The Band Wagon (1953)

111-12 mins | Musical comedy | 7 August 1953

Director:

Vincente Minnelli

Producer:

Arthur Freed

Cinematographers:

Harry Jackson, George Folsey

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Preston Ames

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Strategy of Love and I Love Louisa . According to information in the Arthur Freed Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, M-G-M originally purchased a short story by Peter Viertel called "Strategy of Love" and gave it to screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green to adapt. Viertel's story was discarded, however, in favor of an original story by Comden and Green. A 4 Dec 1951 item in HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column named dancer Vera-Ellen as Astaire's co-star. According to a 25 Jul 1952 HR item, M-G-M sought to borrow Clifton Webb from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. Modern sources confirm that Webb was to portray director "Jeffrey Cordova," adding that Edward G. Robinson and Vincent Price were also considered for the role. Although cinematographer George Folsey is included in all HR production charts, he was replaced by Harry Jackson after the start of production. In his memoir, director Vincente Minnelli wrote that Folsey was fired because the production department felt he was working too slowly. Information in the Freed Collection indicates that Jackson was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. Portions of the film were shot on location in New York City.
       The film was inspired by the 1931 musical revue The Band Wagon , a collection of sketches by George S. Kaufman and Howard Dietz, with songs by Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. The Broadway revue starred Fred Astaire and his sister Adele in their last professional appearance together. At the time the film was made, Dietz was an M-G-M vice-president and the head of publicity for the studio. Minnelli wrote ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Strategy of Love and I Love Louisa . According to information in the Arthur Freed Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, M-G-M originally purchased a short story by Peter Viertel called "Strategy of Love" and gave it to screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green to adapt. Viertel's story was discarded, however, in favor of an original story by Comden and Green. A 4 Dec 1951 item in HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column named dancer Vera-Ellen as Astaire's co-star. According to a 25 Jul 1952 HR item, M-G-M sought to borrow Clifton Webb from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. Modern sources confirm that Webb was to portray director "Jeffrey Cordova," adding that Edward G. Robinson and Vincent Price were also considered for the role. Although cinematographer George Folsey is included in all HR production charts, he was replaced by Harry Jackson after the start of production. In his memoir, director Vincente Minnelli wrote that Folsey was fired because the production department felt he was working too slowly. Information in the Freed Collection indicates that Jackson was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. Portions of the film were shot on location in New York City.
       The film was inspired by the 1931 musical revue The Band Wagon , a collection of sketches by George S. Kaufman and Howard Dietz, with songs by Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. The Broadway revue starred Fred Astaire and his sister Adele in their last professional appearance together. At the time the film was made, Dietz was an M-G-M vice-president and the head of publicity for the studio. Minnelli wrote in his memoir that in order to adapt the show for the screen, "a plot would have to be concocted around the title." Minnelli added that Astaire's involvement inspired the film's plot: "It would be delicious to base the characters on actual people. Why not base his part on the Astaire of a few years back, who'd been in voluntary retirement? Why not develop the situation further by suggesting that fame had passed him by?" A letter in the Freed Collection from Comden's agent, Irving Lazar, stated that because their story for the film was original, Comden and Green did not want the onscreen credits to say the film was "based on" the stage revue. Various modern sources assert that the voice-over narration spoken by Astaire in "The Girl Hunt Ballet" was written anonymously by Alan Jay Lerner. In his memoir, however, Minnelli took credit for the narration, which was inspired by the work of popular detective novelist Mickey Spillane.
       According to Minnelli, the role of the Cordova was patterned on "such flamboyant types as Orson Welles and George S. Kaufman," and writers "Lester and Lily Marton" were based on the film's actual screenwriters, Comden and Green (who, unlike their screen counterparts, were not a married couple). A modern source claims that the part of Cordova was based loosely on José Ferrer. According to information in the Freed Collection, the studio's legal department requested the elimination of a line that described Cordova as a genius who had directed two hit shows and was starring in a third, as "they feel this would point to José Ferrer." Correspondence in the Freed Collection also reveals that Marlon Brando gave permission for his name to be used in a line of dialogue spoken by Astaire's character: "I am not Nijinsky, I am not Marlon Brando--I'm Mrs. Hunter's little boy, Tony--an entertainer." However, Brando required that "entertainer" be changed to "a song-and-dance man." According to a memo from studio executive Rudi Monta, Brando objected to the original dialogue because "he and his agent feel this would imply Mr. Brando is not an entertainer."
       About half of the songs in the film were written for the stage revue. "By Myself" and "Triplets" were written for the 1937 Broadway show Between the Devil ; "A Shine on Your Shoes" and "Louisiana Hayride" came from the 1932 musical revue Flying Colors ; "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan" came from the 1929 Broadway revue The Little Show , which was Dietz and Schwartz's first collaboration. "The Girl Hunt Ballet" and "That's Entertainment" were written for the film. The latter became M-G-M's signature song with the release of the film That's Entertainment! in 1974. According to modern sources, the "Triplets" number was originally to be performed by Astaire, Jack Buchanan and Oscar Levant, but when Levant (who was recovering from a heart attack) backed out because of health concerns, Nanette Fabray took his place. The song "Two-Faced Woman" was recorded by singer India Adams and shot as a dance number for Cyd Charisse, but not used in the final film; instead, Adams' recording of the song was used in the 1953 film Torch Song (See Entry). The 1994 film That's Entertainment! III features a segment in which the omitted footage of Charisse is shown on a split screen with the Joan Crawford production number from Torch Song .
       The Band Wagon received Academy Award nominations for Best Story and Screenplay, Best Costume Design (Color) and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. Among the more famous musical numbers are "Dancing in the Dark," in which Astaire and Charisse alight from a hansom cab and dance in Central Park; "Triplets," in which the stars, portraying querulous babies, sing and dance on their knees (to which shoes were affixed); and "The Girl Hunt Ballet," a dance homage to the hard-boiled detective story. A modern source adds dancer Paul Bradley to the cast.
       The Band Wagon marked the first of two films in which Astraire and Charisse co-starred. Their second co-starring was in the 1957 musical Silk Stockings (see below). Although Astaire and Charisse also appeared in the 1946 M-G-M production of The Ziegfeld Follies (See Entry), they appeared in different sequences. The Band Wagon was ranked 17th on AFI's list of the Greatest Movie Musicals.
       The stage version of The Band Wagon was also the basis for the 1949 Twentieth Century-Fox film Dancing in the Dark (See Entry), which was directed by Irving Reis and starred William Powell and Betsy Drake. Although Dancing in the Dark featured several of the same songs, and is set in the world of show business, it has no connection with the film The Band Wagon . According to modern sources, M-G-M was required to pay Twentieth Century-Fox for the use of the title. The Band Wagon was British actor Jack Buchanan's first U.S. based film since the 1930 Paramount production Monte Carlo , directed by Ernst Lubitsch and co-starring Jeanette MacDonald (See Entry). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
11 Jul 53
p. 18.
Box Office
18 Jul 1953.
---
Cue
11 Jul 1953.
---
Daily Variety
6 Jul 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
7 Jul 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Oct 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 52
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 52
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Oct 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 52
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 53
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 53
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
7 Jul 53
p. 1, 4
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
11 Jul 53
p. 1909.
New York Times
19 Jul 53
sec. II, p. 1.
Newsweek
6 Jul 53
pp. 48-50.
Variety
8 Jul 53
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Estelle Eterre
Richard D'Arcy
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Story and scr
Story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Mus numbers des by
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Prop master
Prop master, rehearsal unit
COSTUMES
Ward
SOUND
Rec supv
Rec
Playback op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Dances and mus numbers staged by
Asst dance dir
Asst dance dir
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Scr supv
Secy
Best boy
Best boy
Stage mgr
STAND INS
Singing voice double for Cyd Charisse
Dancing stand-in for Fred Astaire
Dancing stand-in for Cyd Charisse
Dancing stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Dancing in the Dark," "You and the Night and the Music" and "The Girl Hunt Ballet," music by Arthur Schwartz
"Beggar's Waltz" from the ballet Giselle by Adolphe Adam.
SONGS
"By Myself," "A Shine on Your Shoes," "That's Entertainment," "I Love Louisa," "Triplets," "New Sun in the Sky," "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan" and "Louisiana Hayride," music by Arthur Schwartz, lyrics by Howard Dietz.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
I Love Louisa
Strategy of Love
Release Date:
7 August 1953
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 9 July 1953
Production Date:
9 October 1952--mid January 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
3 July 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2715
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
111-12
Length(in feet):
10,074
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16342
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Tony Hunter, a dancing star whose movie career is in a slump, returns to New York and meets with his old friends, writers Lester and Lily Marton. The Martons reveal that they have written a show as a comeback vehicle for Tony, to be staged by the hot new director Jeffrey Cordova. Tony accompanies the Martons to the Broadway theater where Cordova is starring in his own adaptation of Oedipus Rex , and after watching the heavy-handed dramatics onstage, is skeptical about Cordova's ability to direct a musical comedy. After the play, they meet with Cordova, and Lester and Lily describe their show as a comic romp about an illustrator of children's books who writes lurid murder mysteries on the side. The Martons are taken aback when the flamboyant Cordova announces that he sees the show as a modern version of Faust , and casts himself in the role of the devil. Cordova then surprises them by vowing to cast sought-after ballerina Gabrielle Gerard as the female lead. Tony is wary of Cordova's concept, but the director insists it is time for Tony to remake his image. Later that night, Cordova summons Paul Byrd, Gaby's possessive boyfriend and choreographer. He offers Paul the job of choreographer on the new show and, through flattery and manipulation, succeeds in getting Gaby for his leading lady. The following evening, Tony and the Martons go to the ballet to watch Gaby perform, and Tony is intimidated by both her height and her classical training. They then convene at Cordova's home, where the director is meeting with potential backers. Lester and ... +


Tony Hunter, a dancing star whose movie career is in a slump, returns to New York and meets with his old friends, writers Lester and Lily Marton. The Martons reveal that they have written a show as a comeback vehicle for Tony, to be staged by the hot new director Jeffrey Cordova. Tony accompanies the Martons to the Broadway theater where Cordova is starring in his own adaptation of Oedipus Rex , and after watching the heavy-handed dramatics onstage, is skeptical about Cordova's ability to direct a musical comedy. After the play, they meet with Cordova, and Lester and Lily describe their show as a comic romp about an illustrator of children's books who writes lurid murder mysteries on the side. The Martons are taken aback when the flamboyant Cordova announces that he sees the show as a modern version of Faust , and casts himself in the role of the devil. Cordova then surprises them by vowing to cast sought-after ballerina Gabrielle Gerard as the female lead. Tony is wary of Cordova's concept, but the director insists it is time for Tony to remake his image. Later that night, Cordova summons Paul Byrd, Gaby's possessive boyfriend and choreographer. He offers Paul the job of choreographer on the new show and, through flattery and manipulation, succeeds in getting Gaby for his leading lady. The following evening, Tony and the Martons go to the ballet to watch Gaby perform, and Tony is intimidated by both her height and her classical training. They then convene at Cordova's home, where the director is meeting with potential backers. Lester and Lily overhear part of Cordova's histrionic pitch to the investors--emphasizing the "fiery furnaces of doom"--and are alarmed at how little it resembles their original story. Tony and Gaby meet and immediately rub each other the wrong way. The quarreling stars are about to walk out when Cordova comes out of his meeting and introduces the artists to his new backers. Rehearsals begin, and Tony grows increasingly frustrated with Cordova's directorial style, Gaby's patronizing attitude and the changes to his role. Tony walks out, and is venting his anger in his hotel room when Gaby comes to see him. She is impressed to see that he has decorated his room with pieces from his valuable art collection, and the two performers speak openly with each other for the first time. Tony and Gaby take a moonlit buggy ride through Central Park, and begin to fall in love. Relations are stormy between the Martons, however, as Lester accuses his wife of letting Cordova influence her too strongly. They are still feuding when the company moves to New Haven for out-of-town tryouts, and numerous last-minute problems with the production's elaborate special effects try everyone's patience. The New Haven opening is an abysmal failure, and the show's backers depart in a funereal mood. Tony, Gaby and the Martons revive their spirits at the cast party, and Tony informs Cordova that the show will not close, but will be changed back to the light-hearted entertainment it was originally intended to be. Cordova agrees to put Tony in charge of the show, and when he points out that they have lost their funding, Tony decides to sell his art collection. Paul orders Gaby to quit the show, but she refuses and the two part ways. The revised version of The Band Wagon completes a successful pre-Broadway tour, and one night Tony admits to Lester that he has fallen in love with Gaby, but fears she may still prefer Paul. The Broadway opening is a hit, and the cast pays Tony a heartfelt tribute after the show. While expressing the company's gratitude, Gaby also makes it clear that she has come to love Tony, and they kiss. +

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

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