Sunday, July 19, 2015
THE BAND WAGON
Last night was an unusual Saturday night for me. I had absolutely nothing to do, although I felt a little guilty about my 10-inch pile of magazines accumulating, and set aside this time to do some reading. However, I instead decided to watch The Band Wagon, a 1953 film with Fred Astaire I had never before seen. I was mesmerized. Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave the movie a rare 100% rating.
Many wondered how this individual was so successful:
"Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Can dance a little." Astaire later insisted that the report had actually read: "Can't act. Slightly bald. Also dances". In any case, the test was clearly disappointing, and David O. Selznick, who had signed Astaire to RKO and commissioned the test, stated in a memo, "I am uncertain about the man, but I feel, in spite of his enormous ears and bad chin line, that his charm is so tremendous that it comes through even on this wretched test.":7
This was a spin-off of a 1931 Broadway musical of the same name starring Fred and his sister Adele. However, the movie had to present Astaire at the age of 54 as a famous movie dancing star on decline. The show was considered by some as the best Broadway review of that era, and gave us Dancing in The Dark.
While initially intimidated and disaffected with each other, opening night is a fiasco, but Fred and Cyd Charisse and the Broadway musical come together at the end, here with the film version of Dancing in the Dark.
The 1953 movie introduced That's Entertainment, also written by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Deitz. Amazingly enough, this clip has been seen only 10,579 times on You Tube, while Gangnam Style is now up to 2,377,535,390. That's more than two billion. That's a ratio of almost 225,000 to one.
Astaire and Gene Kelly hosted the first two versions of That's Entertainment, a 1974 compilation of MGM musicals celebrating its 50th anniversary. There were two sequels and a fourth, That's Dancing, in 1985.
The Band Wagon, the film, earned five Academy Award nominations and also featured Jack Buchanan, who probably put on the best performance, with Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant. Ava Gardner had a cameo. In addition to the above, also entertaining were Shine on Your Shoes, You and the Night and the Music, Something to Remember You By, High and Low and Louisiana Hayride...and more. Betty Comden and Adolph Green (duo also scripted Singing in the Rain) wrote the story, which kind of represented themselves, and the director was Vincente Minelli.
The Band Wagon, incidentally, was the first Encore production at the end of last year on Broadway, starring:
Halola at 35 MPH remains a tropical depression, but all models show a strengthening into a typhoon and an eye now projected to make landfall between Shikoku and Tokyo: