THE FABULOUS NICHOLAS BROTHERS
Fayard Nicholas (1914—2006) and Harold Nicholas (1921—2000) were two of the 20th century’s greatest dancers. These self-taught African-American brothers were still kids when they headlined at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club, later conquering Broadway and Hollywood—and eventually achieving international stardom—in a career that spanned eight decades. They dazzled audiences with their effortless balletic moves, elegant tap dancing, and jaw-dropping leaps, flips, and splits, counting among their fans the likes of Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bob Fosse, George Balanchine, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, and Michael and Janet Jackson. But Hollywood limited their appearances to only one show stopping number in each of their movies (Astaire called their Stormy Weather routine the greatest dance number ever filmed) — they were never given lines to speak or a romantic interest, despite their success on Broadway as actors and comedians.
A friend of the Brothers, Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum’s director of repertory programming since 1986 and founder of Rialto Pictures in 1998, was the writer and co-producer of an award-winning 1992 documentary on the team, whom he first met in the early 1980s. In his acclaimed presentation on the dance team — at its premiere, the packed audience at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood spontaneously rose in a standing ovation — Goldstein utilizes rare personal and performance footage, recordings, and vintage photographs, along with his never-before-seen 1991 interviews with the brothers and other legends, including Cab Calloway, Max Roach, Bobby Short, Leonard Reed, and Gregory and Maurice Hines. This is as much about a tight-knit African American family, and the love between two brothers, as it is about two of the 20th century’s greatest artists. Special thanks to Rigmor Newman Nicholas.