5 August 2017 | AlsExGal
Now that's entertainment, and perhaps Astaire's best film
The Band Wagon is one of those films such as "The Maltese Falcon" and "Some Like It Hot", where just about everybody involved does the finest work of their career, both in front of and behind the camera. It is certainly the best collaboration between two legends of the musical genre, hoofer Fred Astaire and director Vincente Minnelli.
Astaire plays has-been Hollywood star Tony Hunter who hopes to revive his popularity by returning to Broadway in a new musical written by his friends Lester and Lily Marton (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray in essence portraying the screenplay's authors, Adolph Green and Betty Comden).
The Martons have entrusted the staging of their show to wunderkind actor/director/producer Jeffrey Cordova (a combination caricature of Orson Welles and Jose Ferrer played by British song-and-dance man Jack Buchanan). Two of Cordova's inspirations include casting ballerina Gabrielle Gerard (Charisse) as the female lead (good idea) and turning the show into a pretentious Faust allegory (really bad idea).
Tony and Gabrielle rub each other the wrong way - at first, and Cordova's joyless concoction lays an egg. But the cast vows to forge ahead and try again with another musical, this time with no mention of hell or the devil.
As clever as the script is, the main attractions are the exquisitely performed musical numbers (written by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz) including "That's Entertainment", "A Shine on Your Shoes","Dancing in the Dark" and the greatest grand finale in the history of movie musicals "The Girl Hunt Ballet", a parody of film noir with Astaire as private eye Rod Riley and Charisse in a dual role as good girl and femme fatale.