"Everything's Up To Date in Kansas City",  Part I
The best dance routine in the movie, IMHO. The two enamored teen girls are introduced
here, but note how Liz gets the lion's share of attention, including one of her three lines in
the movie ("Oh, Will, I do!" is in response to one of the cowboys saying that he didn't like
the "Ragtime" dance steps.  His only purpose in saying that line was to give her an opening.)
She learns Ragtime from Will, kicking off his hat in the process; introduces a subplot with
her winsome hero worship and gives Will's horse a disapproving glance for getting all the
attention; jumps into Will's arms and bolts with him and Jane to the train where she does a
nice professional toe-heel-toe just before jumping on, and off, the train at the finale.  No
other dancer exhibits such finesse or gets so much emphasis.   (A nice bit of serendipity is
that the fictional Will visited Kansas City, MO - the birthplace of Lizanne.)
Aunt Eller
(the indominitable
Charlotte Greenwood)
has "gone about as
fer as she can go"
after Will shows
her the new
Two-Step he
learned in
The Big City.
Jane is on the left;
Liz,
effervescent as ever,
is on the right
Liz takes a tentative step
to "Ragtime"
under Will's supervision . . .
. . . and a few seconds later
she proceeds to rip up the boards.
There goes Will's hat,
victim of one of her
famous high kicks
that also displays
a trim little pair of drumsticks.  
What you see here
is just one example
of how she constantly,
and I would venture effortlessly,
surpasses all the other dancers
with her
top-of-the-line kicks and
letter-perfect extension . . .
What a great panoramic view with which to open the routine!  That's Aunt Eller coming
down the road, with uncredited Ben Johnson behind her, bringing down Will's horse to the
accompaniment of some great "beedledum, beedledum" thundering hooves sounds.  That
box the cowboy is sitting on is the one Will punches through in his dance routine where he is
kept from falling only by Liz's quick thinking.  According to the DVD narration, this site is
near
Elgin, AZ, about 30 miles north of the Mexican border.  I used Mapquest and found
that the rail line stops about a mile out of the present town, so perhaps the rails in the
picture were torn up - or the film crews went out the mile.  Elgin looks to be more like a
village, so they wouldn't have had any problem with curious onlookers.  You have to wonder
how they even found the place, and then got an old-time steam locomotive out there.  Before
this year is out I plan to go down there and see if I can find the spot by using the above
photo of the mountains as a guide. They probably tore the station down when they were
done but it would be a kick to find the road and line up the correct view.  Will post a picture
after I make the pilgrimage.
UPDATE 06-07-06: According to "No Intermissions, The Life of Agnes de Mille", the station
was a real-life depot and not a mock-up.  While the odds favor that it is gone now, it has
fired me up even more to take the trip.  However, word from The Boss is "NO trips to
southern Arizona during the summer!".  This summer is going to DRAG.
UPDATE 09-16-06: To quote capt. Clark of the Corps of Discovery when he smelled the salt
air of the Pacific,
"O, the Joy!" A trip to Tucson, AZ resulted in a short detour to Elgin.  
Click
HERE to see what I found.
. . . then skitters like a
frightened deer
when he really cuts loose . . .
. . . seeks dubious safety
behind a stanchion,
still fascinated with
his fancy footwork . . .
. . . .gets into the
swing of things
and gives you
a sample of her
joie de vivre
while Gene and Jane
concentrate
on their steps.
You can almost
hear her think,
"And they're paying
me to do this!"
Oops!
her high spirits
gets the best of her . . .
. . . which doesn't save her
from an "OhMiGawd!"
moment as she realizes
the results
of her enthusiasm.
She picks up Will's hat
and gives it
to him just as the cowboys
in the background
come forward,
roughly shouldering her
and Jane out of the way,
but redeeming themselves
by performing some fine
syncopated dancing
leading up to the finale.
UPDATE 05-05-07: In an interview with Larry Billman, Liz said that she and Jane were only
slated to appear in this routine, but Director Fred Zinneman and Choreographer Agnes de
Mille liked the girls' work so much that they decided to incorporate them - and their
characters,  "The Goon Girls" into every dance routine in the film.
UPDATE 03-21-08: When I first saw this scene I thought Liz actually kicked Will's hat off.  
As I got into the various visual tricks Hollywood uses, I realized that, in an exquisite example
of timing, Will snapped his head back just as Liz cut loose, giving the illusion she knocked it
off.  Well, whaddayaknow, I was right, in a way, the first time.  Liz told me that she actually
touched the brim of his hat, nearly hitting his nose.