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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: The Band Wagon

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 17 is the 1953 film The Band Wagon starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse.

I'm a bit conflicted about this film.  On the one hand, I've heard lots of positive things about it and about the dance sequence in Central Park.  And of course a match up with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse (I love Cyd!) is a winner.  I've also even read staunch supporters say it's better than "Singing in the Rain"!  So I was totally expecting to love this musical.  And let me say, this was no "Singing in the Rain."  But I hope my rather ... not lukewarm, but just not excessively warm thoughts about this musical isn't because I was comparing it to that incomparable film.

It wasn't the dancing that left me less than warm though - there were some great numbers (although I was surprised that the first song Fred Astaire sings features no dancing - zilch and nada.  Astonishing.  I was so distracted during that song, waiting for Fred to take off!)  Cyd Charisse shows off some serious ballet skills - all en pointe gracefulness - she is so talented! I loved the supporting cast too - it was nice to see Oscar Levant again (looking forward to re-watching him in An American in Paris) and Nanette Fabray was adorable!  I thought the whole dynamic between all the actors was interesting - it's kind of a downbeat musical at times, and there is a lot of drama between all the characters.

I suppose the story didn't really hook me then.  I expected that the show would be a success after they got rid of the terrible ideas the director put into the show.  The ending of this film - with it's glimpse, I guess, of the stage show... didn't really make sense?  It seemed like a very tenuous story line and more of a collection of scenes/dance numbers.  I need some feedback on this from the other challenge participants - maybe I just need to watch it again.  The romance between Fred and Cyd was nice, but not as romantic because it felt so underplayed, so all in all, it's just a nice musical.  I don't think I would have rated this so high on the list.  Showboat was much more engaging to me.  (More melodramatic too but still)  The best scene is the "Dancing in the Dark" scene between Fred and Cyd's characters in which they come to an understanding.  I also enjoyed the dance at the outside arcade, although it didn't really feel important to the story at all.

Luckily there is one more Fred Astaire film on the AFI list, and although I haven't seen the film (I did see the live production in London though), I'm sure to enjoy it more - it's Fred and Ginger in Top Hat!

Note about Movie Musical Challenge:  There are quite a few films that I feel could have been in the top 25 list, so by the end of this year, I would love it if all the participants could mention what films they would have liked to see in AFI's list.  It could be in the end-of-year wrap up post, or in the comments on one of these blog posts.  And there is no rush, let me know any time! With those ideas, I can compile a new list of musicals to watch for 2016!  If I don't include any potential films, it will just be to keep the list at 25 or under.

Right now, I'm sure "The Music Man" (per Quinn's input!) will be added, as well as a personal favorite Gene Kelly film - Anchors Aweigh!  Please no one pick Rent.  :)  If you need ideas, you can check out AFI's ballot which has a list of 180 musical movies.  Thank you, and I hope everyone will still like to participate in the challenge next year!

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