Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Classic Film Flashback" - Royal Wedding

Since "royal wedding fever" is upon us, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the 1951 film Royal Wedding.  Starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell, the film is set during the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.  It tells the story of brother and sister dance team Tom and Ellen Bowen, played by Astaire and Powell, who get booked to play their show in London during the time of the wedding.  Stanely Donen directed the film, Alan Jay Lerner wrote the script and lyrics and Burton Lane wrote the music

 The film begins in New York at the closing of the team's current show, takes our team on their boat journey that gets them to England, then features many scenes set in the London streets, hotel rooms and theatre where the Bowen's show is running.  Royal Wedding is your typical MGM 1950's backstage Hollywood movie musical, with minimal plot but maximum musical sequences.

And this film has several musical sequences that have become "classic" movie musical moments.  The first one has Astaire doing a solo dance, set to the instrumental song "Sunday Jumps." First he dances with a coat rack then with various other set pieces and props including barbells that are in the dance rehearsal room.  Notice how there are very few edits in this sequence and that the shot always includes Astaire's entire body so you can see what his feet and hands are always doing.

This is almost immediately followed by a great number that includes Astaire and Powell dancing in a ballroom on the ship.  The sea gets a little bumpy so the ship starts to rock while they are dancing so the couple have to adjust their dance accordingly.  A very funny and lovely sequence.

And, one of the most famous musical scenes in a movie musical appears in Royal Wedding - where Astaire literally dances on the ceiling - see video clip below.  Warren Newcombe was responsible for the special effects in the film, and this scene is simply breathtaking.  I can't imagine what it was like to see that scene in theatres back in 1951. I'm sure there were gasps in the audience when Astaire started to walk up the wall of his room.

The film is a very enjoyable one, with a fairly basic plot but the musical sequences alone are enough to warrant a recommendation.  And while stock footage of the royal wedding is included, the film pretty much has absolutely nothing to do with a royal wedding except for the title!

Amazon link for the dvd of Royal Wedding

"Sunday Jumps" -Astaire solo number -

The dance sequence when the boat starts to rock- starts at the 1:00 mark -

The infamous dancing on the ceiling number -

Here is a BRILLIANT video that shows how that sequence was filmed -

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