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That’s Entertainment! III

Draft Review by Dean Duncan May 26, 2015

Partly a big commercial for the Turner library, & a considerable gloss on what really went on, for instance, at MGM (what was it exactly that caused Miss Garland’s little breakdown?); there’s not much distinguishing here between productions & conditions that are actually separated by decades; maybe homogenizing is a conscious part of the story that’s being told, or the legend that’s being sold: it’s not just what actually happened but also the stakeholders’ take on, the stakeholders’ ownership & selling of what happened; mind you it’s still a good tale, as long as you’re aware that there’s more to it;

Great overture! After that, a mixed bag: revelations mixed in with trifles, as well they might be, except that the difference isn’t always clearly distinguished or delineated for us, altogether making for a somewhat uneven & still very enjoyable movie;

So what have we got here? A great big Gene Kelley commercial, for one thing; a creditable introduction to Hollywood’s production code; semi-gossipy behind-the scenes about Mickey and Judy (quite touching, of course), fresh-faced force-of-nature Esther Williams, an apt & straining apologia for Lena Horne; there’s a (marvelous!) split-screen¬†Eleanor Powell presentation that gives a helpful idea of film preservation methods/culture ca. 1994;

Further there are varyingly interesting numbers & outtakes that give us another kind of look into the preservationist mind, & maybe into our own minds as well: for them most everything is precious, & so of great interest; they’re right, of course, but that doesn’t mean that for the uninitiated, for those not infinitesimally informed, this one thing will play as interestingly as this other;

Still, always, some of this second-rank material (dig that Nancy Walker number!) reminds us of the dizzying volume of production that not only went on in the musical genre, but in H-wood entire; it reminds us how very well & capably-crafted so much of that production was, & it even extends, if we want to stretch it, into our sense of history, & of the contemporary as well: Thomas Carlyle and Great Men aside, the story of skilled & hard-working men & women who gave their all for these strange & beautiful concoctions actually a lot more than just Entertainment.