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Billy Sunday (Bathsheba & David, Beginning of Potiphar) [March 23, 1948]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0032
Run Time
0h 8m 49s
Format
16mm
Color
B&W
Sound
Silent
Date Produced
March 23 1948
Abstract
This original Ruth Page ballet was conceived in 1941 but not premiered by her company until December 13, 1946 in Mandel Hall at the University of Chicago (as a workshop version, with incomplete staging and no scenery or costumes). The full version was presented by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the New York City Center on March 2, 1948. Page originally approached Kurt Weill to compose the score but he fell through, so Page then considered John Cage, Virgil Thomson, and Nicholas Nabokov, before finally settling on Remi Gassman. There was also originally the possibility that Alexander Calder would design for the ballet but this also fell through, so Paul du Pont was chosen. "Billy Sunday" is based on the life and sermons of the American baseball player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday. This film appears to depict a rehearsal of three scenes from the ballet at the University of Chicago just weeks after its premiere. The role of Billy Sunday is performed by Jerome Andrews and the role of Mrs. Potiphar, presumably the woman in the final scene, is performed by Romali James.
Description
The film opens with a perspective from one of the front rows in an auditorium, giving a straight-on view of a stage with curtains drawn. From behind the curtain emerges the Billy Sunday character in a suit; he proceeds to tell a story using emphatic gestures and some choreographed movement. Soon the curtains open and he continues his speech. As he does so, the footage changes perspectives to a view from the balcony. He then puts on a hat and dances a solo, after which Sunday beckons in an exotic dancer. Three assistants soon follow her in, bringing a large sheet. After they massage her and help her stretch, they hold up their sheet and Sunday emerges from behind it. Following some resistance on the part of the women with the sheet, Sunday dances a long pas de deux with the exotic dancer. Afterwards, he suddenly rejects her and she exits. The film then cuts to Sunday, jacketless by the piano. He performs a brief solo before beckoning a couple onstage. The man leaves almost immediately and the woman attempts to seduce Sunday. The film ends just before she is about to succeed and convince him to dance with her.
Log
00:06-01:00 - Film opens with a shot of a stage with curtain drawn, from which emerges the Billy Sunday character in a suit, who animatedly tells a story using grand gestures and a bit of choreographed movement 01:01 - The curtains open and Sunday continues his speech 01:07 - Film footage switches from straight on to a balcony perspective 01:15-01:52 - Sunday walks over to a piano at downstage left and retrieves a hat from it, which he puts on his head before beginning a solo dance (also including speech elements) 01:53 - Sunday points both arms off stage right, and from it emerges a female dancer. Sunday moves to stage left to watch as she strikes a sensual pose facing the back curtain. 01:59-02:10 - 3 more women emerge from stage right carrying a large sheet, which they deposit near the back curtain before tumbling forward, toward the first woman, who is now dancing. 02:11-02:38 - The dancer drops to the ground and the three women begin massaging her, stretching her, and otherwise preparing her; they help her up and all 4 perform a brief group warm-up 02:39-02:51 - The 3 women then take leave of the dancer and 2 bring their sheet over to stage left, holding it up 02:52-03:!2 - From behind their sheet emerges Sunday, who kneels briefly while the third woman dances with the original dancer; the other 2 then pull him toward the dancer, who reaches to him even as her female companion tries to pull him away 03:13-03:53 - Sunday swats away the protestor and brings the dancer into a luxurious 'dip,' after which the protestor joins him behind the curtain for a moment. The 3 then wrap the sheet around the dancer and now try to pull her away from him, but he prevails. 03:54-04:03 - Sunday and the dancer embrace and the 3 women slowly back off stage right with their sheet 04:04-06:56 - Sunday and the dancer perform a pas de deux, including multiple lifts and floorwork, which ends in an embrace on the ground just off center 06:57-07:09 - Sunday suddenly throws one arm up and rejects the dancer, removing his jacket and placing it behind the piano as she slinks off stage right 07:10-07:40 - Cut to Sunday standing still by the piano, jacketless. He proceeds to perform a solo, ending with a gesture toward the back curtain. 07:41-08:06 - A couple emerges from the back curtain and Sunday announces them; the man walks to Sunday as if to briefly discuss something with him, Sunday makes another announcement, and crouches neat the back curtain to give them space 08:06-08:14 - The couple appears to begin a pas de deux but the man exits almost immediately off stage left 08:14-08:37 - The woman begins a very flirtatious solo, approaching the crouching Sunday temptingly and then dropping to the floor to catch his attention 08:37-08:49 - Sunday rises begins to approach the woman as she beckons toward him; the film ends before he completely gives in
Additional Credit
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Gassmann, Remi (is composer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Andrews, Jerome (is performer)
James, Romali (is performer)
Genre
Dance
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)