Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Never Let Me Down

Marathon Dancing was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Many unemployed people competed in the contests in order to achieve fame or win money. The couples had to continuously move for 45 minutes every hour for hundreds of hours up to 2 months. The contestants were fed 12 meals a day, which during the Great Depression, was a huge incentive. The dancing was considered immoral and lewd by some and, because of attempted suicides from non-winners, was banned in several cities. Here is more information about this fascinating competition.

It's interesting to note that most of today's charities, such as the Walk-a-thon and others, can be attributed to marathon dancing. There is also an annual Dance Marathon held as a fundraiser by Penn State University for various charities.

One notable account of marathon dancing comes from the early chapters of Anita O'Day's memoir, High Times Hard Times: "It seems unbelievable now but there were once fifteen thousand people-- promoters, emcees, floor judges, trainers, nurses, cooks, janitors, cashiers, ticket-takers, publicity agents, promotion men, musicians, contestants and even a lawyer-- whose main source of income over a number of years came from endurance shows."

A memorable movie about this event is They Shoot Horses, Don't They? starring Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin in 1969. It is based on the novel by Horace McCoy.

This is a video by David Bowie about Marathon Dancing. the song is called Never Let Me Down.

Never Let Me Down - song: Never Let Me Down, artist: David Bowie, album: Never Let Me Down


Melanie said...

Thanks for the interesting tidbit of info! I had no idea that such a thing even existed. How sad is that??? Maybe I am not learning as much as I think I am in school??? LOL!!!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

No, it's the school of Bowie! lol.
I was watching the video and it reminded me. I saw the movie, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? as a little girl and it really made an impact on me. I don't really remember the movie itself, though. Maybe it was the title?? I'd never even had a horse yet!

Grey Horse Matters said...

David Bowie has to be one of the top performers and show men ever, great video. I'd heard about the marathon dancing, tough way to make a dollar. The movie was good too, haven't seen it for years.
Interesting post.