Royal Wedding (1951)


(director: Stanley Donen; screenwriter: story by Alan Jay Lerner/Alan Jay Lerner; cinematographer: Robert Planck; editor: Albert Akst; music: Johnny Green; cast: Fred Astaire (Tom Bowen), Jane Powell (Ellen Bowen), Peter Lawford (Lord John Brindale), Sarah Churchill (Anne Ashmond), Keenan Wynn (Irving Klinger/Edgar Klinger), Albert Sharpe (James Ashmond); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM; 1951)

“The slight story is considerably improved by the lively music.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Two real-life stories become used as a hook in the plot. One is the marriage a year earlier of Fred Astaire’s sister Adele to a British nobleman and the other is the wedding fours years earlier of England’s Princess Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Alan Jay Lerner fashions a story around those episodes, but makes it about an American brother-and-sister musical act who find romance when they take their Broadway show to England for Princess Elizabeth’s Royal Wedding. Stanley Donen (“Singin’ in the Rain”/”On The Town”/”Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”) directs this enjoyable fluff musical. There’s fun watching Donen’s gimmickry numbers, such as Astaire’s solo dance on the hotel’s ceiling and walls and his inspired dancing around a gym with a coat-rack as a partner. The young Jane Powell, a late replacement for the pregnant June Allyson and the mentally ailing Judy Garland, acquits herself well in the dancing department. Sarah Churchill, daughter of Sir Winston, plays Astaire’s love interest. She showed no charisma or acting ability, and was the film’s wet blanket.

The songs included: “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life,” “Too Late Now,” “You’re All the World to Me,” “Happiest Day of My Life,” “I Left My Hat in Haiti” and “What a Lovely Day for a Wedding.” The slight story is considerably improved by the lively music.

The American manager Irving Klinger (Keenan Wynn) arranges with his London-living twin, Edward (also Wynn), to have the brother-and-sister dance team of Tom and Ellen Bowen (Fred Astaire & Jane Powell) play the Mayfair theater during the royal wedding festivities. On the ship over, Ellen falls for smoothy womanizer Lord John Brindale (Peter Lawford). In London, Tom falls for one of the dancers in his show that he hires, Anne Ashmond (Sarah Churchill). There’s nothing left to do but throw in a few complications to their romances and lots of musical numbers, as in the end the two couples marry on the same day as the royal wedding.