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Dan Dailey: Likable, Talented, or...Not?

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Dan Dailey: Likable, Talented, or...Not?

Postby moira finnie » June 1st, 2007, 5:02 pm

Image
Dan Dailey with his frequent partner Betty Grable (above), in some 20th Century Fox musicals.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Having come across a couple of Dan Dailey's musical and non-musical films of late, I find myself wondering if others find him hard to assess--he had that loose-limbed dancing style, (somewhat similar to that of Ray Bolger), a smooth way with a song, and an engaging, if sometimes oddly off-putting manner. Shouldn't he have had a more lasting fame as a song and dance man? While a nice enough looking guy, perhaps it was his slightly wolfish appearance that relegated him to a slot just below musical greatness--but simply being "un-handsome" in a conventional way never stopped Fred Astaire, did it? (I find that there's almost a Tex Avery exaggeration to Dailey's appearance at times, especially when he's trying hard to be an ingratiating performer).

To be honest, I actually really prefer his non-musical roles in such diverse films as The Pride of St. Louis, Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man, The Mortal Storm, and The Wings of Eagles. I'm not sure what it is about him that makes me question his likability, though perhaps others can tell me what to appreciate about him. Perhaps his ability and willingness to play negative figures with some relish makes me question his presence in lighthearted musical films, of which I've seen most of his best known, such as It's Always Fair Weather, There's No Business Like Show Business, Mother Wore Tights and Call Me Mister. Of all the musicals that I've seen him in, I guess my favorite would be the Douglas Sirk movie about medicine shows and the darker aspects of backstage life in Meet Me at the Fair. Perhaps one of you musically astute individuals can offer some insight into Mr. Dailey's work.
What am I missing?

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Postby Dewey1960 » June 1st, 2007, 5:26 pm

Talented? Without a doubt. Likable? Hardly. Irksome would come the closest to my description of him, particularly in the wonderful film IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER. His glumness almost brings the whole thing down; his dancing, thankfully, brings it back up.

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » June 2nd, 2007, 12:10 pm

I feel the same about Dailey, Moira. Like his dancing, don't care much for him as a screen presence.

He was a large man, but his dancing belies that - he was graceful, light on his feel, and seemed at ease when dancing. It's his acting that has a kind of grating, heavy-handed quality, and his physical grace seemed to fail him if he wasn't doing a soft shoe. I agree that there was some kind of underlying negativity in his acting - maybe even an undercurrent of hostility that came across. That doesn't mean he was playing a hostile part or even that he was overtly hostile, but that I got that kind of vibe from him -- but, as I said, not when he was dancing.

Not a favorite of mine, and I generally avoid anything he's in.

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Postby mrsl » June 2nd, 2007, 5:30 pm

As usual, I'm the opposite. I love Dan Dailey. I think he's charming, funny, and in nice parts, thoroughly entertaining. I thought he was as cute as could be in The Girl Next Door as well as a great dad. In The Kid from Left Field. again he had a great rapport with his movie 'son'. His early career was full of low budget musicals, but I always thought he brought a real charm to his character, like in Meet Me in Las Vegas and No Business Like Show Business. He always seems to have a log of smart aleck lines, so maybe that's what puts you off of him, especially in 'No Business. . . '

IMDb does say they put him in The Mortal Storm as a nazi then 'realized their mistake' and put him in light musicals from then on.

The IMDb doesn't have much on him except that after the war he returned to acting. It's odd that way back in 1948 he was nominated for best actor but his career never got to be more than it was. He must have had some hidden problem that is not generally known that kept him from bigger things.

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Postby Kyle In Hollywood » June 2nd, 2007, 8:55 pm

I caught Dan Dailey on Friday morning in a supporting role in the TCM film Hullabaloo which was part of the day long Frank Morgan salute. The film was made in 1940 so he was certainly young. And he was cetainly likeable. I thought of him as a substitute Jimmy Stewart.

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Postby sugarpuss » June 6th, 2007, 2:27 am

Kyle In Hollywood wrote:I caught Dan Dailey on Friday morning in a supporting role in the TCM film Hullabaloo which was part of the day long Frank Morgan salute. The film was made in 1940 so he was certainly young. And he was cetainly likeable. I thought of him as a substitute Jimmy Stewart.

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He was also in another Frank Morgan film later that afternoon, Washington Melodrama where he played the bad guy who murders a girl and then tries to frame Morgan for it. He sang a little as well. I didn't think he was that bad in it and I think I prefered him in a dramatic role rather than in a musical one. I also thought he resembled Burt Lancaster--they seem to have some similar features.

But I have to say this: I've sat through two movies with Dan Dailey that I absolutely hated, Meet Me in Las Vegas and [i]Pepe[i] (although I don't think anyone could've saved that horror show). I actually enjoyed the musical numbers in MMILV. The number where he's with the Japenese girl is beyond cute and Cyd Charrise's big finale number is fantastic, but the story itself was so blah, it hurt.

But there's still something I like about Dan Dailey. I'm not sure what it is though, since I see the "underlying negativity" that jdb1 mentions. He's a good dancer, but lacks the charm of Fred or Gene. I wouldn't go out of my way to watch a movie he's in, but I wouldn't avoid him either. My mother finds him dull beyond belief though.
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Postby Ayres » June 6th, 2007, 7:07 am

I've always liked Dan Dailey. I think he's a very good actor, a wonderful dancer, and usually likeable--though he has a interesting dark streak at times. I think he was a troubled guy, but I remember reading that he and Betty Grable got along famously and they definitely interacted well onscreen.

I seem to recall that Fox wanted Astaire for Mother Wore Tights, but he asked too much money, so they hired Dailey. I wish Astaire had played that part--he so seldom played a father, and only then to an adopted son or a grown daughter.

One of my favorite moments in the underrated It's Always Fair Weather is Dan's "Situation-wise," dance. He even shows us how things look "Jerry-Lewis wise!" It's delightful.

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Re: Dan Dailey: Likable, Talented, or...Not?

Postby Bob Birchard » November 16th, 2007, 4:33 am

moirafinnie wrote:Image
Dan Dailey with his frequent partner Betty Grable (above), in some 20th Century Fox musicals.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Having come across a couple of Dan Dailey's musical and non-musical films of late, I find myself wondering if others find him hard to assess--he had that loose-limbed dancing style, (somewhat similar to that of Ray Bolger), a smooth way with a song, and an engaging, if sometimes oddly off-putting manner. Shouldn't he have had a more lasting fame as a song and dance man? While a nice enough looking guy, perhaps it was his slightly wolfish appearance that relegated him to a slot just below musical greatness--but simply being "un-handsome" in a conventional way never stopped Fred Astaire, did it? (I find that there's almost a Tex Avery exaggeration to Dailey's appearance at times, especially when he's trying hard to be an ingratiating performer).

To be honest, I actually really prefer his non-musical roles in such diverse films as The Pride of St. Louis, Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man, The Mortal Storm, and The Wings of Eagles. I'm not sure what it is about him that makes me question his likability, though perhaps others can tell me what to appreciate about him. Perhaps his ability and willingness to play negative figures with some relish makes me question his presence in lighthearted musical films, of which I've seen most of his best known, such as It's Always Fair Weather, There's No Business Like Show Business, Mother Wore Tights and Call Me Mister. Of all the musicals that I've seen him in, I guess my favorite would be the Douglas Sirk movie about medicine shows and the darker aspects of backstage life in Meet Me at the Fair. Perhaps one of you musically astute individuals can offer some insight into Mr. Dailey's work.
What am I missing?



I think Dailey came along too late to be a big musical star. True, he started in 1940, but didn't hit his stride until after the war, and post-war Fox musicals tend to be less good than the pre-war and wartime Fox musicals.

Two Dailey pictures I highly recommend are "You're My Everything" (1949) (a musical) and "I Can Get It for You Wholesale" (1951) (dramatic)--both quite good.

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Postby ken123 » November 16th, 2007, 10:25 am

He was also a Nazi in The Mortal Storm a great film directed by Frank Borzage . 8)

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Postby The Ingenue » May 10th, 2008, 7:49 pm

I had been talking about how much I like Dan Dailey just this morning, so I was quite interested in the discussion on this thread when I found it this afternoon.

Dailey is a fellow who, once the proper role made me notice him, I've thoroughly enjoyed watching. His early MGM appearances in The Captain is a Lady (1940) and The Mortal Storm (1940) didn't make much of an impression until I had seen him in My Blue Heaven (1950) and looked back.

For a man of such bounding energy in comedy or dance numbers, he can be startlingly and touchingly tender, and I like a man who can do that fearlessly as he does in My Blue Heaven, Mother Wore Tights (1948), Sunday Punch (1942) and others.

I see him also as a bit of a rogue, and I find that appealing in him on the screen, particularly when he plays the genial get-rich-scheming husband of practical Celeste Holm in Chicken Every Sunday (1949).
Last edited by The Ingenue on May 12th, 2008, 5:23 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Postby Ann Harding » May 11th, 2008, 4:34 am

I am not familiar with many Dailey pictures apart from It's Always Fair Weather and Meet Me in Las Vegas. In the first one, I find him absolutely excellent as the overworked executive trying to rebuilt his life. His dancing is also top-notch with high-class partners such as Kelly and Michael Kidd! :)

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Postby mrsl » May 18th, 2008, 9:41 pm

I'm still catching up with some threads I haven't seen in a while. I have to add again though that Dan Dailey played mainly light guys throughout his career, and yes it was true that the war kind of halted his career, and when he returned, musicals were on their down ward turn. When he did make them however, he was IMHO great. e.g. It's Always Fair Weather, he kept up with Kelly and Kidd step for step with equal energy and joy. He made a few movies which I hated his character, but that is called 'acting', such as The Ziegfeld Girl. I think I said it before but one of my favorite Dailey roles was as the dad in There's No Business Like Show Business - he ran the gamit of relationships and emotions in that one, and I don't believe he failed in any one part at all. I always felt he was badly ignored at Oscar time on TNBLSB.

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Re: Dan Dailey: Likable, Talented, or...Not?

Postby Uncle Stevie » November 3rd, 2010, 7:52 pm

Meet Me In Las Vegas is one of my favorite fun and love stories. It is a fantasy any guy could dream of. Meet beautiful girl (Cyd Charisse) make money with her as a lucky charm and take her home to Momma who loves her and you dance with her and fall in love with a commitment. All in 24 hours. What more could a guy want? I loved this movie and it was an excellent showcase for Cyd Charisse. Dan Dailey played a perfect role for him. Many guest stars either as a walk on or Cameo or performer.

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