Not to say Kelly was not talented but his dancing does sometimes seem to have more to do with force than rhythm and flow.
I think that’s a fair description. I think a lot of dance is wonderful, kinetic brute force….forcing the body to do things that aren’t particularly natural. But it’s still fun to watch when done well. And few did it better then Kelly.
But with Astaire we see the same sort of complex moves but with the smooth flair of stylishness. I Googled on “Greatest Dancers” and the first list I came up with is one from IDMB:
1) Fred Astaire
2) Gene Kelly
3) Shirley Temple
4) Debbie Reynolds
5) The Nicholas Brother (Who? I’ve gotta find some of them.)
6) Rita Hayworth
7) Ginger Rogers
8) Donald O’Conner
9) Ann Miller
10) Gregory Hines
A somewhat strange list past #1 and #2. Really. Debbie Reynolds was better than Cyd Charisse or even Ann-Margret? Still, you might run into a modern list where Justin Timberlake is #8. If you want to go more modern, by all means put Mikhail Baryshnikov near the head of the list. But Michael Jackson? Well, yeah. He we certainly good.
Here's a more classical sort of list that puts Rudolf Nureyev at the top. Joaquín Cortés is #4? Who? Well, I admit there must be a lot of great dancers out there I’ve never heard of.
Madonna appears high on many lists. I think there are a lot of over-rated stars, and she’s one of them. I suppose one needs to distinguish between different forms: ballet, classical dance, and modern pop-slop.
Anyway, getting back to the latest. I finished Easter Parade last night. These movies could be rated simply by how much time I spend surfing the web on my iPad while having them on in the background. The plot of this one is amongst the worst of its kind.
But there are three moments worth viewing. The first is Fred Astaire doing a solo dance in a toy store. The second is about three-quarters into it where there is a pretty big formal production number with vivid costumes and sets and Fred dancing with a number of ladies. The third is nearer the end still with Fred and Judy dressed as hobos. They do a charming number, making you wish the writers and producers had made better use of Garland (and comedy...most falls flat) like this. She’s funny and interesting.
But in much of the rest of the movie she just seemed to be having a bad hair day. It’s as if her hair stylist was doing what she could to make her as unattractive as possible.
And how did Peter Lawford ever become a name? He’s basically a good-looking fencepost in most of these movies. So I spent much of the time surfing the web while waiting for a dance number to come up. Garland had a few songs here and there but nothing (solo) that was particularly memorable. Ann Miller had some numbers but, again, nothing particularly gripping except for the big production of “Shakin’ the Blues Away.”
And then it all ends with an “Easter Parade” proper with Astaire and Garland walking down the boulevard in full dress with that famous song playing. Why? What? Good song, but what’s it got to do with the price of tea in China? This is another case where they just tried to patch some songs together. This isn’t a musical (which one might define has having the story, songs, and dance generally supporting the same themes) as much as it is a patchwork of on-contract studio stars. The humor is flat. There is no chemistry between Astaire and Garland. And aside from the wonderful hobo comedy routine, Garland isn’t all that great of a partner for Astaire. In a really odd moment as described by another reviewer:
Astaire is obviously the far superior dancer of the two. Garland gamely tries to keep up but the contrast is rather jarring. It kind of works for the story in that Garland's character is supposed to be an anonymous nobody of a dancer. But when Astaire's best musical number pairs him with a couple of anonymous hoofers while Garland stands idly by offstage it says a lot.
I would note that I think this is a horrible misuse of Garland’s talents. They could have let her play the scrappy, feisty, up-and-comer taking Astaire’s arrogance (that he can take any dancer and make her a star) as a challenge. But Garland is just an automaton for a horrible script. Another reviewer states it exactly:
Unfortunately, the film crams in too many songs and the viewer may lose interest in the musical offerings, especially towards the end, as none of them are particularly good or memorable unless there is dancing involved.
Really, aside from the actual dancing scenes, there’s little to hold one’s interest.