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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

5 Things to Read or Watch before the 'Fosse/Verdon' Premiere

Fosse Verdon

Photo credit: FX.

The Fosse/Verdon premiere on FX is almost upon us. If you are someone who loves to research and have all of the tools available to truly enjoy the series, here's a primer of a few movies and books you can binge before April 9.

Bob Fosse's work is complex, beautiful, and at times, very dark. You will see that reflected in the choices he made as a director. They were not always the sunny musical theatre type of movies, they often revealed the underside of Fosse, which, at times, tormented him.

Gwen Verdon was his muse, his inspiration, his artistic partner and the two never fell out of love, even though their relationship was a tumultuous one. Their work together is considered the gold standard and she is revered as one of the best Broadway dancers to ever hit the stage.

This film made Verdon a movie star. As Lola, she embodied the role and many have imitated her interpretation, but they have never achieved the same perfection. Fosse choreographed and acted in this film. This is a great starter film to get ready for the FX series.

One of my favorite movies of all time. Fosse directed, co-wrote and choreographed this semi-autobiographical drama about his work. He even predicted his own death. It's dark, it's awesome and you see Ann Reinking at her finest — and yes, she was his real-life mistress, too. Roy Scheider was Oscar-nominated for his portrayal of Joe Gideon (aka Fosse) and I still don't understand why he didn't win. He's that good.

[Editor's Note: The Criterion Collection version of this film is the best. It is linked above the video.]

This movie did so poorly, it almost put Universal Pictures into bankruptcy. It made $8 million against a $20 million-budget in 1969. However, it did find itself with three Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design and Best Music, Score of a Musical Picture. You also must know "The Rich Man's Frug," this is quintessential Fosse.

It was in 1987 during the out-of-town tryouts for the Broadway revival of Sweet Charity, that Fosse had a heart attack outside the Willard Hotel. He collapsed into Verdon's arms and later died at George Washington University Hospital. They had separated, but never divorced and they never stopped working together. Sweet Charity was their last project.

The 1972 musical starring Liza Minnelli was a huge critical and commercial success.

The film earned a total of eight Academy Awards, including Best Director (Bob Fosse), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Liza Minnelli) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Joel Grey). The movie has earned a spot in the Library of Congress for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry.

5. Fosse by Sam Wasson: This book is dense and a long read, but this is a comprehensive look at his life and work. The FX limited series is based off this book, so if you are someone who wants to read the book before you see someone else's interpretation of his life, this is where you start.

Other films to look at once you've finished the starter list:

Star 80 (Directed/Written by Fosse)

Lenny (Directed by Fosse)

The Pajama Game (Choreographed by Fosse."Steam Heat" is a Fosse classic number.)

My Sister Eileen (Choreographed by Fosse. He also acts in the film.)

Marvin's Room (Wonderful supporting performance by Verdon.)

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