Seamlessly directed by Vincente Minnelli, THE BAND WAGON is one of the finest musicals ever made. Playing its hackneyed story with tongue firmly in cheek, it simultaneously reflects upon the musical genre, satirizes its conventions and delivers marvelous entertainment. Hollywood dancer
Tony Hunter (Astaire) having fallen from favor with the moviegoing public, attempts a comeback on Broadway in a musical written by Lester and Lily Marton (Levant and Fabray, essentially playing the screenwriting team of Comden and Green). The play's arty director, Jeffrey Cordova (Buchanan), makes
some misguided staging decisions, while Tony's lead, ballerina Gaby Gerard (Charisse), is less than enamored of him, setting up the problems the players must resolve.
Along the way, we are treated to a tart look at life behind the scenes and a host of highly engaging performances. Astaire has rarely been more appealing--or moving--in a thinly disguised autobiographical role. Fabray and Levant provide the sugar and vinegar in generous doses, Charisse's acting is
quite satisfactory and her subdued, earthy sensuality makes her a surprisingly apt dance partner for Astaire, and Buchanan all but steals the film as the hilariously Faust-obsessed, maddeningly brilliant impresario. A low-key highlight is his delightful softshoe with Astaire to "I Guess I'll Have
to Change My Plans", but the musical pleasures are many and varied, including "A Shine on Your Shoes," Astaire's romp in a 42nd Street penny arcade; "Dancing in the Dark," Astaire and Charisse's dreamy pas de deux; the legendary "Triplets," featuring a swaddled Buchanan, Astaire, and Fabray; the
striking and sexy "Girl Hunt Ballet", a spoof of film noir and hardboiled detectives; and of course the witty showbiz anthem, "That's Entertainment."
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