Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 30, 2016


Fred Astaire and Jane Powell
ROYAL WEDDING (1951). Director: Stanley Donen.

"She's quiet, but deep. At least I hope she's deep or she's wasting a lot of her time being quiet." -- James Ashmond on his daughter, Anne.

Tom and Ellen Bowen (Fred Astaire and Jane Powell) are a brother and sister team of entertainers who take their latest show, "Every Night at Seven," to London just in time for the Royal Wedding. Although Ellen has been a bit of a playgirl, and Tom isn't marriage-minded, they both find themselves falling in love: Ellen with Lord Brindale (Peter Lawford); and Tom with pub owner's daughter and dancer, Anne (Sarah Churchill). But will respective marriages break up the act? Royal Wedding is a bit of MGM fluff but well turned out, with very good performances, some nice singing and dancing, and several highlights. For me it's Jane singing the beautiful romantic ballad "Too Late Now," although Astaire's dancing on his room's walls and ceiling is a close second. Then there's Astaire and Powell's rendition of the comical "How Could You Believe Me (When I Said I Love You)?" The songs are by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane, and another memorable tune is "My Love," warbled beautifully by Powell. Sarah Churchill [He Found a Star] received a lot of bashing for her acting in this, but I think she's charmingly effective, and despite the somewhat mannish features that I've noted, quite lovely -- she was the daughter of Winston Churchill. Albert Sharpe scores in the role of Anne's father, James Ashmond, and Keenan Wynn is fine in dual roles of twin brothers, one for each side of the Atlantic. "I Left My Hat in Haiti" is a snappy production number.

NOTE: Beware which DVD firm you buy, rent or borrow this movie from. Westlake Entertainment offers one of the worst video transfers I've ever seen, with washed-out colors, whole scenes that seem cast in shadows, and so on. You expect this for cheap old B movies and TV shows, but a glossy MGM musical? Fortunately, there are other DVDs of this movie.

Verdict: Dancing on the ceiling indeed! *** out of 4.


angelman66 said...

This is a decent film, though Judy Garland was slated to play the Powell role before she finally got fired for good from MGM. I think I would have enjoyed it so much better with Judy. Astaire is brilliant, of course, that innovative ceiling dance especially. Stanley Donen was great, he was an underrated director, at his zenith when collaborating with Gene kelly on Singin in the Rain.

William said...

I've heard that June Allyson (!?!) was first slated to play the role but got pregnant. Then Garland was assigned, but got drunk. At least we're lucky Allyson -- one of my least favorite golden age performers -- who couldn't sing a note, didn't star with Astaire.