elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,
elisa_rolle
elisa_rolle

Hermes Pan & Gino Malerba

Born to Greek immigrants in Memphis, Hermes Panagiotopoulos (December 10, 1910 – September 19, 1990) copied dance moves from the black people who worked for his parents and at 14 was already performing at speakeasies in New York. Chopping his surname down to a single syllable, Hermes Pan landed in Hollywood and, at 23, assisted on the dance sequences for Flying Down to Rio. Thus began a lifelong friendship with his lookalike Fred Astaire for whom he sometimes doubled. (P: Fred Astaire (left, on chair) and Hermes Pan (kneeling) during rehearsals, ca. 1937.)

Among the 80+ other projects he choreographed are Top Hat, Kiss Me Kate, Pal Joey, Porgy & Bess, The Blue Angel, The Pink Panther, Cleopatra, and My Fair Lady. Alas, the freedom and ease of his dancing was wholly missing in his repressed personal life.

A devout Roman Catholic, he hated to disappoint his beloved mother, and internalized her disapproval. Invited to an all-male party by Cardinal Spellman, Hermes was shocked by the gay revelry and pushed himself deeper in the closet. Eventually, decades later, he did let himself have a longterm relationship with a dancer named Gino Malerba but they never lived together. Much credit is due to John Franceschina and Oxford University Press for finally incorporating Hermes' gay life in the recent biography Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire [Kindle -- indeed, even gay Hollywood expert William J. Mann wrongly identified the super secretive Hermes as hetero in Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. Some critics found the narrative "plodding" or "boring" or "interesting" yet Hermes' star quality shines through].


When Hermes Pan  (December 10, 1910 – September 19, 1990) choreographs Un Paio d’Ali (A Pair of Wings) in Milan and falls in love with dancer Gino Malerba. The dancer Gino Malerba was Pan's companion for five years, but nonetheless maintained a separate apartment, and yielded opening nights and society affairs to a beard. The last bit of news we hear on the subject finds Franceschina quoting society writer David Patrick Columbia. "Pan's sexuality was a burden for him." It is made clear, however, that Pan was a secretive but not tragic figure.

Dance Magazine said, "Pan’s great skill, asserts Franceschina, lay in his dance-transmogrifications of mundane life situations. His vitality, work ethic, and ability to please both chorus girls and studio bosses cemented his career. Handsome and slender, a bizarre doppelganger for Astaire, Pan, a gay man, became an A-list party-goer, the frequent escort of Rita Hayworth."

When Pan choreographs Un Paio d’Ali (A Pair of Wings) in Milan and falls in love with dancer Gino Malerba.

The dancer Gino Malerba was Pan's companion for five years, but nonetheless maintained a separate apartment, and yielded opening nights and society affairs to a beard. The last bit of news we hear on the subject finds Franceschina quoting society writer David Patrick Columbia. "Pan's sexuality was a burden for him." It is made clear, however, that Pan was a secretive but not tragic figure.

Source: http://bandofthebes.typepad.com/bandofthebes/2013/07/pan-sexual-.html

Further Readings:

Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire by John Franceschina
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 12, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0199754292
ISBN-13: 978-0199754298
Amazon: Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire
Amazon Kindle: Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire

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.

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Tags: days of love tb
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