Royal Wedding (1951)

93 mins | Musical, Romance | 23 March 1951

Director:

Stanley Donen

Writer:

Alan Jay Lerner

Producer:

Arthur Freed

Cinematographer:

Robert Planck

Editor:

Albert Akst

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The following information was taken from HR news items, M-G-M press releases in the production file on the film in the AMPAS library and the M-GM Music Collection and the Arthur Freed Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library: In early 1949, Fred Astaire and June Allyson were cast in a picture tentatively titled Niagara Falls . That film was to have a honeymoon theme and be set in Niagara Falls. Because the title Niagara Falls was registered to Hal Roach Studios, which produced a picture of the same name in 1941 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ), M-G-M changed the title of the Astaire-Allyson production to Royal Wedding and moved the setting of the story to London.
       In late May 1950, before production began, Allyson, who was by then pregnant, was replaced by Judy Garland, who had co-starred with Astaire and Peter Lawford in Easter Parade (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). According to memos in the M-G-M Collection, Garland was suspended by M-G-M on 17 Jun 1950 for not reporting to rehearsals for Royal Wedding . According to director Stanley Donen's autobiography, Charles Walters was initially assigned to the film but withdrew because he did not want to work with Garland again after the difficulties he encountered on her previous film, Summer Stock (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). On 19 Jun 1950, according to newspaper accounts, a deeply depressed Garland attempted suicide in the wake of her third, and final, suspension from the studio to which she had been under ... More Less

The following information was taken from HR news items, M-G-M press releases in the production file on the film in the AMPAS library and the M-GM Music Collection and the Arthur Freed Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library: In early 1949, Fred Astaire and June Allyson were cast in a picture tentatively titled Niagara Falls . That film was to have a honeymoon theme and be set in Niagara Falls. Because the title Niagara Falls was registered to Hal Roach Studios, which produced a picture of the same name in 1941 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ), M-G-M changed the title of the Astaire-Allyson production to Royal Wedding and moved the setting of the story to London.
       In late May 1950, before production began, Allyson, who was by then pregnant, was replaced by Judy Garland, who had co-starred with Astaire and Peter Lawford in Easter Parade (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). According to memos in the M-G-M Collection, Garland was suspended by M-G-M on 17 Jun 1950 for not reporting to rehearsals for Royal Wedding . According to director Stanley Donen's autobiography, Charles Walters was initially assigned to the film but withdrew because he did not want to work with Garland again after the difficulties he encountered on her previous film, Summer Stock (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). On 19 Jun 1950, according to newspaper accounts, a deeply depressed Garland attempted suicide in the wake of her third, and final, suspension from the studio to which she had been under contract for fourteen years.
       Memos in the M-G-M Collection document that Ben Goetz, then head of production at M-G-Ms British studios, attempted to obtain color newsreel footage of the 20 Nov 1947 royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, from Gaumont-British News, but was initially unable to obtain any because of the objections of the royal family. Eventually some footage of the parade was obtained, but none that featured either the royal couple or the interior of Westminster Abbey. In order to obtain permission to use the footage included in the film, M-G-M additionally agreed to change the pictures release title in Britain from Royal Wedding to Wedding Bells to avoid any inference that the picture was about the real royal wedding. Footage of the wedding parade that shows a horse-drawn coach, seemingly that of Elizabeth and Philip, was not of the actual coach used by the royal couple.
       Several of the films musical numbers have been shown in documentaries on musicals, including "I Left My Hat in Haiti," "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life," "Sunday Jumps" and "You're All the World to Me." In "Sunday Jumps," Astaire dances solo to an instrumental background as he rehearses dance steps using, among other things, a coat rack and barbells. Alan Jay Lerner wrote lyrics for the song, but they were not used in the film. Portions of this number were included in a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner commercial shown on television in the late 1990s. The computer-altered dance routine showed Astaire dancing with a vacuum cleaner instead of a coat rack. The controversial ad, one of two featuring Astaire, was made after Astaire's 1987 death.
       "You're All the World to Me" is one of the most famous dance numbers ever filmed, and is popularly known as the "Dancing on the Ceiling" number. In the number, which is also an Astaire solo, "Tom Brown" is seated in a small sitting room in his hotel and starts to sing to a photograph of "Anne." As he does, he begins to dance, first on the floor, then on the walls and the ceiling as the tempo accelerates. As explained in an illustrated Life magazine article on 26 Mar 1951, the number, which "makes him [Astaire] seem to trample on the laws of gravity," was accomplished by use of a small rotating room. The camera, cameraman and furnishings were anchored to the floor so that, as the room rotated, it would appear that Astaire, the only "object" moving, was dancing on the walls and ceiling. In his autobiography, Donen stated that Lerner was the person who came up with the idea of Astaire in a dancing on the ceiling number, although in interviews, Astaire stated that the idea originated with him. Most contemporary reviews only briefly mentioned the number, with many singling out "How Could You Believe Me...," which featured Astaire and Powell in a comic, Brooklyn accented song and dance routine, as the shows highlight.
       Some contemporary and modern sources have pointed out similarities between the characters of Tom and "Ellen Brown" and Astaire and his real-life sister Adele. Like the characters in the film, the Astaires were popular musical comedy stars both on Broadway and on London's West End. Like the character Ellen, in 1931 Adele retired from the stage to marry a member of the British nobility, Lord Charles Cavendish. Unlike Powell, though, who was thirty years Fred Astaire's junior, Adele was a year older than her brother.
       Actress Sarah Churchill was the daughter of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Royal Wedding marked her American motion picture debut. According to memos in the M-G-M Collection, the publicity department was told that it could not specifically mention Churchill's father in the exploitation campaign for the film. In a memo to studio executives, M-G-M trailer producer Frank Whitbeck stated "...on the suggestion that Sarah Churchill be featured prominently in the trailer, I am not sure this is a good idea. Miss Churchill is a fine performer, but photogenically I don't think that she would be that attractive unless people knew that she was Winston Churchill's daughter, and as you suggest, we could not use any such reference."
       Royal Wedding received only one Academy Award nomination, for Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner's song "Too Late Now." According to M-G-M production records, the film cost $1,590,920, less than $12,000 over its estimated budget. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Feb 1951.
---
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1951.
---
Daily Variety
5 Feb 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
14 Feb 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
21 Mar 1951.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 50
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 50
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Feb 51
p. 3.
Life
26 Mar 51
p. 156, 159.
Los Angeles Examiner
22 Jun 1951.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
23 Jun 1951.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Mar 1951.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 Feb 51
p. 705.
New York Times
8 Mar 51
p. 37.
New York Times
9 Mar 51
p. 30.
Time
12 May 1951.
---
Variety
7 Feb 51
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
Story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
London process shots
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Dances by
Asst dance dir
Asst dance dir
MAKEUP
Hair styles des
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
STAND INS
Singing voice double for Keenan Wynn
Dance-in
Dance-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Sunday Jumps" by Burton Lane.
SONGS
"Every Night at Seven," "Open Your Eyes," "Happiest Day of My Life," "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life," "Too Late Now," "You're All the World to Me," "I Left My Hat in Haiti" and "What a Lovely Day for a Wedding," music by Burton Lane, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Niagara Falls
Wedding Bells
Release Date:
23 March 1951
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 8 March 1951
Los Angeles opening: 20 March 1951
Production Date:
6 July--24 August 1950
retakes began mid October 1950
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
5 February 1951
Copyright Number:
LP699
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
93
Length(in feet):
8,357
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14897
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

As soon as brother and sister dance team Tom and Ellen Brown's long-running Broadway show closes, they learn from their agent, Irving Klinger, that the show has been booked by his London-based brother Edgar to play at the Mayfair theater during the festivities surrounding the wedding of Princess Elizabeth. A few days later, the flirtatious Ellen leaves her suitors on the dock while she and Tom set sail for England. As she boards, Ellen catches the eye of Lord John Brindale, a well-known "skirt chaser," who winks at her. During the voyage, Johnny and Ellen are amused by their similarities and begin a romance. Once in London, Tom warns Ellen not to party during rehearsals, and Ellen promises to be good. On the way to auditions for the show, Tom encounters Anne Ashmond on the street. She thinks that he is following her and is surprised when she discovers that he is the show's star. Tom immediately hires her for a part in the show, then asks her out that night. Back at the hotel, Ellen and Tom both say they are turning in early, then separately sneak out to meet their respective dates. During the evening, Anne tells Tom that she has loved to dance since childhood, when she would sometimes imagine herself dancing on the ceiling. Later she takes Tom to a pub run by her American-hating father James, who is easily won over by the friendly Tom. Anne admits to Tom that she is engaged to American Hal Rayton, who lives in Chicago, but they enjoy each other's company and agree to go out again, without the pressure of a ... +


As soon as brother and sister dance team Tom and Ellen Brown's long-running Broadway show closes, they learn from their agent, Irving Klinger, that the show has been booked by his London-based brother Edgar to play at the Mayfair theater during the festivities surrounding the wedding of Princess Elizabeth. A few days later, the flirtatious Ellen leaves her suitors on the dock while she and Tom set sail for England. As she boards, Ellen catches the eye of Lord John Brindale, a well-known "skirt chaser," who winks at her. During the voyage, Johnny and Ellen are amused by their similarities and begin a romance. Once in London, Tom warns Ellen not to party during rehearsals, and Ellen promises to be good. On the way to auditions for the show, Tom encounters Anne Ashmond on the street. She thinks that he is following her and is surprised when she discovers that he is the show's star. Tom immediately hires her for a part in the show, then asks her out that night. Back at the hotel, Ellen and Tom both say they are turning in early, then separately sneak out to meet their respective dates. During the evening, Anne tells Tom that she has loved to dance since childhood, when she would sometimes imagine herself dancing on the ceiling. Later she takes Tom to a pub run by her American-hating father James, who is easily won over by the friendly Tom. Anne admits to Tom that she is engaged to American Hal Rayton, who lives in Chicago, but they enjoy each other's company and agree to go out again, without the pressure of a romance. During rehearsals, Ellen keeps her promise not to go out, while Tom sees Anne every night. The day before the opening, Johnny goes to see Ellen and Tom at their hotel and promises to be in the theater the next night. That evening, though, Ellen is heartbroken when she receives flowers and a card from Johnny saying that he cannot be at the opening because he has to attend a party for the royal couple. Tom is also blue because Anne will not be at the opening night party, but will be home waiting for a call from Hal, who has not written in months. Agreeing that the show is the most important thing, Tom and Ellen decide to go to the party together. The next night, the show is a hit, and Ellen is overjoyed when Johnny leaves a royal party to be with her. Now alone, Tom wanders over to the pub and learns from James that Hal did not call. Because James and his estranged wife Sarah are scheduled to view the royal wedding gifts the next day, and James is nervous to see her, Tom promises to come along for moral support. Walking home, Tom passes by the theater and takes a photograph of Anne from a lobby display. In his hotel room, Tom gazes lovingly at the photograph and imagines himself dancing on the ceiling. Meanwhile, Ellen and Johnny decide that they are in love and Johnny asks her to marry him. The next morning, Edgar brings the newspapers to Ellen and Tom, who read their glowing reviews over breakfast. Before Edgar leaves, Tom asks him to call Irving in New York and see if he can find any information on Hal. That afternoon, Tom accompanies the nervous James to meet Sarah and Anne, and the tentatively reconciled couple happily go to view the royal wedding gifts. Before the performance that night, Edgar tells Tom that Irving learned Hal has been married for several months. After the show, Tom confesses to Anne what he has learned and is surprised to find that she is happy about the news. They admit that they love each other, but when she asks if he wants to marry her, he declines, saying that he would be a flop as a husband. At the hotel that night, Ellen and Tom nervously reveal the news of their respective romances, but talk each other out of marriage and agree to keep the act together, just as it has always been. On the morning of the royal wedding, all of London is celebrating, except Tom and Ellen, who downheartedly view the parade together. Inspired by the jubilation of the crowd, Tom and Ellen realize that they cannot be happy unless they get married and determine to do so immediately. Edgar agrees to arrange everything while Tom finds Anne and Ellen finds Johnny. That afternoon, the two couples are married and walk arm-in-arm through the throng of celebrating Londoners. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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