THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! is a compilation of show-stopping production numbers and other memorable moments from more than 60 classic musicals produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, ranging from 1929's THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE to GIGI in 1958. A group of ex-MGM stars appear as on-camera hosts to
reminisce about the good old days and introduce clips.
Serving as the film's first host, Frank Sinatra walks onto the MGM backlot and claims that when it came to musicals, Leo the Lion was the champ during Hollywood's golden age. The centerpiece of Sinatra's segment is a montage of clips featuring different renditions of the song "Singin' in the
Rain." Elizabeth Taylor appears to discuss how she grew up on the old backlot, and shows clips from some of her early films. Peter Lawford intros scenes from GOOD NEWS and other musicals. Jimmy Stewart shows examples of dramatic actors, including himself, Clark Gable, and Robert Montgomery, who
were forced to be in musicals. Mickey Rooney stands in front of the old Andy Hardy home and intros the series of musicals he made with Judy Garland. Gene Kelly pays tribute to Fred Astaire's MGM output with THE ZIEGFELD FOLLIES, THE BAND WAGON, and others. Donald O'Connor intros highlights from
Esther Williams' swimming-musical extravaganzas. Debbie Reynolds narrates a 1949 short featuring every MGM contract player sitting in the studio commissary--even Lassie got his own chair! Astaire pays tribute to Kelly with THE PIRATE, ON THE TOWN, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, and others. Liza Minnelli
honors her mother Judy Garland with scenes from her MGM films, including THE WIZARD OF OZ, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, and SUMMER STOCK. Bing Crosby shows how the musical changed in the 1950s, demonstrated by widescreen clips of HIGH SOCIETY, HIT THE DECK, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, and GIGI.
Frank Sinatra returns for the grand finale, in which an extended dance sequence is shown from the film Sinatra claims has been hailed as MGM's "masterpiece," AN AMERICAN IN PARIS.
It may be hard to remember, but when THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! was released back in 1974 as part of the studio's 50th-Anniversary celebration, there was no such thing as home video for the average consumer, and no classic-movie cable channels. If you wanted to see an old film uncut and uninterrupted,
you had to be lucky enough to live in a big city with a repertory theater. There was still a "late-late show" on TV, but most of the movies shown were of the A-line, mainstream variety. After the mid-1980s acquisition of the MGM library by cable mogul Ted Turner, it became far easier to see the
films featured in THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT, thanks to a flurry of home-video releases of the films and repeated showings on Turner-owned cable networks. But in 1974, it was an enormous pleasure just to have the chance to see a number of long-buried, pristine-looking excerpts from MGM's huge library,
particularly in a big-screen 70mm blow-up, with reprocessed stereo sound.
Naturally, purists argued over director Jack Haley Jr.'s choices for inclusion, while others complained about the near total lack of any kind of historical context or artistic assessment. Also, Sinatra's claim that MGM was the undisputed champ of classic musicals is highly debatable: the cycle of
Warner Bros.-Busby Berkeley movies, and RKO's sublime Astaire-Rogers series were actually the musical leaders in the 1930s--both artistically and commercially--while Paramount's 1930s musicals, directed by Ernst Lubitsch and Rouben Mamoulian, were also excellent. However, MGM undoubtedly made the
largest number of musicals over the years, even if the vast majority of them were of the synthetic, Technicolored, escapist variety, such as the countless indistinguishable features that served as vehicles for the likes of Mario Lanza, Kathryn Grayson, Jane Powell, Esther Williams, Van Johnson,
and June Allyson. During the 1940s and throughout the 50s, MGM also made some of the greatest musicals ever, including ON THE TOWN, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, THE BAND WAGON, and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, under the brilliant guidance of directors such as Vincente Minnelli and Stanley Donen, and producer
Arthur Freed. All the complaints against the film from scholars may be justified, but seem somewhat churlish given that its purpose, as the title states, is simply to entertain. As Sinatra says, the old MGM moguls and most of its stars are long gone (and now, so is the backlot itself) but the
films and the memories remain. It's impossible not to get a nostalgic buzz as the hosts wander around the old sets and soundstages, while the anthology of clips creates a wonderful sense of popular culture during Hollywood's halcyon days.
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- Released: 1974
- Rating: G
- Review: THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! is a compilation of show-stopping production numbers and other memorable moments from more than 60 classic musicals produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, ranging from 1929's THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE to GIGI in 1958. A group of ex-MGM stars appe… (more)