I watched “Easter Parade” yesterday morning. It was a good movie to watch on a Sunday, but it didn’t really have that much of a connection with Easter. It had a good cast, with Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Ann Miller, and Peter Lawford. I would not say that Fred Astaire and Judy Garland had the greatest romantic chemistry, but Judy Garland is at her most likable. I enjoyed most of the Irving Berlin songs, and the singing and dancing is entertaining. One of the numbers has the feathers on Judy Garland’s gown flying all over the place, apparently something of a parody of “Cheek to Cheek.” One very good song in the movie is “It Only Happens When I Dance with You.”
There’s a bit of “My Fair Lady” in the story. Ann Miller is Nadine Hale, the dancing partner of Don Hewes, played by Astaire. Nadine parts ways with Don for greener pastures. Don says that he doesn’t need her, that he can pick any girl out of a crowd to work with him and make her a star. That’s where Judy Garland comes in. Her character is Hannah Brown, an ordinary girl from a farm. She has a steady job singing for 15 dollars a week. She has meals of steak, pie, and milk for 15 cents – it’s 1912.
Of course, Hewes chooses Hannah, and naturally she has great difficulty in learning the routines, since she has difficulty in remembering her left leg from her right. In real life, she was left-handed, just like another actress who played her, Judy Davis.
Peter Lawford is John, Don’s friend who is an aspiring lawyer. Thankfully, he doesn’t do too much singing. I didn’t think his presence the most memorable.
The story has Hannah in love with Hewes, who is love in with Nadine, who is in love with Johnny, who is in love with Hannah.
There are some touching moments with Hannah feeling disappointment in love, unable to get to sleep. I wonder if those scenes had any resonance in real life. She opens up her heart to Hewes, but he seems preoccupied with other thoughts. There are other little touches, like when she finds no messages for her at the hotel desk after the opening night of her show.
One of the interesting dance numbers is “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” which has Astaire in slow motion at one point, with the rest of the dancers continuing in regular motion. It was something that reminded me of the Police video for “Wrapped Around Your Finger.”
That number is pretty quickly followed by the most entertaining of the Hannah and Hewes dance routines, “A Couple of Swells.”
At the end, as she’s getting ready for the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue, Judy Garland looks rather like her daughter Liza Minelli.
One of the reasons I like watching a picture like this is that there is so much care in the filmmaking and dancing, and it’s a nice change from the small independent films of today with their attitude and emptiness. I wouldn’t mind watching an MGM musical every Sunday. It’s fun to have them on the TV while you’re thumbing through your Sunday paper or doing some chores. The Technicolor photography in this picture is good, although it seemed at times the print should have looked sharper and cleaner.
The commentary track of the DVD had a lot of interesting information from Astaire’s daughter Ava. Originally, Gene Kelly was to play Don Hewes, and the story had an unhappy tone to it. Frank Sinatra was to play Peter Lawford’s part, and Cyd Charisse was to play Ann Miller’s part. Gene Kelly broke his ankle, and the whole project turned into something different because of that accident.
The second disc of the DVD set has other interesting items, like an American Masters program on Judy Garland, a deleted music number called “Mr. Monotony,’ and a radio performance of the story from 1951.
I kept the television on to the Fox cartoons while I worked on some writing. “Family Guy” was marking its 100th episode with a clip show, which all seemed like an excuse to not making the best effort for a while. Watching some of what were supposed to be the best moments of the show made me question its quality. When you have major characters sitting in the living room vomiting over and over, you’ve got to wonder.
By the time I was winding up my writing, it was past 11 o’clock, and I was listened to the Joel Selvin radio program. He was playing some Bo Diddley tracks, which sounded very good. I read about a Bo Diddley box set in the Los Angeles Times not too long ago.
Ben Fong-Torres’ radio program yesterday morning focused on one-hit wonders, like Brewer & Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line” and the 5 Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child.” I had never heard of either Brewer & Shipley or the 5 Stairsteps. Minor fame comes and goes so readily, just as Andy Warhol thought.
I thought about what I was going to do with my free days during this spring break. I’d love to catch up to that weird guy who walks the streets screaming and just simply murder him for being such a nuisance. His exhibitionistic behavior is just sickening, and everybody complains about it. Maybe I’ll take a trip across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco to look for more Beatles items. Maybe I should go to a theatre and see “The Hammer.”
I examined my calendar and my A’s promotion schedule to determine most of the games I would go to this season. I am hoping for a halfway respectable effort from the team this year, and for them to at least finish ahead of the Texas Rangers. The first day of ticket exchange for season ticket holders is Wednesday. I also have a voucher for two free tickets, which I have to redeem later this week. The A’s play their first “home” game in Tokyo at 3 AM in front of a crowd that will be mostly Boston Red Sox fans, apparently. They will return to Oakland to play an exhibition game against the Giants on Saturday, oddly enough, before going back to playing the Red Sox for their first regular season game in Oakland on April 1.
The big topic of discussion on KNBR this morning was the Warriors’ win over the Lakers. Now the Warriors are right behind the Dallas Mavericks, and with a decent push in these last games, they might pass them in the playoff standings.