Monday, June 27, 2011

Films Like "The Band Wagon" Still Sparkle

We are lucky there are still a few crazy geniuses like Ted Turner in America today.  For all his many faults, he's done something no one else managed. He--almost single-handedly, though we could dispute this--made film preservation a commercially viable venture.  It all began when he invented Turner Classic Movies.

Thanks to Turner and TCM (and the American Film Institute and the many fans of classic films who  worked for preservation before Turner came along) we are still able to see Fred Astaire dance in a wonderful film like The Band Wagon more than half a century after Astaire made his silken moves.


The Band Wagon now ranks 17th on the American Film Institute's list of the best musicals of all time, and should rank higher than that.  For the present, films like Chicago and All That Jazz rate above it, probably for the same reason that the movie Oliver (1968) won Best Picture the year these movies didn't:  2001 a Space Odyssey; Bullitt; Rosemary's Baby; Planet of the Apes; and The Lion in Winter. (It takes time to tell the difference between the great and the merely popular when it comes to movies.)

The Band Wagon wasn't a hit the year it came out--1953. That year, darker films prevailed: From Here to Eternity; Shane; Niagara; Stalag 17; The Wild One.

Astaire and Leroy Daniels in the shoe shine number from The Band Wagon.

Anyway, if you haven't seen The Band Wagon, you should give it a try.  Astaire's shoe shine dance with Leroy Daniels is a highlight, though there are so many highlights it is difficult to say which is best.  This film introduced the song "That's Entertainment" and when the four stars, including Astaire and British stage legend Jack Buchanan, sing this number in a backstage setting its just ... terrific entertainment!

Astaire's "Dancing in the Dark" number with Cyd Charisse is perfect. Quiet. Sexy. Beautiful.

Astaire and Cyd Charisse, "Dancing in the Dark."

Contrast that with the beer song at the cast party, "I Love Louisa," and the triplets number (whatever that has to do with the theme of the-musical-inside-this-musical, we never do know!) and I must say there is a little something in this movie for everyone.

You will love the art direction and use of colors, if nothing else---splashes of reds and oranges are used a lot amidst light blues and greys.  In one scene, Astaire is in a light suit with bright blue socks. Cool.

I would like to have the dress Cyd Charisse wears in the final scene. Kate Middleton should look so good.

It isn't film noir nor cinema verit√© but it isn't supposed to be. In fact, it is a movie that makes fun of such pretensions.

In this movie, the world is a stage, the stage is a world ... of entertainment. The Band Wagon, with its 1950s style and talent preserved for us on celluloid, is a gift from our past, that we can enjoy again and again. Like a memory.  Only in Technicolor, which is even better.

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