Being a long-time admirer of Bob Fosse and his work, I was happy to come upon this semi-autobiographical rendering of Fosse’s life in the years before his untimely death. I think I learned more about Bob Fosse though than I really wanted to know.
All That Jazz was directed by Bob Fosse and tells the story of Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), a dancer, choreographer and director whose life mirrored that of Fosse. The beginning of the film reminded me of Chorus Line as Joe Gideon set about the task of casting the dancers in his next Broadway show. One of the aspirants is Joe’s former wife Audrey who was required to audition although Joe planned to give her the starring role anyway.
Never without a cigarette in his mouth, Joe is addicted to alcohol, drugs and women equally. He is also a workaholic. Years of overwork and stress finally catch up with Joe and he is admitted to the hospital for a long rest. His many friends crowd into his room and he entertains them with liquor, conversation and dance despite warnings from his doctor.
The remainder of the movie is part fantasy in which we witness Joe’s open-heart surgery which might be too graphic for some viewers. Again, he cannot sit still and wanders through the hospital, stops to listen to a hospital employee sing to him, and kisses an elderly lady on the brink of death. In his imagination, he is watched over by an angel, perhaps the angel of death, played by Jessica Lange.
While all this is happening, we are treated to some choreographed numbers which are true Fosse. Joe’s wife, his 12-year-old daughter Michelle, and his mistress do a spectacular number which I think is the hit of the show. Throughout the film, we are privileged to hear some memorable Broadway tunes – After You’re Gone, Who’s Sorry Now, Some of These Days, On Broadway, Bye Bye Love, and There’s No Business Like Show Business. All in all, it was a memorable two hours well spent.
It was interesting to see John Lithgow in a cameo role before he became a household name from his role in 3rd Rock from the Sun. Ben Vereen also did a number for us; I remember seeing him on Broadway in Pippin which was choreographed by Bob Fosse.
Although I was disappointed to learn of the dissipated life led by Bob Fosse, as exemplified by Joe Gideon, I was at the same time delighted to view Fosse’s work close up. Rightfully, the film won four Oscars and received five nominations for Oscars, one of which was for Bob Fosse as Director and another for Roy Scheider as Best Actor.
Movie – All That Jazz (1979)