Lola’s Bedroom and the Staircase to Paradise
Leggy chorus girls descending a spiral staircase—it’s an iconic image from the variety stage. Gershwin captured its significance perfectly in “Staircase to Paradise,” a tune that turns the steps of a dance reviled by preachers of morality into steps leading up a stairway to the heavens. His song was the closing number of the first act of George White’s Scandals of 1922 on the Broadway stage of The Globe Theater. We see a lavish and less provocative 1950s setting of the song in Vincente Minelli’s An American in Paradise. Alfred Hitchcock picked up on the image in the opening sequence of his debut feature, The Pleasure Garden (1925), produced in a Munich studio. A good ten or more chorus girls in tight shorts scurry down a spiral staircase just offstage—not in view of the theater audience, but on display for moviegoers thanks to the camera’s mobility. Where else might the camera stray? To paradise?
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