The Band Wagon

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The Band Wagon (1953) is a Metro Goldwyn Mayer film based on the Broadway revue from 1931, which also starred Fred Astaire. Astaire plays Tony Hunter, a nearly washed-up hoofer who hopes to revitalize his career by doing a new Broadway musical. The going soon gets rough. The director, Jeffrey Cordova, has megalomaniacal ambitions to stage a show based on Goethe's Faust; the choreographer, Paul Byrd, is a ballet snob; and Gabrielle Gerard, Paul's girlfriend, barely condescends to dance with Tony. After everything goes to hell--so to speak--Tony and Jeffrey manage to salvage the show by turning it into a series of spectacular, and apparently unconnected, production numbers. "That's Entertainment" ensues, along with romance between Tony and Gaby.

Directed by Vincente Minnelli, choreographed by Michael Kidd, and written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

Recently adapted as a stage musical, although the result was not a critical success. More famously, the "Girl Hunt" inspired Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" video.

Tropes used in The Band Wagon include:
  • Affectionate Parody: The "Girl Hunt" ballet, which sends up noir and hardboiled mysteries.
  • Author Avatar: The Martons are based on Comden and Green.
  • The Cameo: Ava Gardner.
  • The Chessmaster: Cordova, most notably when he maneuvers Paul Byrd into letting Gaby do the musical.
  • Deal with the Devil: Figuratively speaking--Cordova is a comical version of Mephistopheles for most of the film, and the other characters uneasily go along with him to further their careers.
  • Faust: The musical-within-the-musical is based on Faust, but the movie itself makes lighthearted allusions to the legend, starting with Cordova.
  • Femme Fatale: Parodied in "The Girl Hunt".
  • Hopeless Auditionees: We see one during the chorus audition.
  • In Name Only: About the only things the film has in common with the original revue are Fred Astaire and a handful of songs.
  • May-December Romance: Tony and Gaby (like Astaire, Tony is supposed to be in his early fifties).
  • Ms. Fanservice: Gaby.
  • The Musical Musical
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The film is loaded with parodies of contemporary show business types, including Comden and Green (sending themselves up as the Martons), Jose Ferrer (Jeffrey Cordova), George Balanchine (Paul Byrd), and Fred Astaire himself (Tony Hunter).
  • Prima Donna Director: Cordova, until the musical fails. And Byrd, to a lesser extent.
  • Shoe Shine, Mister?: Fred Astaire sings and dances "Shine on your Shoes" with the shoe shiner.
  • Slap Slap Kiss: Tony and Gaby.
  • Stylistic Suck: The nightmarishly bad Faust adaptation.