Thursday, March 5, 2009

Celebrating Onna White


Onna White was from Inverness, Nova Scotia and danced in the original Broadway production of Finian's Rainbow. She became assistant choreographer to Michael Kidd. In 1956, she choreographed her first Broadway show: Carmen Jones.

She received 8 Tony nominations for Broadway shows though she never won. She did win an honorary Oscar for her work in Oliver! (1968) the movie. She and her mentor Michael Kidd (with his vast 50s film work) are the only choreographers to ever be honored in Oscar's 81 year history. Onna White truly made magic in Hollywood.

She attended an Egyptian Theatre screening of Oliver! a few years before she died at age 83 in her King's Road, West Hollywood condo in April 2005. She was a charming lady and it was a joy to applaud her dance sequences with her in attendance that night. I recently saw Ann-Margret dancing her ass off in Bye Bye Birdie (also choreographed by Onna White) and I was reminded again of Onna's talent at crafting a memorable dance scene. White was especially adept at choreographing dance numbers for actors with little or no dance training. Catch Buddy Hackett in The Music Man sometime - he works it.



Onna White: "When I look back on my career, I realize I had a lot of nerve. I had stride. I had guts. If you really want to be a choreographer, get down to business. Give it all you've got. You've got to prove yourself honey; and if you do - it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman."



Here are some of Onna White's dynamite movie moments:

Consider Yourself from Oliver!
London street movement in beautiful synchronicity


Who Will Buy? from Oliver!
even the pigeons fly to the rhythm


Marian The Librarian from 'The Music Man'
A flirty romp around the town library


Gotta A Lotta Livin' To Do from 'Bye Bye Birdie'
battle of the sexes thru dance


He Plays the Violin from '1776'
Blythe Danner as Martha Jefferson charmed Ben Franklin and John Adams (and audiences)

3 comments:

Donna Lethal said...

I can't hear the words "Gary" or "Indiana" without the whole "Gary, Indiana" routine popping into my head. I never knew she was responsible for all of those things - wow!

Anonymous said...

Another great post, Pantheon. Oliver! has got to be one of the best movies ever made. The exclamation point in the title is well deserved. Just think, 1968 gave us Oliver! AND Funny Girl. Sigh. Didn't Onna later work on Mame w/ Lucille Ball?

Pantheon Zeus said...

haha
yes Onna ended her career with Mame (Lucy shot behind layers of vaseline on lens) and Helen Reddy dancing on beer kegs in Pete' Dragon.
Let's just say that the 1960s were Onna's triumphant decade.