Easter Parade(released June/48)stars,among others,Fred Astaire,Judy Garland,Ann Miller and Peter Lawford.It is just by accident that Mr.Astaire agreed to do the film in the first place.Gene Kelly had injured himself during a football match on his property and it was he who phoned Fred to suggest he do it.Fred has been on a self imposed "retirement" and was eventually persuaded ...happily for us.This was to be Judy Garland's second picture with Gene,which it didn't turn out to be.Her first was The Pirate.Judy had only been out of a psychiatric sanitarium for a short time when she was signed for this.Judy pulled through the filming like a trooper and Fred was pleased with his working relationship with her.Easter Parade proved to be one of the highest grossers of 1948.What would have been Fred and Judy's second pairing,right on the heels of Parade,was The Barklays of Broadway.Rehearsals began but Judy became totally erratic in behaviour,turning up late consistently and becoming short tempered and lost a great deal of weight.Fred was beside himself and so were the producers,who fired her off of the picture.That film saw,of course,the reuniting of Fred and Ginger(their last).Let's look at the plot of Parade.
The story finds Fred as half of a famous dancing team,with Ann Miller his other half.The film's first boffo number is with Fred of course and it is called Drum Crazy.He arrives back at Anns apartment with some haberdashery only to find out Ann wants to go solo.Even a plaintive dance with Fred doesn't change her mind.She is in love,it appears,with their good friend Peter Lawford,who will come and go throughout the film as needed.Peter hasn`t that much of interest in Ann,if any. Fred walks out to the local bar,claiming to the bar tender he can make a dancer out of anyone.In a small chorus line at the bar there is Judy.He picks her out of the line up and starts her on a long path of grooming her for his show.He at first changes her name to an exotic one in order,he thinks,to up the intrigue factor.After a while he realizes it is not working and Judy reverts back to her old name with a more relaxed dancing and singing style.Their act slowly but surely now takes off.
Peter and Judy accidentally bump into each other during a rain storm and Peter falls heavily for her.However Judy has since fallen for Fred.Fred still has feelings for Ann,but won`t admit it.When rehearsal for a chance to join the Ziegfeld Follies comes up,Fred turns the engagement down, knowing his ex partner Ann is also in the show.Shortly after Fred and Judy get an invitation to join a show by Dillingham,made especially for them.They accept and they become a giant attraction.One night they celebrate by going to the Follies,and after Ann does her number,she asks Fred,purposely,to come up and dance one of their old famous numbers for the audience.He unfortunately is put on the spot and gives in.Judy isn`t impressed and leaves.
Judy arrives home where Fred is waiting but she will not see him.He waits outside but is forced to leave because of a detective.Peter Lawford arrives the next day,having been at Fred`s.Getting a heads up on the situation,he plays it coyly.Peter has since realized that it is Fred who Judy really loves,and Peter is there to make sure she and Fred get back together,and he succeeds.Next day Fred is at home and receives a top hat with a pink bow,a rabbit and some flowers.Thinking they are mistakes Judy suddenly appears and he realizes then who sent them.Judy and Fred sing Easter Parade and as they walk in the actual parade outside,Fred gives Judy an engagement ring.
I am sure one of the inducement`s to come back and do this picture,besides Gene Kelly`s recommendations,was the musical score.It was by Fred`s old friend Irving Berlin, tune smith supremo;how could it go wrong? Fred showed no signs of rustiness in his routines or singing and was,as always,on top of his game.After all,Moaning Minnie,as his sister Adele used to call him,would have it no other way.The supporting cast was a good one.There is a wonderful turn from Jules Munshin as François the waiter.He has a beautiful moment when he describes,in grand gestures,the restaurants famous salad.The only weak link is Lawford,who comes and goes as a love interest for Ann and Judy(which could have been handled by any good looking dude),but his `singing` is totally pedestrian to say the least.
Technically speaking the film is in its full screen ratio and the print here is a good one,with some slight colour fading periodically. Extras include commentary by Ava,Fred`s daughter.
All in all a great vehicle for Mr Astaire and Judy Garland.There are some unforgettable numbers here with A Couple of Swells being one of the best.Highly recommended.4 1/2 stars.