Film Flick: Easter Parade

Monday, March 23, 2015

If you watch 40s musicals at all, you've heard the story before. A tried and true performer is jilted by his worldly business partner, and then swears revenge vis-a-vie becoming an even bigger success without their partner. To do this, the performer almost always gets some fresh-faced kid trained up to sing and dance in his act. It becomes a mess of love triangles until the lead gets the sense to go after his ingénue of a partner, and then there's wedding bells all around. But you don't watch Easter Parade for the story line. Rather, the storyline, while nothing new, is the sweet bit-of-nothing star power and showing-stopping numbers hang from. Easter Parade is 17 show-stopping Irving Berlin numbers performed by Hollywood's best- Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.

In 1947, The New York Easter Parade, which people strutted down 5th Avenue for, was estimated to draw over a million people. Perhaps this was what inspired Irving Berlin to first float the idea of a movie entitled "Easter Parade" to the Fox studios. MGM ended up being he backing studio though, with producer Arthur Reed's unit- famous for making fabulous, big budget musicals- in charge. According to Reed, it was the lure of getting to work with Judy Garland that got Berlin to work with MGM.

Originally, Gene Kelley was slated to star opposite of Garland, but a broken ankle from a sporting event meant they needed someone else. Kelley recommended they call up Fred Astaire. This was a bit of a long shot, for Astaire, concerned at the increasing age differences between him and his lead ladies, was nominally retired. The chance to work with Garland for the first time was enough to pull him back into show business though, and he reported for work a mere three days after Kelley broke his leg (er, ankle. Sorry, the pun was too good to resist).

Although both were big stars at the time, they'd never met in person, and Garland was too shy to beginning shooting until properly introduced! We can't blame her; the first scene they shot was of them kissing. Despite the nervous start, Garland enjoyed making the film, far more than her previous one (Pirates, which, being directed by her husband, put considerable strain on their marriage). Astaire said of his dancing partner, "She's the greatest entertainer who ever lived- who probably ever will live... it was one of the greatest thrills to get to work with her."

The cast was rounded out with Ann Miller and Peter Lawford, who each get a few numbers of their own! 

Despite the predictably story line, this film was a job to watch for the comic timing, whether in dancing such as when Astaire uses drums to bamboozle a kid out of a stuffed rabbit, or in the characters' interactions themselves. One can rarely tear your eyes from Garland's face; its so animated. There were a lot of inside jokes too. One early dance number involved Garland in a dress that shed its feather trim with every turn. It was a reference to a dress worn by another of Astaire's famous dance partners, Ginger Roger, in Top Hat. After Rogers' dress would stop shedding, Astaire had sworn there would be no more feather dresses! 
So, go on, put on your Easter Bonnet, strut down the avenue this Easter- and when you get back settle back and take in Judy Garland and Fred Astaire's charming Easter Parade.

9 comments

  1. I've never seen this movie- and I've actually been neglecting the classics for too long. You have some good history behind the scenes!

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  2. Love the story behind the movie! It's been ages since I've watched this :)

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  3. Hmm I have never heard of this story before! But I would be interested in watching after this post. I honestly don't know much about Judy Garland's career besides The Wizard of Oz. It would be interesting to see her in something else. I love how you know so much history behind this movie. It must make it even more valuable. Thank you for sharing :)
    Olivia | Her Name Was Celebration

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    1. I'm glad you like the review. You should definitely try it out. I actually find they made a LOT more use of her talent in other films compared to the Wizard of Oz (though, I do like Oz).

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  4. I haven't heard of this movie before but I'd like to check it out... for some reason Judy Garland has always given me the creeps. I can't put my finger on it... maybe it's because she gave birth to Liza.... I did however love The Wizard of Oz. So there you go...
    xoxo
    Taylor
    http://www.nothingbutapigeon.com/

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    1. I take it you find Liza a bit creepy?

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  5. Dang, everyone wanted to work with Ms. Garland, didn't they! I mean, it brought Fred out of retirement. I've never heard of this movie, which is why I love this series so much. You always give me so many great movie recs! And I love all the inside jokes in the movie- those are always so cheeky and funny. PS any tips on where I could get a good easter bonnet? ;)

    xo marlen
    Messages on a Napkin

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    1. As a matter of fact, I think this is next month's Cinema Style.. so, I've been looking at hats!

      I'm glad you enjoy it and get some recs from it! :D

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