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Screen Teams: Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire |
Returning to top form the following year, Astaire next made the first of
his two films with MGM's
long-legged dance phenom
Cyd Charisse, THE BAND WAGON (1953). Directed by Vincente
Minnelli and featuring Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray and Jack Buchanan in
supporting roles, THE BAND WAGON is perhaps the best musical of Astaire's
long career at MGM -- and one of
the most complex. Fred plays a fading movie star who decides to try
his luck on Broadway, and
Charisse (below) is the ballet dancer chosen to play his leading lady.
Conflict -- professional and romantic -- arises, but instead of
functioning as typical song-and-dance breaks in the action, the musical
numbers in THE BAND WAGON are impressively integrated into both the plot
and characterization as well as the overall structure of the film.
These subtleties are not apparent right off though, making this a movie
which improves with each viewing.
Among THE BAND WAGON's many memorable musical numbers are Astaire's solo
"Shine on Your Shoes" and "The Girl Hunt Ballet" (right), a twelve-minute
musical spoof of Mickey Spillane's popular detective novels.
Entertainment" (clip) sung with Nanette Fabray, Jack Buchanan and Oscar
Levant (a .MP3 file courtesy Rhino
(clip) sung with Nanette Fabray and Jack Buchanan (a .AU file courtesy
(For help opening these files, visit the
Astaire next teamed with MGM's
French import, Leslie Caron, in DADDY LONG LEGS (1955), about an American
millionaire who anonymously sponsors the education of a French orphan,
until they finally meet and fall in love. Luckily, the film
acknowledges the significant age difference between Astaire and his
co-star (over 30 years his junior), but despite a few dance highlights and
one good song ("Something's Gotta Give," which earned Johnny
Mercer and Oscar nomination), Fred begins to show his age in
this picture. Incidentally, this 1955 version marked the fourth time
Jean Webster's story had been filmed. Previous versions starred Mary Pickford (1919), Janet Gaynor (1931) and
Shirley Temple (as CURLY
TOP in 1935).
Once again 30 years older than his leading lady, Fred became the fourth in
a long line of "mature" men who played opposite
when they appeared together in
Stanley Donen's FUNNY
FACE (1957). Playing magazine photographer Dick Avery and dancing
with his bookworm-turned-fashion-model
Audrey, Fred was almost sixty
years old when he made
FUNNY FACE, but the Gershwin songs and Givenchy fashions make this
film delightful despite the romance strained by years.
Also released in 1957, SILK STOCKINGS was a musical remake of
Greta Garbo's triumphant comedy NINOTCHKA (1939), and re-teamed
Astaire with his THE BAND WAGON co-star,
Cyd Charisse. Shot in Cinemascope, SILK STOCKINGS' failed
to recapture the wit of the original film, but musical highpoints include
"All of You'' and "Stereophonic Sound" as well as
Charisse's "I've Got the Red Blues." Incidentally, Fred and his
sister Adele had performed in Cole Porter's Silk Stockings in their
early Broadway days (although the film barely resembled the preceding
"Stereophonic Sound" from SILK STOCKINGS sung with Janis Paige (a .MP3
file courtesy Rhino Records).
(For help opening this file, visit the
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