Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Band Wagon (1953)

“That’s Entertainment”

            MGM has always been known for their incredible musicals. Arthur Freed’s production team made some of the most memorable musicals ever created such as Singin in the Rain and An American in Paris. Keeping up with the successful roll of musicals in the early ‘50s, Freed’s unit produced The Band Wagon. MGM got all their top entertainers in their arsenal and created one of their most catchy and fun musicals.
            Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) is a fading musical star. He has not made a film in three years. We first see him sitting on a train; he is hiding behind a menu as he listens to two men talking about how Tony Hunter used to be someone. Then he pipes into the conversation and he agrees. When he gets off the train in NYC he feels lonely from the fact that no one is interested in him as an actor anymore.
            Tony has traveled to NYC to star in a play that his two friends Lily and Lester Marton (Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant) have written. Tony has not been in the city for many years. Things and places have changed he hardly recognizes the place. Much has even changed on Broadway. Lily and Lester want the famed director, writer, producer, and actor Jeffery Cordova to direct the play. Tony has no idea who this guy is but he goes with the couple and meets the guy anyway. The meeting goes very well and Jeffery agrees to direct and even star in the play. He also wants to try to get the famed ballerina Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse) to be in the play as well.
            Lily and Lester bring Tony to see Gabrielle in a show. He is very pessimistic about working with the ballerina he thinks that she is too tall for him and that she will not be able to dance like him. From the moment the two dancers meet there are sparks and not good sparks. Gabrielle feels Tony thinks ballet is below him and Tony feels that Gabrielle is a snot. They argue and as they go to leave Jeffery’s apartment the board members agree to back the play and now the dancers are stuck working together.
            As rehearsals move ahead Tony is not happy. Many of his scenes and numbers have been cut. He finally has it and leaves. Gabrielle goes to talk to him. At first she apologizes but Tony sees right through that she is really not sorry for acting the way she did she is just coming to save face and ask him back to the play. She starts to cry and he feels bad. He wants to take her out so she goes with him. They go to the park and dance together. The two dancers are in perfect rhythm and step and they find they do dance well together. Tony comes back to the show and he and Gabrielle get along very well.
            When the play opens to the backers it is a flop. The backers back out leaving the company no money and all their hard work is wasted. During a small get together Tony lets Jeffery know that he can sell his paintings by some famous artists and they can rework the show and go on tour. The reworking is a big success
            Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse were fantastic together. Of all the partners Astaire danced with I think Charisse was the best one. Watching her dance with him in “Dancing in the Dark” she never looked down at her feet and she was never a step ahead or behind she was flawless. I get so jealous watching Charisse dance she was so beautiful and her legs were incredible!! Also no matter what she wore she was gorgeous. Astaire was not too bad in this film. Usually he always plays the love sick little boy but he was not here and that was great.  Nanette Fabray was fabulous. I loved seeing her energy and how out going she was.
            My favorite numbers in the film are “Dancing in the Dark”, “I Love Louisa”, “Louisiana Hayride”, and “The Hunt Ballet.” “The Hun Ballet” is a twelve minute long number but it is so cool Astaire and Charisse literally just glide through the whole thing. Charisse looks gorgeous in one of the scenes in the ballet when she wears a red glittered dress and black gloves. The sex appeal that oozes out of her in the outfit and her dancing.  Nanette Fabray sings “Louisiana Hayride” and she is adorable you can see her energy and how great of a performer she was.
This is only part of the whole number but this is the best

            The Band Wagon is such a great musical. The story is not so much a romance it is more of a guy who has been down in his career for some years and now he is coming into a world he thought he knew and it is completely different. Now he is learning to work in a new theater world with new talent.  From the moment I first saw The Band Wagon I was in love with it. Everything about this musical is fantastic, beautiful, and special.

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