Easter Parade

  • Title:  Easter Parade
  • Director:  Charles Walters
  • Date:  1948
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Music and Lyrics:  Irving Berlin
  • Genre:  Musical, Romance
  • Cast:  Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Ann Miller, Peter Lawford
  • Format:  Technicolor, Standard
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I bet you know a lot about women.”  — Don
“I should, I’ve been single all my life.”  — Mike, the Bartender

“You spend your life behind a bar, you get to know what makes people tick. This place is like a clinic, people come in here because they’ve got troubles. Well, if you listen, you learn.”  — Mike

Easter Parade is a big, splashy, colorful MGM musical. The film is essentially song after song, all by Irving Berlin, with only the smallest amount of dialogue linking the songs and providing the plot. The plot is actually somewhat complicated, and not well realised. Nadine (Ann Miller) and Don (Fred Astaire) are a dancing team, but she’s fallen for their friend, Johnny (Peter Lawford). Meanwhile, Don has fallen for his dancing partner, Nadine. Nadine decides to stretch her wings and takes her own role – meanwhile Don, after an argument with Nadine, decides to “show her” by taking any dancing girl and turn her into his new partner. Don runs into Hannah (Judy Garland), and decides to coach her into becoming his new partner. Hannah falls in love with Don, and Johnny falls for Hannah. However, once Don and Hannah find their own style, rather than imitating the famous style of Don and Nadine, they are a rousing success. In the end, Hannah and Don end-up together.

Don and Hannah’s first on-stage number, with Garland in a light-blue feathered gown, is a complete disaster — Hannah does everything wrong, and shows herself to be very un-graceful. But the number also feels like a parody of Astaire and Rogers and a mean-spirited one (Garland’s gown in similar to Ginger’s from Swing Time).

The film also could have used more humor and cleverness.

List of  Musical Numbers

  • “Happy Easter”
  • “Drum Crazy”
  • “It Only Happens When I Dance With You”
  • “I Was Born in Michigan / I Want to Go Back to the Farm”
  • “I’m Just a Fella’,  a Fella’ with an Umbrella”
  • “I Love the Piano”
  • “Snookie Ookums”
  • “Fiddle on your Violin”
  • “When the Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam’ “
  • “Shaking the Blues Away”
  • “It Only Happens When I Dance With You” (Reprise)
  • “Stepping Out With My Baby”
  • “A Couple of Swells / Walk Up the Avenue”
  • “The Girl I Love is a Magazine Cover”
  • “No Next Time for Me”
  • “Easter Parade”

The best number by far is Fred’s “Stepping Out With My Baby”, which includes a piece where he’s dancing in slow motion in the foreground and the background dancers are dancing at regular speed in the background. It’s a nice effect — and it’s cool to see all the detail of Fred’s dancing. But it’s also a great jazz dance number.

Easter Parade is meant to be set in 1912 (Nadine’s big chance is working in the Ziegfield Follies of 1912), yet the costuming screams 1950s, not two years after the end of the Edwardian Era.

Overall, though, it’s a light, romantic musical. Not as much comedy or cleverness as I’d like, which is why I prefer The Bandwagon, but Judy Garland does sing wonderfully, and I always enjoy Fred Astaire.

Recommendation:  See it, at least once.
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  A Fish Called Wanda

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