Fred Astaire plays a song-and-dance man who has seen better days, and is past his prime asfar as Hollywood is concerned. He arrives in New York to star in a new show written by two oldfriends (Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant). The project is taken on by a pretentiousproducer/director/actor (Jack Buchanan), who brings in ballet dancer Cyd Charisse. Astaire andCharisse clash initially, and Buchanan is intent on turning the sprightly musical comedy into amodern version of Faus…. Disaster looms…
… but it won’t be a surprise to anyone that things turn out fine in the end. This is a musicalcomedy after all. Producer Arthur Freed’s follow-up to Singin’ in the Rain doesn’t quitematch that film’s explosive brilliance (but then, what can?). What it does have is plenty of self-deprecating charm from Astaire, plenty of scorching sex appeal from Charisse, mucho hilarityfrom Buchanan, and plenty of laughs and stand-out dance numbers. A treat.
The original mono is here, as well as a new 5.1 mix. The latter doesn’t have a tremendousdegree of surround presence, but what elements do emerge from the rear speakers are wellchosen, and there are no inappropriate surround voices or the like. The music sounds just fine,,and there is no distortion, so the result is pretty impressive for 1953.
The picture has some grain here and there, but doesn’t look bad at all. The colours are brightand cheerful, though in the early goings there’s a bit of a brownish tinge to the proceedings. Thecolours do fluctuate as well. The blacks are good, and for the most part the image is nice andsharp.
On Disc 1, the commentary features Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein. Both have plentyto offer, but Minnelli’s enthusiasm is so over the top that the effect is extremely grating (andrather bizarre). Also here are eight Astaire trailers. Disc 2 has a forty-minute doc called “GetAboard! The Band Wagon.” The enthusiasm is still a bit forced, but the piece is still informative.More serious is an old PBS offering: “The Men Who Made the Movies: Vincente Minnelli.”Richard Schickel wrote and produced this look at the career of The Band Wagon’sdirector. Finally, there’s a neat little short from the 30s: “Jack Buchanan and the Glee Quartet,”showcasing the actor’s comic skill. The menu of Disc 1 has an animated and scored mainscreen.
Certainly a high point in the history of the musical, this is sunny fare that continues todelight.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- “Get Aboard! The Band Wagon” Documentary
- “The Men Who Made the Movies: Vincente Minnelli” Documentary
- “Jack Buchanan and the Glee Quartet” Musical Short
- Astaire Trailer Gallery