The Band Wagon Reviews
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.
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".
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.