(director: Charles Walters; screenwriters: Guy Bolton/Frances Goodrich/Albert Hackett/Sidney Sheldon; cinematographer: Harry Stradling; editor: Albert Akst; music: Irving Berlin; cast: Judy Garland (Hannah Brown), Fred Astaire (Don Hewes), Peter Lawford (Jonathan Harrow III), Ann Miller (Nadine Hale), Jules Munshin (Francois, Headwaiter), Jeni Le Gon (Essie), Peter Chong (Sam, valet), Clinton Sundberg (Mike the Bartender); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM; 1948)
“A decent MGM musical that is winsome only in its many Irving Berlin numbers.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A decent MGM musical that is winsome only in its many Irving Berlin numbers. Fred Astaire was a replacement for Gene Kelly, who broke his ankle playing ball with his family while the film was in production. Astaire uneasily teams with Judy Garland (they seemed awkward together, though the much older Astaire said he enjoyed working with her). It was their first and last time together –they were scheduled to be in The Barkleys of Broadway as a follow-up to the commercially successful Easter Parade, but for Garland’s breakdown; Ginger Rogers served as a replacement in Barkleys.
The music is not great but it’s spirited and agreeable, with such lively numbers as the curious show stopper “A couple of Swells.” The others include Astaire’s “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” his engaging opening number “Happy Easter” which is followed by his inventive “Drum Crazy,” and finally there’s Ann Miller’s flashy “Shakin’ the Blues Away.” Even Peter Lawford sneaks by with his barely acceptable attempt at singing in tune “A Fella with an Umbrella.” The title song is gloriously sung by Garland in the finale, and presents a nostalgic picture of a New York back in 1912 when the wealthy carriage-crowd paraded up and down 5th Avenue in their finest outfits.
Charles Walters (“The Unsinkable Molly Brown”) does an effective job directing the choreography but has trouble when one of the seventeen songs isn’t in motion. This slight story has a Pygmalion twist. It revolves around the haughty Nadine Hale (Ann Miller) telling her longtime dance partner and romantic interest Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) that she’s splitting to go solo to become a star. Nadine then headlines a Ziegfeld Follies show. Don tells his wealthy law student pal Jonathan Harrow III (Peter Lawford) that he can replace the polished performer with any ordinary chorine and make a star out of her, as he jealously aims to show up Nadine. The first dancer Don spots is the raw Hannah Brown (Judy Garland), who works in a bar as a waitress. Don vows to make Hannah a bigger star than Nadine before the next Easter Parade, and by golly he does it and in the process learns he loves Hannah more than he does Nadine.
REVIEWED ON 3/28/2005 GRADE: B-