The Band Wagon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Band Wagon
The Band Wagon (1953 film) DVD boxart.JPG
DVD cover for The Band Wagon
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Music by
Cinematography Harry Jackson
Editing by Albert Akst
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • August 7, 1953 (1953-08-07)
Running time 111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,873,000[1]
Box office $3,502,000[1]

The Band Wagon is a 1953 musical comedy film that many critics rank, along with Singin' in the Rain, as the finest of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals, although it was only a modest box-office success. It tells the story of an aging musical star who hopes a Broadway play will restart his career. However, the play's director wants to make it a pretentious retelling of Faust, and brings in a prima ballerina who clashes with the star.

The songs were written by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, and some were created for the original 1931 Broadway musical also called The Band Wagon, with a book by George S. Kaufman and starring Fred Astaire and his sister Adele. (Fred Astaire also stars in the movie.) The movie's dances and musical numbers were staged by Michael Kidd.

The song "That's Entertainment!", which Schwartz and Dietz wrote specifically for the film, was a hit and has become a standard. Another song orchestrated by Conrad Salinger, "Dancing in the Dark", is considered part of the Great American Songbook and was from the original Broadway production. Astaire's early number in the film, "A Shine On Your Shoes" was actually written for a 1932 Broadway revue with music and lyrics by Dietz and Schwartz called Flying Colors. It had originally been performed by the dancing team of Buddy and Vilma Ebsen. In the movie version of The Band Wagon, the song was reworked to show off Astaire's musical talents.

The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Color, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay. Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who received the nomination for the screenplay, patterned the film's characters Lester and Lily Marton after themselves, although the fictional characters were a married couple and Comden and Green were not romantically involved.

In 1995, The Band Wagon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2006, this film ranked #17 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.

Plot[edit]

Stage and screen star Tony Hunter, a veteran of musical comedy, is concerned that his career might be in decline. His good friends Lester and Lily Marton have written a stage show that they believe is perfect for his comeback.

Tony signs up, despite misgivings after the director, Jeffrey Cordova, changes the light comedy into a dark reinterpretation of the Faust legend, with himself as the Devil and Tony as the Faust character. Tony also feels intimidated by the youth, beauty, and classical background of his female co-star, noted ballerina Gabrielle "Gaby" Gerard. Unbeknownst to him, she is just as insecure in his presence, awed by his long stardom.

Eventually, it all proves too much for Tony. He walks out, but Gaby speaks with him alone and they work out their differences. They also begin to fall in love, though she already has a commitment to the show's choreographer Paul Byrd.

When the first out-of-town tryout in New Haven proves to be a disaster, Tony persuades Jeffrey to let him convert the production back into what the Martons had originally envisioned. Tony takes charge of the production, taking the show on tour to perfect the new lighthearted musical numbers. Since the original backers have walked out, Tony finances it by selling his personal art collection. Byrd walks out, but Gaby remains.

The revised show proves to be a hit on its Broadway opening. Afterwards, Gaby lets Tony know how she feels about him.

Cast[edit]

Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in the "Girl Hunt Ballet"

Musical numbers[edit]

in order of appearance[2]

  1. "By Myself" — Tony (introduced in the stage musical Between the Devil)
  2. "Shine on Your Shoes" — Tony and a shoeshine man (Leroy Daniels) (introduced in the stage musical Flying Colors)
  3. "That's Entertainment!" — Jeffrey, with Tony, Lester and Lily.
  4. "The Beggars Waltz" — danced by Cyd Charisse, James Mitchell, and corps de ballet
  5. "Dancing in the Dark" — Tony and Gabrielle
  6. "You and the Night and the Music" — Chorus, danced by Tony and Gabrielle
  7. "Something to Remember You By" — Chorus
  8. "High and Low" — Chorus
  9. "I Love Louisa" — Tony, Lester, and Lily
  10. "New Sun in the Sky" — Gabrielle
  11. "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan" — Tony and Jeffrey
  12. "Louisiana Hayride" — Lily and Chorus (introduced in the stage musical Flying Colors)
  13. "Triplets" — Tony, Jeffrey, and Lily (The three performers dance on their knees, costumed in baby attire) (introduced in the stage musical Between the Devil)
  14. "Girl Hunt Ballet" — Tony and Gabrielle

One musical number shot for the film, but dropped from the final release, was a seductive dance routine featuring Charisse performing "Two-Faced Woman". As with the other Charisse songs, her singing was dubbed by India Adams. Adams' recording of the song was reused for Torch Song for a musical number featuring Joan Crawford. The retrospective That's Entertainment! III released the Charisse version to the public for the first time. This footage was also included with the most recent DVD release of The Band Wagon itself.[3]

Reception[edit]

According to MGM records the film earned $2.3 million in the US and Canada and $1,202,000 in other countries, resulting in a loss of $1,185,000.[1]

Stage adaptation[edit]

A musical stage adaptation, titled "Dancing in the Dark," premiered at The Old Globe Theatre (San Diego) March 4 – April 20, 2008, with plans to bring the show to Broadway. Gary Griffin directs, with a book by Douglas Carter Beane and choreography by Warren Carlyle. The cast includes Patrick Page as the "deliciously pretentious" director-actor-producer Jeffrey Cordova, Mara Davi playing Gabrielle Gerard and Scott Bakula as "song-and-dance man" Tony Hunter.[4][5][6][7]

In the Variety review of the musical Bob Verini wrote: "There's no reason this reconstituted "Band Wagon" can't soar once it jettisons its extraneous and self-contradictory elements. But "Dancing" is some distance from finding its footing, despite finale's admonition to "Admit we're a hit and we'll go on from there." Not yet."[8]

According to an October 16, 2008 article in Playbill, this musical is undergoing revision.[9]

Music videos[edit]

Michael Jackson in his music video for "Smooth Criminal" pays tribute to the Fred Astaire film in his dance sequence in the 1930s or 1940s style lounge as in the Astaire film where the bar fight takes place. Dancers can be seen doing similar moves as female dancers wear similar designed outfits in Jackson's video. Jackson wears a white suit with a blue collar shirt underneath and a white hat with a black stripe on it paying tribute to what Astaire was wearing in The Band Wagon's finale, "The Girl Hunt Ballet". "Billie Jean's" music video also features similar elements as those of the same number: The storefront scenery through which the paparazzo conducts his manhunt and the animal print cloth he finds for a clue are two very distinct allusions. Using the line "she came at me in sections" for the titular song of his album Dangerous, Jackson notably pays homage to the film on at least three successive albums.

Steve Martin and Gilda Radner perform a seriocomic parody homage to the "dancing in the dark" dance segment on an episode of Saturday Night Live, originally broadcast on April 22, 1978.

References[edit]

Notes
Bibliography
  • Diane Stevenson, "In Praise of Praise" in the Stanley Cavell special issue, Jeffrey Crouse (ed.), Film International, Issue 22, Vol. 4, No. 4, 2006, pp. 6–13.

External links[edit]