The Band Wagon - Discordant Fun

Quick Thoughts: The Band Wagon (1953)

An aged musical actor/movie star is caught up in times and a Broadway musical that all seem out of his depth.

The Band Wagon is a fun 50s M-G-M musical, one that is often held at the same heights as Singin' In The Rain, which came out the year previous to this.

Whilst I wouldn't say excessive comparison to Singin' In The Rain is entirely necessary as this does distinguish itself as a film of its own through its central characters, The Band Wagon certainly pales in comparison. Moreover, The Band Wagon feels, tonally and aesthetically, uncannily similar to the classic Donen and Kelly picture. That said, this narrative is certainly far more reminiscence of Footlight Parade staring Jimmy Cagney, and so feels a little bit derivative.

However, what really saves this show is much of the non-musical components. In short, it's Fred Astaire's character's chemistry, both in the script and between the actors, with Cyd Charisse's and the hints of a romance that builds between them. And in mentioning this, it has to be said that the musical numbers are all pretty strong and intermittently impressive, but, especially in the third act, are quite disinteresting.

Beyond this, an element of this narrative that I did find really incoherent was the plot line that is centred on a pretentious musical, a re-working of Faust, being re-done all for entertainment's sake. Whilst this holds some wit about it as the plot progresses through the first and second act, when we see the replacement show, or at least snippets of it, it appears entirely discordant, incoherent and, dare I say, even more pretentious than the sinister and melodramatic Faust version. So, much like The Footlight Parade 20 years before this, The Band Wagon throws away the rules for its final act - but not in a good way. Instead of the narrative feeling like a conscious play with form and reality, the plot of The Band Wagon feels like one group of people wanted to write a classical love story were thrown into a room with another group of choreographers who had devised entirely separate numbers to be shoe-horned in.

However, despite these downfalls, I much enjoyed the majority of The Band Wagon. It's a shame that the musical elements couldn't provide much and that the narrative was a bit of a blunder in the final act, but the basic arc following Astaire's and Charisse's characters was pretty great in all the ways you'd hope.

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