ON THE DAY BEFORE EASTER IN 1911, DON HEWES IS CRUSHED WHEN HIS DANCING PARTNER (AND OBJECT OF AFFECTION) NADINE HALE REFUSES TOSTART A NEW CONTRACT WITH HIM. TO PROVE NADINE'S NOT IMPORTANTTO HIM, DON ACQUIRES INNOCENT NEW PROTEGEE HANNAH BROWN, VOWING TO MAKE HER A STAR IN TIME FOR NEXT YEAR'S EASTER PARADE.
Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) is devastated when his longtime dancing partner, Nadine Hale (Ann Miller), breaks up the team to set out on her own. Determined to prove that he can succeed without her, Astaire vows that he can pick any random chorus girl and make her a star. Fortunately for him, the chorus girl he picks happens to be one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century, Judy Garland (playing Hannah Brown). Easter Parade
turned out to be the first and only collaboration between the two screen legends. Garland made the 1948 film despite ongoing health problems then had to pull out of a planned follow-up, The Barkleys of Broadway
(Ginger Rogers replaced her); Astaire had retired following Blue Skies
in 1946 but was brought in for this film as an emergency replacement after Gene Kelly broke his ankle playing touch football. Fortunately, Easter Parade
always feels like an Astaire film rather than a Kelly film, from its Pygmalion
-esque plot (which helps explain the principals' 23-year age disparity) to its score of Irving Berlin standards (some new, some recycled from earlier films). The film capitalizes on the strengths of both stars, Astaire in dance solos, including "Drum Crazy" and "Steppin' Out with My Baby" (MGM's take on Astaire's earlier, persona-defining "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails"), and Garland in vocal solos, including the torchy "Better Luck Next Time." The stars especially shine, however, when they perform together in their vaudeville numbers, most notably the persona-defying hobo routine "We're a Couple of Swells." Watch this classic every Easter. --David Horiuchi