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Everything Old is New Again: How Donald & Gene got their Groove Back

January 27, 2011

Donald O’Connor (L) & Gene Kelly (R) are The Bomb in the new Jetta

First time I saw this commercial I liked & disliked it in equal measures, at the same time, in blatant defiance of the principle of contradiction (“contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true”).   I liked it mainly for the song, but disliked it because…something wasn’t right about those two guys in the back. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something wasn’t right. The dude on the right looked way too much like Ward Cleaver.  Thoughts influenced by social norms in which two guys tap-dancing in the backseat of a Volkswagon didn’t seem entirely normal were hard to come to terms with.

I let it go.

But the commercial came back.  Again.  And again.  And again.

Before long, I actually looked forward to it (again, mainly for the song), but instead of feeling conflicted about it, I simply felt ashamed to admit that I liked it.  I can’t even dance, so what’s with liking this commercial?

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I realize the whole thing – the whole “un-rightness” of the two guys tap-dancing in the back seat – was silently building up a degree of curiosity pressure that would have to be (and was) reckoned with.  Thus, this post.

I started out simply trying to find out who sang the song.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  And while I was reading the comments thread on the above video, I noticed that somebody mentioned this:

Love, love, love Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor!! I was raised on their movies and I am happy to see that they are being introduced to a new generation! Even if it is in a Volkswagen commercial.

Gene Kelly? What, like of Gene Kelly & Fred Astaire fame? Hrm…so who’s this Donald O’Connor dude?

Donald, ladies and gents, is the guy sitting in the seat on the passenger side of this car. And as it turns out, I finally found out what wasn’t right about that video, and when I did, I realized it was pretty damned cool!

Check this out. This video is, as best I can tell, from 1960. Skip ahead to *exactly* 3:10 into the video. The 14-seconds from 3:10 to 3:24 are the same 14-seconds in the Jetta commercial (from :05 to :19)!

Gene Kelly says, “I like it”, to which Donald O’Connor replies, “I do too”.

The creative team behind this commercial has taken these guys out of 1960, added color, gave them a cool backbeat from Pigeon John, and digitally transported them through time to 2011. Pretty cool.

Nice goin VW, that commercial is ‘da bomb!


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6 Responses to “ Everything Old is New Again: How Donald & Gene got their Groove Back ”

  1. Debra Gniewek on January 27, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Well, there is no doubt that the original Sitting Dance is better than the new Back Seat Dance. But I love the VW commercial because I love seeing Gene and Donald dance together again. And how wonderful to make a new generation aware of those wonderful talents!

  2. Sara on January 28, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    ‘Who is Donald O’ Conner?’ My Dear Mr. Pants, have you not ever seen ‘Singin’ in the Rain’?! Here:
    And, just because I love it:

  3. Pants on January 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    I confess. People say, “The man ain’t got no culture”. When you say “Dylan”, I think you’re talkin about Dylan Thomas. Whoever he was.

  4. Danny on January 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    If I made a video like Pigeon John and said something like he did about ‘white folk clap and keep it in time if you can…’ or something along those lines, and used black folk, asian folk or whatever, would I be considered a racist individual?

  5. Sara on February 2, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I’m usually talking about Dylan McKay, so I hear you on the ‘no culture’ thang.

  6. Mr. Smarty Pants on February 7, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Gotta listen to the whole thing…

    I knew a man, his brain was so small,
    He couldnt think of nothing at all.
    Hes not the same as you and me.
    He doesnt dig poetry. hes so unhip that
    When you say dylan, he thinks youre talking about dylan thomas,
    Whoever he was.
    The man aint got no culture,
    But its alright, ma,
    Everybody must get stoned.