But back to THE BANDWAGON - Fred is wonderful here in 1953, Cyd is at the pinnacle of her career, Fabray and Levant are fine and - maybe best of all - Jack Buchanan is an insane delight as highbrow theatre director Jeffrey Cordova, maybe based on Orson Welles - even the throwaway shot of that poster for his show Oedipus Rex (where we first see him hamming it up) has it billed as presented by, starring, written and directed by him. This Arthur Freed production, with Roger Edens also on board, the witty script satirising show business folk is by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with Michael Kidd handling the dances and those Howard Dietz songs which all mesh perfectly without a dull moment, starting with that satire on ageing star Tony Hunter and the auction of his top hat and then his arrival in New York - where we have two of Fred's best ever numbers: the wistful "By Myself" as he leaves the train (those journalists were waiting for Ava Gardner!) - Judy makes this song an angry powerhouse statement (which is also perfect in its context) in her I COULD GO ON SINGING, but Fred's version is delightful here; and then we have that dazzling "Put A Shine On Your Shoes" with everything in the amusement arcade thrown in, before Fred meets the Martins (Nanette and Oscar) and their idea for a new show - which leads us to theatre egomaniac Jeffrey Cordova as we go backstage at his Oedipus Rex. Cue seeing ballet dancer Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd) on stage and then we all adjoin to Cordova's town-house and that perfect yellow and white study (pure Minnelli) while Gaby and her partner choreographer Paul Byrd (James Mitchell) are in an adjoining red room. We overhear Cordova wowing the investors as Fred and Cyd size each other up. There is also that delicious scene when Cordova calls Paul over at 3 a.m. and skillfully manoeuvers him into demanding that dancer Gaby is cast in the show! as Hal - Cordova's constantaly on-call assistant (or maybe more?) - wearily rings the papers. Minnelli's THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE in '58 also had decor to die for [as per my post on that].
Lots of amusement follows as the show is cast and begins to work and then we get that perfect number "Dancing in the Dark" as Fred and Cyd escape the rehearsals and take a horse and carriage to the park and the number expresses their concerns about dancing together as they effortlessly mesh together rising and falling until spent and exhausted they fall back into the carriage. Its a moment of pure rapture.
Then we have the giant egg with appropriate sounds as the opening peformance is a colossal flop - and Fred takes over and the show is re-done and we get one marvellous number after another: Cyd in that yellow dress with the splash of red, "Triplets", "Louisiana Hayride" and Fred and Jack in that delightful "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan". I really only know Buchanan from this movie, its a shame there were no later great musicals for him. Then we get the iconic "Girl Hunt" ballet where Fred and Cyd dazzle - when Cyd displays that red dress and those legs ... and finally that last reprise of the anthem "That's Entertainment" as Cyd tells Fred the show will run forever. Its all bliss, pure bliss. For me, the best MGM musical then, followed by KISS ME KATE - and Gene's later ones ITS ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER and LES GIRLS. Time now to dig out the dvd and those extra features and making-of documentaries... Fred of course went on to those other favorites of mine FUNNY FACE and SILK STOCKINGS (sorry, not DADDY LONG LEGS). Perfect end comment: "This was THE smart and sophisticated musical comedy of the '50s, an era when New York adults still set pop trends and before American culture became corrupted and dumbed down by television. It's not just nostalgia to say they don't make them like they used to."