Easter Parade (1948): Only Musical Starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland

Easter Parade is not one of the best musicals of MGM, or producer Arthur Freed, or Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, but it’s nonetheless a light, whimsical, entertaining picture, boasting some melodic musical numbers–and perennial showing each and every Easter.

Indeed, considering the skillful talent involved, the movie should have been much better. But, alas, director Charles Water is not Vincente Minnelli, who had begun working on the picture until his wife-star Judy Garland, in one of her paranoid and troubled eras, had him removed. (See my piece about the making of the film).

Even so, it’s the only opportunity to see Judy Garland and Fred Astaire dancing together.┬áThe role of Astaire, who came out of semi-retirement, had first been assigned to Gene Kelly, Judy’s partner in a number of musicals, both commercially successful and unsuccessful.

Four writers penned the script, husband and wife team Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett (who did “Father of the Bride” movies), Sidney Sheldon, and Guy Bolton, based on a story by Goodrich and Hackett.

Set over a period of one year, from Easter 1911 to Easter 1912, the rather simple and familiar tale revolves around vet song-and-dance performer Don Hewes (Astaire), who gets dumped by his partner Nadine Gale (Ann Miller) and subsequently vows grand revenge on her by training to stardom an unknown chorus girl named Hannah Brown (Garland).

For many, the best-executed number is “A Couple of Swells,” and I personally like the “Drum Crazy” number in which Astaire dances with the boy Jimmie Bates.

The great composer Irving Berlin wrote 17 of the film’s tunes, and Johnny Green and Roger Edens won an Oscar for their musical adaptation.

There are at least two famous cameos in the musical. Lola Albright, as a hat model, and Liza Minnelli, then only two-year-old, in the grand finale.

“Easter Parade” was the most commercially successful picture for both Garland and Astaire, as well as the highest-grossing musical of 1948.

End Note

“Easter Parade” turned out to be one of Judy Garland’s last musicals at MGM; in 1950, she was fired by the studio during production on “Annie Get Your Gun.”

 

Oscar Alert

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Score (Musical): Johnny Green, Roger Edens

Oscar Awards: 1

Best Score

Cast

Hannah Brown (Judy Garland)

Don Hewes (Fred Astaire)

Jonathan Harrow III (Peter Lawford)

Nadine Gale (Ann Miller)

Francois Headwaiter (Jules Munshin)

Mike the Bartender (Clinton Sundberg)

Essie (Jeni le Gon)

Singer (Richard Beavers)

Al, Ziegfeld’s Stage Manager (Richard Simmons)

 

Crew

Produced by Arthur Freed

Directed by Charles Waters

Screenplay: Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, Sidney Sheldon, and Guy Bolton, based on a story by Goodrich and Hackett.

Camera; Harry Stradling

Editor: Albert Akst

Art direction: Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith

Costumes: Irene, Valles

Choreography: Robert Alton

F/X: Warren Newcombe

 

Running Time: 107 Minutes