One of Fred Astaire's most charming musicals is Royal Wedding where as if taken from his own real life, he's part of a brother and sister act with Jane Powell. We never did get to see Adele Astaire perform on screen, but rumor has it she was exquisite in her steps and lovely to see. And like Jane in this film she married into the aristocracy. In fact both brother and sister have their romances in Royal Wedding, Fred with none other than Sarah Churchill who was the daughter of a well known British politician. On shipboard Jane attracts the attention of Peter Lawford who was a member of the aristocracy and something of a skirt chaser. All this is against the background of the royal wedding that took place in 1947 between Mr. Phillip Mountbatten and Ms. Elizabeth Windsor. Another reviewer astutely remarked this film was on the MGM drawing boards for some time. In fact it was originally meant for Judy Garland, but she had her breakdown and Jane stepped into the part. Despite all the British locales, the cast never left the MGM lot, footage of the real royal wedding and other London establishing shots were used. Jane got three lovely numbers to sing, The Happiest Day in a Lifetime, Open Your Eyes, and Too Late Now, the last being nominated for Best Song. In fact Jane Powell had a unique distinction of having two film songs up in the same year for the Oscar, the other being Wonder Why from Rich, Young, And Pretty. I can't recollect another performer this ever happened to, not even her co-star Fred Astaire or Bing Crosby who did introduce the Oscar winning song for 1951, In The Cool Cool Cool of the Evening from Here Comes The Groom. Songwriters Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner didn't do too bad for Fred either. Royal Wedding is famous as the picture in which Fred Astaire did his surreal dance on the ceiling. Thinking about his lady love Sarah, Fred, alone in his hotel room starts to sing and dance You're All the World To Me and ends up dancing on the sides of the wall and ceiling of his room. This was accomplished by constructing a set that turned with the furniture and fixtures nailed down. I can't fathom the precision it took to get that number right and retain the spontaneous look that Astaire's dancing was noted for. Fred also sang and danced I Left My Hat in Haiti and Every Night at Seven. The duet that Powell and Astaire have is the longest song title on record to date. How Can You Believe Me When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life has Fred and Jane as a gangster and his moll. Astaire was fabulous and Jane more than kept up with him in the number. When Judy Garland had her breakdown, her first public appearance after leaving the hospital was on a pair of Bing Crosby's Philco Radio Program where guest starred with Bob Hope as well. Judy did a rollicking version of the Liar song with Bing and it's the only instance where you can get an idea of what she might have been like in Powell's role. This film was a favorite of my mother's, when we watched on VHS about 20 years ago, she loved Fred Astaire's Sunday Jumps number. This is a sequence on board ship where Fred asks to use the ship's gym for rehearsal and does a marvelously inventive sequence with the gym equipment even including a coat hanger. If there's an example of Fred Astaire's ingenuity in making his material look spontaneous this is it. It's well known the number of man hours he rehearsed to get that spontaneous look, but it certainly pays off here. And this review is dedicated to my mother, a very big fan of this film. I can still hear her remark about how graceful Fred Astaire moved.
Comedy / Musical / Romance
Comedy / Musical / Romance
A brother and sister dance act encounter challenges and romance when booked in London during the Royal Wedding.
February 12, 2021