Monday, May 03, 2021

Dancing Great Jacques d'Amboise Dies at 86

Sad news to report today, the great dancer Jacques d'Amboise has passed away at the age of 86.

D'Amboise was particularly important to me as Ephraim, one of the dancing Pontipee brothers in SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954).  His death comes just a few months after the passing of cast member Tommy Rall (Frank) last October.

Here is d'Amboise in a publicity photo for the film with Virginia Gibson, a still I've had in my personal collection since I was a teenager:

He's on the right of this SEVEN BRIDES group shot (click on the photo to enlarge it):

Left to right above are Marc Platt, Betty Carr, Tommy Rall, Matt Mattox, Ruta Lee, Jane Powell, Julie Newmar, Norma Doggett, Nancy Kilgas, Russ Tamblyn, Jeff Richards, Virginia Gibson, and d'Amboise. Lee, Powell, Newmar, Kilgas, and Tamblyn are still with us today.

SEVEN BRIDES was d'Amboise's film debut. He was on loan from the New York City Ballet and had to return to New York before filming was completed.

D'Amboise's early departure from the film led to a couple of curious things. I've collected dozens of stills from the film, and d'Amboise is cut and pasted into many of the publicity shots; it stands out even more in some of the photographs because his "bride," Virginia Gibson, is not wearing her "spring" dress like the other ladies.

In other publicity shots, Gibson is wearing the "correct" dress while D'Amboise is again pasted into the background:

More significantly, during the scene where the brothers are pacing while Milly gives birth, there is very clearly a stand-in "playing" Ephraim, though they unsuccessfully try to hide him behind a staircase.  

While it doesn't have anything to do with d'Amboise's absence, I've also always been curious why during the last move of the famous Barn-Raising Dance, d'Amboise and Rall end up with mixed-up partners; Rall ends up with Gibson and d'Amboise with Betty Carr, when it should have been the other way 'round!  The other eight dancers are partnered with the character they were matched with in the story.

These are just some fun things I've happened to notice over the years about one of my most favorite movies of all time.

D'Amboise also played a lead role in the dream ballet in the movie production of CAROUSEL (1956) and danced in THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE (1956). He's in the center of this shot from CAROUSEL:

D'Amboise was with the New York City Ballet for approximately three and a half decades. He also taught children dancing for many years, which led to him being the focus of a highly regarded documentary, HE MAKES ME FEEL LIKE DANCIN' (1983).

D'Amboise was married to dancer Carolyn d'Amboise from 1956 until her passing in 2009. They had four children, including dancer Charlotte d'Amboise.

I salute Jacques d'Amboise with grateful thanks and appreciation for all the happiness his work has given me. My sincere condolences to his family.

Previous obituary tributes to SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS dancers: Betty Carr (November 14, 2008), Matt Mattox (February 22, 2013), Virginia Gibson (May 28, 2013), Marc Platt (April 1, 2014), Norma Doggett (May 15, 2020), and Tommy Rall (October 8, 2020).


Blogger Vienna said...

So sorry to hear this sad news. You have done a fine tribute to this great dancer. I remember when he received the Life Achievement award from the President that his son and daughter did a wonderful dance. He must have been so proud.

12:55 AM  

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