Originally pitched as a special for Turner Classic Movies. See more »
MGM's dream factory created a rich, romantic, compelling world of illusion. And although we may not see anything like it again, we're blessed with memories and miles and miles of film. In the words of Irving Berlin, "The song has ended, but the melody lingers on."
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Production stills from MGM musicals are shown under the end credits. See more »
Every THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT film has a hook to draw new viewers in--the first film had the sheer novelty of these film giants talking to us about the work they did in that glorious, music-filled period of movie-making, although these legends were reduced to reading off pre-written scripts. The second movie had a more intriguing main attraction: only two narrators, but when those two narrators were Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly actually dancing and singing their way through the gorgeous clips stacked up? Fantastic.
Well, THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT III sure tries its best to live up to its predecessors. Retaining the narration technique used in the same film, albeit with the second generation of MGM musical stars (and only Gene Kelly, sporting enormous glasses!, retained from the first two films), the film's hook is the rare special footage it boasts--from a background tracking shot showing the vast amount of money and manpower invested in just one Eleanor Powell number, through to valuable outtakes such as Debbie Reynolds' 'You Are My Lucky Star' number (cut from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN but available on DVD now) and the Indians number in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN as originally performed by Judy Garland. There are other little treasure nuggets as well, all deleted scenes, such as Judy Garland's song 'Mr Monotony', meant for Easter Parade; and Lena Horne's risky bubble bath chanson filmed for CABIN IN THE SKY. And I do wonder what was so bad about Ava Gardner's lost vocals for SHOWBOAT--I thought she sounded pretty darn good myself!
I personally thought the best thing about this film was the way some of this rare footage was displayed--the split-screen technique was quite the stroke of genius. It was used to simply brilliant effect, for example, in showcasing two versions of a number filmed to the same dubbed vocals, the first starring Joan Crawford (for TWO-FACED WOMAN, in rather astonishingly Technicolour and camp blackface) and the second Cyd Charisse (for THE BANDWAGON). No guessing which number SHOULD have been retained (hint: Charisse is one of the best dancers of any time; Crawford is... not), but it was hilarious watching the very VERY different ways in which the same song was approached in the two different films.
My favourite part of the whole film was a number similarly presented, except this time it pitted Fred Astaire against himself. The sand-enhanced song-and-dance, to the tune 'I'm Just A Dancing Man', was filmed once, but deemed not classy enough. So there are two versions--one of Fred in top hat and tails, the other in overalls. Guess what? Astaire keeps to his own internal rhythm perfectly, and proves in this juxtaposition of the two scenes that he is his own best partner. It's pretty damn amazing, and probably the best and most jaw-dropping part of the film.
The rest of THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT III is pretty run-of-the-mill in comparison. It's not stuff we haven't seen before (we've seen better clips in the previous two films), and there are still the prerequisite sections dedicated to Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly (oh yes, and Esther Williams, of course). It's a shame that there wasn't a Cyd Charisse segment, or one dedicated to Ann Miller. Considering that both these dancing ladies were presenters during the film, it'd have been nice to recognise the great contribution their long legs made to film musical history. I did enjoy the clip from THE KISSING BANDIT that had Charisse and Miller pitted against each other in a catfight slash dance-off, which was very cool, very intense and great fun to watch. But otherwise, it's all stuff that would work better in the original films.
So while THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT III again succeeds in doing what it sets out to do (leave the audience in a happy glow), it's less accomplished than its predecessors. It's not as engaging to new viewers as either of the first two (showcasing lesser-known numbers and films), and is of only average interest to the hardcore classic film buff. It's a hard line to straddle, and the film manages to do it, don't get me wrong. But well. You can't go wrong with this film, but it's all been done before, and dare I say it...? Done better. 7.5/10
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