One of the Greatest Dances Sequences Ever Captured on Film Gets Restored in Color by AI: Watch the Classic Scene from Stormy Weather

It real­ly is a won­der, know­ing what we know about the his­to­ry of racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion in Hol­ly­wood and Amer­i­ca in gen­er­al, that the musi­cal Stormy Weath­er even got made in 1943. Along with one oth­er sim­i­lar film Cab­in in the Sky, it’s one of the few Amer­i­can musi­cals of the 20th cen­tu­ry with an all-Black cast, top billing and all. And what a cast, just some of the most tal­ent­ed artists of their time: Bojan­gles Robin­son, Lena Horne, Fats Waller, Cab Cal­loway, and the Nicholas Broth­ers star. Kather­ine Dun­ham, the “queen moth­er of Black dance” per­forms and chore­o­graphs. Cole­man Hawkins, though uncred­it­ed, is there too, play­ing sax.

The film also gave you its money’s worth, with near­ly two dozen musi­cal num­bers in less than 80 min­utes. And the top per­for­mance is the one that clos­es the film, seen here remas­tered from a high qual­i­ty source (make sure your YouTube is set to 1080p) and col­orized with DeOld­ify, the machine-learn­ing col­oriza­tion tool. (Your mileage may vary with the col­oriza­tion, but hey, it’s a start. Check back in a year or so and we might have anoth­er ver­sion that looks like it was tru­ly shot in col­or.)

If you’ve nev­er seen the “Jumpin’ Jive” num­ber, or nev­er heard of the Nicholas Broth­ers, you will soon find out why Fred Astaire called it the great­est danc­ing he’d ever seen on film. Their jour­ney down the ris­ers, one leapfrog­ging over the oth­er and land­ing in the splits, has nev­er been matched. There’s moments where they just seem to float on air. The band leader, Cab Cal­loway, who knew how to slink and slide around a stage, wise­ly gives them the floor. And at the end, while applause bursts out, the entire club is invit­ed to flood the dance­floor. It’s pure joy on film.

Old­er broth­er Fayard Nicholas was 29 in the film, his younger broth­er Harold was 22. Eleven years before that they had moved to New York from Philadel­phia and wowed the audi­ences at the Cot­ton Club with their mix of tap, bal­let, and acro­bat­ics. It was when pro­duc­er Samuel Gold­wyn saw them at the Club that their career took off. But their sequences were always sep­a­rate in white musi­cals, so that racist cin­e­mas in the South could eas­i­ly edit them out. Not so in Stormy Weath­er, where they end the film.

It is often writ­ten that this sequence was shot in “one take” and impro­vised, but that is plain­ly not the case. There’s eleven cuts in the dance sequence where the cam­era repo­si­tions itself. That’s not to take away from the Nicholas Broth­ers’ mas­tery, and hey, maybe they zipped through the sequence, as danc­ing was like breath­ing to them. Let’s just cel­e­brate this for what it actu­al­ly is: the Nicholas Broth­ers at the height of their pow­ers, bring­ing the house down.

via Messy Nessy

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Cab Calloway’s “Hep­ster Dic­tio­nary,” a 1939 Glos­sary of the Lin­go (the “Jive”) of the Harlem Renais­sance

Watch a Sur­re­al 1933 Ani­ma­tion of Snow White, Fea­tur­ing Cab Cal­loway & Bet­ty Boop: It’s Ranked as the 19th Great­est Car­toon of All Time

A 1932 Illus­trat­ed Map of Harlem’s Night Clubs: From the Cot­ton Club to the Savoy Ball­room

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (5)
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  • Lonnie says:

    I had to take a nap after watch­ing that

  • Dennis J. Duffy says:

    If you’re adding some­thing that was­n’t there in the orig­i­nal, in this case COLOUR, then it isn’t “restora­tion.” And call­ing it that is dis­hon­est.

  • Jeff Kreines says:

    That’s NOT restora­tion. It’s des­e­cra­tion. Shame on the idiots who felt they had the right to deface the work of oth­ers. And shame on you for cel­e­brat­ing the destruc­tion.

  • Dee Brown says:

    My, my, my, my, MY!!! Out­STAND­ING!!

    See­ing this kind of agili­ty, chore­og­ra­phy, syn­chro­niza­tion, and what comes across as unadul­ter­at­ed joy on the faces of Cab and these two STUPENDOUS broth­ers is epic!!

    And to see all of this wrapped on the deco­rum, ele­gance, and sophis­ti­ca­tion of my peo­ple just gave me chills! I’d give ANY­thing to see that dig­ni­fied, grandiose, beau­ti­ful per­sona again that was present on the peo­ple in that room!!!

    Breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful! I am wist­ful, proud, and long­ing to be part of a revival of The Cot­ton Club’ hey­day!

  • Shaun gilmore says:

    Not real­ly, it’s just anoth­er ver­sion. The B&W ver­sion is the best no doubt, how­ev­er, this colour ver­sion is awe­some.

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