>> 04 April 2010
MGM's Easter Parade was actually released a few days after the 4th of July in the summer of 1948 and was dubbed by the studio: "the happiest musical ever made." It was originally green-lighted as a Gene Kelly/Vincente Minnelli project with Minnelli's wife Judy Garland as the leading lady. But because Minnelli and Garland were experiencing marital problems at home, the studio felt that the couple was better off if they did not work together on the set and replaced Minnelli with director Charles Walters.
When Kelly broke his ankle playing football and was forced to drop out of the production, he suggested Fred Astaire as a replacement for the part. However Astaire demurred citing that he had just recently retired his film career to launch a chain of what would become very successful dance schools. However it didn't take very long for Astaire to change his mind because he admitted that he always wanted to work with Judy Garland. After the release of Easter Parade he would continue to spend the next twenty years making pictures.
The story goes that on the first day of production a friend that knew the two lead actors came to visit with Garland on the set and asked her if she was excited to be working with Astaire. Garland replied that she was an enormous fan of his films and that working with him was a tremendous honor. But she also admitted that she was terribly anxious because she had not yet met the man and their first shooting scene together involved a short but sweet kiss on the lips. The friend promptly took Garland's hand, led her up to Astaire's dressing room, and introduced the two on the spot. With that, the filming of their initial scene went smoothly and Astaire and Garland worked well together throughout the production.
When Astaire was asked what is was like to work with Garland, he replied: "Judy's not primarily a dancer. But she's the best of her type -- an amazing girl! She could do things -- anything -- without rehearsing and come off perfectly. She could learn faster, do everything better than most people."
The film won the 1948 Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. It also received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical. It was the most financially successful picture for both Garland and Astaire as well as the highest-grossing musical of 1948. In subsequent years other projects were planned for Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, however Easter Parade would remain the one and only film they did together.
Easter Parade is chockerblock with seventeen... that's SEVENTEEN... fab-u-lous musical numbers written by Irving Berlin including Astaire and Garland's classic showstoppers: the "I Love a Piano" medley and "A Couple of Swells" hobo routine. It's really worth watching the film in its entirety on DVD which also features a knockout Garland solo number entitled "Mr Monotony" that precedes her spectacular "Get Happy" performance in the film Summer Stock by five years. The "Mr. Monotony" number was cut out in the final edit before Easter Parade was released so all you die-hard Garland fans won't want to miss it!
Happy Easter to all my friends. I'm off to enjoy chocolate bunnies with my peeps!