Easter Parade

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1912, Broadway star Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) is buying Easter presents for his sweetheart, starting with a hat and some flowers (“Happy Easter”). He goes into a toy shop and buys a cuddly Easter rabbit, after persuading a young boy to part with it and buy a set of drums instead (“Drum Crazy”). Hewes takes the gifts to his dancing partner, Nadine Hale (Ann Miller), who explains that she has an offer for a show that would feature her as a solo star. Don tries to change her mind and it looks as if he has succeeded (“It Only Happens When I Dance With You”), until Don’s best friend, Johnny (Peter Lawford), turns up. Nadine reveals that she and Don are no longer a team and it becomes obvious that Nadine is attracted to Johnny.

Angry, Don leaves to drown his sorrows at a bar. Johnny follows him and tries to persuade him to talk to Nadine, but to no avail; Don brags that he does not need Nadine and that he can make a star of the next dancer he meets. After Johnny leaves, he picks out one of the girls dancing on the stage, Hannah Brown (Judy Garland), and tells her to meet him for rehearsal the next day. Hannah then performs a duet, singing a musical number with a member of the band (Norman S. Barker) on trombone, “I Want to Go Back to Michigan.” The next morning, Don tries to turn Hannah into a copy of Nadine, teaching her to dance the same way, buying her dresses in a similar style and giving her an “exotic” stage name, “Juanita.” However, Hannah makes several mistakes at their first performance and the show is a fiasco.

Hannah meets Johnny, who is instantly attracted to her and sings “A Fella With An Umbrella” while walking her to her rehearsal with Don. At the rehearsal, Don, realizing his mistake, decides to start over from scratch by creating routines more suited to Hannah’s personality. Hannah sings “I Love A Piano” and she works out a dance routine with Don that proves much more successful than their earlier performance. The duo, now known as “Hannah & Hewes”, are shown to be performing “Snookie-Ookums”, “The Ragtime Violin”, and “When That Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves For Alabam'” in a montage of their performances.

At an audition for Ziegfeld Follies, where they perform “Midnight Choo-Choo”, they meet Nadine who is starring in the show. Hannah realizes that Nadine was Don’s former dancing partner and demands to know if they were in love. Don hesitates and Hannah runs out of the rehearsal where she encounters Johnny. Later, Don meets Hannah back at the hotel and reveals that he turned down the Ziegfeld offer, believing that Hannah and Nadine do not belong in the same show. Johnny soon arrives and takes Hannah out for dinner at which, after a comical routine by the waiter, Johnny reveals that he has fallen in love with Hannah. While Hannah does like Johnny, she admits she is actually in love with Don; she also admits to deliberately making mistakes when they rehearse so she can be with him longer. She and Johnny continue to have a close friendship.

Meanwhile, Nadine’s show opens and Don goes to see it (“Shakin’ The Blues Away”). He is the only member of the audience who seems unimpressed. Later on, Don goes to see Hannah and tell her that they will be starring in another show and invites her to dinner to celebrate. Hannah goes to dinner at Don’s, only to have him suggest a dance rehearsal. She is immediately upset and turns to walk out, telling him that he’s “nothing but a pair of dancing shoes” and that he doesn’t see her as a woman, but as a dancing aid. Hannah is particularly annoyed that Don doesn’t notice her new clothes and all the effort she has made for him. She tries to leave, but Don stops her and kisses her. Hannah then plays the piano and sings “It Only Happens When I Dance With You,” after which Don realizes he is in love with Hannah and they embrace.

The couple take part in a variety show, with a solo by Don (“Steppin’ Out With My Baby”) and then comes the most famous musical number in the film (“A Couple of Swells”), in which Don and Hannah play a pair of street urchins with vivid imaginations. Don and Hannah go out to celebrate after the show and end up watching Nadine perform. Nadine is mad with jealousy when the audience gives Don and Hannah a round of applause as they come in. Nadine is the star dancer in “The Girl On The Magazine Cover.” The song features an ingenious stage act, in which women appear against backdrops that look like the covers of contemporary magazines. Nadine herself appears on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Afterwards, she insists that Don perform one of their old numbers with her for old times’ sake, as she tries to win Don back – “It Only Happens When I Dance With You (Reprise).” When Don reluctantly agrees, Hannah becomes upset and runs out.

She ends up at the bar where she and Don first met. There she pours out her troubles to Mike the bartender (“Better Luck Next Time”). Later, when Hannah returns to her apartment, she finds Don waiting for her. Don tries to explain that he was forced to dance with Nadine, but Hannah thinks Don used her to make Nadine jealous and win her back. Don tells Hannah he’ll wait all night for her to forgive him, but just before Hannah opens the door, Don is kicked out of her building by the house detective. The next morning Hannah is telling Johnny about her and Don’s misunderstanding. Johnny says if he loved someone he would let her know it, implying that Hannah should forget the argument and be with Don. Hannah realizes that Johnny is right and goes to meet Don for their date for the Easter Parade.

Meanwhile, Don has been receiving various gifts at his apartment that morning, such as a rabbit and a new top hat, unaware that they’re from Hannah. She arrives unexpectedly at his house, as if the argument never happened. Don is a little confused by this turn of events, but decides to go out with Hannah anyway. As they walk in the Easter parade, photographers, echoing a scene with Nadine from the beginning of the film, take their pictures and Don proposes to Hannah (“Easter Parade”).

REVIEW:

Yes, I know that I’m a little late with Easter Parade since Easter was about a month ago. That isn’t my fault! Blame Netflix and their waiting system. Still, it was nice to finally get this classic musical in, since this is a watch that was long overdue.

What is this about?

Judy Garland and Fred Astaire sing and trip the light fantastic to 17 Irving Berlin tunes in this romantic classic. The simple plot concerns a hoofer (Astaire) who teams with an inexperienced chorus girl (Garland) in order to show up his former dance partner, Nadine (Ann Miller).

What did I like?

Dance, dance. Avid followers of this blog know that I have a tremendous respect for the works of Gene Kelly. As it turns out, this was supposed to have been his role, but he had to pull out because of an injury, but talked Fred Astaire out of retirement. I don’t know about you, but I’d say that was a pretty even trade. If you can’t have Kelly, Astaire is just as good, and some would argue better. The dancing scenes with him are superb, but do you really expect anything less?

Costumes. Set in the early 1900s, costumes are something that has to be top-notch. The design and scope of these outfits does not disappoint. Then again, this is an old Hollywood musical, back then they cared about putting on a show, rather than impressing a bunch of old fuddy duddy Oscar voters.

Music. Irving Berlin wrote great songs for this musical. A couple of standouts for me were “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” and the titular “Easter Parade”, but there are a bevy of other tunes to please the viewers auditory senses. Make no mistake, though, not all these songs are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but most will have you humming them for days after the end credits roll.

What didn’t I like?

Love story. There is a bit of a love story that wants to be front and center but, as with every Fred Astaire film I’ve seen, it pushed back until the very end. I believe the film could have benefited from allowing some quality time with these characters exploring their feelings for each other, rather than suddenly realizing in the last couple of minutes.

Not in Kansas, anymore. Judy Garland is a great actress. We all know that, but this isn’t her best work. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t an indictment of her ability, but rather the way this character is written. She just isn’t given much to do. Garland deserves more, or they should have gotten a lesser actress for this role.

Overall, Easter Parade was a pretty good time. It wasn’t the best musical I’ve seen, and I felt that had Gene Kelly actually been able to star in it, it would have been that much better. This is a film that should be seen by everyone, so maybe next year around Easter, how about giving it a shot?

4 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Easter Parade”

  1. […] Since Sunday is Easter, I figured the perfect choice for this week’s trailer would be the classic musical, Easter Parade. […]

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