"This movie begins with a phenomenal if misleading shot. It shows a top hat and cane belonging to former dancing legend Tony Hunter being auctioned, with no takers. Of course, if you see a top hat and cane, you think "Fred Astaire." But despite the implication and reference, Fred Astaire was, at the time this film was being made, still very much the greatest dancer in the movies (with apologies to Gene Kelly). Unlike Tony Hunter, he had never ceased to make "A" pictures. But no one could have played this role with more authority than Astaire. The plot is simple: washed-out and used-up former dance legend Tony Hunter is returning to Broadway in an attempt to revive his sagging career. That provides the pretext that is needed for a nearly perfect musical. THE BAND WAGON is a magnificent blend of great songs, great music, great dancer numbers, great actors, and great comedy. The cast is perfect. You get not only the greatest song and dance man in movie history but also a magnificent partner in the elegant and leggy Cyd Charise. You get great comic relief with Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray. And you get one of the few musical comedy performers who could rival Fred Astaire for elegance and charm in Jack Buchanan.The musical numbers are both marvelous and apparently never ending. The film begins with Fred performing "By Myself" and then soon shifts to a thoroughly rousing version of "Shine on My Shoes." Later in the film, two enormously debonair song and dance men (Fred and Jack) perform "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan's." And that doesn't even come close to exhausting the list. Perhaps the highpoint of the film, however, comes when Tony and Gabrielle, the ballet performer the producers want to partner him with, uncertain that they will be able to dance with each other at all, take a carriage ride through Central Park to try to get to know each other. As they drive, they come upon an outdoor dance floor, with an orchestra playing the haunting Dietz and Schwartz classic "Dancing in the Dark" (which lyricist Dietz intended to be a meditation about the nature of human existence; Schwartz's music matched the mood of the lyrics perfectly). Tony and Gabrielle get out and begin to walk together in rhythm, gradually and tentatively attempting a few dance steps. Eventually, they discover each other's rhythm, and they begin to dance together marvelously and magnificently, matching the mood of the music precisely. It is one of the greatest moments in either Astaire or Charisse's career. This is a must see film for any fan of the movie musical. I have to confess that I am not, by and large, a big fan of the MGM musical. I prefer the kookiness of the older RKO musicals, or even the stylized musicals of Warners or even Fox. MGM musicals were, to me, too often overproduced and dominated by the art directors. This film, however, is a magnificent exception."
And You Say As You Go On Your Way--That's Entertainment!
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 04/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE BAND WAGON is a unique film which gently mocks the conventions of the "backstage musical" genre by piling stereotype upon stereotype to comic effect. While some viewers see the film as purely cliche and dismiss it as such, those in tune with its covert satire often rank it as one of Hollywood's finest musicals. But however you look at it, THE BAND WAGON offers two of Hollywood's greatest dancers, three memorable character actors, fabulous music, and some of the finest musical set pieces ever created for film.The story is slight but contains unexpected twists. Fred Astaire is a has-been movie musical star (much of the film actually parodies his own history) who decides to return to Broadway--and unexpectedly finds himself trapped in a musical adaptation of Faust with a neurotic director (Jack Buchanan), two irate writers (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray) and a decidedly icy leading lady (Cyd Charisse.) Needless to say, disaster follows disaster until every one concerned decides to junk the Faust element and do something purely entertaining instead. As with most Vincent Minnelli films, THE BAND WAGON is visually stunning in virtually every manner possible, and the loose plot offers plenty of room for one dazzling musical number after another. Astaire literally defies time with his work in this film and Charisse makes an exceptional partner; at the same time, Buchanan, Fabray, and Levant lend a touch of acid humor that adds considerably to the fun.The musical numbers are everything here, and they are all--including the disasterous Faust rehearsal--beautifully and memorably staged: the opening shoe shine number, the simple beauty of 'Dancing in the Dark,' the brief turns by Buchanan, Fabray and Levant are all charmers... and 'That's Entertainment' sums up the intent of the film. Although some find it extremely slight, THE BAND WAGON remains one of the few truly great movie musicals of the 1950s--and easily one of the truly great movie musicals of Hollywood's golden age. Recommended."
For Many of Us, the Best Musical
Allen Smalling | Chicago, IL United States | 05/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not prepared to be objective about "The Band Wagon." To me it has the artistry of "An American in Paris" and the rollicking fun of "Singing in the Rain." Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse have never danced better before or since and this backstage musical with plenty of tunes by Dietz and Schwartz gives them plenty of opportunity to strut their stuff. To me the "Dancing in the Dark" sequence is the most sublime dance number ever recorded on film."The Band Wagon" is not just a musical, but a musical about musicals. Fred Astaire plays a slightly down-and-out version of himself, "Tony Hunter," who was "in all those singing and dancing pictures ten or twelve years ago, but the critics say he's washed up." Against his better judgment Tony gets teamed up with Cyd in an arty version of "Faust" that has disaster written all over it. But you know show people . . . and musicals . . .This movie really gets a split response. Nobody hates it but for some it's "just okay" and then there are the ones like me who LOOVE it. It's my favorite musical and one of my favorite movies, period. I'm very glad Amazon is stocking it again. If you're a fan of Astaire, director Vincente Minnelli, or the MGM films of the early fifties, I doubt you'll be disappointed if you take a chance on "The Band Wagon.""
The BAND WAGON sparkles like never before!
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 04/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This stunning new 2-disc edition of THE BAND WAGON - in my opinion the greatest musical ever made at MGM - is a must for all classic movie fans. The story is simple and effective. Washed-up Hollywood hoofer Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) goes to try his luck on the Broadway stage, in a musical written by husband-and-wife team Lester and Lily Marton (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray). Bombastic `renaissance man' Jeffrey Kordova (Jack Buchanan) is assigned to direct and the simple sunny musical written by the Martons' is transformed into a moralistic Faustian tale. Tony is frustrated-still by his leading lady, elegant ballerina Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse). Will the show come together? Will Tony and Gaby ever get along? Find and join the joyous BAND WAGON!
The film looks glorious in an all-new `Ultra Resolution' restorative transfer. The colours fairly pop off the screen. The sound is presented in a newly-mastered 5.1 mix (though the original mono track is also available for purists). Extras include a delightful audio commentary where old pals Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein have a grand time (Minnelli talks about her father's experiences directing the picture and she shares her memories of visiting the set as a wide-eyed 6-year-old). There's also a new Making-Of featurette, with new interviews of Nanette Fabray, Cyd Charisse, James Mitchell and Ava Astaire McKenzie, Fred's daughter. The cut number "Two-Faced Woman" is presented both in it's full length and in dailies (I still have no idea why this fabulous number was cut, it's a perfect example of Minnelli's style coupled with the smouldering sensuality that Cyd Charisse was perfect at conveying). There is also silent footage of some other cut scenes (including where "Two-Faced Woman" would have sat in the picture). There's also the vintage TV episode of "The Men Who Made the Movies" that focused on Vincente Minnelli (copious amounts of great footage from his musicals) and a rare Vitaphone short featuring a very young Jack Buchanan."
Fine MGM musical with love, a stageshow epiphany and a victo
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 02/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Band Wagon is one of those excellent MGM musicals with enough song and dance musical numbers to make your eyes bug out! The color is excellent and the sound is good. The plot moves along at a good pace; and there was never a dull moment. The cinematography and the choreography work very well, especially in scenes where the actors are performing a play within a movie.
The action begins when Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire), a washed up actor and dancer, comes to New York to try his luck on Broadway as well as meet his old friends Lily and Lester Martin (Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant, respectively). Lily and Lester are not just married--they're also a writing team! They hatch a plan to revive Tony's career with a great artistic vehicle for him. Tony agrees but soon there's a great deal of uneasiness for Tony when he discovers that Lily and Lester want the great star Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan), who also directs and produces, to plan out the show.
Things become even more uneasy when Tony doesn't exactly hit it off with the female leading lady, Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse). Tony worries that Gabrielle might be taller than he is; and Tony and Gabrielle just don't get along. Worse yet, Jeffrey Cordova insists that the vehicle for Tony's comeback be transformed into a type of Faustian play that Tony comes to loathe.
Of course, from here the plot could go just about anywhere. Will Tony and Gabrielle ever see eye-to-eye? What about Gabrielle's boyfriend who is the choreographer for the show--how will he fit into the picture? Will the changing of the show to a Faustian theme really work? How will Lily and Lester react to the changes being made to the show? No spoilers here, folks--you'll just have to watch the movie to find out!
Of course, you buy this for the movie; but the extras are extensive and very impressive. There's a great commentary by Liza Minnelli and you get a great documentary about Vincente Minnelli, the director of The Band Wagon. The Fred Astaire trailer gallery is nice but you'll probably be more amazed at a rare Vitaphone short featuring Jack Buchanan way before The Band Wagon was ever filmed!
The Band Wagon is clearly one of the great MGM musicals. There are many timeless moments including the "That's Entertainment" number; and the sequence of musical numbers that wind up the film is wonderful to behold. I highly recommend this film for people who love classic movie musicals; and fans of the stars of this picture will almost surely want to get this for their collections. "