationship and letting the rest go. I've watched Damn Yankees (never saw it before), Cabaret (seen it many times and always admire it), and All That Jazz (loved it and hadn't seen it in a long time. I'm happy that you enjoyed the series. Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell were good.

      Delete
  6. I agree with Clamco ~ Reinking = longest legs evah!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't figure out how a woman who is 5'7" can have legs that long. I think part of it is the high cut of her leotard and camera angles.

      Delete
  7. It was rather kind of Gwen to say her husband had "outgrown" her. I suppose that's one way to put it. More like they simply didn't share the same priorities: she was strong on family and he was strong on his own needs. She was an amazingly strong woman to continue working with him. Hmmm, maybe SHE outgrew HIM, but continued working with him to support his poor inferior self. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like your analysis, Susan. Gwen also became close friends with Ann Reinking. How many women can work and socialize with the husband's mistress? She knew, though, that she needed Bob's abilities to bring Chicago to the stage. Bob knew that he needed Gwen's eyes on his movies as he worked.

      Delete
  8. I can't really comment on what either of them thought or felt since I was not a party to their lives, but they were both insanely talented but as a unit and separately. I would love to have some of their moves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I dance around the house, I sometimes imitate Fosse moves, but I do so in a way that probably would have him begging me not to dance. It's fun to dance like nobody's looking.

      Delete
  9. That was so interesting to read, I did not know this story☺

    ReplyDelete
  10. Yikes, what a marriage and relationship they had...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were definitely happy at times. Then it seems as if they used each other to get what they wanted.

      Delete
  11. She was Fosse’s muse and I don’t think he could have lived without her. Today, his career would be ruined which, on the one hand he deserved but on the other, we never would have his talent. Shame in so many ways. Reinking’s outfit knew how to make her legs even longer but I bet Cyd Charisse’s legs are longer:). I enjoyed watching both videos but that first one says it is from 1966 and it looks like it is from a variety show. I wonder if it was Ed Sullivan??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wondered, too, if it was Ed Sullivan, but all the Ed Sullivan videos I found had poor sound quality and had a timer across the middle of the clip. That's why I thought it might be the Tony Awards. The costumes that are high cut on the legs and high heels make legs look longer. Cyd Charisse is one of my favorite dancers ever.

      Delete

Got your panties in a bunch? Dig 'em out, get comfortable, and let's chat.