Saturday, July 18, 2015

254. The Band Wagon (1953)

Running Time: 112 minutes
Directed By: Vincente Minnelli
Written By: Betty Comden, Adolph Green
Main Cast: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray, Jack Buchanan
Click here to view the trailer


Band of Outsiders (1964 - Jean-Luc Godard) 6/10 - Another TCM one. Seriously, if you live in the states and aren't constantly raiding Turner Classic Movies for film, you need to be. I was less than thrilled with this one. I think I expected more, after hearing Tarantino talk about it so much and even him naming his production company after it. I liked it fine, just not enough. Perhaps two or three more viewings sometime down the road would sweeten me. 

They Live by Night (1948 - Nicholas Ray) 6/10 - TCM again. Not entirely crazy about it. It got a lot better in the second half. I would've liked to have seen less complications early on and just gotten Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell into their wooded cabin ASAP. Still a pretty good little movie and nothing terrible on display. 

The Lucky One (2012 - Scott Hicks) 5.5/10 - So, my wife has been trying to compromise a lot lately and she's sat through some BOOK stuff with me, just to help me get finished. SO I figured it was my turn to sit through something with her. She's a Nick Sparks fanatic, but had yet to see The Lucky One, so I agreed. Not quite as atrocious as I expected and the presence of Taylor Schilling actually made me want to finally check out Orange Is the New Black. She was great here and looked great to boot. Efron isn't bad himself, but some serious roles would help to refine him, I think. 

The Threat (1949 - Felix E.Feist) 6/10 - Yeah, so all of my TCM ventures this week got a '6' - mediocre affairs, the lot of them. This one was only a little over sixty minutes and also dealt with a band of fugitives (like They Live by Night). This one was a lot simpler and just gave us the meat & potatoes of a band of crooks, trying to outwit the law and stay on the lam. Nice conclusion too. Probably the best of the three classics I saw, or at least tied with Band of Outsiders. 

Now then...


I also nabbed this one off of Turner Classic Movies as well - one less disc to get from Netflix, I thought. Can you believe, as of this writing, there are only forty-one discs on my Netflix queue!? Everything else that's left I either have access to on the computer or have recorded off of TCM. I can remember when I first started THE BOOK journey and put all THE BOOK movies on my queue. I maxed out my queue at 500 films and still had a handful that I had to leave off, because it wouldn't let me add anymore. Nitty gritty indeed...

Another musical from the minds of Comden and Green, The Band Wagon dusts off Fred Astaire (who probably didn't need much Pledge) as Tony Hunter and displays him as a has been song & dance man, who can't hang with the current crop of stars. When his stage writer pals, Lester Marton (Levant) and Lily Marton (Fabray) (supposedly the onscreen incarnation of Betty Comden and Adolph Green), write a new musical, however, Hunter looks to get back in the spotlight. The Marton's take their script to famed stage director, Jeffrey Cordova (Buchanan), who claims to love it, but then proceeds to change everything about it - turning it into a modern day retelling of Faust. Cordova plans to remake Tony Hunter a star and nab a leading lady who's worthy of his tap shoes. The one he has in mind, upstart star Gabrielle Gerard (Charisse). The two stars quarrel at first, Hunter still bitter that he's not in the limelight anymore, Gerard a youngster to the stage scene, who doesn't quite know how to take him. Eventually, their show opens and bombs (think The Duelling Cavalier), but Tony Hunter has ideas to redeem the show and tour with it, to all the major cities and repackage it as a variety show, using The Marton's original script as the entree.

Think The Duelling Cavalier, I said. It makes you think - at the heart of it all, isn't this movie much the same as Singin' in the Rain? Okay, there's huge differences of course, but the main story about a production flopping and then being rebranded as something else, that's an idea stolen by Comden & Green from Comden & Green, from Singin' in the Rain. Also Astaire & Charisse quarreling for the first half, reminded me a lot of Kelly & Reynolds feuding for the first half of Singin' in the Rain - only to make up and fall in love a la Astaire & Charisse. It kind of makes me want to see other Betty Comden/Adolph Green productions and see if they just kept recycling the same ideas, over and over.

Anyway, I didn't like this near as much as Singin' in the Rain. For one, the songs in The Band Wagon just weren't good. I enjoy musicals, to a certain extent. They're not my favorite, but I can certainly get behind them, but the music must be good. Every time Astaire or Charisse or someone would break into song, it would be this awful number and I just wanted to get back to the super thin plot - which is saying something, considering the plot wasn't anything to write home about either. How bout the song, "I Love Louisa". Just an awful number, that made my ears want to bleed. In fact, I feel like the first really decent song, was "Louisiana Hayride", sung with gusto by Nanette Fabray. And then, of course, "Triplets", which I'll admit, I rewound and called my wife into the room so she could see it. Loved that number. THE BOOK raves about the big finale, which is Astaire and Charisse starring in an eleven minute piece called "Girl Hunt", a film noir, with Astaire as the dick and Charisse as the dame. I'll admit Cyd Charisse looked fabulous in it (but then again, she looked fabulous throughout), but I wasn't totally thrilled with it. It was okay.

Seriously, I'll have to look into Cyd Charisse and see what else I can find her in. She looked marvelous. I also really dug Fred Astaire in this and it made me want to see the rest of his filmography, especially the ones he did side by side with Ginger Rogers. It made me want to go dig out Top Hat and Swing Time and rewatch them (I bought an Astaire and Rogers set after watching those for THE BOOK - wonder if I still have it?).

RATING: 5.5/10  We'll leave it at that. The end numbers (Louisiana Hayride, Triplets) and the appearance of the gorgeous Cyd Charisse and the uber talented Fred Astaire gets this otherwise bad musical over the average marker.


July 18, 2015  8:48am


  1. Hunter and Co are supposedly setting up a new show more true to the original script, yet went you see those songs in that rewamped show you have to wonder what that script is actually about. There is absolutely no red thread. Frankly I would have preferred to watch the faustian version. It looked hilarious.

    1. Agreed! Apparently they wrote a variety show?

  2. Sorry Andrew, a decidedly 'phoned in' reply. It' s a musical.. Oh gosh .. I so nearly typed in .. "another 1940's musical".. but fortunatly I checked ... a lot later than you'd think eh?

    1. I'm curious to know whether or not Astaire was still active around this time or if this was genuinely someone who was a has been, playing a has been?


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