Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Parade

Hannah Brown:Oh look, the Easter Parade, isn't it beautiful?

Don Hewes:It's all right if you like Easter Parades.

Premiered June 30, 1948

Don Hewes (Fred Astaire), a Broadway Star and Showman, is walking through New York, exchanging wishes of "Happy Easter" with passersby.  Don visits his girlfriend and co-star Nadine Hale (Ann Miller). He's shocked when she tells him she's leaving their dancing team ("Nadine & Hewes") and won't be going on tour with him. Nadine has received an offer to headline her own show. Don pleads with her, but she has already signed a contract to star in another production.

Nadine breaks up (professionally & personally) with Don.
Their mutual friend Johnny (Peter Lawford) also tries to get Nadine to stay with Don, but she rebuffs him too. It also appears that Nadine is attracted to Johnny and vice versa.

Don is crushed, until he finds showgirl Hannah Brown () and believes she can replace Nadine. He offers her $100 a week to be his dance partner and tells her to come meet him for rehearsal later.

On Easter Sunday,their first rehearsal doesn't go well, Hannah is having trouble telling the difference between her left and right feet. Afterwards, they walk outside and stumble on the Easter Parade. Nadine is there too, she's is getting more attention than anyone else. Don tells Hannah that he will make her a huge star and that in next year's Easter Parade, Hannah will be the object of everyone's interest.

Later, Hannah gets caught in a rainstorm and meets Johnny, who helps her find shelter.  Johnny is immediately attracted to Hannah and decides to pursue her.  But Johnny is simultaneously pursuing Nadine.  Don also seems to be noticing Hannah, so a "love quadrangle" is created.

Can Don make Hannah a star? Will they fall in love? Will Nadine and Johnny get in the way of Don and Hannah, professionally and/or romantically?  Will Hannah be the star of next year's Easter Parade?

J.A. Morris says:

I'll state up front that I generally don't like musicals. There are a few exceptions, though, and this is one. Easter Parade contains 11 song and dance performances, only one ("The Girl on the Magazine Cover") feels pointless. The story is basically an excuse to showcase the production numbers, sandwiched between two Easter Parades.  And if you're going to watch a musical, you can't do better than one that stars Astaire and Garland with songs by Irving Berlin!

The absolute high point of the film comes when Astaire performs "Steppin' Out With My Baby".  Astaire dances with dozens of dancers in this show-stopping production number.  Director Charles Waters  does a great job super-imposing a slow-motion Astaire near the end of the scene. 

In addition to the classic title song, the film opens with Astaire singing a song called "Happy Easter".  I enjoyed that song and I'm sorry it never caught on as an "Easter song". 

Despite their 20+year age difference, Garland and Astaire have great chemistry.  It takes a little while for them to fall in love and it doesn't feel forced.

Ann Miller is also good in her role as Nadine.  She plays a somewhat thankless role, since she's an obstacle between Don and Hannah getting together.  Miller is not as well remembered as other stars of classic musicals, but this film shows that she was a fantastic dancer.  Miller's performance of "Shakin' The Blues Away" is another highlight of the movie.

Nadine shakes "the blues away".

Rounding out the main cast is Peter Lawford as Johnny.  I was never a big fan of his work, but Lawford is fine here.  And Jules Munshin (best remembered as Ozzie in  On the Town) has some funny scenes as Francois the maĆ®tre d'.  

Francois tells Hannah & Don how "Salad Francois" is made.

Easter Parade is a classic Hollywood musical.  It's available on dvd, streams on Amazon and is probably the only "Easter" movie that has aired on television at Easter time for as long as I can remember, which makes it the "Citizen Kane" of Easter movies!  This movie is strongly recommended for fans of musicals and non-fans (like me!) alike!

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 Easter Eggs.  

RigbyMel says:

Unlike J.A. Morris, I am a fan of musicals generally.  Easter Parade is a very fun film to watch.  It falls more into the "musical revue" category,  combining music, dance and vignettes -  the songs are there because they are great songs, not so much because they further the plot or give much in the way of character development. That being said, the film's plot carries convincingly throughout and the romance between Astaire and Garland's characters develops in an interesting and un-forced way, making this a cut above the average revue-type show.   

The production numbers are pretty wonderful and the dancing is amazing.  Some of the song and dance numbers are reminiscent of some numbers in Singin' In The Rain, which may or may not have something to do with Arthur Freed serving as producer for both films. (For example,  compare the vaudeville scenes in both films -  "Fit As A Fiddle" from Singin' In The Rain is quite similar to "The Ragtime Violin" so in Easter Parade in terms of staging.  Both films also feature bits where magazine cover type images are staged with live models.)  I think one of my  favorite bits of the film is the "Drum Crazy" number.  The "We're A Couple of Swells" number is also great, silly fun.  You can't really go wrong with Irving Berlin music performed by luminaries like Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.     

This is a film well worth adding to your Easter viewing list.  

RigbyMel's rating:


4 Easter eggs

1 comment:

Reel Popcorn Junkie said...

Steppin' Out with My Baby does impress. Drum Crazy and Shakin' My Blues Away are also standouts. But I disagree about the "great chemistry" between Astaire and Garland. I felt no sparks between these two. Astaire's character is all business, with no heart.