Picks and Pans Review: Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and His Movies
I think of myself as a meat-and-potatoes kind of director," Stanley Donen muses here with characteristic self-effacement. Maybe so, but the movie musicals he created—On the Town, Funny Face and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, among others—seem more ambrosial. And so is this anecdote-rich appreciation, written with Donen's cooperation by Silverman, who runs a weekly chat session on movies for PEOPLE Online.
Donen, 71, who directed such groundbreaking musical numbers as "Dancing on the Ceiling" (performed by Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding) and Gene Kelly's ecstatic splish-splash through the streets in Singin in the Rain, tells why his longtime collaboration with Kelly soured (Donen felt the actor hogged all the credit for the movies they codirected). He also admits to a youthful affair with Elizabeth Taylor ("I was gaga about her, and she about me") and reports that, on The Grass Is Always Greener, Cary Grant had the sets made smaller because he felt they dwarfed him. As for Debbie Reynolds in her first starring role, 1952's Singin' in the Rain, he says, "She thought she knew more than Gene and I combined.... Debbie was...a real bulldog of a little girl."
While Dancing on the Ceiling leaves us longing for a more personal portrait of the elusive, five-times-wed director (whose first wife was Kelly's second), Silverman spins a lively and graceful chronicle of Donen's world—a bygone Hollywood brimming with glitter and genius. (Knopf, $35)