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The Happiest Musical Ever Made with Judy and Fred
This is definitely a film to watch on an Easter Sunday! 🙂
‘Easter Parade’ is a musical film released in 1948, featuring music by Irving Berlin. It stars Judy Garland and Fred Astaire as the main stars and they’re joined by Peter Lawford and Ann Miller. The film is based on the famous musical number by Irving Berlin which is of course called ‘Easter Parade’.
My Dad likes watching this film, especially around Easter time and because it features Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in it! I enjoy watching the film around Easter time too. It does give you that sense of relaxation and putting the cares of the world outside once you wish celebrate Easter in a happy way.
Apparently, the film was meant to feature Gene Kelly and Judy Garland together. Gene Kelly and Judy Garland worked together in ‘For Me and My Gal’ in 1942 and would later work together in ‘Summer Stock’ in 1950. Unfortunately, Gene Kelly broke his ankle when he was playing volleyball. 😦
Fred Astaire had retired two years earlier but he was offered the part once Gene Kelly had his accident. Fred Astaire consulted Gene Kelly about the part he had been offered and Gene supported Fred in accepting the role. Thankfully Fred accepted the role and he got to work with Judy Garland. 🙂
Seeing Judy and Fred together is a treat. Judy Garland comes from working in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and with Mickey Rooney in films made during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Fred Astaire comes from working with Ginger Rogers in many films including ‘The Gay Divorcee’, ‘Top Hat’ and ‘Swing Time’. 🙂
It’s surreal to see a pairing like Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in this Easter musical film and it’s a very welcome pairing indeed. They were meant to work together again in ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’ in 1949. Sadly Judy became ill and her role was soon taken over by Ginger Rogers instead.
Despite Judy and Fred doing one film together, ‘Easter Parade’ is regarded a critical and commercial success. It was the highest grossing musical film in 1948 and it was the second-highest grossing MGM musical of the 1940s after ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’. And Judy appeared in ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’.
I’m pretty sure this film gets talked a lot about when it comes to Easter time, especially seeing how Judy and Fred worked wonderfully together. Fred’s career was restored to star status as a top MGM star when he did this film. But does this film really stand the test of time? I’m really sure that it does.
The film takes place in 1912 and Fred Astaire plays the Broadway star Don Hewes. It starts off with him buying Easter presents for his sweetheart and dancing partner, Ann Miller as Nadine Hale. This includes him getting a boy to part with an Easter Bunny by distracting him with a set of drums. Cruel!
Anyway, it turns out that Nadine has been offered a show with a solo opportunity. Don tries to persuade her to change her decision but she reveals she’s already signed the contract. Upset and disappointed, Don goes to drown his sorrows at a bar, thinking on choosing his next dancing partner.
He soon meets Judy Garland as an onstage performer at the bar called Hannah Brown and tells her to meet him for rehearsal the next day. He tries to turn her into a copy of Nadine, but it doesn’t quite work. Eventually, Don has Hannah be herself and the two become an instant dancing duo hit. 🙂
Incidentally, the song ‘Easter Parade’ has been in films before this one including ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ in 1938 and ‘Holiday Inn’ in 1942. ‘Holiday Inn’ featured Fred Astaire with Bing Crosby. The song ‘Easter Parade’ took a while to get its own film in a similar vein as ‘White Christmas’.
Judy Garland is enjoyably good as Hannah Brown in the film. She starts off trying to make a good impression to Don Hewes, even when he’s trying to turn her into somebody she isn’t. I found it funny when trying to get attention from people in the streets by making a funny face as she walked.
Gradually, Hannah and Don work well together as a dancing partnership and grow to fall in love with each other. The two perform some memorable musical numbers like ‘Snookey Ookums’, ‘A Couple of Swells’ and of course ‘Easter Parade’. But can the love between Hannah and Don be ever sincere?
Fred Astaire is equally enjoyably good as Don Hewes. I like how he starts off as a man trying to prove a point to the sweetheart who’s disappointed him by saying he can dance with anyone and that includes Judy Garland’s Hannah. He comes to realise that he loves Hannah instead dancing with her.
There is a scene where Judy’s Hannah is frustrated by Fred’s Don not being able to share his true feelings towards her when inviting her for dinner at his place. Judy’s Hannah challenges Fred’s Don to tell her what her eye colour is when she shuts his eyes and he kisses her in order to have a look. 🙂
Peter Lawford stars as Jonathan Harrow III, Don’s best friend who I think is at college considering Don often calls him ‘professor’. I’ve seen Peter Lawford before as he was in the 1947 film ‘Good News’ with June Allyson. Johnny supports Don when he’s been rejected by Nadine earlier in the film.
It’s clear Nadine’s attracted to Johnny whilst he refuses her out of respect for Don. Later in the film, Johnny has a romantic interest in Judy’s Hannah whilst she’s into Fred’s Don. Peter Lawford’s highlight moment in the film is when he sings the song with Judy called ‘A Fella with an Umbrella’. 😀
Ann Miller stars as Nadine Hale, who becomes Don’s ex-love interest very quickly and later becomes Hannah’s rival in her feelings for Don. Apparently, this film marked Ann Miller’s major MGM debut. She had previously been under contract to RKO in the 1930 and then to Columbia Pictures later on. 🙂
My Mum told me that Ann Miller was in ‘On the Town’, which she did in 1949. Nadine Hale reminds me of that snooty girl from 1947’s ‘Good News’ called Pat McClellan who was played by Patricia Marshall. Ann Miller’s highlight moment in the film is when he did the song ‘Shakin’ the Blues Away’.
The cast also includes Jeni Le Gon as Essie, Nadine’s maid and Jules Munshin as François, the maître d’. It was funny when François got frustrated by Johnny, Don and Nadine leaving his restaurant one at a time and the same thing the next day with Johnny and Hannah together when having their date.
I don’t think I would like to try François’ salad either, especially in the way he demonstrated how he made it to Johnny and Hannah in the restaurant. 😀 Clinton Sundberg stars as Mike the bartender who’s there to comfort Judy’s Hannah when she feels downhearted after leaving Fred’s Don at a club.
The songs performed by Fred Astaire in the opening sequences include ‘Happy Easter’ and ‘Drum Crazy’. There’s also the song ‘It Only Happens When I Dance With You’ which is performed twice. Fred Astaire sings it to Ann Miller earlier in the film and Judy Garland sings it to Fred later in the film.
Judy Garland sings the song ‘I Want to Go Back To Michigan’ when she’s an onstage performer at the bar where Fred’s Don meets Judy’s Hannah. As well as ‘Snookey Oookums’, Fred and Judy sing ‘I Love a Piano’ and ‘When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam’ in their Vaudeville montage. 🙂
Fred Astaire does sing with a chorus and featured dancers like Patricia Jackson, Bobbie Priest and Dee Turnell in a musical number called ‘Steppin’ Out with My Baby’. I don’t think it matches to ‘Let’s Say It with Firecrackers’ in ‘Holiday Inn’ and ‘Shoes with Wings On’ in ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’. 😀
The film closes with Judy’s Hannah and Fred’s Don taking part in the Easter Parade in New York. The Easter Parade is something that still happens in New York City, although not in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was lovely to see how ‘Easter Parade’ ended with Hannah and Don together. 🙂
I felt sorry for the bunny rabbit that was stuffed inside that gift box when Judy’s Hannah sent gifts to Fred’s Don without any cards to them. It was like Lady being stuffed inside a box for Christmas in the two ‘Lady and the Tramp’ films from 1955 and 2019. I’m not sure I approve of this animal cruelty here. 😀
By the way, in the time Don teaches Hannah to be his dancing partner before they become a dancing duo, it takes one year from a Easter Parade to the following year with the next Easter Parade. I’m rather surprised that they didn’t have a Christmas sequence where Fred and Judy sang ‘White Christmas’.
The 2005 Special Edition DVD special features are as follows. There’s a DVD audio commentary by Ava Astaire McKenzie, Fred Astaire’s daughter and John Fricke, Judy Garland’s biographer. There’s a ‘Garland Trailer Gallery’ which includes trailers for films like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ from 1939, ‘Ziegfeld Girl’ from 1941, ‘For Me and My Gal’ from 1942, ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ from 1944, ‘The Harvey Girls’ from 1946, ‘Ziegfeld Follies’ from 1946, ‘Easter Parade’ (of course) from 1948, ‘In The Good Old Summertime’ from 1949 and ‘A Star is Born’ from 1954. There’s also the making-of documentary called ‘Easter Parade: On the Avenue’ and an outtake musical number called ‘Mr. Monotony’ featuring Judy Garland.
‘Easter Parade’ is definitely one of those films you want to see at Easter time. It’s a very good-humoured, good-natured musical film featuring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire together. I know my Dad likes this film very much and I’ve enjoyed it whenever my parents and I get a chance to see it. 🙂
My parents and I watched this film to cheer us up in 2020 when things seemed to be at their bleakest and I’m very happy to have reviewed this film for Easter in 2021. The musical numbers are great and Judy and Fred perform well in terms of the acting as well as the music from Irving Berlin. 🙂
‘Easter Parade’ rating – 9/10
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