The man who taught Elvis to dance is profiled in Mark Knowles' new book "The Man Who Made The Jailhouse Rock." Choreographer Alex Romero enjoyed a long career in show business, but is perhaps best remembered for a job that he looks back upon as rather simple, and that is the choreography of the big "Jailhouse Rock" number in the movie of the same name starring Elvis Presley. Due to an oversight, Romero received no screen credit on that movie, so legend has it that Elvis himself choreographed the dance. While Elvis made some level of contribution, it was under heavy supervision. It was Romero who tapped into Elvis Presley's very natural ability.
Romero balks at the idea of his initially attempting to do a standard Hollywood musical number, only to be corrected by Elvis. In fact, Romero liked the rock and roll sound and had a keen enough vision to realize Elvis had a certain raw talent that could be cultivated. He patterned the song's movements after Elvis Presley's natural responses and the result was a harbinger for the MTV music videos that followed decades later.
A dancer whose career dates back to vaudeville, Alex Romero's recollections are filled with fascinating anecdotes about Elvis, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and others, from his experiences working on such classic movie musicals as "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," "On The Town," and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."
Among the many intersting stories Romero tells author Knowles, is his recollection of James Cagney whom he worked with on the movie "Love Me or Leave Me." Playing a disabled person in this picture (whose nickname is "the Gimp"), Cagney does no dancing. But he attended every dance rehearsal, and tap danced with Romero just because he enjoyed it. "He was the first guy to ever call me Mr. Romero," Alex recalls.
The memories of people who worked with some of Hollywood history's brightest stars can be alternately moving and disturbing. Throughout this book, Alex Romero comes off as skillful, friendly, talented, and hard working, and his memories of the great musical stars are enlightening and entertaining.
Recommended to film buffs and those interested in dance and its history.