Template:Infobox Film Royal Wedding (MGM) is a 1951 Hollywood musical comedy film set in London in 1947 at the time of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, and stars Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, Sarah Churchill and Keenan Wynn, with music by Burton Lane and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. The film was directed by Stanley Donen.
Astaire and Powell play a brother and sister song and dance duo, echoing the real-life theatrical relationship of Fred and Adele Astaire. Powell, who was not first choice for the role, surprised her colleagues with her all-round ability. She falls for Lawford, who plays an English aristocrat - mirroring Adele Astaire's romance and eventual marriage to Lord Charles Cavendish, son of the Duke of Devonshire.
Royal Wedding is one of several MGM musicals (another being Till the Clouds Roll By) that have lapsed into public domain. As such it is widely available on Video and DVD, but the quality of these versions varies. In February 2007, Warner Home Video announced plans to issue a restored version of Royal Wedding on DVD.
Key songs/dance routinesEdit
Choreographer Nick Castle collaborated with Astaire on several of the numbers. Although none of the songs are considered standards, dance-wise, it is notable for the inclusion of not one but two Astaire solos, both of which are amongst his best known works. Parody, of himself and of some well-known colleagues, is an important theme of the choreography.
- "Ev'ry Night At Seven": A rather tired-looking Astaire (pretending to be a bored king) and a lively Powell sing and dance through this royal-themed number.
- "Sunday Jumps": Astaire credits the idea for this famous solo to his long-time choreographic collaborator Hermes Pan. In it, Astaire parodies himself by dancing with a clothes-horse (often incorrectly referred to as the "hat-rack" dance) and appears to parody his rival and friend Gene Kelly by inserting a mock body-building episode during which he kicks aside some Indian clubs in a reference to Kelly's routine with The Nicholas Brothers in The Pirate. The fame of the dance rests on Astaire's ability to animate the inanimate. The solo takes place in a ship's gym, where Astaire is waiting to rehearse with his partner Powell, who doesn't turn up, echoing Adele Astaire's attitude towards her brother's obsessive rehearsal habits to which the lyrics (unused and unpublished) also made reference. Controversially, in 1997, it was digitally manipulated to show Astaire dancing with a vacuum cleaner in Dirt Devil commercials. In a missive, later published in Time Magazine and Variety, Astaire's daughter Ava severely criticized the corporation's president, writing: "Your paltry, unconscionable commercials are the antithesis of everything my lovely, gentle father represented." This number has been referenced by Mel Gibson in What Women Want and by David Byrne in the live film of his band, Talking Heads, as well as parodied by Kermit the Frog in The Great Muppet Caper.
- "Open Your Eyes": This lilting waltz is sung by Powell at the beginning of a romantic routine danced by Powell and Astaire in front of an audience in the ballroom of a transatlantic liner. Soon, a storm rocks the ship and the duet is transformed into a comic parody with the dancers sliding about to the ship's motions. This number is based on a real-life incident which happened to Fred and Adele Astaire as they travelled by ship to London in 1923.
- "The Happiest Days Of My Life": Powell sings this ballad to Peter Lawford, with Astaire sitting at the piano.
- "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life" has what is considered the longest title of any song in MGM musical history. For the first time in his career, Astaire successfully casts aside all pretension to elegance and indulges in a deliberately vulgar comic song and dance vaudeville-style routine with Powell. The routine recalls the "A Couple Of Swells" number with Judy Garland in Easter Parade. Here, for the second time in the film, he seems to parody Gene Kelly by wearing the latter's trademark straw boater, and employing the stomps and splayed strides which originated with George M. Cohan, and were much favoured in Kelly's choreography.
- "Too Late Now": Powell sings her third ballad, this time an open declaration of love, to Lawford.
- "You're All The World To Me": In one of his best-known solos, Astaire dances on the walls and ceilings of his room. The idea occurred to Astaire years before, and was first mentioned by him in the MGM publicity publication Lion's Roar in 1945. The number was filmed by mounting the camera and operator in a cage which rotated with the room. The same technique would later be used to simulate a zero gravity environment in 2001: A Space Odyssey, to allow Clark Kent to walk up walls to change a light bulb in the pilot episode of Lois And Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and in the music videos for "Fly" by Sugar Ray and "Slash Dot Dash" by Fatboy Slim. Burton Lane's music originally featured in the 1934 Eddie Cantor film Kid Millions, in the number "My Minstrel Man", sung by a ten year-old Harold Nicholas to lyrics by Harold Adamson.
- "I Left My Hat In Haiti": This number, essentially the work of Nick Castle, involves Powell, Astaire and chorus in song and dance routine with a Latin theme.
Jane Powell was far from the first actress approached to play the role of Ellen opposite Astaire. Initially Ginger Rogers was asked, but she declined. Then June Allyson was signed for the role, but had to drop out when she became pregnant. Judy Garland was then signed as Ellen, but due to personal issues was fired from the film (and her MGM contract was terminated). Jane Powell ultimately replaced Garland.
Fred Astaire: Steps in Time, 1959, multiple reprints.
John Mueller: Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films of Fred Astaire, Knopf 1985, ISBN 0-394-51654-0
- ↑ Mueller p.327