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Musicals--that most surrealistic of motion picture genres--have fallen
out of fashion over the past few decades... but at one time they
dominated motion picture screens. MGM, a studio which boasted it had
"More Stars Than There Are In The Heavens," was renowned for the
musical talents it had under contract. And this clever compilation,
with its various segments introduced by the likes of Frank Sinatra,
Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, Bing Crosby, and Mickey Rooney,
offers an extraordinary collection of musical moments from the 1930s,
1940s, and 1950s--the golden age of the genre.
The compilation is very, very broad and includes performances by both the still-famous and once-famous, and gives us the opportunity to see some magical moments without having to wade through the entire genre or assess whether or not you actually want to sit through an obscure film in order to see one five minute musical moment. While it includes performances by the delicious Lena Horne (performing "Honeysuckle Rose" before a sophisticated set of drapery and mirrors), the brilliant Elenor Powell (with several offerings, the most memorable being "Begin the Begine" with Fred Astaire), and a host of others, most of the collection revolves around four MGM superstars: Gene Kelly, Esther Williams, Fred Astaire, and Judy Garland. The tribute to Esther Williams is particularly welcome, a marvelous array of some of the most beautiful and beautifully surreal scenes ever put to film; the tribute to Judy Garland, touchingly introduced and narrated by daughter Liza Minnelli, is also particularly well done.
But the real feast here is of musical oddities and rarities. In its search for musical talent, MGM put almost every star under contract through their musical paces--and the result is often truly bizarre. Among the most memorable of these is Joan Crawford, who believe it or not was considered a jazz dancer of some note during the 1920s, and here she (introduced by an emcee as "the personification of youth, beauty, joy, and happiness) sings and then athletically stops through "Got A Feeling For You." Robert Montgomery looks awkward trying his hand at light opera; Jimmy Stewart sings pleasantly but unspectacularly; Jean Harlow belts out "Reckless;" and Clark Gable gives a remarkably charming throw-away performance of "Puttin' On The Ritz." It is all tremendous fun.
Of further interest is the fact that most of the narrators have filmed their scenes on the MGM backlot--which was on the verge of demolition when this compilation was made in 1974. It's fading glory is touching, nostalgic, and offers a final glimpse of what was the world's greatest film studio before it entered its final decline. A drawback to the compilation is that at the time it was made few if any of these films had been restored; some of the oldest film clips are in rather poor condition and the brilliance of Technicolor is somewhat reduced in certain scenes. But even with this problem, THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT is a feast of brilliant colors, costumes, spectacular dance numbers, and beautiful sounds, enough to delight any long-time musical fan and convert newcomers to the genre.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
I saw this movie occasionally on PBS when I was a kid and I bought the collector's edition of the entire series in '98 and each time I watch it I feel more and more nostalgic about the old Hollywood musicals-a genre of which we'll never see an equal. Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Leslie Caron, Eleanor Powell and Ann Miller are the stars who really show off their great talents in this production of selected clips which include highlights of "Broadway Melody of 1938", "The Wizard of Oz", "Meet Me in St. Louis", "An American in Paris", "Singin' in the Rain", "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "High Society" among others. There's also a whole roster of legendary guest stars: Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Lawford, James Stewart, Mickey Rooney, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby and even Liza Minelli just at the start of her career. They introduce some of the greatest moments in the history of the MGM Musical genre. It's great fun for anyone who loves the musicals of a gone-forever age.
For anyone who longs to experience some of the great movie musical moments
again, "That's Entertainment" is a Godsend. For anyone who hasn't seen
or any, of the great MGM musicals and wants to know what made them great,
"That's Entertainment" is a revelation. Either way, it's an entertainment
extravaganza that can't be beat, and it's easy to see why it was the
surprise movie hit of 1974.
In fact, I remember the first time I saw it. I was sixteen, and I saw it at a matinee showing, with my Mother, at the now-defunct Cooper Theater in Denver, Colorado. I think what amazed us the most about the film was that, after almost every number, the audience burst into prolonged applause. You'd think it was a concert instead of a movie! But that's the appeal that these timeless musical moments have. You don't just watch this movie, you're PART of it.
As Frank Sinatra says at the outset of the film, "You can wait around and hope, but you'll never see the like of this again."
An affectionate tribute to the great movie musicals that became a great movie musical itself. See it! See it! See it!
This is it! This is the Holy grail of musical documentaries, the very definition of the term "They don't make 'em like this anymore.." everyone is here and in the subsequent 2 sequels. Oh, to see this in a movie theatre! 20 foot tall Gene Kelly performing "Singing In The Rain"! Busby Berkeley as his extravanganzas were meant to be seen! Definately worth watching even of you see it on video! A time capsule, a treasure. (sigh... Hollywood...)
This is a sentimental and enjoyable look back at the time when M-G-M was the premiere studio in Hollywood and had more stars than there are in the heaven. Famous musical numbers are presented by some of those legends including Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra. I just don't like the way they brag and flatter each other. Is it really necessary to tell the viewer how good they were? The audience should be able to judge for themselves. And the numbers are great, no doubt about it. Fred Astaire's tap dance with Eleanor Powell is awesome, Donald O'Connor's "Make'em laugh" is funny, Gene Kelly sings in the rain and Judy Garland sings over the rainbow. It's also fun to see dramatic actors like James Stewart, Clark Gable and Cary Grant sing and dance. That's entertainment! Rating: 4/5
I could watch it over and over again. Brilliant! Wish it was in DVD. The music is timeless, the dancing unforgettable and will never again be seen at that level on screen, I'm sure.Busby Berkeley's choreography is beyond compare. I did not agree, however, with Sinatra's opinion that the dance from American in Paris was the greatest ever. Several Fred Astaire dance numbers were far superior. Nobody has ever come close to Fred and Ginger as a team.
In the mid-seventies, when MGM as a producing force in studio history was
pretty much dead, a couple of researchers started to put together a
compilation of the greatest moments from the birth of the talkie to Gigi's
glut of Academy Awards at the end of the 1950s. The idea of this first
'That's Entertainment!' was to showcase the cream of the musicals, using a
number of MGM's former contact stars (Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Fred
Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney et al) to link segments together.
The result was so breathtaking and brilliant that two further sequels followed; one almost immediately, and the third after a gap of twenty years, in time for MGM's seventieth birthday. This first compilation shows us sequences from 'An American In Paris', 'Singin' In The Rain', 'The Harvey Girls', 'Hollywood Revue', and on, and on. It has special segments devoted to Astaire, Kelly, Garland, Garland with Rooney, and, er, Esther Williams. It should give any viewer the appetite to seek out full movies they haven't seen, and to reflect with affection on those they have.
There is nothing in this film--or more accurately, documentary--that doesn't
do *exactly* what the title promises. It's hard for it to fail, really,
considering the material it's working with. THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! sets out
to be a joyous celebration of everything that was fun and sparkly and
happy-making in the MGM musical, with the added bonus of having the stars
(the BEST, brightest, eternal ones) that were there themselves telling us
all about it.
Well, it works. No two words about it. These clips of song-and-dance routines that will stay with us forever were made with one sole purpose--to entertain. And entertain they do. From 'Singin' In The Rain' through to 'Showboat', 'High Society', 'Seven Brides For Seven Brothers'... the film is a catalogue of the best and brightest of MGM musicals, and the stars. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly deliver tributes to each other, Liza Minelli and Mickey Rooney talk about the magic that was Judy Garland, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds and Peter Lawford--with a lovely stint by Bing Crosby and a hilarious interlude by James Stewart--bring us through the decades singing and dancing. The clips picked were great, of course. How could you go wrong with segments dedicated to Astaire, Kelly and Garland? The clips were all perfect, with some rarer items popping up like Cary Grant singing 'Did I Remember?' and enough of the classic ones to make one feel like pulling out all the tapes and watching them through again.
There are a couple of things that keep me from giving this documentary top marks. Firstly, a general complaint that really isn't quite fair: seeing these clips just don't compare to watching them in their original films and the proper contexts. I hope that people who watch this film as an introduction to movie musicals actually go out and rent them afterwards, because there really isn't anything more brilliant than SINGIN' IN THE RAIN or ON THE TOWN. Secondly: it would have been much more engaging if the actors invited to speak on the programme hadn't so evidently been reading off pre-written scripts. Some fared better than others, with Taylor being the spaced-out worst, and Stewart acquitting himself admirably with his trademark drawl and charm. Astaire and Kelly are both still immeasurably attractive onscreen, but even they can't quite pull off the image of camaraderie the words they speak impart to their previous relationship. (Not to say that they were rivals--the opposite extreme isn't true either. They were simply professionals, and acquaintances.) It'd have been just that much more fun if these legends had been allowed to speak off the cuff.
All said, if you want to introduce someone to the magic that was the movie musical, there's really no need to go further than THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT!. It's a catalogue of stars and talent, song and dance, and extensive proof that we won't ever see the likes of all this again. More's the pity for those of us who weren't there when film history happened, all to the songs of Berlin and Gershwin and the toe-tapping of Astaire and Kelly...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1974, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayor
released That's Entertainment, a collection of clips from what are
considered to be their greatest achievement in their long and
illustrious history, the movie musical.
As co-presenter and M-G-M alumni Frank Sinatra mentions in the first segment of the picture, "When it came to musicals, M-G-M, they were the champions" This is far from just a hollow boast when you consider the wealth of unquestionable evidence which is then provided to substantiate his claim.
Sinatra shares the limelight with fellow M-G-M greats such as Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Lawford, James Stewart, Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Conner, Debbie Reynolds, Fred Astaire, Liza Minelli and a visiting dignitary from Paramount, Bing Crosby as they all present mini segments of the picture explaining just how and why M-G-M musicals had qualities their rivals could only ever dream of emulating.
James Stewart's segment is fascinating to watch as he presents some long forgotten clips of well known dramatic actors (including himself) who were press-ganged into musicals, some with surprisingly good results. Robert Taylor, Robert Montgomery, Cary Grant and Clark Gable are all put through their musical paces for our viewing pleasure, and what a pleasure to watch it is.
Mickey Rooney, follows up with a tribute to his close friend and frequent co-star Judy Garland and his tenure of the movie is crammed with clips from their many movies together including one or two Andy Hardy gems. This tribute to Garland is later fortified by her daughter Liza Minnelli as she offers her own personal and moving tribute.
In my opinion however the highlight of the movies has to be Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, who in effect, do a mutual 'back scratch' as each fill their own segments with statements and clips which modestly declare the other dancer the 'best in the business' Whether or not this was a reflection of their own true feeling's or just Hollywood cheesing it up is immaterial. It does nothing to detract from the pure genius both dancers poured onto the screen throughout their careers only a sample of which are presented to us here.
Bing Crosby who spent most of M-G-M's golden age across the street at Paramount, all but rounds off the movie with various clips including a couple from his only two movies in the M-G-M's musical back catalogue before he hands the reins back to Sinatra for the final epilogue.
These clips represent an era long since passed and it is indeed touching to see these screen giants of yesteryear gather together for the last time in what amounts to their final roar. This is made even more touching by the fact that so many of them have since passed on.
We are indeed lucky to have their testament left behind on film, so that future generations like my own children who were born long after these gifted and talented performers had either died or retired, can look upon and aspire to their genius.
Whether it is in black and white or colour, whether you're 8 or 80 you will find these clips as entertaining and as fresh today as they must have seemed at the time.
Never has the title to a film been more appropriate and what's more you would be hard pushed to find anyone who would dispute it.
This got big notice when it came out in the mid '70s. With the advent
of VHS, you could provide the public with something like this: a
collection of great song-and- dance scenes from classic films. In this
edition (there were two more to come), we see highlights of MGM
musicals from the 1920s through the 1960s. Most of them were the '30s
through the '50s.
MGM had many of the musical stars but not all, so you don't get Shirley Temple, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Julie Andrews and others. However, you do get a ton of great performers like Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney, Esther Williams and others. To use a cliché, this is a must-have for music fans. In addition to the above stars, who are remembered in some of their best scenes, you have the incredible sets of the Busby Berkeley movies.
At over two hours, there is a lot of great material in here.
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