...Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly appeared live and in person in front of the screen and did a brief interview. My mother had met countless international big-wigs - including quite a few royals - in the early '60s, attending diplomatic events with my father during his four-year tour of duty in London. But Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were genuine royalty.
Anyway, it proved to be quite an evening and I felt I had at last managed to "put something back", as it were.
I never miss That's Entertainment! Parts 1 & 2 when they turn up on television, because they're like musicals with all the boring bits and duff numbers removed. The only problem with them is the oleaginously phoney performances of some of the stars - Peter Lawford and Liza Minnelli (standing in for Mom) are particularly nauseating. That, and the fact that the choice of films is limited to MGM productions - yes, they produced most of the greatest musicals, but it means that the splendid 1930's Warner Brothers musicals (42nd Street, Gold-Diggers of 1933 and 1935, Footlight Parade etc.) and the great early RKO Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films (Top Hat, Swing Time, Flying Down to Rio etc.) are absent. Still, let's not ask for the moon when we have the stars.
Garland's performance of "Mr. Monotony" was cut from 1948's Easter Parade. The song itself was no great loss - although it was apparently cut for being too suggestive and anachronistic rather than for being er...monotonous. But filmgoers were denied the pleasure of seeing the star in the stupendously stylish outfit she finally got to wear for "Get Happy" in Summer Stock:
The dancer Cyd Charisse was one of the most stylish, graceful women ever to appear on a cinema screen. Joan Crawford wasn't. A rather catty sequence from the film highlights the difference between them:
Another great sequence is the one where we catch a glimpse of Ava Gardner in Showboat, singing "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" in her own voice. Annette Warren later dubbed the singing part, much to Ms. Gardner's annoyance - much as Lena Horne was chagrined to lose the part to Ava Gardner in the first place, having already recorded all the songs. I may be biased, but I reckon Ms. Gardner's singing is unexpectedly accomplished: her voice may not be as rich as that of the professional singer who appeared on the soundtrack - but it has a convincingly smoky Southern languor to it:
And here's the great man with the lovely Cyd Charisse, both being utterly bloody wonderful in The Band Wagon:
Now, in order to restore my reputation, I must go off and do something very butch and heterosexual - like peel a grape.