Monday, June 02, 2008


Ever wondered what rakish (ray-kish) meaning smart, sporty, flashy, breezy, jaunty, dapper, natty, debonair, dashing, snazzy, raffish, devil-may-care (according to Collins Essential Thesaurus 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2005, 2006 cited by The Free Dictionary: looks like? All right. Follow me closely. Insert a Royal Wedding (1951) DVD into a DVD player. Press ‘Play’. Fast-forward to the scene where Fred Astaire, after accidentally bumming a light off her on the street, follows Sarah Churchill (right, Winston’s second daughter) to the theatre not knowing she is in his show, spots her among the actors waiting for the audition to start, asks an assistant to find out who she is and to start dancing. He then parks his butt on the back of the nearest seat in the auditorium and turns his torso slightly forward so can he watch her. Happy with her performance, he tilts his hat – there you go – at just the right rakish angle and grins rakishly. He has found love. Also, not to be missed is the Fred Astaire solo You're All The World To Me in which he literally dances on the walls and ceiling of his room. This optical illusion was made possible by a custom-made set quipped with mechanical rollers. Incidentally, Royal Wedding was directed by Stanley Donen who also co-directed and choreographed Singin’ in the Rain.

Which brings us to the second place to look for the perfect visual interpretation of “rakish”: the Broadway Ballet interlude in Singin’ in the Rain (1951). Here’s an account of it from my unpublished novel, The Last Gandhi Movie (pp. 28 -29):

“What a fabulously marvellous place for my hat to perch on?’ is the question writ large on Gene Kelley’s face as he glides to an abrupt halt on bended knees. He stares dumbfounded at his hat as it dangles invitingly from a green pump on an arched foot emanating from 1952’s sexiest stockinged leg emanating, in its turn, from Cyd Charisse’s emerald green-sheathed torso. Wow! This is what CC does in reply. She blows smoke through her nostrils with a half smile. She puts her hand on her hips. She elevates said leg, foot, pump and hat from a horizontal to a near-vertical position, sending all over collective BPs soaring in the bargain. Once Gene has retrieved his hat and his breath, she arises majestically from the chair she’s straddling to join him in an erotic – by the fifties’ standard! – rendition of the Broadway Ballet in Singin’ in the Rain. Born with an appetizing given name, Tula Ellice Finkles (for Pete’s sake) in Texas, this statuesque and icily chic combination of Scottish, Irish, French, English and Red Indian bloodlines had had ballet training that she put to good use in so many MGM musicals in the heyday of that genre in Hollywood. Va-va-vroom!, as Uncle Sam would eloquently put it. Me too.

Somewhere along the way in the action described above, Gene Kelley too does a Fred Astaire (whom he admired tremendously and co-starred with in Ziegfield Follies in 1946) with his hat, tilting it at a rakish, devil-may-care angle, if memory serves. Check it out.