That's Entertainment! III | Chicago Reader

That's Entertainment! III

Whatever purist quibbles one might make about this third compilation of clips from MGM musicals—introduced, like its predecessors, by many of the leading performers (June Allyson, Cyd Charisse, Lena Horne, Howard Keel, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, and Esther Williams)—this has so much pleasure to offer that any qualifications seem beside the point. Not only have writers-directors-producers Bud Friedgen and Michael J. Sheridan, who worked as editors on the two previous films, come up with heaps of wonderful and fascinating new material (excluded numbers from Singin' in the Rain, The Band Wagon, Cabin in the Sky, The Harvey Girls, Easter Parade, and even I Love Melvin), they've introduced a welcome critical note into the proceedings, demonstrating how dubious some of MGM's aesthetic decisions were and allowing Horne to voice some of her own misgivings about the bigoted policies that limited her activity. Indeed, after Horne introduces her own clips, her terse introduction to an unused Judy Garland number from Annie Get Your Gun, “I'm an Indian Too,” doesn't even have to allude to the number's racism because in the context she's established the evidence speaks for itself. Original screen ratios are also mainly respected—the rule apparently is broken only when the filmmakers are doing a montage or want the dramatic benefits of a full screen even if it means cropping the image. Among the highlights are some terrific dancing by Eleanor Powell (alongside fascinating production footage on split screen revealing how one number was done), Astaire and Rogers in the credits sequence of The Barkleys of Broadway, a very funny grudge match between Keel and Betty Hutton in Annie Get Your Gun (virtually unseen for almost half a century), and, strictly as a camp item, the most grotesque Joan Crawford number imaginable from Torch Song, with Crawford in blackface. She's seen on split screen with Cyd Charisse, who's simultaneously lip-synching to the dubbing of the same song, “Two-Faced Woman,” by India Adams (Charisse's version was cut from The Band Wagon). In all, the most pleasure-filled Hollywood movie of 1994.


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