Sunday, July 14, 2019

GWEN VERDON AND THE FOSSE YEARS (PART I)

Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon are played by Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams
in the FX series Fosse/Verdon


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Following Gwen Verdon's success in Can-Can, she won the 1955 Tony Award for Best Actress In A Musical for Damn Yankees. In 1957, she won the Tony Award For Best Actress In A Musical for New Girl In Town. In 1959, she won again for Redhead.

Four Tony awards in less that a decade, along with parts varying from small bits to starring roles in numerous movies.

Gwen Verdon might have met Bob Fosse in passing before he choreographed Damn Yankees. She definitely knew him well when he choreographed and became a first-time director for Redhead.

Fosse was married to his second wife, dancer Joan McCracken, when his relationship, which wasn't limited to dancing, began with Verdon.

McCracken's career came to a halt because of her type I diabetes––not as treatable as it is now. During her marriage to Fosse, she had a heart attack in 1955 and then had a lengthy stay in the hospital because of pneumonia. Doctors told her that her career as a dancer was over.

After encouraging her husband to become a choreographer and promoting his career, Fosse rewarded McCracken by divorcing her in 1959. He married Verdon in 1960.

Joan McCracken died in 1961. She isn't widely remembered.

So let's pause the Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon story here to honor Joan McCracken with "Pass the Peace Pipe" in Good News, 1947.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug




34 comments:

  1. Thank you for remembering and honouring Joan McCracken.

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    1. I appreciate your thanks, EC. I guess that's a thank you for a thank you. She was very talented but her career and her life were cut short.

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  2. "Died of a broken heart" is a real thing. :'(

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    1. Yes, it is. My heart has been shattered so many times that I don't know how I've survived.

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  3. Replies
    1. Isn't she amazing? I know they rehearsed, but oh my goodness! the energy required to dance like that.

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  4. I know this dance well because it is shown on That’s Entertainment, I think part 1, maybe it is part 2. She was a firecracker and looked sweet. Fosse is a real talent but a real bastard

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    1. I love the That's Entertainment movies. I agree that Fosse was a bastard.

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  5. She was adorable, and so talented. Too bad Fosse and life knocked her down.
    Thanks for this tribute.

    Love you.

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    1. I love you, too. Like Carol Haney, she wasn't considered pretty enough to be movie star material.

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  6. Thank you for allowing Joan McCracken to be more than just an aside (to me) in the Bob Fosse narrative.

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad I found a couple of videos of her. She was a great dancer.

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  7. I have never heard of Joan and she was lovely. Good of you to honor her here.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Inger. Oh, to be able to dance like that.

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  8. Great dancing, singing not so much. Great quality video!

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    1. Someone once described her as the little dancer with a foghorn voice.

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  9. I agree with your other commenters here. How nice of you to remember Joan. What a tough life she had.

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    1. In the Fosse/Verdon TV series, she is portrayed as needing a wheelchair when Fosse leaves her. I don't know if it's true, but she was definitely very sick.

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  10. Mc Cracken certainly had some health issues. Nothing like being kicked--or divorced--while you're down.

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    1. That bothers me more than anything else--that he would leave her when she was in such poor health. But of course, he'd been cheating on her all along.

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  11. Replies
    1. But so talented. Isn't it strange how some of the most talented people are also the most horrible people?

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    2. So true. Miles Davis comes to mind.

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  12. Sorry I'm not commenting much, Janie. I'm not keen on musicals! I have to say that Fosse sounds like a pain, though. Sheesh. It's not like he was even a good-looking guy, in my opinion. To each her own, I guess :)

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    Replies
    1. I'm not offended if people don't comment and not everyone likes musicals. When I started this series, I didn't expect to keep going and going. It has to end soon.

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  13. Thanks for the tribute to Joan. Poor thing. She's but one of a myriad of wives who were discarded by their crappy husbands when someone "new and improved" came along. She was a brilliant dancer, wasn't she?

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    1. Absolutely brilliant, but I don't think she had the body type to be a Fosse-style dancer, while Gwen did.

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  14. Joan was a helluva good dancer! Thanks for sharing the video, Janie. I had no idea about her until watching the Fosse/Verdon mini-series. What kind of lowlife abandons a sick wife?

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    1. I hope it doesn't happen as often as I think it does, but I've known about quite a few men who left a sick wife. I think wives are more likely to stay with a sick husband because women tend to be caregivers and nurturers.

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