Clearly made in the wake of Singin’ in the Rain, Vincente Minnelli’s The Band Wagon takes a similar approach to storyline as well as its jaunty musical numbers. Where Rain had everything flow together in a deliciously perfect blend of material and style, this is modestly content with sticking true to the formula of the “successful musical”, and while it may succeed, that doesn’t mean there anything really special about it that would make someone sit down and take time out of their day to see it.
Some comparison to Singin’ in the Rain will be evident here, although to be fair the two most likely do not intend to be so similar to each other, but just happened to be by circumstance of their release. Remember, Singin’ in the Rain wasn’t very critically or commercially successful when it was first released, and aside from a handful of Oscar noms neither was this one. Still, it manages to do its job well enough, but I found it to be far too formulaic and indicative of other musicals (Singin’ in the Rain included) to really be a shining star in the otherwise overcrowded field of the musical genre. The story followed its structure down to a T; introduce this character at this time, indicate this plot turn at this line, break for a song after this number of seconds, etc etc. Astaire does well, and Cyd Charisse was a perfect romantic foil for him; really, the whole film was very well done, but there’s nothing here that makes the film stand out from the pack, nothing to make you sit back and go “heh”, let alone “wow”. Even the 11-minute noirish dance number seems directly derived from similar long voiceless numbers featured in The Red Shoes and An American in Paris.
Wikipedia makes the bold notion that this is ranked up there with Singin’ in the Rain as one of the best of the MGM musicals, and I can see how some might make that assumption, even if I personally don’t agree with it. This just left me with very little to say about it, as everything has been said before; plot, script, songs, dance numbers, even the cinematography all seemed to be cut-and-paste from other musicals. I sincerely hope the musicals that I have yet to see on the list have some bonus features that make them worthy of standing alone in the mass of musicals that appear in the book, or I’m going to have just as hard a time trying to come up with things to say about them as I did with this one.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10