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Carol Haney's career post The Pajama Game


TELEVISION

Carol Haney, riding on her new fame from "The Pajama Game", and still running on the habit of a hectic schedule, took up many requests for television appearances even when "The Pajama Game" was still running on Broadway.

Carol, Hal March and blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield in 'The Bachelor' Carol appeared in July 1956, on what is called the first television musical, "The Bachelor", with Hal March and Jayne Mansfield. She played, funnily enough, a secretary, who is loved by Hal March's character, a womanising executive.

The above pictures are courtesy of the Larry Blyden tribute . Carol (top) appears in a television special with Phil Silvers, whom if you remember, had previously appeared with Carol, in "Summer Stock". She performed a comedy skit, danced, and choreographed the show.

Carol made prominent contributions to early television variety shows in choreography and also performances. She appeared and choreographed for shows such as the Ed Sullivan Show, Password, the Perry Como Show, Pantomine Quiz, the Bob Hope Show, the Garry Moore Show, Bell's Telephone Hour, and Toast of the Town.

To name specific dances, Carol created pieces for the Perry Como and Ed Sullivan shows, "Satin Doll" and "Me And My Gal" respectively, which she danced with her good friend and collegue Buzz Miller. In another appearance, Carol danced "I love a Piano" with Bob Fosse in a 1956 Ed Sullivan show episode. Carol's choreography on television is the subject of study in various institutions in America, such as Northwestern, San Diego Community College, Marymount Manhattan College, and no doubt in dance schools and schools of the performing arts all over America.

Now I haven't had the privledge of seeing any of Carol's television dances because they are very rare! However, an academic from New York's Columbia Teacher's College, Dr. Lisa Jo Sagolla, wrote a very useful description of Carol's choreographic style in an entry she wrote for the American National Biography:

Haney's choreographic style developed out of her spontaneous improvisations to jazz music and is exemplified by "Satin Doll", a fluid jazz dance she created for a television apeparance. The choroeography is marked by contrasts: weighted lunges and walks are combined with upreaching arms or light flicks of the fingers and wrists; the fluid movements of the spine and sensual circles of the head and shoulders are punctuated with strong, accented jazz kicks or jumps; the dancer's body is shown to be strong, yet supple, and moves with a "cool" ease.

One fan who came to know Carol through her work in television told me this lovely story:

"I discovered Carol Haney when she was a guest (many times) on the old Garry Moore Show. In fact, I used to get tickets to the Garry Moore Show, and my mother, grandmother, brother & I would go into Manhattan (from Long Island) to see it. I was (still am) a major Carol Burnett fan, and this was when she was a regular on the Moore Show. Well, Carol Haney was a guest on one taping we went to. And my mother was so impressed with her because when she came out to sign autographs, she put her purse down on the ground. "Signing the autographs was more important than whether or not her purse would get stolen." Of course, these were simpler times (1961). A purse on the ground now WOULD get stolen! :-) She was very, very nice." "Kathy"


Broadway to the end

Carol was diagnosed with diabetes while filming "The Pajama Game" in 1957, and during production she suffered from the dehabilitatng and lethargic effects of the ailment, often collapsing from exhaustion while reheasing numbers for the film.

Audrey Hepburn in her solo dance number from 'Funny Face'- the jazz dance parody number Basal Metabolism.After her success in "The Pajama Game", she was suggested by legendary song arranger Roger Edens (who Carol would have met on set at MGM and have worked with also) to star as the reluctant model Jo Stockton in the upcoming all Gershwin romp "Funny Face" with Fred Astaire. However, this suggestion was objected by the MGM brass, who thought that Carol was "too small" a personality to hold up a major release. Leonard Gesche, scriptwriter, thought that Carol had too funny a face and would not be believable in the role of a fashion model. The role would go to Audrey Hepburn.

There were many other factors pitted against Carol at this point in time. Obviously, with an aging diabetic body, it is hard to keep one's energy levels up for intense dancing, and worked against her getting genuine vehicle roles on film or on Broadway. Like Bob Fosse, Gene Kelly, and the post 50s wave of male and female dancers, Carol was frustrated by the lack of genuine starmaking vehicles roles in film musicals, simply because musicals were not being made as frequently anymore. Also, Carol had reached stardom, like her good friend Gene Kelly, in her thirties- past her peak as a dancer. (Gene Kelly quipped, once a dancer gets to learn his craft, his body begins to fall apart)

Carol in a particularly serious moment- a picture from the NYT review of 'a Loss of Roses'- the critics were not pleased.

No longer possible to stay fighting fit as a dancer because of diabetes and owing to a lack of opportunity, Carol turned to her origianl pre- "Pajama Game" career avenue of choreography. In 1958, Haney joined forces again with Gene Kelly (who was directing), to choreograph for the first time on Broadway, in "Flower Drum Song". Carol received a Tony nomination for best choreography for her efforts. She would choreograph and stage a few other shows, such as "Bravo Giovanni" (1962) (for which she received a Tony nomination in 1963 for best choreography) and "She Loves Me" (1963-64). Carol appeared as Lila in her only straight acting performance "A Loss of Roses", an Eugene Inge oedipian romp on Broadway in 1959, with Warren Beatty as Kenny, her teenage lover. Strangly, it was because of his performance in "Roses" that Warren Beatty secured his part in "Splendour in the Grass", his memorable screen debut. [Carol indeed has this strange connection with the MacLaine family] However, Beatty stepped on other people's toes in the process of `climbing the ladder`, with some reminising his behaviour while in the production as being difficult and impossible. In fact, Beatty messed his part up so much on opening night to his advantage that Carol was reported to have ran crying into her dressing room in despair. The William Inge play gained unenthusiastic responses from critics and closed after 25 performances.

a very bad scan of Carol, middle in the white top, leading the dancers of 'Flower Drum Song' a week before rehersals begun for the production

Carol's last job would be to choreograph Barbara Streisand's star creating turn "Funny Girl" in 1964, and received a Tony nomination for her efforts. However, two months into the run of the show, Carol died suddenly of Bronchial pneumonia on Sunday May 10th 1964, in New York Hospital, just two weeks before the Tonys were presented (May 24th).

Sources (especially the two Fosse biographies) point to several contributors for her sudden death: first, a lifelong inclination to work herself to the point of exhaustion ("she was a classic self-destructor, a trait perhaps related to the traditional dancer masochism. "Everytime before the big performance, she would hurt herself in some ridiculous way," Buzz Miller had said. "It was some sort of self-punishment that she did." Gottfried); second, alcoholism from years of stress and career disappointments; and third, a body severely weakened by diabetes.

She was survived by two children, Josh and Ellen, as well as ex-husband Larry Blyden.

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