The Band Wagon (1953)

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By Scott Ross

This Vincente Minnelli-directed musical suffers by comparison with Singin’ in the Rain, but what doesn’t? In it, Betty Comden and Adolph Green attempt to do for Broadway musicals what they had done for the advent of talking pictures. Like Singin’ in the Rain, this one also revolves around a song catalog, that of the elegant Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. Singin’ had Gene Kelly; Band Wagon has Fred Astaire. And Jack Buchanan as the pretentious director to end all pretentious directors. And the always wonderful, underused Nanette Fabray. (Okay, okay — it’s also got Oscar Levant, which, unless he’s playing the piano is seldom a good thing, but still…) And a delicious send-up of all those Kelly ballets, the faux-Mickey Spillane “Girl Hunt Ballet” (a pitch-perfect parody, specially written for the movie by Alan Jay Lerner.)

And those glorious songs: “By Myself,” “Shine on Your Shoes,” “Triplets,”

“New Sun in the Sky,” “I Love Luisa,” “Louisiana Hayride.” And Astaire squiring Cyd Charisse in “Dancing in the Dark.”

And an utterly charming Astaire-Buchanan soft-shoe to “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plans.”

And a new Dietz-Schwartz number that has become a show-biz anthem to rival “There’s No Business Like Show Business”: “That’s Entertainment!”

Sure sounds like a classic, doesn’t it?

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross

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