Arthur Freed’s The Band Wagon (1953) is the other great Vincente Minnelli musical. It stars Fred Astaire as washed up matinee idol, Tony Hunter. Seems Tony’s career in Hollywood has entered the realm of forgotten legend. But that’s about to change when his old time pals, Lily (Nannette Fabray) and Lester Martin (Oscar Levant) conceive of a Broadway comeback for Tony.
Unfortunately for all concerned, the project is passed on to Broadway thespian and director, Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan). Jeff conceives the light-hearted show as a heavy-handed musical rendition of Faust. He casts prima ballerina, Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse) and sets to work on dismantling Lester and Lily’s preconceived notions for mainstream fame. But after the show bombs at a preview even Jeff has a delightful change of heart and, as the old moniker declares, ‘the show’ does indeed ‘go on’.
Scenarists, Adolph Green and Betty Comden fashioned the husband and wife team of Lily and Lester after their own tempestuous clashes. They fill the screen with in-jokes of subtle hilarity. The score, featuring one hit after another, is over-the-top toe-tapping perfection. Of particular interest here are Astaire and Charisse’s lampoon of the pulp novel -The Girl Hunt Ballet, Astaire’s catchy I Love Louisa, the charming Triplets routine, the perfection of Astaire and Charisse Dancing in the Dark and, of course, the great tributary ode to actors everywhere - That’s Entertainment!
Employing their ultra-resolution film restoration process, the good people at Warner Home Video have delivered another outstanding DVD transfer. The Band Wagon has never looked better. Its Technicolor palette is exceptionally rich and vibrant. Blacks are deep and solid. Whites are crisp, but never blooming. Age related artifacts are present but greatly minimized.
The audio has been impeccably remastered. Extras include two marvelous documentaries; one on the making of the film, the other on the career of Vincente Minnelli; as well as absorbing audio commentaries from Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein; a trite short subject featuring Jack Buchanan, and an Astaire theatrical trailer gallery. Great stuff and well worth the price of admission.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)