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Easter Parade

Easter Parade(1948)

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According to a November 1947 New York Times article, composer and lyricist Irving Berlin was paid $600,000 for his contribution to film, which included the use of his name, his consultation on the story, the title of the picture and his songs. More than half of the songs performed in the Easter Parade were written by Berlin in the four decades prior to the film, and many of the songs were performed in various stage and film musicals. The songs that Berlin wrote especially for Easter Parade were: "It Only Happens When I Dance with You," "Better Luck Next Time," "Drum Crazy," "Stepping Out with My Baby," "A Couple of Swells," "A Fella With An Umbrella" and "Happy Easter." Another song, "Mr. Monotony," which was also written especially for the film, was not used. Berlin wrote the melody for the film's title song in 1917 and originally used it for a song entitled "Smile and Show Your Dimple." The song "Easter Parade" grew out of Berlin's reworking of "Smile and Show Your Dimple" for the 1933 revue As Thousands Cheer.
       A February 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that the following actors were cast in the film: Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson and Red Skelton. An October 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item indicated that Fred Astaire took over the role originally intended for Kelly, who withdrew from the film one month before the start of production due to a broken ankle. The film marked the return to the screen of Astaire, who had announced his retirement from movies in 1946, after completing Blue Skies. A December 1947 New York Times article noted that Astaire only meant his "retirement" to be a "mental retirement" or a hiatus from the demands of creating new ideas and steps for dance numbers. Astaire appeared in many additional films from the late 1940s through the 1970s and did not completely retire from the screen until the early 1980s.
       Easter Parade marked the motion picture debut of Broadway actor Jules Munshin, who appeared in a number of popular M-G-M musicals from the late 1940s through the late 1950s. The film also marked the film debut of Richard Beavers. According to publicity materials contained in the AMPAS Library production file, more than 700 extras were used in the film's Easter parade finale, which was filmed on a specially built set constructed on M-G-M's backlot. Publicity materials also noted that the M-G-M camera department, headed by John Arnold, was responsible for creating the first ever slow motion synchronization with sound. The slow motion effect, used in the "Steppin' Out with My Baby" sequence, features Astaire dancing in slow motion in front of a chorus moving and singing in real-time. A February 1948 Daily Variety article indicated that the final cost of Easter Parade was $3,000,000. It was the studio's top grossing picture of the year, taking in about $6,800,000 at the box office in its initial release.
       According to an April 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, Freed was one of two recipients of the Inter-American Music League's award honoring the "greatest contributions to music in 1948." The award was given in recognition of Freed's work on Easter Parade and Words and Music (see below). Sidney Sheldon, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett received the award for "Best-Written American Musical" at the first Annual Screen Writers Guild Awards. Roger Edens (who did not receive screen credit) and Johnny Green won an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
       According to a biography of Judy Garland, Berlin originally offered the film rights to Easter Parade to Twentieth Century-Fox. Fox rejected Berlin's offer because of the high price he was asking and because he demanded a share of the film's profits. Modern sources note that Vincente Minnelli was originally set to direct the film but was taken off the picture just before it went into production. Minnelli's removal, according to modern sources, came at the urging of Dr. Kupper, a psychiatrist who was treating Minnelli's then wife, Judy Garland. Kupper reportedly warned M-G-M that Garland, who had just been released from a sanitarium where she was treated for mental distress and drug dependency, could not withstand the pressures of being directed by her husband. Berlin is quoted in a biography of Freed as having said that he "worked very closely on the story with Hackett" and that Edens was "responsible for the whole musical context of the picture." The Freed biography also indicates that noted playwright Guy Bolton contributed to the screenplay. According to a modern source, Albert Sendrey did the musical orchestrations for the film. According to a biography of Ann Miller, Miller replaced Cyd Charisse, who had pulled a tendon in her leg and could not work on the picture.