THE BAND WAGON

(1953)
With Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Jack Buchanan, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Reviewed by JL

     The BandwagonWhen Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse glide magically into their modern-dance pas-de-deux to "Dancing in the Dark" some 59 minutes into THE BAND WAGON, they go on to create what are arguably the three most beautiful minutes in motion-picture history.  That moment alone would be enough for THE BAND WAGON to rank as a classic, but it is merely one of the film's many treasures.  The story of a washed-up Hollywood hoofer (Astaire) trying to reclaim his stardom on Broadway, the film is perhaps the last of the truly great musicals produced by the Freed Unit at MGM and is regarded as near-equal to SINGIN' IN THE RAIN in quality and stature.  That it emerged as it did was something of a miracle, for the film's production was not a "happy shoot" by any means.  Astaire was tending to his terminally ill wife at the time, rendering his attitude on the set one of all work and no nonsense.  English music-hall star Jack Buchanan (who nearly steals the film as pompous thea-tuh director Jeffery Cordova) was battling cancer himself, and Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray grew to loathe one another.  The production itself was fraught by as many mishaps as the outlandish production of the film's plotline.  Supporting player James Mitchell (later of ALL MY CHILDREN fame) said some 50 years later: "It was a miserable experience.  I've never watched the damn thing."  It is to director Vincent Minnelli's credit that he was able to reign in all the unpleasant elements and create one of the most joyous farces in all of musical comedy. 5 - JL

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