The Band WagonThis musical tells the tale of Tony Hunter, a multi-talented but aging movie star who heads for the Great White Way to star in their new Broadway musical in hopes of bolstering his flagging career. A pretentiously artistic director is hired for a new Broadway musical and changes it beyond recognition and it's left to Tony to save the show
Critic Reviews of "The Band Wagon"
New York PostApril 11, 2015
Sorry, the beloved "Singin' in the Rain" isn't the finest of the legendary MGM musicals. "The Band Wagon'' has better music, better dances, better direction, more lavish sets and costumes and a wittier script (by the same writers).
Chicago ReaderJanuary 01, 2000
The musical becomes a frenetic meditation on pop art versus high art, coming down hard on the side of the former.
ColeSmithey.comSeptember 16, 2015
Widely considered one of the greatest movie musicals of all time, Vincent Minnelli's "The Band Wagon" connects a jumble of comedic backstage Broadway shenanigans with mix-matched show tunes via Fred Astaire's impeccable dance routines.
Cinema SightAugust 15, 2011
A fun musical with creative choreography, but far too little substance.
EmanuelLevy.ComJuly 27, 2006
Minnelli's best musical is sparked by witty allusions to real-life showbiz persona like pretentious actor Jose Ferrer and birlliant but aging dancer Fred Astaire, the film's star, who shines when dancing, both with Cyd Charisse and alone.
Combustible CelluloidApril 18, 2005
On the whole it's one of the best musicals ever made.
Movie MetropolisMarch 23, 2005
...it's hard to dislike something so cheerful and uplifting as this movie.
Slant MagazineMarch 14, 2005
A love song for the narcissistic, and theater people are sure to eat up the film, commentary, extras, and first rate DVD packaging.
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)February 19, 2003
It has its moments and the stars are good, but it's really overrated.
Kalamazoo GazetteJuly 29, 2002
"the undisputed highlight of Astaire's post-Rogers career"
Ozus' World Movie ReviewsJanuary 01, 2000
If you like an old-fashioned Broadway musical, you can't go wrong with this one.
Gallery of "The Band Wagon"
Soundtracks of "The Band Wagon"
Actors of "The Band Wagon"
Fred AstaireBirth date: 10 May 1899, Omaha, Nebraska, USADescription: Fred Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to Johanna (Geilus) and Fritz Austerlitz, a brewer. Fred entered show business at age 5. He was successful both in vaudeville and on Broadway in partnership with his sister, Adele Astaire. After Adele retired to marry in 1932, Astaire headed to Hollywood. Signed to RKO, he was loaned to MGM to appear in Dancing Lady (1933) before starting work on RKO's Flying Down to Rio (1933). In the latter film, he began his highly successful partnership with Ginger Rogers, with whom he danced in 9 RKO pictures. During these years, he was also active in recording and radio. On film, Astaire later appeared opposite a number of partners through various studios. After a temporary retirement in 1945-7, during which he opened Fred Astaire Dance Studios, Astaire returned to film to star in more musicals through 1957. He subsequently performed a number of straight dramatic roles in film and TV.
Cyd CharisseBirth date: 8 March 1922, Amarillo, Texas, USADescription: Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea on March 8, 1921 in Amarillo, Texas. Born to be a dancer, she spent her early childhood taking ballet lessons and joined the Ballet Russe at age 13. In 1939, she married Nico Charisse, her former dance teacher. In 1943, she appeared in her first film, Something to Shout About (1943), billed as Lily Norwood. The same year, she played a Russian dancer in Mission to Moscow (1943), directed by Michael Curtiz. In 1945, she was hired to dance with Fred Astaire in Ziegfeld Follies (1945), and that uncredited appearance got her a seven-year contract with MGM. She appeared in a number of musicals over the next few years, but it was Singin' in the Rain (1952) with Gene Kelly that made her a star. That was quickly followed by her great performance in The Band Wagon (1953). As the 1960s dawned, musicals faded from the screen, as did her career. She made appearances on television and performed in a nightclub revue with her second husband, singer Tony Martin. Cyd Charisse died at age 87 of a heart attack on June 17, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
Oscar LevantBirth date: 27 December 1906, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USADescription: Oscar Levant's own versatility may have helped to cloud his memory as a sort of Hollywood utility man, perhaps in the worst sense; people tended to see him as one among many personalities, but he was so much more. It is unfortunately forgotten that he was first and foremost, a brilliant musician and very competent composer. He was from an Orthodox Jewish Russian family, growing up in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. Like his siblings, he started music lessons at an early age and on various instruments, first taking piano lessons from his older brother Benjamin. At seven he continued piano under Martin Miessler, originally of the Leipzig Conservatory. Levant was giving public recitals within a year. He attended music lessons at the Fifth Avenue High School, where he was exposed to classical performance by his instructor, Oscar Demmler. This included going to recitals of the great Polish pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski and concerts conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Demmler invited Levant to accompany him in violin and piano repertoire, which was Levant's first public playing - he was only twelve.Levant dropped out of high school (Fifth Avenue) in 1922 when his mother decided to take him to New York to continue music instruction. There he studied with Zygmunt Stojowski, a compatriot and disciple of Paderewski and a student trained by Wladyslaw Zelenski, Louis-Joseph Diemer and Clement Philibert Léo Delibes. By early adulthood, Levant had evolved an engaging and opinionated personality that was attracted to the social life of the city. One great influence on him was the glamor and allure of Broadway, which he saw firsthand while hiring out as a pianist for the stage pit and the many nightclubs in the area. He was in the musical play "Burlesque" (1927) and had his first stint at Broadway composing as co-composer for "Ripples" (1930). Though he gave a private recital in early December 1922 for Paderewski and kept up a schedule of attending mainstream classical musical events, he was also becoming something of a bon vivant in popular music circles, and became attracted to the seamier side of New York society, developing acquaintanceships with a variety of the city's mobsters. His mobility in social circles was, to say the least, surprising. Later Levant became a member of the Algonquin Round Table, the exclusive circle of New York wits and writers that met regularly at the Algonquin Hotel and included such luminaries as Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott.It would seem natural that Levant would eventually be attracted to the glitter of Hollywood. He had a taste of "the movies" in 1923 when he appeared with popular orchestra leader Ben Bernie and his band, All the Lads, in a little-known experimental sound effort by DeForest Phonofilm in New York City. Touring in cabaret in London from 1926, Levant heard about New York composers and musicians going west to Hollywood, where music was coming into big demand. He left for the coast in 1928. He quickly secured employment as a composer, and from that year to 1929 his compositions appearing in 21 films. From 1929 to 1937 he composed regularly for films, and a bit more sporadically from 1939 to 1948, for a total of 19 films. His mingling with the musical elite in town resulted in his developing a close friendship with legendary composer George Gershwin. The association resulted in a profound musical relationship. He was still keeping a foot in the New York music scene, mainly in Broadway and on Tin Pan Alley (he co-wrote many pop songs). He also returned to some concertizing (1930 and 1931) at two large venues: the Hollywood Bowl and Lewisohn Stadium in New York.By 1932 Levant was turning his attention to classical composing and limiting his concertizing. His "Sonatina for Piano" caught the ear of composer Aaron Copland, who persuaded him to premiere it in April 1932 at Copland's festival for contemporary American music. Gershwin asked him to play second piano in a duet version of the "Second Rhapsody" under conductor Arturo Toscanini. He also played - almost as his own - Gershwin's signature "Concerto in F" in 1932. Although Levant launched into a crowded schedule of radio performances of popular and easy listening classical music, he did no more public concerts for some five years. He did take Gershwin's advice and refreshed his theory skills with Joseph Schillinger, a Russian who was a resident Hollywood theorist/composer. Levant was not alone in using Schillinger's music school services; at that time some of the Big-Band era's most famous names appearing on the silver screen, including Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, were also using the Russian. This was in 1934, the same year Levant's "Sinfonietta" (in three movements) premiered with Bernard Herrmann conducting in New York.Levant was back in Hollywood in 1935 for more film composing, but part of the time was spent studying under one of the great musical minds to arrive in Southern California, Arnold Schönberg. Schoenberg's time was already crowded with local academia commitments and studying with some of Hollywood's brightest composers, including Alfred Newman and Franz Waxman. Levant's study ranged from 1935 to 1937. Part of the result was the inspiration for completing his "Piano Concerto", his first of several string quartets (among other pieces he composed, including a woodwind trio), and the "Nocturne for Orchestra" (premiered in L.A. in 1937). The latter was released by New Music Editions in 1936 - this was his only orchestral score to be published. In the meantime Levant was doing music for Hollywood. His "Crayon est sur la Table", ("The Pencil is on the Table") was a sort of parody of French opera in the style of Claude Debussy. It was a centerpiece (though transformed as "Carnaval" with an Italian libretto) for the 20th Century-Fox film Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936).In July of 1937 Gershwin passed away. This opened a new period of recognition for Levant, for he was immediately crowned sole interpreter and virtuoso performer of Gershwin's music, the beginning of a quixotic 20-year reign. That same year Levant started his "Suite for Orchestra" and finished its orchestration by early 1938. In October of that year he returned to the east to debut as a Broadway conductor while replacing his brother Harry for 65 performances of George S. Kaufman and Lorenz Hart's "The Fabulous Invalid". He augmented that by seeing to the Broadway stage as composer and conductor a new Kaufman and Hart work, "The American Way" in January of 1939.By the middle of that year Levant had returned to concertizing in all the big American cities, showcasing not only such Gershwin works as "Concerto in F" and the "Rhapsody in Blue", but also a whole repertoire including an occasional work of his own, including his two 1940 pieces "Caprice for Orchestra" and "A New Overture and Polka for 'Oscar Homolka'" (the actor). "Caprice" was particularly showcased by British conductor Thomas Beecham. But these were his last major concert works. Nevertheless, this marked a decade of concertizing, radio broadcasts and recording significantly with Columbia Records and great conductors such as Reiner, Eugene Ormandy, Andre Kostelanetz, Wallenstein, Efrem Kurtz and Morton Gould.Occasionally Levant appeared on film in a showcase piano piece, but there are only a handful of film roles where he showed his substantial skill as an actor. He played himself in the highly fictionalized Gershwin bio Rhapsody in Blue (1945), highlighted by his playing of the piece. He was still himself but convincingly in character in one of his best dramatic roles as wisecracking (he often wrote his own lines for his film characters) concert pianist Sid Jeffers in Humoresque (1946) with John Garfield and Joan Crawford. He went into the studio to record a set of excerpts from Richard Wagner's "Tristan" arranged for piano, violin, and orchestra with violinist Isaac Stern, and conductor Franz Waxman as part of the sound track for the film. He was able to play two of his favorite pieces (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto No. 1" and Aram Khachaturyan's "Sabre Dance") when he got around to doing the sophisticated comedy The Barkleys of Broadway (1949). A few years later he did his last two films. In An American in Paris (1951) the focus is on Gene Kelly, but a close second was Gershwin's music, the title of the movie taken from his extraordinary montage of movements visualizing Paris. Levant was his usual carefree pianist character, but during a fantasy concerto sequence, he is spotlighted as playing the piano soloist, the conductor, and representative musicians for each orchestra instrument, a great sight gag tour de force of his musical know-how. In his final film Levant is a caricature of himself mixed with the film's co-screenwriter, Adolph Green. This was the comedy musical The Band Wagon (1953) in which friend Fred Astaire was also a caricature of himself as a legendary but essentially washed-up song and dance man who has a stellar comeback.Levant seemed to have fun with this film and its bright script that poked fun at entertainment in general, but his dialog, obviously more of his own input, included hints at his progressive decline, including his accumulative neuroses and accompanying hypochondria. His extraordinarily glib and incisive tongue had evolved from earlier life-of-the-party witty repartee to increasingly self-critical and acerbic patter which showed up sometimes most inappropriately in his recitals from the late 1930s. His spontaneous remarks bordered, and often flowed over into, downright rudeness and sometimes only slightly veiled invective. He seemed unable to resist putting down his own musical efforts, a compulsion to parody himself, revealing his insecurities and a rather knee-jerk need to be funny and play the clown at his own expense. He had renamed his "Poeme for Piano", "Insult for the Piano" or "The Lone Ranger in Vienna." In answer to friend/musical promoter Robert Russell Bennett's radio interview with Levant (1940) asking what he thought about the reception of his first string quarter, he replied: "Violently. It not only brought me obscurity but many enemies." Such was typical of his sometimes inextricably extreme one-liners. During the height of his concertizing, Levant was the highest paid concert performer, but after 1951 he canceled many commitments, which finally brought a temporary banning by the American Federation of Musicians. There were still occasional concerts in the 1950s, one of the most memorable being Royce Hall at UCLA (1958) when he launched into the first movement of the second piano concerto of Dmitri Shostakovich only to forget his place and stop, turning to the audience and quipping,"I don't even know where I am. I'm going to start all over again". He did, and with great triumph. His final public effort that same year was the "Concerto in F" in which it took all the urging of conductor Andre Kostelanetz to keep Levant from simply stopping mid-course and walking off stage. Levant prefaced his encores with the quip that he was "playing under the auspices of Mt. Sinai" (the high-profile Los Angeles hospital often patronized by the stars).That statement was rather pathetically true. Along with real and imagined illnesses, Levant's mental state, always fragile at best, developed into classic stage fright. By this time he was long-addicted to prescription drugs and was in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. His faithful second wife of 33 years, actress/singer June Gale, had to commit him to mental institutions on several occasions. Yet Levant continued onward. There was a series of album recordings in the late 1950s. He made the rounds of a few prime-time game shows and late-night TV talk shows, particularly that of friend Jack Parr. Between 1958 and 1960 he had his own prime-time local Los Angeles TV show called "The Oscar Levant Show", which sometimes offered a rather subdued and intimate look at the restive mind of Levant. As a talk show with guests and Levant, usually ringed in a cloud from his chain smoking, playing impromptu pieces on the piano, it was inevitably canceled because of Levant's controversial monologues and off-color, inflammatory remarks about personalities. He wrote three memoirs: "A Smattering of Ignorance" (1940), "Memoirs of an Amnesiac" (1965) and "The Unimportance of Being Oscar" (1968), each incisive as well as outlandish in the context of Levant's lifelong self-analysis and skewed view of humanity. He increasingly retired from any sort of public exposure over the last decade of his life. A composer of vital and original music and an extraordinary individual in whatever interpretation one might use, Oscar Levant was one of the most intriguing entertainment enigmas of the 20th century.
Nanette FabrayBirth date: 27 October 1920, San Diego, California, USADescription: A sparkling, entertaining, highly energetic presence ever since her early days (from age 4) as a singing and tap dancing child vaudevillian, Nanette Fabray (born Ruby Fabares in San Diego) was once billed as "Baby Nanette" and working with the top headliners of the era, notably Ben Turpin, in the Los Angeles area. She also sang on radio. It was widely rumored that she appeared in the "Our Gang" ("Little Rascal") film shorts of the late 1920s; however, this was not true. Later the young hopeful received a scholarship to the Max Reinhardt School of the Theatre and appeared in the school's productions of "The Miracle", "Six Characters in Search of an Author" and "A Servant with Two Masters", all in 1939.The musical comedy stage, however, would be Nanette's forte. Appearing in such hit New York productions as "Meet the People" (1940), "Let's Face It" (1941), "By Jupiter" (1943) and "Bloomer Girl" (1945), she capped this period of great productivity earning awards for her Broadway work in "High Button Shoes" (1947 - Donaldson Award), and "Love Life" (1948 - Tony and Donaldson Awards).Strangely, Nanette never obtained a strong foothold when it came to film. Aside from secondary roles in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn, and the melodrama A Child Is Born (1939), her one claim to movie fame would be her vital participation in the blockbuster MGM musical The Band Wagon (1953) in which she memorably performed the songs "That's Entertainment" and "Louisiana Hayride," and joined Fred Astaire and Jack Buchanan in the standout "Triplets" number.Into the 1950s, Nanette started checking out what TV could do as a possible medium for her. It did a lot. She managed a fine feat by winning two consecutive Emmy awards as Sid Caesar's partner on the now-called Caesar's Hour (1954) following the departure of the seemingly irreplaceable Imogene Coca earlier. This led to Nanette eventually starring in her own sitcom, the short-lived Westinghouse Playhouse (1961) (aka "Yes, Yes, Nanette"), in the role of a Broadway star who becomes a makeshift mom after marrying a widower (Wendell Corey) with two children.Broadway musicals continued to flourish with perfs in "Arms and the Girl" (1950) and "Make a Wish" (1951). Nanette later copped another Tony nomination starring as a fictional "First Lady" opposition "President" Robert Ryan in the musical "Mr. President" (1962). Other tailor-made stage vehicles for her came in the form of "Plaza Suite", "Wonderful Town", "Never Too Late", "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" and "Cactus Flower", among others.On the TV front, Nanette adjusted well into a lively and graceful support player. She served up a number of delightfully daffy moms, wisecracking friends and intrusive relatives in guest appearances -- sometimes alongside her own niece, actress Shelley Fabares, as was in the case of their regular roles on One Day at a Time (1975). Nanette was also a popular game show personality during the 60s and 70s, appearing on The Hollywood Squares (1965), High Rollers (1974), Password (1961) and The Match Game (1962), among others. The singer-comedienne also could be counted on for TV musical variety appearances courtesy of headliners Dinah Shore, Andy Williams, Dean Martin and Carol Burnett.Most importantly, Nanette's humanitarian efforts over the years have been long recognized. A positive force as a hearing-impaired performer, she has given much time and effort in achieving equality for all types of handicapped and disabled people, including actors. Nanette is the widow (since 1973) of writer and sometime director/producer Ranald MacDougall, appearing in a few of his credited works, including the film Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County (1970), the TV pilot Fame Is the Name of the Game (1966) and the TV-movie Magic Carpet (1972). She and MacDougall have one child. Still as lively as ever, Nanette appeared most recently in an L.A. musical revue entitled "The Damsel Dialogues" (2007).
Jack BuchananBirth date: 2 April 1891, Helensburgh, Scotland, UKDescription: Born in Scotland, Jack Buchanan made his stage acting debut in Britain in 1912, and on Broadway in 1924. Though he made his film debut in 1917 during the silent film era, Buchanan is probably best remembered for The Band Wagon (1953), co-starring with Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Nanette Fabray, James Mitchell, Oscar Levant and Robert Gist.Suffering from spinal arthritis, Buchanan died in London four years later.
James MitchellBirth date: 29 February 1920, Sacramento, California, USADescription: James Mitchell was born on February 29, 1920 in Sacramento, California, USA. He was an actor, known for All My Children (1970), The Band Wagon (1953) and Oklahoma! (1955). He died on January 22, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
Robert GistBirth date: 1 October 1917, Chicago, Illinois, USADescription: Robert Gist was a tough kid who grew up around the Chicago stockyards during the Depression. Reform school-bound after injuring another boy in a fistfight, Gist instead ended up in Chicago's Hull House, a settlement house where he first became interested in acting. Work in Chicago radio was followed by stage acting roles in Chicago and on Broadway (in the long-running "Harvey" with Josephine Hull). While acting in "Harvey", he made his film debut in New York-shot scenes for 20th Century-Fox's Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Gist was also seen on Broadway in director Charles Laughton's "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" (1954) with Henry Fonda and John Hodiak. While shooting Operation Petticoat (1959) in Key West, Florida, Gist told director Blake Edwards that he was interested in directing; Edwards later hired him to helm episodes of the TV series Peter Gunn (1958). Gist has also directed for TV's Naked City (1958), The Twilight Zone (1959), Route 66 (1960) and many others.
Directors of "The Band Wagon"
Vincente MinnelliBirth date: 28 February 1903, Chicago, Illinois, USADescription: Born Lester Anthony Minnelli in Chicago on February 28 1903, his father Vincent was a musical conductor of the Minnelli Brothers' Tent Theater. Wan...
Creators of "The Band Wagon"
Betty ComdenBirth date: 3 May 1915, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USADescription: Songwriter ("New York, New York", "Lonely Town", "The Party's Over", "Just in Time"), author and actress. educated at New York University with a Ba...
Adolph GreenBirth date: 2 December 1914, The Bronx, New York City, New York, USADescription: Songwriter ("New York, New York", "The Party's Over", "Just in Time", "Make Someone Happy"), author and actor, educated at City College of New York...