Parade of evil

Liz Nickels explains why one of Hollywood’s best loved musicals has a dark side ep-header

Picture the scene. You’re sitting happily in front of the telly, the remains of four or five Easter eggs resting snugly on your chocolate-filled tum. It’s time for the afternoon film. It’s Easter Parade (of course it is; telly schedules never show The Sound of Music like they did in the old days: but Easter Parade, as the only seasonal film out there not involving Jesus or for pre-schoolers, has to be run out every year). You begin to watch. It’s all great – Fred Astaire! Judy Garland! Together at last! But slowly you start to feel uneasy. A strange gloom darkens the Easter sunshine. You begin to feel the presence of pure evil… and this, dear reader, is what I feel when I watch Easter Parade.

But why such fear of what appears to be a likeable, if rather hokey film? Let me count the ways…

1. This is the plot. To take revenge on his dancing partner, Nadine Hale (Ann Miller), when she leaves him to go solo, Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) picks up a innocent chorus girl, Hannah Brown (Judy Garland), and tries to mould her into being the next Nadine. When that doesn’t work, he steals her away from a bone fide nice guy (Peter Lawford) and manipulates her into falling in love with him. Yes; Fred Astaire plays an honest to God SOCIOPATH.

2. The romance is HORRIBLE. You remember the pivotal scene (of course you do) when Judy says ‘you don’t even know what colour my eyes are!’ and Fred kisses her and then says ‘they’re brown’. He DOESN’T KNOW! He kisses her to check!

3. I don’t want to go with the cliché of Judy Garland being an insecure, vulnerable actress. She is too much of a goddess for that. But here, crikey, she is like a big marvellous overripe mango. She needs a strong comfortable kitchen paper type of leading man like James Mason or Gene Kelly (originally cast for the film, but he broke his ankle) with big strong brown arms. Fred can be tender and humorous with subtle, quirky players such as Audrey and Ginger, but faced with Judy he just looks at the mango juice. He raises one eyebrow and tries to act gallant. But really he’s DISGUSTED.

4. Okay, so Ann Miller played the weird and creepy landlady in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive but she is best known for being, basically, a little ray of sexy shimmery high kicking spinning innocent sexy exuberant loveliness in all her films. (Witness her manic tap dancing on a table in Kiss Me Kate). But in Easter Parade she plays a BITCH (she sulks, rejects the nice guy, is horrible to Hannah and is generally a bore). Any film that wrongs Ann is EVIL.

5. This is the famous Mr Monotony scene that was removed because Judy’s pins were just too fabulous. Instead, Judy has to play a TRAMP and is FORCED to wear a succession of nasty hats…ep-hat1ephat-2

and, at the end, a pair of pink rubber gloves…

easter-parade-gloves

6. In the song ‘I Want to Go Back to Michigan’ Judy has to rhyme “fish again” with “wish again” with “Michigan”. And “rooster” with “USED TO”.

7. Oh and why can’t she go back to Michigan? Because Fred times their first dance rehearsal on EASTER SUNDAY. Fred is EVIL. Which brings me to…

8. At the beginning Fred ASSAULTS a young child with drums and STEALS his little bunny rabbit. Don’t believe me? Watch!

And in the film’s conclusion, Judy puts a poor little cute fluffy bunny rabbit in a box as a present for Fred, in order to say sorry. Luckily he accepts the apology and OPENS THE BOX. But think… what if he didn’t? Yep: dead bunny.

And that is why this film is basically evil; it almost kills the Easter Bunny. So in conclusion: next time Easter Parade happens to be on the TV schedules (like, next Easter) you know what to do. Turn over and watch The Goonies instead.

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About Liz Nickels

Liz Nickels is a freelance editor and occasional writer who watches the odd bit of proper telly when not surrounded by gibbering children

11 thoughts on “Parade of evil

  1. Ha ha haaa! I love the title! But I think this will mostly appeal to people who LOVE Easter Parade. First of all, it would NOT have been better with Gene Kelly because although Fred is a creepy tortoise (even with sassier co-stars), Gene Kelly is a creepy louse who always looks as though he’ll get a bit punchy if you try to make a joke of which he is the butt. And in The Pirate, which is Judy’s second most beautiful film, the film in which she looks second most beautiful I mean, after St Louis, GENE has her doing Be A Clown, which is a direct steal from Swells (have not checked which is first) at the *same time* as being a direct steal of Make ‘Em Laugh and is every bit as unfeminine as Swells while not being in any way as good (even though it’s Cole Porter!). You are literally Essie the maid on the phone saying that everyone was laughing and it was embarrassing when Judy is literally killing it. And in Easter Parade she does get to wear the beautiful green velvet dress when she sings Better Luck Next Time.

    The hats are fair comment. You haven’tt even included all of them. And I always think the pink rubber gloves make it look as if she has recently plunged her arms into really hot water.

    I’ve never seen or heard of Mr Monotony! Thank you for that! I would have been tempted to go for a higher denier, I think Nadine wears a higher denier when she does Shakin’ The Blues. Judy’s hat work is exemplary BUT the song is far too bluesy and modern for a period movie and you know it.

  2. It’s a fair cop with the eyes thing too. That has always bothered me. You actually see him LOOK. And Fred Astaire knows the script, even, he doesn’t *have* to look, but he looks. He wants us to know that he didn’t know. That is a bit weird.

    1. He totally looks! Thanks for the comments (even though you dissed lovely, lovely, big brown sailorbear Gene. Karland/Gelly FTW.) Judy of course looks nice in her green velvet and she makes it very torchy, but really it’s a horrible little jaunty tune like the 10 billion other ones in the film.

      LOL at denier :) I bet Astaire had an opinion about that

      Poor old Judy is like Sinatra, she always have to play the goofy one even though she is the most attractive. They would’ve been awesome together, except actually they sound a bit weird together here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xszbbPoylIM

  3. Yes, the Berlin songs are quite terrible. The snookie-ookums/fiddle/piano/choochoo montage with her ugly knee-skirts grabs the worst of them and I always skip the first five minutes or so, so was astonished to see Fred steal the rabbit. I like to play a game when I watch Easter Parade when she goes ‘You told me to move like this!’ and she puts her arms up in the Juanita position and carries on talking to him and then she keeps her arms up for practically the whole scene so I do it at the same time and only let them drop when she does. Your mango metaphor is wonderful. This article has taken me to the imdb trivia page of EP, which I’d never read before, and it’s full of interesting things.

  4. “Make ’em Laugh” was a famous and unabashed rip-off of “Be A Clown”. Apparently Porter could easily have sued, but didn’t.

    Easter Parade always made me a bit uneasy too, though I never could quite put my finger on why. I thought it was because late-period Fred leaves me cold, though I love Judy in almost any incarnation. I shall have to rewatch it now, darn it!

    1. I HATE late period any Hollywood actor, except the ones that get fat or play proper old man roles. Hate late Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Astaire, Rex Harrison. Partly because the juxtaposition of them and the 60s is all wrong.

  5. Heh, Pirate was before Easter Parade too. I was wrong about *everything*. But really, it still feels like I was right, doesn’t it?

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