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EASTER PARADE (1948)

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It's an annual tradition that TCM plays MGM's EASTER PARADE every year on Easter Sunday. It's one of those traditions you can dread, or else look forward to. I choose to see it as something I look forward to.

 

Watching, or should I say re-watching, EASTER PARADE today brought me a newfound appreciation of the MGM musical. Everything gels together nicely in this production. Judy's vocals are as strong as they would ever be, and Fred's dancing is his usual stupendous best, especially in the Steppin' Out with My Baby number. But I was really impressed with Ann Miller, who gets the thankless other woman role but truly shines in a dance number she performs an hour into the picture. 

 

Some of the other supporting players have moments to show off their talents, too. Peter Lawford, whom one does not ordinarily associate with singing, performs admirably in the A Fella with an Umbrella sequence with Judy. And that did remind me Lawford had made a musical with June Allyson a year earlier called GOOD NEWS. Though I figured Lawford was cast more for his looks. In a way, as a potential romantic interest for Judy, he seems to have youth, genetics and charm working in his favor as a rival to Astaire.

 

Of course, the real star here is Irving Berlin's music, which is abetted handsomely by the studio's glossy production values and Charles Walters' assured direction. It's films like these that remind us why the golden age of Hollywood was so special.

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I look forward to it too. It's interesting to think what a radically different movie it could have been with the actors and director originally intended for it, but I love the way it turned out. Judy got to show her comedy chops (like the scene with her character's left-right confusion) and go for the pathos both. The "Ain't Gonna Be No Next Time" (?) number with her alone at the bar is one of her best ever. Fred's really relatable, even though the character's a little unsympathetic at first. Same with Ann Miller, whose personal charm also trumps the unsympathetic aspects of the character. Love it.

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I look forward to it too. It's interesting to think what a radically different movie it could have been with the actors and director originally intended for it, but I love the way it turned out. Judy got to show her comedy chops (like the scene with her character's left-right confusion) and go for the pathos both. The "Ain't Gonna Be No Next Time" (?) number with her alone at the bar is one of her best ever. Fred's really relatable, even though the character's a little unsympathetic at first. Same with Ann Miller, whose personal charm also trumps the unsympathetic aspects of the character. Love it.

I couldn't agree more, Dougie. Even Fred's being much older than Judy does not seem to get in the way of this picture. Everything works. I am sure if Gene Kelly had remained as the lead, that would have worked, too, since he and Judy also shared a nice chemistry. 

 

I read Ann Miller took over for Cyd Charisse. But I am biased where Miller in concerned and think MGM should have built whole musicals around her like Columbia did, not always using her as a supporting player or glorified specialty number.

 

One thing that sort of threw me for a loop was I kept thinking Vincente Minnelli directed EASTER PARADE. I didn't realize at first this was a Charles Walters production with Arthur Freed. It's a four-star work of art.

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I couldn't agree more, Dougie. Even Fred's being much older than Judy does not seem to get in the way of this picture. Everything works. I am sure if Gene Kelly had remained as the lead, that would have worked, too, since he and Judy also shared a nice chemistry. 

 

I read Ann Miller took over for Cyd Charisse. But I am biased where Miller in concerned and think MGM should have built whole musicals around her like Columbia did, not always using her as a supporting player or glorified specialty number.

 

One thing that sort of threw me for a loop was I kept thinking Vincente Minnelli directed EASTER PARADE. I didn't realize at first this was a Charles Walters production with Arthur Freed. It's a four-star work of art.

There's a documentary with the 2-disc DVD which went into the Minnelli situation a little bit. This came right after "The Pirate", so it seems that events and situations during that making of that film contributed to the feeling that it might be best if Judy and Minnelli didn't repeat the experience right away, even though he'd already been lined up to direct. Not sure whether that would have been Mayer or Freed, but you're right that Walters did a great job and kept the mood of the film very light. The doc also said Judy asked for some script changes to help lighten up the plot and characters.

 

I totally agree about Ann Miller. She got such great stories out of the work she did; can you imagine what stories she would have had if she'd actually gotten to co-star with the studio's big leads?

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There's a documentary with the 2-disc DVD which went into the Minnelli situation a little bit. This came right after "The Pirate", so it seems that events and situations during that making of that film contributed to the feeling that it might be best if Judy and Minnelli didn't repeat the experience right away, even though he'd already been lined up to direct. Not sure whether that would have been Mayer or Freed, but you're right that Walters did a great job and kept the mood of the film very light. The doc also said Judy asked for some script changes to help lighten up the plot and characters.

 

I totally agree about Ann Miller. She got such great stories out of the work she did; can you imagine what stories she would have had if she'd actually gotten to co-star with the studio's big leads?

Yes, exactly. I wonder if Ann and Cyd competed for a lot of the same parts at MGM. Although given Ann's early experience at RKO and work at Columbia in the early to mid-40s, I think she was more of a natural in front of the camera and a more versatile actress. 

 

What threw me about Walters directing EASTER PARADE, was that the color schemes of this very richly photographed musical seem to be more in line with Minnelli's style. So I wonder if Minnelli set things up and then Walters took over. Most of Walters' other films at the studio do not look this good.

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Yes, exactly. I wonder if Ann and Cyd competed for a lot of the same parts at MGM. Although given Ann's early experience at RKO and work at Columbia in the early to mid-40s, I think she was more of a natural in front of the camera and a more versatile actress. 

 

What threw me about Walters directing EASTER PARADE, was that the color schemes of this very richly photographed musical seem to be more in line with Minnelli's style. So I wonder if Minnelli set things up and then Walters took over. Most of Walters' other films at the studio do not look this good.

 

Could it be that Miller just wasn't consider to be good looking enough?    Yea,  she had a very nice figure and legs but Ann lacked the exotic look that Cyd could convey.    Just a wild guess.   

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Could it be that Miller just wasn't consider to be good looking enough?    Yea,  she had a very nice figure and legs but Ann lacked the exotic look that Cyd could convey.    Just a wild guess.   

Meaning that Miller lost parts to Cyd? If you look at their filmographies during those years, they seem to be equally busy. I find her attractive, in a different way than Cyd.

 

Sometimes Ann was used in a non-musical, which is what led me to say I think she was considered the more versatile performer. She was still in good enough shape in the early 2000's for David Lynch to feature her in one of his films (which became Ann's last film).

 

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Ah...I was left with a tough choice on Easter Sunday.  It was either Easter Parade or The Ten Commandments, even though I have both on DVD!  I chose the latter, but have always loved Easter Parade.  I've been a fan of Judy Garland musicals since being a kid in the early '90s.  The music and dancing are great, but it also highlighted Judy and Fred's comedic talents - Fred trying to teach Judy how to dance when she can't remember left leg from right, Judy looking like a blowfish to prove to Fred that men look at her on the street, and their first awful show.  The tramp number was also unique.

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Not such a fan of EASTER PARADE, but the numbers certainly shine.  The story, for me, is just so stupid.  As for Miller, she could sing really well, too.  MGM kind of wasted her, imo.  Also, they never did her hair or makeup as expertly as Columbia.

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Not such a fan of EASTER PARADE, but the numbers certainly shine.  The story, for me, is just so stupid.  As for Miller, she could sing really well, too.  MGM kind of wasted her, imo.  Also, they never did her hair or makeup as expertly as Columbia.

I agree. I think Miller would have been better off if she hadn't completely jumped ship to MGM-- like if MGM and Columbia had shared her contract. Then she could have continued to star in black-and-white B musicals for Cohn, where she got a little more extra attention...and still appeared in the big budget Technicolor extravaganzas for Mayer.

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I agree. I think Miller would have been better off if she hadn't completely jumped ship to MGM-- like if MGM and Columbia had shared her contract. Then she could have continued to star in black-and-white B musicals for Cohn, where she got a little more extra attention...and still appeared in the big budget Technicolor extravaganzas for Mayer.

 

GET-TV is featuring Ann Miller this month in B films from Columbia,  like Jam Session and Carolina Blues,  which also featured The Three Stooges.    Odd mix of humor and dancing \ singing.       

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GET-TV is featuring Ann Miller this month in B films from Columbia,  like Jam Session and Carolina Blues,  which also featured The Three Stooges.    Odd mix of humor and dancing \ singing.       

JAM SESSION is a good one. So is EVE KNEW HER APPLES.

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Easter Parade is always watched by me every Easter as I do Christmas Carol every Christmas. Fred Astaire is great throughout. Judy is wonderful but what was she thinking appearing without make up towards the end? Ann Miller as always thrills with her dance expertise. Why she didn't do more films perhaps she had a serious over bite that irked some producers. Peter Lawford had an air about him that edged some conceit.

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I feel like the plot for Easter Parade is definitely lacking in some areas; however, despite this, I enjoyed it the first time I watched it, and still do. It's one of those "feet vs. voice" type things. And by this, I mean, it's Fred "The Feet" Astaire attempting to sing, and Judy "The Voice" Garland attempting to dance. Both do decently well, though. I think Ann Miller was one of the best dancers, period. She has great technique, and it's evident that she loves what she does. Side note: I was Googling Stage Door (1937) a few days ago, and I discovered that Ann was only 14 years old when she was in the film, (she was born in 1923) which is pretty crazy, considering the other actresses were about 21 and older (I'm only fairly certain about this).

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I feel like the plot for Easter Parade is definitely lacking in some areas; however, despite this, I enjoyed it the first time I watched it, and still do. It's one of those "feet vs. voice" type things. And by this, I mean, it's Fred "The Feet" Astaire attempting to sing, and Judy "The Voice" Garland attempting to dance. Both do decently well, though. I think Ann Miller was one of the best dancers, period. She has great technique, and it's evident that she loves what she does. Side note: I was Googling Stage Door (1937) a few days ago, and I discovered that Ann was only 14 years old when she was in the film, (she was born in 1923) which is pretty crazy, considering the other actresses were about 21 and older (I'm only fairly certain about this).

Yes, Ann Miller was very young when she started in movies at RKO. I think she lied about her age. At least she looked older and could get away with it. :)

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I feel like the plot for Easter Parade is definitely lacking in some areas; however, despite this, I enjoyed it the first time I watched it, and still do. It's one of those "feet vs. voice" type things. And by this, I mean, it's Fred "The Feet" Astaire attempting to sing, and Judy "The Voice" Garland attempting to dance. Both do decently well, though. I think Ann Miller was one of the best dancers, period. She has great technique, and it's evident that she loves what she does. Side note: I was Googling Stage Door (1937) a few days ago, and I discovered that Ann was only 14 years old when she was in the film, (she was born in 1923) which is pretty crazy, considering the other actresses were about 21 and older (I'm only fairly certain about this).

I share your enthusiasm for the film but I have to object to your characterization of Fred "attempting" to sing and Judy "attempting" to dance. Fred introduced many classic songs in his movies and got high marks as a singer from the writers of those songs, to the point where there was competition to write for him. There have been several collections on vinyl and CD over the years; maybe one of them would change your mind. As for Judy, it was common for choreographers and dance partners to comment on her natural ability as a dancer. Some insisted that she could learn a number after only one runthrough and she more than held her own as a dancer with both Astaire and Gene Kelly, the two major male partners of her era. I don't agree that it was a case of "feet vs. voice" in either case. They both had it covered.

 

I totally agree about Ann Miller and that it was evident that she loved what she did.

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I share your enthusiasm for the film but I have to object to your characterization of Fred "attempting" to sing and Judy "attempting" to dance. Fred introduced many classic songs in his movies and got high marks as a singer from the writers of those songs, to the point where there was competition to write for him. There have been several collections on vinyl and CD over the years; maybe one of them would change your mind. As for Judy, it was common for choreographers and dance partners to comment on her natural ability as a dancer. Some insisted that she could learn a number after only one runthrough and she more than held her own as a dancer with both Astaire and Gene Kelly, the two major male partners of her era. I don't agree that it was a case of "feet vs. voice" in either case. They both had it covered.

 

I totally agree about Ann Miller and that it was evident that she loved what she did.

I think Fred Astaire's best screen partner was not Ginger Rogers but actually Bing Crosby. Suggesting that Fred was a singer of that quality is a stretch...and likewise suggesting Bing was as good a dancer as Fred is also a stretch. But when you put them together, you get the whole deal. It would be like putting Ginger Rogers in a movie with Rosemary Clooney. One can dance well and one can sing well. But neither one is totally skilled at both.

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I think Fred Astaire's best screen partner was not Ginger Rogers but actually Bing Crosby. Suggesting that Fred was a singer of that quality is a stretch...and likewise suggesting Bing was as good a dancer as Fred is also a stretch. But when you put them together, you get the whole deal. It would be like putting Ginger Rogers in a movie with Rosemary Clooney. One can dance well and one can sing well. But neither one is totally skilled at both.

Basically, this all reminds me of White Christmas (1954) where you have Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby who were skilled singers, with Danny Kaye (who could do both decently) and Vera-Ellen, who was a spectacular dancer, but didn't sing. I think it's a much better approach to sort of balance them out; I know that worked out a lot with some of the movie musicals, whereas, nowadays, sometimes they have people in film musicals who maybe aren't completely suited for them, but then again, we have better technology now, and sometimes the acting is more crucial than the singing.

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For whatever it's worth, I've always felt that Judy Garland did a rather good job of keeping up with Fred
Astaire in "Easter Parade."  I don't remember another movie where she was called on to do so much dancing.  It's still a very entertaining movie.

 

Terrence.

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Basically, this all reminds me of White Christmas (1954) where you have Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby who were skilled singers, with Danny Kaye (who could do both decently) and Vera-Ellen, who was a spectacular dancer, but didn't sing. I think it's a much better approach to sort of balance them out; I know that worked out a lot with some of the movie musicals, whereas, nowadays, sometimes they have people in film musicals who maybe aren't completely suited for them, but then again, we have better technology now, and sometimes the acting is more crucial than the singing.

Great post. I think you're correct about Kaye...he really could do quite a bit, and do it with humor...so he was kind of a triple threat as they say in the business (singing, dancing and comedy). Initially, Astaire was sought for the role that Kaye played in WHITE CHRISTMAS, but he turned them down.

 

In my opinion, the one "flaw" with the Rogers-Astaire musicals is that neither of them were known as singers. So the plots had to rely on the dancing and be all about the dancing. I probably enjoy ROBERTA most because we have Irene Dunne who brings the much-needed vocal elements. She carries the tunes with class and style..so it seems like a more well-rounded musical.

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Great post. I think you're correct about Kaye...he really could do quite a bit, and do it with humor...so he was kind of a triple threat as they say in the business (singing, dancing and comedy). Initially, Astaire was sought for the role that Kaye played in WHITE CHRISTMAS, but he turned them down.

 

In my opinion, the one "flaw" with the Rogers-Astaire musicals is that neither of them were known as singers. So the plots had to rely on the dancing and be all about the dancing. I probably enjoy ROBERTA most because we have Irene Dunne who brings the much-needed vocal elements. She carries the tunes with class and style..so it seems like a more well-rounded musical.

Your comment about Rogers-Astaire musicals really touches on something I've thought about: how movie musicals are categorized into one topic, when I think there's a big difference. There are the Rogers-Astaire, Eleanor Powell, etc. musicals that are very dance-heavy, the Broadway musicals like Show Boat & Annie Get Your Gun, and then there are the more original Technicolor MGM (& other studios) ones such as Meet Me in St. Louis (ones that were based on a story and turned into musicals).

 

I think of movie musicals in these 3 subcategories, personally, just because it makes more sense to my brain. I agree with how Irene brings more to the table, vocally in Roberta. (which, by the way, inspired a more musical, Technicolor musical called Lovely to Look At with Marge/Gower Champion, Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Red Skelton, & Ann Miller).

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Your comment about Rogers-Astaire musicals really touches on something I've thought about: how movie musicals are categorized into one topic, when I think there's a big difference. There are the Rogers-Astaire, Eleanor Powell, etc. musicals that are very dance-heavy, the Broadway musicals like Show Boat & Annie Get Your Gun, and then there are the more original Technicolor MGM (& other studios) ones such as Meet Me in St. Louis (ones that were based on a story and turned into musicals).

 

I think of movie musicals in these 3 subcategories, personally, just because it makes more sense to my brain. I agree with how Irene brings more to the table, vocally in Roberta. (which, by the way, inspired a more musical, Technicolor musical called Lovely to Look At with Marge/Gower Champion, Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Red Skelton, & Ann Miller).

 

How would you classify those 30 Warner Bro Musicals like 42nd Street,  and the various Goldiggers films?   Maybe there are 4 category for these depression era,  non glamor musicals?  (while the Rogers-Astaire ones are also 30s films these RKO films are a lot different than WB films).

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Your comment about Rogers-Astaire musicals really touches on something I've thought about: how movie musicals are categorized into one topic, when I think there's a big difference. There are the Rogers-Astaire, Eleanor Powell, etc. musicals that are very dance-heavy, the Broadway musicals like Show Boat & Annie Get Your Gun, and then there are the more original Technicolor MGM (& other studios) ones such as Meet Me in St. Louis (ones that were based on a story and turned into musicals).

 

I like how you are thinking along these lines.

 

Keep in mind that Broadway musicals can be dance-heavy too and even something like SHOW BOAT is a story (an Edna Ferber story) that was musicalized. 

 

I do agree the Rogers-Astaire and Eleanor Powell films are more dance-driven, with very little vocalizing. In something like LADY BE GOOD, they have to bring Ann Sothern on to sing. 

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I like how you are thinking along these lines.

 

Keep in mind that Broadway musicals can be dance-heavy too and even something like SHOW BOAT is a story (an Edna Ferber story) that was musicalized. 

 

I do agree the Rogers-Astaire and Eleanor Powell films are more dance-driven, with very little vocalizing. In something like LADY BE GOOD, they have to bring Ann Sothern on to sing. 

That's right. I'm just confusing myself lol. It seems there are several films that belong in more than one category...

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That's right. I'm just confusing myself lol. It seems there are several films that belong in more than one category...

Well it sounds like you are developing your theories about the musical genre. Nothing wrong with that! :)

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