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Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire [Kindle Edition]

John Franceschina
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Armed with an eighth-grade education, an inexhaustible imagination, and an innate talent for dancing, Hermes Pan (1909-1990) was a boy from Tennessee who became the most prolific, popular, and memorable choreographer of the glory days of the Hollywood musical. While he may be most well-known for the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals which he choreographed at RKO film studios, he also created dances at Twentieth Century-Fox, M-G-M, Paramount, and later for television, winning both the Oscar and the Emmy for best choreography.
In Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire, Pan emerges as a man in full, an artist inseparable from his works. He was a choreographer deeply interested in his dancers' personalities, and his dances became his way of embracing and understanding the outside world. Though his time in a Trappist monastery proved to him that he was more suited to choreography than to life as a monk, Pan remained a deeply devout Roman Catholic throughout his creative life, a person firmly convinced of the powers of prayer. While he was rarely to be seen without several beautiful women at his side, it was no secret that Pan was homosexual and even had a life partner. As Pan worked at the nexus of the cinema industry's creative circles during the golden age of the film musical, this book traces not only Pan's personal life but also the history of the Hollywood musical itself. It is a study of Pan, who emerges here as a benevolent perfectionist, and equally of the stars, composers, and directors with whom he worked, from Astaire and Rogers to Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Bob Fosse, George Gershwin, Samuel Goldwyn, and countless other luminaries of American popular entertainment.
Author John Franceschina bases his telling of Pan's life on extensive first-hand research into Pan's unpublished correspondence and his own interviews. Pan enjoyed one of the most illustrious careers of any Hollywood dance director, and because his work also spanned across Broadway and television, this book will appeal to readers interested in musical theater history, dance history, and film.

Editorial Reviews


"I always considered Hermes Pan to be my 'other father', and though I knew much of his story, in this wonderfully informative book John Franceschina has filled the gaps." --Ava Astaire McKenzie

"John Franceschina's Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire restores glory to an overlooked dance genius, while also bringing back to life the golden age of Hollywood musicals. I ran out and began renting every Hermes Pan DVD I could find." --Richard Hornby, Professor of Theatre, University of California, Riverside, Theatre Critic, The Hudson Review

"The life and work of one of Hollywood's most prolific dance creators has finally been written. Above and beyond Hermes Pan's iconic partnership with Astaire on nineteen films over a period of 35 years, Franceschina gives us incredible detail on the multiple tasks a Hollywood 'Dance Director' of the 1930s'-1950's performed." --Larry Billman, author of Fred Astaire: A Bio-Bibliography, and Film Choreographers and Dance Directors

"Hermes Pan was a uniquely American choreographer. His stylish dance direction defined not only the style of Hollywood film dancing but also that of American artistic dance as a whole. Anyone interested in the history dance in America should know what is in this fine book." --James Thomas, Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, Wayne State University

"Interesting reading." --DC Theatre Scene

"Read this book with YouTube videos by your side." --Dance Magazine

"Hermes Pan: The Man Who Dance with Fred Astaire provides a wealth of factual information about Pan's life and his movies, with the salutary effect of sending the reader back to look again at his films with a heightened sense of the process that brought those films to the screen." --Dance Chronicle

About the Author

The author of numerous books on theater history, John Franceschina is also a former professor of theatre at Pennsylvania State University. Off-Broadway he has served as dance arranger and musical director and as accompanist for Angela Lansbury, Elke Sommer, Nell Carter, Jan Peerce, Robert Merrill, Lotte Lenya, Paige O'Hara, Chita Rivera, and Gwen Verdon.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1594 KB
  • Print Length: 317 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199754292
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 15, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0087JXQ84
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,706 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At the Center of the Revolution May 24, 2012
By R. Bono
At last the well deserved book on the life of the man who with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers revolutionized, and literally created, filmed dance. Pan, always the man who avoided the spotlight, is here front and center, in a chronological bio of a most triumphant life. The man who never sought credit for himself, in fact was responsible, in equal proportion with Astaire, for the extraordinary evocative choreography, and staging, that created the nine revolutionary Astaire-Rogers dance musicals from 1933 to 1939.

After these sparkling films, Pan's career became ever more expansive, to the degree that George Balanchine invited him to choreograph some of his projects, as the prolific representative of what was most typical of American dance itself.

For me, quite familiar with the earlier period, his later career, was a revelation. Just the sheer intensity, and creative energy in his 86 films, plus additional Broadway credits, is overwhelming. For this reason, I thought that the book could have been more clearly organized and structured for the general reader. But aside from this criticism, I admire the detail and research that author Franceschina provides.

Of particular interest, was Pan's general approach to his work. Like Astaire, he could be quite objective and demanding, but always with an eye to the health of mind, body, and heart of his dancers. This is what makes his choreography so vital in performance. His dancers are not only technically proficient, but are happy, and they show it. That his work was as much about the personal flourishing of his dancers, as it was about the technique of dance, says much about the man.

Finally, the author touches on the private man, forged in the hard times and tragedy of his early life.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating man and a really fun read May 12, 2012
By David
If you have any interest in the movies, people, stories, and culture of Hollywood's Golden Era, then reading about the life of Hermes Pan will offer you a unique "insider" perspective. What's so interesting about Pan is how, on the one side you have his artistry and influence, and his close business and personal relationships with many of Hollywood's A-list stars (and with Iranian royalty!) - and on the other side, you have a sensitive, almost sheepish, man who was devoutly Catholic, family-oriented, and maybe always a little amused that he wound up as a Hollywood choreographer! Very compelling individual, very interesting life.
The book is quite well written, too. Franceschina has collected some great stories here and he describes them wonderfully. In particular, I enjoyed reading about all of the dances that Pan created (and then rewatching the movies to see Astaire and Rogers pull the dances off!) And I loved the intimacy of the book, how you get to know about Pan, his family, his friends.
Great book for the beach!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FINALLY! Credit that's Due! May 10, 2012
Long have I been a Fred Astaire fan, and have wondered about the man who planned his dances. I don't know why no one has written a book on him before, but author Franceschina does a Fine job
giving Pan the attention he deserves. This book traces his career, and what is known of his personal life, in great detail with lots of newly discovered information from production files, diaries and memoirs. It's one of the best books on a "hidden" talent I've ever read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars comprehensive and authoritative... September 15, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book covers EVERYTHING about Hermes Pan...unfortunately, the font size is a bit small and the reader better have good eyes or good 'readers'. Not much is written about Mr. Pan and this book fills in the gaps...When combined with the Koval book of celebrity Interviews: "People Will Talk" can get a better sense of the man: his likes and dislikes and of course, his experiences of working with Fred Astaire.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much more! July 9, 2012
By clk
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book. Probably most people who know his name at all know Hermes Pan as the choreographic assistant of Fred Astaire. In fact, this book shows that he was the dance director for many many more movies. A wonderful and much needed tribute to a prolific contributor to the golden age of American musical films.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating man, brilliant choreographer March 11, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There aren't enough words to describe this mans talent or life. Such an incredible journey. Such incredible insight into the inner workings of films and studios for a dancer.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Informative, and maybe too much so January 10, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Not many people know about Hermes Pan, and if you do you're probably as much in love with Fred Astaire and the role dance played in many classic films as I am. Even for people like me, this book might be almost too detailed and thus can be laborious to go through – I confess to jumping to parts where Hermes Pan is actually in action and not delving into the peripheral stuff. You'll get to see lots of Hermes Pan, nonetheless, and what you see, you will definitely love. In the book are also many snippets about Fred, Cyd Charisse, Eleanor Powell and other familiar faces, their photographs…when you finish the book you feel slightly more acquainted with these superstars and will have a tale or two to share at the dinner table!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for any dance enthusiast
Wonderful book. Sometimes too personal, but important to have a book on this man. Could have had more pictures, as well.
Published 9 months ago by Christopher Riordan
5.0 out of 5 stars Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire
This book was very informative and a wonderful read. Its worth buying if you are a Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger fan.
Published 10 months ago by Penny
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Bio...full of details, but devoid of joy
While I completely agree with the others that a biography of Hermes Pan is long overdue and well justified, I was really disappointed in this one, especially after reading the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Douglass Dumbrille
4.0 out of 5 stars Well documented account of Hermes Pan's life
Fills big gap in Hollywood history, of a man revered by his peers who worked with almost everybody and only sometimes got credit for his contributions, even with multiple Academy... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Victor Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars The Team of Astaire and Pan
The book gets more than 5 stars. Why? Hermes Pan was a brilliant choreographer = 4 Stars. He worked with my lifelong hero, Fred Astaire = 4 Stars. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Robert Strom
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally a book on Hermes Pan - one of film's earliest choreographers
The subject of this book, Hermes Pan, is well deserved of this book on his life and work. Pan's work with Fred Astaire is legendary but he worked with so many others as well... Read more
Published 20 months ago by CJS
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