Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Parade

Easter Parade easily falls into a category of things I loved as a child but have had to rethink as a grownup (also in this category: Goonies*, Breakfast at Tiffany's**, South Pacific***, meatloaf****, and corndogs*****.)

You have to roll your eyes at this film, but I watch it every year anyway. It's one of two spin-off films from the great (albeit silly) classic Holiday Inn, the other being one of my favorite films of all time, White Christmas. I'll take Kaye over Astaire any day.

Yes, Fred Astaire is his usual douchie, self important, condescending self in Easter Parade starring alongside Judy Garland-- whom I adored in both Meet Me in St. Louis and The Wizard of Oz, but later formed a keen distaste for upon discovering her icky aging-cigarette-voiced-Christmas album in the Kmart bargain bin about fifteen years ago-- who overacts, over sings, and can't really dance at all.

The story is essentially Pygmalion, though decidedly less charming than it's counterparts and lazily constructed to match box office blockbusters of the day. It's therefore the type of movie musical that makes most of you out there DESPISE movie musicals, especially from this golden era. Here is Fred at his lowest ebb, just after his first retirement from cinema, cranky from the flash and pomp of it all. And there is Judy, emerging from a nervous breakdown, a suicide attempt, and a psychiatric hospital stay just weeks before filming.

If you're not familiar with the film, excuse the spoiler (although, why exactly would you watch this film for the first time after reading this glowing review?) but I'm going to cut to the end here. After an hour and a half of silly yet welcomed dance numbers and a dramatic makeover on Garland's part, the film slowly beats itself into a frenzy of jealous dancers, back stabbing performances ("It Only Happens When I Dance With You"), and flip flopping accusations. Who are we mad at again? Which one of you did wrong?

We take a deep breath, check our watches, then exit the film as quickly as I've ever seen. With an outpouring of gifts (including a gorgeous live white rabbit), a 'let's laugh it off' apology, an iconic stroll down fifth avenue, and a VERY QUICK proposal there amongst Easter bonnets, top hats, and jolly well wishes, we're kicked right off the MGM lot. Anyway, enough.

Almost unsurprisingly-- this was the most financially successful picture for both Garland and Astaire as well as the highest-grossing musical of 1948. And for the very same reason that thousands of movie goers stormed the theaters fifty years ago, I too will watch this film this weekend. I suppose it's my version of the Cadbury egg-- a stupidly sweet treat that comes around but once a year. Despite it's flaws Easter Parade is there in my history and I can't reject it, not just yet.

*really stupid
**not stupid AT ALL, but definitely racist and about prostitution.
***kind of stupid, and also racist and about prostitution!
****thanks, JSF
*****thanks again!


Laura said...

I loved this post! The funny thing is, I've seen Easter Parade at least a dozen times and I couldn't have told you anything about the plot before reading this review. It's one of those that always seems like a good idea but then I lose interest and fall asleep or start doing something else before it's over. Also when I read meatloaf, at first I thought you meant the band - so I'm glad you included the link (though, after having meatloaf on your birthday every year for many years in a row I don't know how I could have misread it!).

Gail said...

I agree that the plot is lacking, but you have to love the choreography in the first scene with the drums and cheating the spoiled little boy out of the big white rabbit! The way Fred taps those feet is a treat for me! I also love the fashion show of hats and dresses put on in order for Fred to choose the perfect hat! Emily and I watched it Easter Eve.