Frankie Manning, ‘ambassador of the Lindy Hop’, will be profiled in this short documentary that airs Thursday night, 5/21, at 10:30pm. It will be rebroadcast as part of SundayArts on Sunday afternoon, 5/24. We asked the filmmaker, Julie Cohen, a few questions about what it was like working with Manning, and that he passed away just as the project was wrapping up.
You can watch the entire documentary online at SundayArts.
What was the impetus for this documentary?
I started reading about Frankie when I was researching a documentary about New Yorkers who served in World War II (Frankie fought in the Pacific). His whole life just felt like a THIRTEEN documentary waiting to happen. He had a fascinating career spanning eight decades and involving iconic New York City institutions from the Savoy Ballroom and the Cotton Club in Harlem to Broadway. And luckily there was amazing footage of him dancing dating back to the 1930s. He had done a number of television interviews, most notably as a swing expert in Ken Burns’ wonderful Jazz series, so I knew he was a “great talker.” I got in touch with Cynthia Millman, who co-authored Frankie’s 2007 autobiography Ambassador of Lindy Hop, and she pointed me to loads of video of him dancing over the past ten years or so. I found myself smiling the whole time I watched. Frankie told me he’s never seen a dancer Lindy-Hopping who wasn’t smiling; I defy viewers to try watching Frankie dance without a smile.
I know he’s kind of a legend…did he perpetuate his own legend status?
I don’t think Frankie’s goal was to be a legend. He just wanted to swing. He achieved legend status because a) he was really, really, really good and b) he kept on swinging when most other people would have slowed down. (more…)