If you have yet to join in the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series we urge you to participate next week on April 11th when we look at a movie you've surely seen: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937). Last time we did an animated film we had a super turnout. All you have to do is 1) choose your favorite shot 2) post it on your blog, tumblr, site or pinterest page before next Wednesday night and 3) let me know. Presto, The Film Experience links up. The first step, choosing your best shot, is the only hard part.
This week's film is EASTER PARADE (1948).
I love a perfect title. Easter Parade promises exactly what it delivers. The Judy Garland / Fred Astaire musical features two actual easter parades which form a through line on which the film can hang its gowns and musical numbers. In the first Nadine (Ann Miller), Don Hewes' (Fred Astaire) ex-girlfriend and ex-dance partner, stops traffic with a smashing gown and the chic accessories that are her show dogs. Hewes, still hurt over the breakup promises his new partner Hannah (the immortal Judy Garland) that a year from then she'll be the one that no one can take their eyes off of. But the title offers more than just these two holidays. The movie is an easter parade all by itself. The whole movie doubles as one big lavish procession of color. It's got all the yellows, greens, whites, blues, pinks and purples you could possibly expect from an easter movie and every other color in the rainbow, too. Like many real parades it's alternately amazing and garish but there's always something to gawk at for better and worse.
The "worse" would be a hateful brown and pink gown (gag) that may well be the ugliest thing I've ever seen on Judy Garland. The "best" might be the white into hot pink gown that Nadine just floats in near the climax when she attempts to take Don back from Hannah.
The two shots that thrilled me the most both exploded by focusing on only one particularly saturated color. The first of these was Ann Miller's bright yellow gloves and bright yellow tear away skirt in her jaw-dropping toe-tapping solo "Shakin' the Blues Away".
The camera rarely stops moving in this thrilling number but -- the best part -- the editor almost never cuts away either creating what amounts to a world class highwire dance act in only two or three shots. The camera tracks Miller's every sideways shimmy, spinning top madness and hand flare. Miller is always so fun to watch. My favorite quirk of hers in film after film is the way her head or shoulders or hands often jerk subtly or violently just a millisecond after final musical beats as if her body is its own Red Shoes; she just can't stop dancing.
The most impressive shot that I'd name "best" uses another Easter color in a surprising comic way. In this relatively simple plot scene early in the film, Don tells his friend Johnny (gorgeous Peter Lawford) that Nadine wasn't so special and any woman will do. Out of focus in the background comes an awkward pink parade of ladies practically tripping over each other onto the small stage behind them for a gangly crowded "dance." The craziest thing about the shot is that the background is so vivid, bright and fun that it becomes the focus of the scene without requiring actual focus.
The most unbelievable thing about the shot is that it's Judy Garland's entrance.
You don't even realize it's Judy on the stage until you do which is the perfect punchline to the sight gag. Judy's entrances are usually so much grander than this, entire movies halting to welcome her into the spotlight (The Harvey Girls is a perfect example). It's a great joke on stardom and a fine thematic point within the movie, too. Any woman will not do. There is only one Judy Garland and, by extension, only one Hannah Brown. As soon as Don gives up trying to mold Hannah into the next Nadine... as soon as he let's her be herself, their act takes off.
Eight blogs with holiday spirit
Movies Kick Ass that fella with the umbrella
The Film's The Thing a tragically funny lady
Encore Entertainment anonymity and living pictures
Antagony & Ecstasy cavalcades of color
Film Actually Fred Astaire is unreal
Dial P For Popcorn a pairing that almost didn't happen
Okinawa Assault on the avenue, fifth avenue...
Pussy Goes Grrrr "better luck next time"
Next on "Hit Me..."
April 11th - Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)