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The Band Wagon Reviews

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Spencer S

Super Reviewer

December 9, 2008
One of the best, BEST, scenes in all musicals, and the always lovely Cyd Charisse.
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

September 12, 2007
Gene Kelly is a million times better than Fred Astaire. Sometimes it was really funny but the story in general kind of flopped. I really really liked the Triplets dance number though. Maaaagic!
themoviewaffler.com
themoviewaffler.com

Super Reviewer

May 1, 2012
America has always suffered from an inferiority complex when it comes to "art", but in my mind the creative output of the country mid twentieth century ranks with anything Europe achieved in it's long history. Not many realised it at the time but in creating this unapologetic defense of American entertainment, Minnelli just may have. The irony is that across the Atlantic European critics were raving about film-makers like Minnelli, a technicolor respite from the stark tone of fifties European cinema. His use of color was particularly influential in Italy, a country whose neo-realistic cinema at the time was resolutely monochrome. Directors like Bava and Argento would adapt Minnelli's primary colors and elegant camera movement to fit the horror and thriller genres. The movie's finale was homaged by those other masters of musical comedy "The Muppets" in their comeback film of 2012. Even this year's Oscar winner "The Artist" owes much to this in it's tale of a fading star forced to auction his memorabilia.

We begin with this auction where even the famous top hat and cane associated with Astaire fails to sell. Giving up on Hollywood he takes a train to New York and is humiliated by disinterested passengers and paparazzi. It's here we get the wonderfully melancholy song "By Myself", one of the quieter numbers but possibly the most memorable. Upon hitting 42nd Street he finds much has changed and we get the first rollicking dance number "A Shine On Your Shoes", a delirious mix of color, rhythm, song and Astaire's nimbleness, outrageous given he was 54 years old at the time. Astaire's co-star in the scene is Leroy Daniels, a real life shoe shine man who Minnelli found in Penn Station while researching the scene. It might not be as respected as the movie's famous closing number but as an example of choreography between man and camera this is unsurpassed.

Of course Minnelli was a master of choreography but not just in the musical sense. A scene set at a party involving conversations in three separate (and color coded) rooms is dazzling, characters opening doors just at the right time to hear a snippet of conversation.
Broadway has changed too, with Buchanan's director insisting on twisting every show concept into something "meaningful". Astaire is skeptical but goes along for the ride, encouraged by the long legs of his young co-star Charisse, a rising ballet dancer. It's in the relationship between Astaire and Charisse that Minnelli demonstrates his point, that high art and entertainment can coexist. The movie's final number "The Girl Hunt Ballet" is one of the greatest ever expressions of this ideal. The American genre of the day was Film Noir and Minnelli gives us the most colorful Noir homage ever seen. He may resemble your elderly uncle but in this sequence Astaire achieves a level of cool that Dean and Brando could only dream of. It's a sequence famously homaged by Michael Jackson in his "Smooth Criminal" video.
For fans of classic Hollywood the real punch the air number is "That's Entertainment" and as it's lyrics suggest, this is the art that appeals to the heart.
John B

Super Reviewer

January 30, 2013
Beautiful little musical from Vincente Minnelli. The tale of the development of a Broadway musical provides some great moments in the interactions between potential cast members. Astaire gets to act as well as dance and he proves up to the task.
Marion R

Super Reviewer

May 5, 2007
Astaire! A fabulous musical that doesn't drag with long musical numbers. "Dancing In the Dark" sequence was so beautiful.
July 28, 2012
The Band Wagon isn't perfect but it wasn't to shabby. It has a charm and wit plot but sadly it left me just in the dust. I really enjoyed the penny arcade dance and song and the noir type theater scene. But other than that, it truly didn't impress. I did enjoy some characters. Gaby was my least favorite and I also don't like the writers. For some reason I couldn't click with them. I liked the director and Tony. I didn't like the forced relationship by the end between Tony and Gaby, it just didn't feel right. The movie wasn't all bad because I did enjoy sequences. It just doesn't stand above other musicals that are far better than this.
August 6, 2012
Just like "Singin' In The Rain", this movie features a behind the scenes storyline, dancing, singing, and an all-time dance legend leading the way. Instead of Gene Kelly, we have Fred Astaire whose moves are more graceful than the athletic Kelly. Though the story itself and the characters may not be as memorable, this is till an entertaining musical with some serious dance numbers that makes it look so easy.

Grade: A-
August 28, 2008
The Band Wagon is, for the most part, a very solid and enjoyable movie musical, but it loses its way 2/3 of the way through and never quite regains it. The song and dance numbers are great fun, but they stop having any bearing on the plot about an hour in - and, worse, barely even *interact* with the plot. The only songs or dances in the last 30 minutes or so are ones that are part of the musical-within-a-musical. It becomes just a series of performances with no context to them, so the emotional effect, whether sweet or fun or uplifting, is mostly lost. While I don't always object to that, it was especially disappointing since I was so enamored with the first 2/3 of the movie. The impromptu dance sequence in the park was one of the most beautiful dance numbers I have perhaps ever seen in a movie musical. But it mattered because it had *context*. Strip the movie numbers of their context, even contrived context, and the songs have to be a *whole* lot more entertaining than this to make it matter.
February 29, 2012
This is a reminder to me as to why although there are some musicals which I genuinely love (Singin' in the Rain, The Sound of Music), overall I am not a fan of the genre. The numbers are interesting, but the plot is the same as so many other musicals (putting together some sort of show) it's to the point where I'm beginning to feel that if you've seen one, you've seen them all.
jam233
March 11, 2010
65/100. This is the kind of musical I have a hard time stomaching. All this singing in place of talking, and overblown and way too colorful musical numbers, a color so vivid it doesn't look natural. There are indeed some classic numbers in this film, but I just didn't think the film was ever going to end. Excellent sound, and the score is amazing. Nominated for there Oscars: best costume design, score and writing (story and screenplay). The costume design was good, but don't see it is Oscar good.The cast is fine, Fred Astaire is certainly talented, Cyd Charisse is wonderful but I thought the supporting cast was a little weak. I was never that crazy about Vincente Minnelli's musicals.
December 30, 2008
I love Minnelli! If only the real world had his Technicolor touch.
All-round good story but the Edens songbook is the star. Love the sidekick characters of Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray. Fashions and styles are exquisite.
PatriciaAnn
November 4, 2008
My favorite dance they do is the one when they are in the park and they find out that a tap dancer and a ballet dancer can dance together.
November 5, 2013
nearly as good as singing in the rain ?
June 11, 2014
Fred Astaire plays a movie star whose career is in a slump, so he decides to go to Broadway. Lucky for him he has friends who have written a musical just for him. But in the mix is a pretensious theater director and a "tall" co-star, who give's Astaire's character (named Tony), a run for his money.
The show goes through terrible reviews due to the director's pretension; eventually, all of the egos have to put aside and a great hit is eventually made.
"The Band Wagon" follows the typical musical style at the time. There are the comedic one-liners, the love story that comes to fruit on the side, and the witty supporting characters. But the music, is what separates "The Band Wagon" from any other musical. Featuring a wonderful song with some of Fred's finest dancing, called "Shine on Your Shoes". Then, there is the beautiful "Dancer in the Dark" sequence between Astaire and Cyd Charisse (who plays Gaby, his love interest) that dazzles and exudes love and elegance.
But, the most influential song of this movie's time, "That's Entertainment", which became (and still is) Hollywood's signature song, is the brightest spot of this gem.
Fred Astaire dancing and singing, an entertaining plot, and plenty of comedy- now "That's Entertainment".
February 3, 2014
The last of the great MGM musicals, Band Wagon, is a meta mix of styles from old to new; traditional to modern; revue to plot & character.

This modernisation is told in the story of Tony, a has-been star returning from Hollywood to New York to star in a musical written by his husband & wife writing friends. This pair are semi-autobiographical characters from the real pens of Betty Comden and Adolph Green. They based a lot of the plot on their own experiences of dealing with difficult directors. The real life pairing were just platonic friends, but wrote Lester & Lily as a married couple as their genuine friendship was considered to be unbelievable in a film.

The director Vincente Minnelli shows off his skills to the extreme here. The smorgasbord of styles are all exquisitely filmed and the cast seem to be having a ball. By far the best sequence is the noir parody, Girl Hunt: A Murder Mystery in Jazz. Michael Kidd's choreography is brilliant as the action enfolds with jazz hand fighting and Fred Astaire delivers some great corny lines. "She came at me in sections. More curves than a scenic railway." The 'she' is Cyd Charisse who adds a whole spate of glamour (and a fine set of pins) to the proceedings.

A true classic musical.
November 12, 2013
I used to hate musicals, and I'm not sure if I have reached an age where it is now easier to sit back and enjoy the benign silliness of them, or if I have just been watching a lot more good ones lately.
August 18, 2011
One of the best musicals of all-time, "The Band Wagon" is not only one of Fred Astaire's final few gems, but a vehicle that also serves as a coming-out party for the buxom Cyd Charisse, one of the finest dancers of the Hollywood Golden Age.  Filled with beautifully choreographed numbers and an entertaining assortment of catchy songs, "The Band Wagon" can do no wrong.  It's perfect on nearly every level.
Astaire portrays Tony Hunter, a movie-star that's in the has-been period of his career. People already are forgetting his name, but Tony knows that it isn't too late for a comeback, so he decides it would be right to get a role in a theatrical musical. Lucky for him, his best friends Lester (Oscar Levant) and Lily (Nanette Fabray) Marton have written a play perfect for him, with renowned director Jeffery Cordova (Jack Buchanan) at the helm, and famous ballerina Gaby Gerard (Charisse) as his co-star.
At first, the prospects are great, but things quickly take a downturn. Cordova decides to turn the Marton's play into a musical retelling of "Faust," and Tony clashes with Gaby after she accidentally insults him. On opening night, the production is a bust -- but could things turn around?
A minor success when it was first released, as it followed the masterwork of "Singin' in the Rain," today, "The Band Wagon" is renowned as being the best of the best, if you don't consider "Singin'" to be so.  They're obviously both terrific films, and could easily serve as a double feature.  Both feature satirical and highly witty comedy, great performances, and a male-star to hold it all together-- in this case, Fred Astaire's the man.
The role is nearly biographical for the actor -- at the time the film came out, Astaire wasn't necessarily a has-been, but he was nowhere near the massive successes he so vividly starred in with Ginger Rogers.  But as both he, and the character he's playing, remind us, just because you're a little older doesn't mean you're any worse.  Astaire as usual, is simply fantastic here.  He has a charming voice (though he never believed it himself), and he performs his dance routines just as well as he did when he was in his 30s, maybe even better at the tender age of 54.  He can do no wrong.
His chemistry with Charisse surprisingly works quite well -- though there is a large-age difference between them, they dance together with ease, and their romantic relationship in the film never rings false.  Charisse's glamorous façade meshes well with Astaire's lightheartedness and intelligence.  This is perhaps, her best film; though she made a bevy of movies in her time, this is the one that flaunts her vamp image and extraordinary dancing skills with the finest professionalism.  And, she's a good actress to boot.
But the film doesn't just boast star power -- the dance routines are just as excellent.  Highlights include "Dancing in the Dark," in which Astaire and Charisse do an old-fashioned number in Central Park at night; "Triplets," sees Astaire, Fabray, and Levant dress up like babies and do an entire dance on their knees; and "Girl Hunt Ballet," is an extensive and highly impressive tribute to film noir.
"The Band Wagon" simply, is amazing.  This is one of the best, and deserves its status as a classic.
June 14, 2013
I prefer singing in the rain, but overall not a bad movie. Not as many as memorable songs like there is in Singing In the rain. Too much talking and less music in the middle but its get a lot better towards the end and the last 30 minutes.
December 30, 2011
Classic backstage musical stars Fred Astaire as Tony Hunter, a faded movie star who hopes to make a comeback on Broadway with a fun, fluffy musical written by his old pals (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray). However, when his director (Jack Buchanan) puts heavy-handed dark themes into the play and pairs Tony up with a very tall co-star (Cyd Charisse), he seriously questions whether or not this comeback project will succeed. The Band Wagon is a colossal triumph with its catchy and witty songs including "That's Entertainment", a song that stands for all show business, and a smart, funny script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green that does for Broadway what Singin' in the Rain did for Hollywood.
December 3, 2012
One of the most entertaining MGM musicals, which starts well but soon descends into the regular schmaltz. That said, the Girl Hunt finale is superb.
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