Royal Wedding (1951): Stanley Donen’s Oscar Nominated Musical with Fred Astaire Dancing on Ceiling and Jane Powell

Starring Fred Astaire at the peak of his MGM popularity, “Royal Wedding” became a landmark musical for featuring Astaire dancing on the walls and ceiling, and for a solo dance of Astaire with a hat rack for a partner.

Stanley Donen’s musical movie, with a screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner (“My Fair Lady”) is set in London, for a change.

The plot incorporates two real-life events: the marriage of Fred Astaire’s sister Adele to a British nobleman, and more importantly, the wedding of England’s Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, which occurred several years earlier.

The extremely light, slender plot has Astaire and Powell heading to Merrie Olde England to perform at the Palace.

Several actresses were considered for the lead before Jane Powell was cast as Astaire’s partner-sister in their act.  In London, Powell falls in love with a British nobleman (Peter Lawford, rather pale), and Astaire is smitten with Sarah Churchil (real-life daughter of Sir Winston Churchill, though MGM was not allowed to use this info in the publicity campaign).

After some predictable misunderstandings, the movie ends on a happy note, when the four campers joyously attend the Windsor Castle wedding.

“Royal Wedding” is very enjoyable, due to Asiare great dancing, which includes a bravura shipboard number during heavy seas (which was also inspired by an event from Astaire’s past), and the melodic tunes by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane.

The music includes some wonderful tunes, such as “Too Late Now,” which was nominated for the Best Song Oscar, and “How Could You Believe Me When I said I Loved You When Know I’ve been a Liar All My Life/” (said to be the longest title of a song in film history).

The cast also includes Albert Sharpe (after his Broadway success, “Finian’s Rainbow”), and Keenan Wynn, hilariously cast as twin cousins.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Song: Too Late Now, music by Burton Lane, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The Best Song Oscar went to Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer for “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,” from the musical “Here Comes the Groom.”

 

Cast

Fred Astaire as Tom Bowen

Jane Powell as Ellen Bowen

Sara Churchill as Anne Ashmond

Peter Lawford as Lord John Brindale

Keenan Wynn as as Irving Klinger/Edgar Klinger

Albert Sharpe as James Ashmond

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