Frankie Manning: ‘Ambassador of the Lindy Hop’, 1914-2009

staff | April 30, 2009

Frankie Manning was one of the great dancers – and great characters – in New York City history. As a teenager, Manning started dancing in the best venues in Harlem, including the legendary Savoy Ballroom. He became a member of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, the energetic, immensely talented group that made the dance a national phenomenon.

Frankie’s performances were captured on film in a number of Hollywood movies. His dance sequence in “Hellzapoppin” is still considered the great swing dance number of all time (he’s the one in the overalls):
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTg5V2oA_hY&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b]

Frankie never stopped dancing. On May 21, THIRTEEN will air a tribute to Manning with a special documentary premiering Thursday, May 21st at 10:30pm after his recent passing on April 27, 2009 at the age of 94. Frankie Manning: Never Stop Swinging will explore Manning’s life from a teenager in Harlem to a worldwide icon of swing dance.

You can watch the entire documentary online at SundayArts.

The documentary features the last major interview of Frankie Manning before his death, as well as precious archival footage of his dancing from the 1930s to 2009 in New York, Hollywood, Sweden, France, Italy and Singapore. Footage highlights include scenes of Manning’s birthday parties, where he danced with one woman for each year he’d been alive; the legendary dance scene from “Hellzapoppin”; and a phenomenal duet with his 76-year-old son, Chazz, himself a professional dancer.

See a preview of the documentary:

Other appearances by Manning on PBS:

Ken Burn’s Jazz
Manning was one of only two dancers interviewed for this history of jazz. You can read more about him or see the full transcript of his interview (pdf).

NewsHour
In 1998, Manning was interviewed as part of a story on the swing revival.

Great Performances
Manning was a featured dancer in GP’s “Swingin’ With Duke“, a tribute to Duke Ellington.