Easter Parade

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 8, 2015

We all know that musicals are stylized and artificial, and that we need to bring our grains of salt and suspended disbelief and all. But what if the musical in question is really dumb? The problem here is that these couplings and uncouplings and consummations make no sense at all, in any way. Why would (poor, ailing, amazing) Judy Garland ever fall for this Fred Astaire character? Or Peter Lawford?! Ann Miller is an superb dancer, but it’s almost objectionable how they so stack the deck against her. (Compare this character with the witty, lusty anthropologist in On the Town.)

Jealousies and piques and reconciliations are mostly just wearisome. Michigan isn’t a farm state, is it? Did they have to rhyme “umbrella” with “fella”?

Is it obvious? Easter Parade made me grumpy! But there’s another angle here, since in a non-grand-slam economy flawed wholes can still be salvaged when there are good parts. There certainly are, here. For instance, most conspicuously, Astaire’s opening “Drum Crazy” number is a work of pure and utter genius. Strangely, he’s reminding me of Elvis Presley in his prime. He’s so talented that you can’t take your eyes off of him. Reedy and weird looking and balding or not, he’s a force of nature here, with charisma that registers on the Richter scale. Wow!

That one bartender quotes John Donne. Everyone quotes that particular one, of course, and because of the Hemingway novel. Still.  The first glimpse of Judy causes you to catch your breath, as always. What is it about this unlikely combination of parts? Those feathers are funny. The vaudeville montage is lovely.  Singin’ in the Rain kinda stole it, don’t you think?

That green dress!

Jules Munshin’s salad bit is great, and a reminder of how those second tier troupers are always one of the best parts of any genre. Our principle characters have that date. She can’t play, but she can sure sing! And “A Couple of Swells” is very funny, and very moving. It’s the wigs and whiskers, or maybe the attendant fact that it’s all ridiculous dress-up. But patent, preposterous artificiality—musicals!—can be so beautiful. Especially when you consider the difficulty out of which this was all created. Poor, ailing, amazing Judy Garland. Make ‘em laugh, indeed! The relationship jeopardy that follows this number is patent, preposterous nonsense. Darn those genre conventions, and our audience gullibility. The little “Easter Parade” reprise is so inevitable, so predictable, so implausible. It’s also so very powerful! For heaven’s sake! I give up! I guess I would have to conclude that this dumb movie is pretty great.