Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hollywood exercise

I've mentioned several times that I listen to international broadcasters that used to be on short-wave radio. One of them is China Radio International, and last week there was an interesting report on the program "Postcards", which is a show of human-interest stories from all over the world, usually about five mintues each but with enough put together to fill out a roughly 25-minute time slot.

Hollywood's latest fitness trend is harkening back to glitzy days of films gone by. Synchronized swimming is making a splash on the west coast - old Hollywood style. Before we come to the end of today's show, I would like to share with you an extra postcard from the United States.

The report itself is reasonably interesting, talking about how the exercise program harkens back to all those Esther Williams films, in which the swimming routines certainly would have been very strenuous, just as much as the dancing Gene Kelly would have had people doing, although probably without the stories of bleeding feet. There's a transcript of the whole program here; you'll have to scroll to the bottom since the synchronized swimming story is the last one. There's also an audio file here (~8.3 MB, 24 min), with the link also being at the top of the first page.

The story got me to thinking about all those old Hollywood movies and the vintage gym and exercise equpiment that shows up in them. One thing that comes to mind is that bizarre conveyor belt-like contraption that you were supposed to put around the waist and then run, presumably in the hope that it would jiggle your torso fat enough to burn it off. I'm pretty certain one of those shows up in Reducing, a Marie Dressler comedy in which she goes to the big city and gets a job with her cousin at a day spa for the rich people.

One of the transatlantic cruise movies -- I forget whether it's Gentlemen Prefer Blonds or The French Line, has a musical number with a bunch of members of the US men's Olympic team doing their thing with exercise equipment and a swimming pool. And then there's the exercise equipment in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, especially the servants' perplexity at having to procure such stuff.

A lot of the characters in the old movies also seem to think that doing a bit of aerobics when you get up or just before going to bed was enough for fitness. I have this terrible image of Myrna Loy, William Powell, and whoever played their daughter doing their leg lifts as the road to fitness.

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