Tango in popular culture
There is something about the word tango that seems to have a power in itself. Everybody seems to share the idea that tango is something special. Tango’s strong image in the public conscience is not quite the same as we tango addicts have, as we actually know the authentic tango culture and (I suppose) think of it when we hear the word.
To a large degree, the image the general public has of tango is imposed from the depiction of tango in popular culture, and movies in particular. Nowadays, many know the tango from the popular dance shows on TV, but from what I have seen of those, they too are heavily influenced by Hollywood. Maybe it can be useful if you teach, to know what people associate with tango.
- Anchors Aweigh (1945) featuring Gene Kelly dancing a flamenco to La Cumparsita
- On the town (1949)
- Some like it hot (1959) featuring Jack Lemmon disguised as a woman. ‘Dahpne, you’re leading again…’
- Ultimo tango a Parigi (Last tango in Paris) (1972)
- Death on the Nile (1978) So over the top, it’s irresistable.
- Never Say Never Again (1983)
- Indochine (1992)
- Scent of a Woman (1992) ‘If you get all tangled up — just tango on’
- Strictly Ballroom (1992)
- Addams Family Values (1993) On fire
- True Lies (1994)
- The Tuxedo (2002)
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
Tracing films where tango is featured in one way or another was actually the original theme of the film club, but it later took on a new and more serious life of its own. It’s not an extensive list, but this is a fun way to discover a lot of very different films that have one thing in common: tango. It’s also interesting to see how they appear to infinitely reference each other and the Valentino films.
You’ll find clips from most of these on youtube, but I recommend watching the entire films to see them in context. Prepare for some real tango kitsch, sit back and relax; it’ll be fun!
What are your favourite tango kitsch movie scenes?
Upcoming post: list of films that feature tango in a realistic way.