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Bandwagon, the

Fred Astaire , Cyd Charisse , Vincente Minnelli    Unrated   VHS Tape
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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The Band Wagon (1953) marked the culmination of a series of near-autobiographical pictures Fred Astaire made for MGM following his return from premature retirement in the late '40s. Astaire plays Tony Hunter, a fading film star (his big hit: Flying Down to Panama) who decides to return to his former glory, the Broadway stage. (In 1931, Astaire had starred on Broadway with sister Adele in The Band Wagon, a revue that lent some of its songs to this film.) His playwright-songwriter friends (Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant) hook him up with Broadway's hottest director, Jeffrey Cordova (a nicely hammy Jack Buchanan), who proves that the "new" theater traditions can be an awkward fit with the old. Hunter also finds himself at odds with his prima ballerina leading lady (Cyd Charisse), one of his chief worries being that she seems a little tall. Along the way, producer Arthur Freed, director Vincente Minnelli, choreographer Michael Kidd, and songwriters Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz treat us to some quintessential MGM numbers: Astaire's solo ode "By Myself," the flashy arcade romp "A Shine on Your Shoes," Astaire and Charisse's romantic duet "Dancing in the Dark," the faux-German drinking song "I Love Louisa," the manic trio "Triplets" (with Astaire, Fabray, and Buchanan in matching baby outfits), the Mickey Spillane-esque "Girl Hunt Ballet," and the classic show-biz anthem "That's Entertainment." Even if its ending and obligatory romance fall a little flat, The Band Wagon is one of the classic backstage musicals, a grandiose MGM spectacle that also manages to poke some fun at how grandiose MGM pictures had become. --David Horiuchi

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
No movie musical comes close to []the Band Wagon. The film is physically stunning and varied in terms of musical numbers. In fact, it's fantastic in every department. This is []the ultimate Vincente Minnelli musical. His brilliant use of sets in such numbers as A SHINE ON YOUR SHOES, DANCING IN THE DARK, and THE GIRL HUNT make the film one of the most atmospheric musicals to hit the screen. The quality of musical numbers in THE BAND WAGON is far more consistent than in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. For instance, TRIPLETS is funnier, and more original than MAKE 'EM LAUGH. In A SHINE ON YOUR SHOES, Minnelli treats the "breaking into song and dance" concept literally. In a 1930s musical, extras would stand around the action with a fake smile. Here the people in the background react realistically to Astaire's routine (everything from walking by to screaming from fright). The blending of real and unreal adds an entire dimension to the number. THE GIRL HUNT BALLET manages to be dream-like, humourous, and structured. It has a magical quality without being as lasse faire as the ballets in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN or AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. It's my candidate for the greatest musical number ever filmed...a close race with everything else in THE BAND WAGON. Oh, yeah. Many consider this film to include Fred Astaire's finest performance. He's a fabulous performer, in a semi-autobiographical role.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Throwback to Vaudeville June 1 2004
By J
Format:VHS Tape
Astaire & buddies decide to put on a travelling show. This somewhat defiant response to Gene Kelly's forward looking & somewhat cynical Singin in the Rain, provided a big screen platform for an odd combination of small stage entertainment and Astaire's signature tap dancing mixed with ballroom dancing. The movie adopts a cheerful & innocent entertain the masses approach. Old fashioned on purpose. His dancing is wonderful and the film suffers in the scenes and numbers where he isn't front and center. Corny old songs like "Triplets" and "Louisiana Hayride" are dragged out & dusted off. Was Astaire really this devoted to his vaudeville roots or was it all he knew how to do? Astaire may not have born wearing a top hat and tails but he might as well have been. I wonder if it got to the point where someone he trusted had to sit down with Fred and convince him to let it go. Obviously, Singin in the Rain resonated more deeply with public. Astaire finally gave up on these throwback movies & took on dramatic roles in the late 50's. Big budget modernized musicals dominated the 50's & 60's.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Really, a 3.5... Jan. 27 2003
Format:VHS Tape
A muddled Fred Astaire musical, which starts out with a brilliant opening sequence wherein Tony Hunter, a thinly-veiled Astaire stand-in, returns to a modern, new, 1950s New York, which has adopted a brash, gritty form of glitz which feels foreign to the debonaire star of 'Thirties film and stage. Broadway has been overrun with garish and pretentiously lofty Big Concept plays, and the good clean fun of Fred and Ginger's era seems hokey and out-of-date. Still, his loyal pals, a successful playwright and librettist, hustle him up some work, which turns out to be with the most pompous of the new theatre elite. Astaire's outsider-looking-in view of Broadway in transition -- the sort of big city symphony that director Vincente Minnelli excelled at -- is fascinating (while Fred's visit to an old Times Square theatre that's been renovated into a penny arcade is amusing in retrospect, considering that the neighborhood soon became overrun with porno parlours...) Teaming Astaire up with Cyd Charisse is a joy to behold as well... Apparently he is quoted as saying she was his favorite dance partner (Ginger Rogers fans, all gasp now...) but you can kinda see what he means... Where the graceful Rogers was a perfect partner to Astaire, the statuesque Charisse is more of counterpoint, an equal presence, if not as intuitive and inventive a dancer. There's a much greater physical charge between them, and it's a very different viewing experience. Anyway, long story short: this film has a great premise, but falls apart when they actually find a barn and start to put on a show. The highbrow producer stages a flop, and Astaire and company decide they can't quit now, so they're just going to put on some good, old-fashioned singing and dancing revue, like folks loved in the old days. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Make Room on "The Band Wagon" for Me! April 24 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Yes, this is one of the best MGM musicals for sure. You'll read some reviews that say the romance is wearisome or that the plot is thin, but I don't think any of that holds water. I will grant you, though, that it gets a tad long, but I think you'll find that true of almost every single musical anyway, my gosh how many hours long is "Carousel"?
Fred Astaire just got better as he got older, and that's pretty darn hard to do as a dancer--I remember that all the cast in "A Chorus Line" are dreading turning thirty because they'd be has-beens. Well, here our Fred is a spry 54 and dancing up a storm, even in a new style. While every number is great, I'd have to say that the standout for me is "Dancing in the Dark", where he and Cyd Charisse begin by walking through a mock Central Park and by bits and pieces go into a beautifully smooth dance number. Look at it closely--there's only one camera cut in the whole number, and I think that's just that they moved out of range. Which is to say, that you're almost watching a live performance in one take--incredible!
Like one of the previous reviewers, I will also single out Jack Buchanan's great performance as the hambone director of the Faust play. What a pity that there doesn't seem to be anything else of his around to keep viewing his significant persona. When he and Fred do a number together towards the end, "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plans", gotta admit, most of the time I was watching Jack not Fred. Such aplomb! I wish I knew him!
And of course, there are plenty of other classic routines, not the least of which is "That's Entertainment", well put over by Fred, Jack, and Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray. Yep, that's entertainment all right!
So to sum up, scurry aboard "The Band Wagon" and ride on out to wherever with these great stars--hot time in the old town tonight.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of "The Band Wagon"
The DVD was in excellent condition and delivered on time.

Enjoyed this classic musical. Astair and Cyd Charisse! It doesn't get much better than that! Read more
Published 13 months ago by Alderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent fantasy musical
This is one of my favourite musicals, with lots of Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire. The musical numbers are a mix of beauty and riotous humour. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2010 by Dana Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Fred's answer to Singing in the Rain
This movie came out a year or two after Singing in the Rain. Fred meant it to be his answer to that movie. Many people remember the Gene Kelly movie but not this one. Read more
Published on May 21 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars All Aboard!
The Band Wagon is a very good movie!
It's list of musical numbers include, That's Entertainment!, The Girl Hunt, and Triplets. Read more
Published on May 1 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Hop on the Bandwagon With This Smash Hit!
In my opinion, I think that 'The Bandwagon' is one of the best and certainly the funniest musicals of all time. Cyd and Fred sparkle on screen. The plot is classic, but wonderful. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars And You Say As You Go On Your Way--That's Entertainment!
THE BAND WAGON is a unique film which gently mocks the conventions of the "backstage musical" genre by piling stereotype upon stereotype to comic effect. Read more
Published on April 21 2002 by Gary F. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars ISN'T FRED ASTAIRE THE QUINTESSENCE OF JOY!!
In this age of angst (to say the least), what better elixir than Fred Astaire, who is pure joy himself. Read more
Published on March 25 2002 by Elaine J. Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars A great musical!
I highly recommend this musical. The dance numbers and
songs are wonderful. It is very entertaining, I'd
give it more stars if I could.
Published on Nov. 18 2001 by Rosella Ann Myles
5.0 out of 5 stars It's true: The Best Musical Ever
Better than "Singin' In The Rain?" Better than "Top Hat?" Better than anything else? Yes. Read more
Published on Nov. 9 2001 by Chris Ward
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