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Tony Hunter, a famous singer/dancer movie star, is feeling washed up and old hat (old top hat, tie and tails to be exact). The reporters are out for Ava Gardner, not him. But his old friends Lily and Les Martin have an idea for a funny little Broadway show and he agrees to do it. But things begin to get out of hand, when bigshot "artistic" director/producer/star Jeffrey Cordova joins the production, proclaims it's a modernistic Faust and insists on hiring a prima ballerina, Gabrielle Gerard, to star opposite Tony, and it's hate at first sight. And her jealous choreographer isn't helping to ease the tension. The show is doomed by pretentiousness. But romance, a "let's put on a show" epiphany, and a triumphant opening are waiting in the wings. After all, this is a musical comedy! Written by
When there's a shine on your shoes, there's a melody in your heart!
Vincente Minnelli was a director that worked well in different genres, as his distinguished career shows. He excelled in the musicals he directed. In "The Band Wagon", Mr. Minnelli gave us one of the perhaps, most satisfactory musicals of all times. In fact, this is a film that doesn't have many original songs like some other MGM musicals, but still shows the talented Betty Comden and Adolph Green at their best.
Some of the criticism directed to "The Band Wagon" in this forum has to do with the perception that Fred Astaire, the star of the film, was finished, but as he brilliantly demonstrates, he still had a lot left in him. One of the most brilliant numbers of the film involves Mr. Astaire dancing with Leroy Daniels "Shine on my Shoes" at an arcade on 42 Street. Both Mr. Astaire and Mr. Daniels do amazing dancing in a number that will remain one of the classics of the American musicals in film.
The pairing of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse proves to be one of the most felicitous things in the movie. Ms. Charisse and Mr. Astaire are seen dancing beautifully in "Dancing in the Dark" and in the ballet sequence. Ms. Charisse was one of the most talented dancing stars at MGM and it's a shame she didn't get more opportunities in which to shine, as she does in "The Band Wagon".
Oscar Levant and Nannette Fabray are excellent playing Adolph Green and Betty Comden, that in the film they are named Lester and Lily Marton. Jack Buchanan plays Jeffrey Cordova, the classical actor that turns all shows into hits. Mr. Buchanan is hysterical with his approach to turn the show the Martons have written into a variation of "Faust", with disastrous consequences.
Among the other great numbers in the film, "The Triplets", in which Jeff, Lily and Tony, are seen as dancing and singing babies in a delightful turn. Also Nannette Fabray in "Louisiana Hayride" shows her best qualities. Other songs heard are "By Myself", "Change my Plan", and that hymn about show business, "That's Entertainment".
"The Band Wagon" is a film to cherish because all the right elements were put together by the genius of Vincente Minnelli.
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