Easter Parade (1948)
I can’t believe I’ve never seen Easter Parade before! For Classic Movies, I usually write about my favorites, which means movies I’ve seen so many times. So this is a first.
The movie stars Fred Astaire as Don Hewes and Judy Garland as Hannah Brown. Peter Lawford also plays Astaire’s best friend Johnny, while Ann Miller plays Astaire’s dance partner and girlfriend Nadine. It plays out over a year, so it’s bookended by two Easter Parades.
It starts with Don buying tons of Easter gifts for Nadine. He thinks that they’re about to start a dance tour together, but she’s ambitious so she’s accepted a solo dancing contract and leaves him. Don is heartbroken so he goes to a pub to get drunk, where he sees Hannah. He declares that he can turn anyone into as a good a dancer as Nadine, so he takes on Hannah as his partner. At first they’re a disaster, because of course Hannah is nowhere near as graceful and elegant as Nadine. But Don figures out that Hannah has her own charm, so they revamp their act to be more “folksy”, and they’re a hit. And in the meantime, Hannah is falling head over heels in love with Don.
Sidebar: I don’t understand why Don Hewes’ dancing duo is always Nadine and Hewes, or Hannah and Hewes. Why use your last name when you use your partner’s first name? Anyway, from here on out I’ll refer to Astaire’s character as Hewes too.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, Johnny meets Hannah and falls in love with her. But Hannah tells him that she loves Hewes, so Johnny just becomes her friend.
As Hannah and Hewes get more famous, Nadine becomes jealous of their fame so she tries to win Hewes back. So it’s Hannah’s turn to get jealous, and she thinks that Hewes was just using her to win back Nadine. Hewes tries to explain that he doesn’t have feelings for Nadine anymore and that he loves her, Hannah. They have a huge fight just so we have a little suspense, but everyone has a happy ending.
Well, maybe everyone? Throughout the movie, we are shown that Nadine has a crush on Johnny, but he constantly rebuffs her because of his friendship with Hewes. Before the movie ends though, he calls Nadine and invites her to join him in the Easter Parade. It’s kind of sad for Johnny that he does not get the girl, but even sadder if he ends up with Nadine because she’s shown as a selfish and vindictive character.
This is one of only two things that bother me about this movie. The other one is after Hannah and Hewes have their big fight and Hannah tells him to leave, he doesn’t do anything to go after her or win her back. It’s Hannah who, with the advice of her friend Johnny, tries to woo Hewes back with Easter gifts. But it’s a really small thing, and it just shows that you should not stop to think when watching musicals.
Everything else about the movie is beautiful. I can’t remember being struck by a musical’s cinematography as much as I was with Easter Parade – the colors and the lighting make you feel happy. I guess they meant their tagline – “the happiest musical ever made”. Judy Garland looks so pretty too. She is a little on the thin side, and I’m not sure if this was one of those times where she was having her problems with drugs or if there even was a time when she didn’t have those kinds of problems. But I loved her chemistry with Fred Astaire.
Since this was the first time I saw this movie, it also surprised me to see Garland dancing with Astaire. I don’t necessarily think of Garland as a dancer, much less as a dancing partner for Astaire. That had to be the pinnacle for any dancer back then. But they looked so good together and Garland held her own. And her singing was amazing. Sometimes I don’t like the way she sings, but she sang every song in this movie perfectly, especially the sad “Better Luck Next Time”.
I thought Peter Lawford was at his handsomest in Good News, but I was wrong. This is where he’s the dreamiest! I didn’t like Ann Miller’s character Nadine, but I learned that Miller had to perform her big dance numbers in a back brace because she had been pushed down the stairs! How awful is that? And her dance numbers are cuhrazy. So, much respect to her.
Her last dance number involved several women posing as magazine covers, and I thought it was incredible how most of the magazines featured (supposedly from 1912) are still around today – Cosmo, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Good Housekeeping. I think even Redbook is still around. Fun, right?
Another bonus: this laugh out loud scene with the snooty waiter.
Can you believe how I used to hate Fred Astaire, and now I love him? He makes dancing look so cool, effortless, and sophisticated! I am absolutely in love with him, just like I am now absolutely in love with this movie.
So saving the best for last – the songs! Oh Irving Berlin, you are a magician. I’d never heard “Happy Easter” and “Fella with an Umbrella” before, and I loved them immediately. The “Stepping Out with my Baby” number was also cool, and of course the title song just gives you the warm fuzzies. That last scene at the parade was heart-warming and sweet. Actually, I was smiling from the first scene to the last. Does that make me crazy?
I’m so glad I finally got to see Easter Parade, and I can’t believe it took me so long to do so! I think we just might start an Easter marathon now.