Showtime with Bob Fosse

DATELINE: Anti-Chorus Line! 

Young Bob Fosse in 1953.

There would be no moonwalking Michael Jackson without Bob Fosse’s choreography pioneering the way back in the 1950s.

Fosse went from dance/ taskmaster to director of movies, producing musicals like All That Jazz, Cabaret, and Sweet Charity, that contained thematic drama and ideas far beyond those of mortal danseurs.

The documentary film of his life seems to feature many British dancers and young ballerinas who likely weren’t born during Fosse’s heyday. One prima ballerina also lists herself as a quantum physicist in the credits. Oi vey.

Fosse danced at a young age, and by 13 was professionally dancing in a strip joint with older women. Today someone would be under arrest. However it affected him, we can see likely in movies like Sweet Charity, about prostitutes and dancers.

There is considerable talk that Fosse wanted to be another Fred Astaire, but his hairline was an issue, as were his looks. That problem also dogged Astaire, but he thrived. Fosse may well have been a poor actor, but his electric dances in Kiss Me Kateand Damn Yankeeswon him accolades—and his third wife, Gwen Verdon.

Time is also devoted to his idiosyncratic use of hands and hips in dances. And, like Mike Nichols, he came to film directing late in life, age 41 and learned on the job. Of course, he was on movie sets since the early 1950s, observing.

By the time he made Cabaret, Fosse was a drug-addled, alcoholic womanizer with a deplorable attitude. Today he’d be in jail with Harvey Weinstein, but in the early 1970s, they gave him an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony, all in the same year.

It did not improve him, or stop him from having three heart attacks.

Fosse tried to show a dancer’s life in All That Jazzwith an ugly counterpoint to the more joyous A Chorus Line,by James Kirkwood, made almost contemporaneously. Showtime dancers might have different opinions to the two parallel worlds. It may be revealing how few people (none) who knew him participate in this documentary.

His final film was a non-musical about an abusive murderer of his wife, based on the true story of Dorothy Stratton. It was called Star 80.  His last act was directing Chicago on stage, but he died in 1987 and never made it his crowning achievement.