What is it about some people that they manage to convince even the cynics that they are good human beings? It cannot just be put down to good looks or charisma. I mean Jack Nicholson had charisma, but I certainly do not want to meet him!
One person who had it in spades, but has sadly left the building long before his time was Gregory Hines. I first saw him in White Nights with Baryshnikov, as an American dancer married to a Russian woman living in Soviet era Leningrad. The KGB tries to get him to recruit Baryshnikov who plays a former Russian defector, to stay back in Russia after his plane is forced to land in the country he left a decade ago. Eventually however Hines too wants to return to America as he wants his children to grow up without Communism.The three manage to escape with the help of a former girlfriend of the Russian dancer with close links to the KGB. This was played by Helen Mirren. Hines stole the show from Baryshnikov who was great at dancing but wooden in the scenes where he had to act and from Isabella Rosellini who did a well enough job I suppose. I only remember Hines, and Baryshnikov in the scene where they have a duet to the Lionel Ritchie song ‘Say You, Say Me’.
Two interesting bits of information about White Nights; it had footage of the actual locations in Leningrad but these had to be passed off as Finland so that the Finnish film crew would not be banned from working in Russia. These were after all pre-Glasnost days. The other was the romance between Taylor Hackford the director and Helen Mirren who became his wife eventually.
I then saw Hines more recently as a corporate type in television’s Will and Grace, still stealing scenes and making his co-actors disappear into the props. I also had the good fortune of seeing the first film that brought him to Hollywood’s attention, the hysterically funny Mel Brooks film ‘History of the World’. He played a tap dancing slave Josephus who tries to buy time by doing a shim sham sand dance at the slave auction.
The dance: http://youtu.be/rRB3U8koygY