Blowhard, Esq. writes:
For theatrical grace, the audience must not know, or must be willing to overlook, the effort behind the effortlessness. Sprezzatura is an illusion. Even in the naturally gifted, it requires cultivation. “She’s disciplined,” said Humphrey Bogart of Audrey Hepburn, “like all of those ballet dames.” To turn Sean Connery’s natural physical grace into James Bond’s social polish, director Terence Young took the young actor to fine restaurants, taught him to evaluate wines, had his suits and shirts custom-tailored, and made Connery sleep in one of the new outfits so that Bond’s clothes would feel natural. Grace Kelly achieved her mellifluous voice only after rigorous coaching, which mellowed her vocal tones and eliminated her nasal Philadelphia accent. Cary Grant spent his youth training as an acrobat, acquiring control over his movements. He achieved his “effortless” appearance by measuring the collars of his shirts and the lapels of his custom-made suits, returning them to the tailor if they were a tiny bit off. “It takes 500 small details to add up to one favorable impression,” he said.
By depicting the practiced or choreographed as natural and spontaneous, glamour makes the ideal feel attainable and the observer feel transported and at ease. “Each time Fred Astaire won over the heart of a reluctant Ginger Rogers by sweeping her up in a flurry of pivots, dips, and syncopated time steps, audiences forgot (since the film never showed) how many shoes were bloodied in the studio to create the appearance of impromptu courtship,” writes the dance scholar Juliet McMains.
These movies don’t invite us to imagine ourselves as real-world dancers, struggling through difficult rehearsals to create a great performance. Instead, we project ourselves into an effortless celebration of courtship and love. Astaire and Rogers labored mightily to create those dances, but the characters they played did not.