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Monday, 31 December 2012

That's Entertainment (1974) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

"You can wait around and hope, but I tell you, you'll never see the likes of this again." - Frank Sinatra (as himself in 'That's Entertainment')

Gene Kelly presents a tribute to Fred Astaire
It's time to relive the music, the movies, the memories, the magic and the stars as some of MGM's greatest Hollywood stars reunite at the MGM studio to celebrate the 50th anniversary of MGM in 'That's Entertainment' (1974).

Produced, written and directed by Jack Haley Jr. (son Jack Haley, who played the Tin Man in 'The Wizard of Oz'), 'That's Entertainment' presents one of the greatest movie documentaries of all time paying tribute to the MGM musical.

Fred Astaire at the deteriorated set of 'The Bandwagon' 
'That's Entertainment' featuring special appearances from Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, James Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Mickey Rooney, Bing Crosby and Peter Lawford

Considered to be big risk at the time of it's release, the film turned out to be an enormous success, and became one of the highest grossing films of 1974.

Watch the film trailer:


Liza Minnelli pays tribute to her mother Judy Garland
I won't list every film and musical clip featured in 'That's Entertainment', as there are literally hundreds, but I will list and provide commentary on the highlights within the film - by the way, as you'll see there are many highlights.

  • Overture - Keeping with the tradition of the great Broadway musicals, 'That's Entertainment' commences with red velvet curtains as the overture plays a medley of MGM songs including: 'The Trolley Song', 'Over the Rainbow', 'It's a Most Unusual Day', 'Singin in the Rain' and of course the title track
  • Singin' in the Rain Montage - Following the overture, the film opens with a montage of MGMs greatest anthem 'Singin' in the Rain', from the first time it was performed by Cliff Edwards in 'The Hollywood Revue' (1929), through to Judy Garland's version in 'Little Nellie Kelly' and finally Gene Kelly (1940), Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor singing the film in 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952)
  • Frank Sinatra is the first star to make an appearance tracing the origins of the MGM musical, including clips from the first ever movie musical, 'The Broadway Melody' (1929)
  • Glamourous Elizabeth Taylor is next, sharing her musical debut as a child in the film 'Cynthia' (1947)
  • Peter Lawford provides some insights into the style and form of the MGM musical
  • James Stewart continues with the transition of silent film into talking films, and shows footage of dramatic actors (including himself) who although not singers were forced into appearing in musicals - other actors featured include Robert Montgomery, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford and Cary Grant... the segment concludes with a special tribute to Clark Gable
  • Mickey Rooney appears outside the house where the 'Andy Hardy' series of films were made, and pays tribute to the low budget backyard musicals he made in the 1930s and 1940s with Judy Garland, and directed by Busby Berkeley
  • Gene Kelly reveals the greatest dancing partner he has ever danced with to be Fred Astaire, before going into an Astaire tribute
  • Donald O'Connor continues with a special tribute to the million dollar mermaid, Esther Williams
  • Debbie Reynolds takes us into the MGM 25th anniversary dinner, where we see footage of some great stars such as Errol Flynn, Angela Lansbury, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Claude Jarmin Jr. and Greer Garson, before paying tribute to two of my favourite stars Ann Miller and Mario Lanza
  • Showboat montage - A montage of songs from the first great musical epic 'Showboat' starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Marge & Gower Champion, Joe E. Brown and Ava Gardner... featured songs include 'Cotton Blossom', 'Make Believe' and the immortal 'Ol Man River'
  • Fred Astaire appears next on the deteriorated train station set from 'The Bandwagon' (1953), and reciprocates Gene Kelly's gesture with a special tribute to the great Gene Kelly
  • Liza Minnelli, labelled MGM's "crown princess", presents a special tribute to her mother, Judy Garland
  • Bing Crosby presents footage from his two MGM movies 'Going Hollywood' (1933) and 'High Society' (1956), and a special montage from the Oscar winning film 'Gigi' (1958)
  • Frank Sinatra returns and concludes with introducing an abridged version of the 'American in Paris Ballet' from 'An American in Paris' (1951)
  • Glamourous Elizabeth Taylor
    in 'That's Entertainment'
  • The theatrical experience ends with the red velvet curtains once again and exit music to entertain the audience as they leave the cinema

Debbie Reynolds in 'That's Entertainment'

Featured performers (in alphabetical order):

June Allyson, Leon Ames, Kay Armen, Edward Arnold, Fred Astaire, Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Scotty Beckett, Wallace Beery, Ray Bolger, Joe E. Brown, Virginia Bruce, Jack Buchanan, Billie Burke, Leslie Caron, Carleton Carpenter, Cyd Charisse, George Cleveland, Maurice Chevalier, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Xavier Cugat, Arlene Dahl, Virginia Dale, Jacques d'Amboise, Lili Damita, Vic Damone, Gloria DeHaven, Tom Drake, Jimmy Durante, Deanna Durbin, Buddy Ebsen, Nelson Eddy, Cliff Edwards, Vera-Ellen, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Betty Garrett, Greer Garson, Hermione Gingold, Cary Grant, Kathryn Grayson, Virginia Grey, Jack Haley, Jean Harlow, Bernadene Hayes, Van Heflin, Katharine Hepburn, Lena Horne, Lottice Howell, Claude Jarman Jr., Betty Jaynes, Van Johnson, Allan Jones, Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan, Buster Keaton, Howard Keel, Grace Kelly, Charles King, Lorraine Krueger, Burt Lahr, Fernando Lamas, Angela Lansbury, Mario Lanza, Peter Lawford, Ruta Lee, Jeanette MacDonald, Marjorie Main, Joan Marsh, Tony Martin, Douglas McPhail, Ann Miller, Sidney Miller, Carmen Miranda, Ricardo Montalban, Robert Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead, Natalie Moorhead, Dennis Morgan, Frank Morgan, Jules Munshin, George Murphy, Conrad Nagel, J. Carrol Naish, Julie Newmar, The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard Nicholas, Harold Nicholas, Margaret O'Brien, Virginia O'Brien, Donald O'Connor, Reginald Owen, Walter Pidgeon, Marc Platt, Paul Porcasi, Eleanor Powell, Jane Powell, June Preisser, Richard Quine, Tommy Rall, Debbie Reynolds, Jeff Richards, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Selena Royle, Norma Shearer, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, James Stewart, Paula Stone, Russ Tamblyn, Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Toler, Audrey Totter, Spencer Tracy, William Warfield, Virginia Weidler, Esther Williams, Robert Young

Did you know...

Frank Sinatra in 'That's Entertainment'
  • 'That's Entertainment' was originally intended to be a TV special, however the concept was expanded into a feature film 
  • The success of 'That's Entertainment' was followed by two sequels
  • Gene Kelly was the first star who agreed to appear in the film and was responsible in recruiting many of the others
  • This was the last feature film to be shot at MGM studios - the studio was bulldozed and demolished for property development shortly after the film was released
  • The song "Good Morning" from 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952), was originally to appear in Debbie Reynolds section, but cut before releases - the song was later included in 'That's Entertainment, Part II' (1976), and the song with Reynolds' narration was included in the promotional short film 'Just One More Time' (1974)

Closing remarks

'That's Entertainment' is still my favourite documentary film of all time. That may be because I am such a big fan of MGM musicals, and the stars of MGM - but even without this bias, the film is entertaining and insightful to even classic film novice.

The stars are all great, however I don't feel Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor should have appeared in this film, as they did not appear in many MGM films. I would have preferred to have seen more regular MGM stars instead, such as Ann Miller, Esther Williams or Angela Lansbury.

The only disappointment I have with 'That's Entertainment' is the complete absence of Doris Day musicals - fortunately footage of Doris Day would appear in 'That's Entertainment II' and 'That's Entertainment III'.

The tagline on the original movie poster read "That's Entertainment! Boy, do we need it now!" - we needed it then, and almost 40 years later we still need it now!

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