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Our review of Easter Parade, published April 4th, 2005, is also available.
The Happiest Musical Ever Made!
Easter Parade is a wonderful film that's somehow easier to love than it is to like.
What's not to love? It's a big, beautiful, MGM Technicolor musical from the '40s. It features wall-to-wall music by the great Irving Berlin. It gives us the only big-screen pairing of Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, and features Ann Miller and a crazy-young Peter Lawford in supporting roles. It's a high-steppin', front-and-center reminder of why people become rapturous when the term "MGM Musical" is tossed out.
What's not to like? Well, MGM's '40s musicals weren't really known for their complex stories, but even by the standards of the time, Easter Parade seems especially slight. Astaire and Miller are dance partners, and sorta, romantic partners. When she accepts a high-profile solo deal, he angrily (and drunkenly) declares that he could make a star out of anybody. Enter Garland as a singing waitress. Misadventures and production numbers ensue as the stars sing and dance their way to success—and, of course, love. Lawford just floats around the edges as a sort of comic relief/romantic rival character. Since you have four incredibly charismatic icons—no, Miller and Lawford aren't on par with Garland and Astaire, but yes, they are still iconic performers—the less-than-compelling non-singing/dancing scenes aren't terrible, but they just feel like filler between the musical numbers.
And that's really OK, because those scenes basically are just filler between the musical numbers, and those numbers are glorious—phenomenal showcases for Garland, Astaire, and Miller. I could toss out a few "highlights"—such as Astaire and Garland doing "A Couple of Swells," the iterations of the beautiful "It Only Happens When I Dance With You," or Garland's graceful, slightly poignant rendition of the title song—but this is a film of highlights, so singling out one or two is beside the point.
A few years ago, Warner Bros. released a two-disc special edition of Easter Parade that was about as definitive as could be done on standard def. Now, Warner Bros. is releasing the high-def Easter Parade (Blu-ray), and the results are…a bit disappointing.
There's nothing wrong with the technical presentation at all; in fact, while the DVD sported a superlative image, the Blu-ray goes it better. Technicolor is a tough translation for home video, but this Blu-ray features vibrant—and stable—colors, plus outstanding detail, deep blacks, and a fine, film-like grain. The DTS-HD mono audio sounds great, near pristine and clear.
Supplements are all ported from the earlier release: a commentary with Astaire's daughter, Ava Astaire McKenzie, and John Fricke, author of a number of books on Garland; a documentary on the making of the film, "Easter Parade: On Fifth Avenue," which was created for the earlier release; "Mr. Monotony," a Garland number that was cut from the film; a radio interview with Astaire; a radio version of Easter Parade from 1951, featuring Astaire and Garland; and a trailer for the film. What's not to like?
Well, what's not to like is that the earlier disc featured an American Masters documentary, "Judy Garland: By Myself," which has gone missing here. This nearly two-hour presentation was a highlight of the two-disc set; frustratingly, it's listed on the Blu-ray case, even though it's nowhere to be found on the disc. While the high-def image is excellent, losing this supplement keeps Easter Parade (Blu-ray) from an unqualified endorsement.
Had there not been a two-disc special edition with the American Masters documentary, this would be a no-brainer recommend. Unfortunately, the tech uptick doesn't quite mitigate the loss of the sterling supplement.
The film's not guilty, but Warner Bros. deserves a bit of a licking, if only
for advertising a supplement that isn't there.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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