Friday, 26 April 2019 10:38

Art of the Dance: Posters from Hollywood’s Golden Age Coming to the National Museum of Dance

Art of the Dance: Posters from Hollywood’s Golden Age Coming to the National Museum of Dance

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Fred Astaire trips the light fantastic with Ginger Rogers on a dayglo brilliance that emanates across the frame. A pensive Snow White, encircled by a half-dozen dwarfs, hovers atop a Russian banner as the Evil Queen ominously glares from the shadows. Here is Lucille Ball exuding a technicolor presence in announcing MGM’s Ziegfield Follies in 1945. There, is “The Sound of Music” from Germany, “Dirty Dancing” from Poland, and Clark Gable in “Dancing Lady,” a promotion that comes from Belgium.

“I’ve always been fascinated by posters from this period,” says Mike Kaplan, who has collected vintage movie posters for several decades.    

“The key to collecting the vintage ones began in the late ‘70s when I went to a store called Chic-A-Boom, a memorabilia shop on Melrose,” Kaplan recalls. “There was a stack of movie posters against the wall. The first one was “Irish Eyes Are Smiling," a musical from the ‘40s and it had a full-length still photography image of June Haver, who I had a crush on as a teenager. So, I bought that one and in a way that began the second phase of the collection.”

Kaplan estimates he has 3,000 to 4,000 posters in his collection. More than 100 will be displayed in Saratoga at The National Museum of Dance at the exhibition “Art of the Dance: Posters from Hollywood’s Golden Age from The Mike Kaplan Collection.”  The exhibit will open May 10, a date that also marks what would have been Fred Astaire's 120th birthday.

“The great thing about the posters is people will be exposed to artwork from so many different countries interpreting American movies in different ways - so you get completely different interpretations of a movie from France or Italy, Germany or Japan,” says Kaplan, who grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. “There is also the size of the posters. They vary from country-to-country. People walk in and for the most part their jaws drop seeing the imagery, the size and the amount of care that went into the artwork.”   

More than 100 dance movie posters will be mounted in three of the Museum's galleries. The posters range in date from 1918 to the 1980s with the majority representing the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. 

Kaplan was 9 or 10 years old when his family vacationed in the Saratoga region. Today, he makes his home in Idaho. He has penned a pair of books -– “Gotta Dance,” and “Gotta Dance Too!” -  depicting the posters and their history. During the 1960s, he worked as marketing strategist on two iconic Stanley Kubrick films.

“With 2001 (A Space Odyssey), I was working at MGM as a publicist. I don’t think people remember this, but the film was not well-received initially. It wasn’t positioned properly. People were expecting some kind of traditional science fiction movie; instead it was this contemplative, metaphysical journey into time. The audience and the critics weren’t prepared for it. It threw people, but I just loved the movie. I thought it was one of the best films ever made and I still feel that way,” Kaplan says.

“With ‘Clockwork Orange,’ I wanted everything to be perfect so there wasn’t any misinterpretation of the movie and having everything choreographed out to the nth degree – which Stanley appreciated and loved doing because he was such a perfectionist. So, we got on very well. Kubrick was just a great artist and whatever he touched was of importance. There was just a phenomenal response to it,” Kaplan said.  

Selections of the posters have been on view in major venues such as Lincoln Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Art of the Dance at the National Museum of Dance will be the largest and longest installation of this collection to date, on view until spring 2020.

In addition to Astaire, several major dance and musical stars from the 20th century are highlighted such as Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, and The Nicholas Brothers. 

 The opening reception for Art of the Dance: Posters from Hollywood’s Golden Age will take place on Friday, May 10 at 7:00 pm. The cost is $10 per person and free for members. The National Museum of Dance is located at 99 South Broadway. For more information, 518-584-2225, or go to:  www.dancemuseum.org.

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