“Who says I can’t get along without her? See those girls? Any one of them has as much talent as she has.”
When his longtime partner (Ann Miller) leaves him to go solo, a dancer (Fred Astaire) takes a chorus girl (Judy Garland) under his wing and decides to turn her into his protegee.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately notes that the result of the triple-switcheroo behind Easter Parade (Fred Astaire replaced Gene Kelly at the last minute when Kelly broke his ankle, while Cyd Charisse was replaced by Ann Miller, and director Charles Walters replaced Vincente Minnelli at the advice of Judy Garland’s psychoanalyst!) resulted in “one of MGM’s brightest, cheeriest musicals”. He’s right to state that “Astaire and Garland” — despite their age gap (Astaire was officially retired at the time) — “are a most engaging screen couple”, and that “it seems Garland is really enjoying herself — which is nice to see”. He notes that there are many “fine musical numbers” — most notably Astaire’s “particularly exciting” solo, ‘Steppin’ Out With My Baby’, in which he “dances in slow motion while the chorus behind him dances at full speed” (impressively ‘daring’ stuff!), and “Ann Miller’s sexy tap solo to ‘Shaking the Blues Away'” (which she unfortunately performed in a great deal of pain, though you’d never know it). He further adds that “the Astaire-Garland numbers are special, too” (‘A Couple of Swells’ remains iconic), and he notes that “the uplifting Irving Berlin score” (fabulous!) is “first-rate and used to perfection” (though he admits to not being “a fan of Peter Lawford’s singing”, a sentiment I can get behind; fortunately, Lawford sings just one short, innocuous song).
Peary points out that the “simple storyline… is essentially Pygmalion“, given that it’s about an accomplished professional (in this case, a dancer) who dares his partner that “he can take an unknown non-professional… and make her… a big star”. Despite its familiarity, it’s handled well enough — and with enough humor — that it feels fresh and engaging. Fleshing out this central storyline is a rather pedestrian, if complicated and unrealistic, love quadrangle (Lawford loves Garland at first sight, but Garland secretly loves Astaire, who is still in love with Miller — though God only knows why! — and Miller has a massive crush on Lawford). This angle of the film is best left under-analyzed, as it’s really just a prop for the non-stop songs and dances (that Berlin score!) that thankfully dominate the screentime.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fred Astaire as Don
- Judy Garland as Hannah
- Astaire singing and dancing to “Drum Crazy” in a toy store
- Astaire and Garland’s many fine dances together
- Astaire’s surreal, oh-so-cool slo-mo dance “Steppin’ Out With My Baby”
Yes, as a most enjoyably escapist musical — and oh, that Irving Berlin score!