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Musicals relived in Little Neck

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What is better than a leisurely walk down memory lane, looking at rare clips of early Broadway musicals in the 1920s and early 1930s, when Flo Ziegfield dazzled the Great White Way with his elaborate staging of the Ziegfield Follies? He chose only the most beautiful, long-legged show girls. These ladies were glorified as the American Girls.

Audiences in the 1920s thrilled to the Broadway greats: Al Jolson, Georgie Jessel, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice and Gertie Lawrence, for example, who were adored by their enthusiastic fans.

Jim Levey presented "The Greatest Movie Musicals of our Time" on March 11, at North Hills Branch Library in Little Neck. Levey guided his audiences through a fascinating melange of backstage stories, vintage 1920s, and '30s, '40s and '50s stage musicals, many movie clips, of both silent and talking pictures.

He spoke about the great age of the movie musicals: "The Wizard of Oz," An American in Paris," and, the greatest original musical of all time, "Singing in the Rain." Levey has been a screen and television director and the founder and current director of the American Musical Theater Shows. He was a creator and former host of the "Tales of Broadway & Hollywood" radio show.

Levey talked about the early days in Hollywood and the difficulties some popular movie stars encountered when talking pictures were made in Hollywood. Their acting styles were outmoded, and their natural voices did not record well. Many careers were ruined at this juncture.

He showed clips of great dance teams such as Fred and Adele Astaire, The Castles and the fabulous team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They did not make that many movies together, but they are always remembered as the perfect dance partners. Fred was an absolute perfectionist and, and rehearsed over and over again. Ginger, even though he sometimes wore her out in practice, was his perfect counterpart. As a couple, they brought hours of joy to their fans. Fred had other partners, but never another Ginger.

Other stars he mentioned included: Shirley Temple, Bo Jangles, Milton Berle, the King of T.V. comedy and the antics of Lucille Ball, who was a movie star before "Here's Lucy" appeared on television. Maybe T.V. musicals can form the basis of another informative presentation by Levey.

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