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Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast
Hal LeRoy is hired as a tap teacher at Dawn O'Day's dancing school to give private lessons to female students. The school's manager, as well as some of his students, spreads false stories that Hal's lessons involve more than just tap dancing. He is fired and starts his own dancing school in the same building as O'Day's. Hal and Dawn now realize that their relationship was more than just business. Written by
David Glagovsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Private Lessons" is one of the best of the Vitaphone shorts from Warner Brothers. Hal LeRoy, a much better dancer than actor, sneaks into Dawn O'Day's dance studio via a window to sell the dancing girls taps for their shoes. He makes such an impression on them by his dancing and with his charms that he is taken in by Dawn to give private lessons. Unfortunately, he also stirs up petty jealousies among the dancers who begin spreading rumors that Hal is giving the gals a little something extra with their lessons. As a result, he is fired and so starts his own dance studio in the same building next door to Dawn's. Hal and Dawn had fallen in love before the rumor mill caused them to split and become rivals. Ultimately, love prevails; Hal and Dawn combine their studios and each other.
Made in 1934 in the wake of such Busby Berkeley masterpieces as "Footlight Parade," "Gold Diggers of 1933," and Forty-Second Street, "Private Lessons" is obviously influenced by those extravaganzas. The final kaleidoscopic dance choreographed by Paul Florenz has Berkeley written all over it. That doesn't make it any less pleasing to the eyes.
There are several good songs from the period included, such as "Let's Dance," but perhaps the standout song is sung by the talented Dorothy Dare as Babs Henderson, one of the gossip mongers with a crush on Hal. Dare makes "Red Headed and Blue" her own. She also belts out "Yoo Hoo Hoo," reminding one of the Boop-Oop-A-Doop Queen, Helen Kane, for whom the cartoon character, Betty Boop, was patterned.
Hal's romantic rival in "Private Lessons," John Humphries, is none other than future Superman, Kirk Alyn. Alyn's role is minor but he makes the most of it.
"Private Lessons" is an entertaining two-reel short (twenty-two minutes) that makes a good addendum to the Berkeley feature-length films of the day. The compact little story goes perfectly with the song and dance numbers.
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