According to supplemental information on the DVD Nanette Fabray stated that Oscar Levant was very difficult to work with. Whenever something would go wrong and he would make a mistake he would blame whoever was around instead of himself. This Included stage hands, other actors, lighting technicians or whoever was handy. She said that, since she was usually closest, she caught the brunt of it. Following the scene where they shot the botched rehearsal he blamed her for something and she lost her temper and told him off using unladylike language. Everyone on the set applauded her. After that he was much easier to work with.
Ginger Rogers met Fred Astaire in New York in the early 1930s and they dated briefly. She saw him perform in the original Broadway production of this show. She was enraptured by his dancing with Tilly Losch and wrote: "If I had known that I was going to be Fred's partner in a matter of months, I would have paid closer attention to each move and pause".
The full-skirted white dress worn by Cyd Charisse in "Dancing In The Dark" was actually copied from a dress worn by the film's costume designer Mary Ann Nyberg. Director Vincente Minnelli tried to buy it off the rack (it originally cost about $25), but no store carried exactly that type of frock. It was finally created from scratch for about $1,000.
Betty Comden and Adolph Green made the characters played by Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant a married couple because they felt that the audiences would not accept a male/female writing team who weren't married to each other, even though the characters were based on Comden and Green, who were themselves not married to each other.
After Les and Lilly have their fight in the alley, Les heads for the bar across the street. In the background you can see a poster for the play "Every Night At Seven". This was the title of the play that Fred Astaire and Jane Powell starred in in the movie Royal Wedding (1951).
During the "Louisiana Hayride" number, Nanette Fabray gashed her leg when she broke through the top of a prop crate she was standing on. She said that shooting the "Triplets" number, which was filmed later and where she was forced to stand on her knees, was so painful that she had to take large numbers of pain pills.
The title is from an original 1931 Broadway musical, by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, which starred Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele Astaire. Only the title and some of the songs were borrowed for this film, and the stories are entirely different. The exact same thing occurred later with Fred Astaire in Funny Face (1957), in which Astaire and his sister Adele Astaire had originally appeared on Broadway in 1927. The only opportunity Astaire had to recreate a role on film that he had originated on Broadway was in The Gay Divorcee (1934), from Broadway's "Gay Divorce".
The movie reflects two real-life situations. In the movie Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) is washed up. In real life Astaire's career was at a standstill. In the movie much is made of whether Cyd Charisse's character is too tall for Fred's character. This was also true in real life. Whenever Cyd and Fred are together she is in shoes with low heels.
The original Broadway show, "The Band Wagon," opened on June 3, 1931, at the New Amsterdam Theater and ran 260 performances. It marked the last Broadway show to feature Fred Astaire and his sister Adele Astaire, who left the act shortly thereafter to get married. The cast also featured such future film luminaries as Helen Broderick (mother of Broderick Crawford), Frank Morgan and Tilly Losch. A musical revue (rather than a book musical), only three of its' Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz songs were retained for the film: "I Love Louisa," "Dancing in the Dark," and "New Sun in the Sky."
"Two-Faced Woman," a Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz number showcasing Cyd Charisse (with Oscar Levant on piano), was cut from this movie. Charisse's song (dubbed by India Adams) and dance, along with footage of her rehearsing, are encountered on the DVD from Warner Home Video. The Adams and Levant audio finds a spot on Rhino's soundtrack CD. Later that year in Torch Song (1953), the prerecording by India Adams was lip-synced by Joan Crawford, who performed her version in blackface. That's Entertainment! III (1994) matches the Charisse and Crawford routines by using a split screen.
The film was originally titled "I Love Louisa", from one of the songs in the picture. This title was later scrapped in favor of "The Band Wagon" after the Broadway play. However, because 20th Century Fox owned the rights to that title, MGM had to pay a reported $10,000 for those three words.
Several times in the film you see theatre marquees or posters showing the title "The Proud Land" - especially in the "Girl Hunt" ballet number. This is the title of a novel featured in the plot of Vincente Minnelli's film from the previous year The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
At the beginning of the movie, the auctioneer in an effort to sell Tony Hunter's top hat and cane, declares it be the same hat and cane Hunter had used in a movie called 'Swinging Down to Panama'. This is an obvious in-joke reference to Fred Astaire's real 1933 movie 'Flying Down to Rio', which had been his first with Ginger Rogers.