There's a song stuck in my head right now that makes me smile. When I hear it, I can't help but want to dance and sing (though, admittedly, I suck at both). Luckily, there are others who are much better at it and this song reminds me of some great scenes from movies where the characters do just that. The song is "Ballin' the Jack", a simple yet catchy tune first published by Chris Smith and Jim Burris way back in 1913.
The first instance of "Ballin' The Jack" in a movie is most likely in For Me and My Gal (1942), a movie inspired by the true story of Vaudeville performers Harry Palmer and Jo Hayden, played by Gene Kelly and Judy Garland respectively. The lyrics of the song spell out the moves of the dance, but Judy and Gene do so much more. They tap, strut, and sing their way through a thoroughly entertaining three minutes. Just watch it below and see what I mean.
The year 1951 saw not one, but two movies with "Ballin' the Jack". The first was On the Riviera, the third movie version of the 1934 stage play "The Red Cat" by Hans Adler. (The other two movies being Folies Bergère (1935) with Maurice Chevalier and That Night In Rio (1941) with Don Ameche.) In it, Danny performs a suave and understated version of the song. While Danny was an accomplished dancer, the highlight of this scene is definitely his crooning.
Released in May of 1951, just one month after On the Riviera, That's My Boy paired Dean Martin and Polly Bergen who performed a swinging version. Jerry Lewis provided comic relief, interspersed throughout Martin and Bergen's routine, as he attempted awkwardly and unsuccessfully to perform the dance himself.
But, by far, my favorite version of "Ballin' the Jack" has to be from Haunted Honeymoon (1986). While I don't think either Gilda Radner or Dom DeLuise were particularly known for their singing or dancing abilities, the two of them together perform a rollicking, rocking version that just makes me smile whenever I watch it. They're clearly having a blast together and their chemistry and timing is just perfect. Watch as they play off each other in the clip below.
And that's what I call "Ballin' the Jack".