b. Hermes Panagiotopulos, between 1905 and 1910, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, d. 19 September 1990, Beverly Hills, California, USA. A dancer and legendary choreographer who worked closely with Fred Astaire on most of his film musicals and television specials. Pan danced in clubs and in the singing chorus of the Broadway musical Top Speed, which featured Ginger Rogers, before moving to Hollywood in the early 30s. After serving as assistant to dance director Dave Gould on Flying Down To Rio, Astaire and Rogers’ first picture together, and the follow-up, The Gay Divorcee, Pan choreographed all of Astaire’s films at RKO, including Roberta, Top Hat, Follow The Fleet, Swing Time, Shall We Dance, Carefree, and The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle. He won an Oscar for his imaginative staging of the ‘Fun House’ sequence in another RKO feature, A Damsel In Distress (1937), in which Astaire appeared with Burns And Allen. Pan also worked with Astaire on Second Chorus, Blue Skies, The Barkleys Of Broadway (with Ginger Rogers again), Three Little Words, Let’s Dance, Silk Stockings, and Finian’s Rainbow (1968) which was their last movie together. Pan also made one of his rare on-screen appearances in that one. Over the years, he had occasionally danced in films such as My Gal Sal, Sweet Rosie O’Grady, Moon Over Miami, Kiss Me Kate, and Pin Up Girl. However, for most of his career, he was content to make major stars - Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Don Ameche, Howard Keel, Juliet Prowse, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, Ann Miller, Kathryn Grayson and many others - look good in a variety of mostly entertaining musical pictures such as Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe, Song Of The Islands, That Night In Rio, Footlight Serenade, Springtime In The Rockies, Coney Island, Lovely To Look At, That Lady In Ermine, Hit The Deck, The Student Prince, Meet Me In Las Vegas, Pal Joey, Can-Can, Flower Drum Song, My Fair Lady, Darling Lili, and Lost Horizon. He also staged Cleopatra’s spectacular entry into Rome for the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton epic Cleopatra in 1963. Pan won Emmy Awards for his work on the highly acclaimed television specials An Evening With Fred Astaire (1959) and Astaire Time (1961). In 1981 he received the National Film Award for Achievement In Cinema, and six years later was presented with the prestigious Joffrey Ballet Award. A true innovator, many of the films in which he mixed ballet, jazz and tap, are now rightly regarded as classics.
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