Easter Parade (1948)

Seventy-four years ago today, the film Easter Parade premiered. Why at the end of June? I am not sure. Still, it went on to be the highest grossing musical of 1948 and the second-highest grossing MGM musical of the 1940s.

Title: Easter Parade
Directed by: Charles Walters
Produced by: Arthur Freed
Screenplay by: Sidney Sheldon, Frances Goodrich, and Albert Hackett
Story by: Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
Starring: Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Peter Lawford, and Ann Miller
Music by Score: Johnny Green and Roger Edens
Songs and Music: Irving Berlin
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Edited by: Albert Akst
Color process: Technicolor
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distributed by: Loew’s, Inc.
Release date: June 30, 1948
Running time: 108 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $2,655,000
Box office: $5,803,000
Academy Award for Best Original Music Score

In 1912, Broadway star Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) buys Easter presents for his sweetheart (“Happy Easter”), getting a boy to part with an Easter Bunny by distracting him with a set of drums (“Drum Crazy”). He takes the gifts to his dancing partner, Nadine Hale (Ann Miller), who has been offered a show with a solo opportunity. He persuades her to change her decision (“It Only Happens When I Dance With You”) until his best friend, Johnny (Peter Lawford), arrives. Nadine reveals she and Don are no longer a team, clearly attracted to Johnny, who refuses her out of respect for Don.

Don drowns his sorrow at a bar, bragging that he can make a star of the next dancer he meets. Picking one of the onstage performers, Hannah Brown (Judy Garland), he tells her to meet him for rehearsal the next day. He tries to turn her into a copy of Nadine, teaching her to dance the same way, buying her similar dresses, and giving her the “exotic” stage name “Juanita”. She makes several mistakes at their first performance (“Beautiful Faces Need Beautiful Clothes”), and the show is a fiasco.

Johnny is instantly attracted to Hannah, singing “A Fella With an Umbrella” while walking her to rehearsal. He tries unsuccessfully to reunite Don with Nadine, who tells Don her friends are laughing because Hannah is trying to be her. Realizing his mistake after hearing Hannah sing “I Love a Piano”, Don prepares routines better suited to her. Now known as “Hannah & Hewes”, they successfully perform “I Love a Piano,” “Snookie-Ookums”, “The Ragtime Violin”, and “When That Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves For Alabam’.”

Auditioning for Ziegfeld Follies, Hannah and Don meet Nadine, the show’s star. Hannah realizes Nadine was Don’s former partner and demands to know if they were in love. At their hotel, Don reveals he turned down the Ziegfeld offer, believing Hannah and Nadine do not belong in the same show. Johnny arrives to take Hannah to dinner, revealing he has fallen in love with her, but Hannah admits she is actually in love with Don.

Nadine’s show opens (“Shakin’ The Blues Away”) with Don in the audience. Later, he reveals to Hannah that he signed them to star in their own show, inviting her to celebrate over dinner. She arrives at his apartment only for him suggest a dance rehearsal. Angrily declaring that he only sees her as a dancing aid, she tries to leave, but he kisses her. She plays the piano and sings “It Only Happens When I Dance With You,” and he realizes he is in love with her and they embrace.

The show features a solo by Don (“Steppin’ Out with My Baby”), followed by “We’re a Couple of Swells”, in which he and Hannah play bums. Afterward, they celebrate at the roof garden where Nadine is performing. The audience gives them a rousing ovation, much to Nadine’s chagrin. After dancing in “The Girl on the Magazine Cover,” Nadine insists she and Don perform one of their old numbers – “It Only Happens When I Dance With You (Reprise)”. Don reluctantly agrees, upsetting Hannah who leaves, believing he has been using her to regain Nadine.

At the bar where she and Don first met, Hannah pours out her troubles to Mike the bartender (“Better Luck Next Time”). She returns to her apartment to find Don waiting. He tries to explain himself, promising to wait all night for her to forgive him, but he is evicted by the house detective just before she opens the door. The next morning, Johnny advises Hannah and tells her that if he loved someone, he would let her know. Hannah gets excited, and Johnny tells her to get ready to meet Don for their date at the Easter parade.

Several gifts arrive at Don’s apartment with no cards. Hannah unexpectedly arrives, excitedly urging him to prepare for their date, while acknowledging that she sent the presents. Photographed as they walk in the Easter parade, echoing the film’s opening with Nadine, Don subtly proposes to Hannah (“Easter Parade”).

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