AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Band Wagon
Director: Vincente Minnelli (Dir)
Release Date:   7 Aug 1953
Duration (in mins):  111-12
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Cast: Fred Astaire  (Tony Hunter)
  Cyd Charisse  (Gabrielle Gerard)
  Oscar Levant  (Lester Marton)

Summary: Tony Hunter, a dancing star whose movie career is in a slump, returns to New York and meets with his old friends, writers Lester and Lily Marton. The Martons reveal that they have written a show as a comeback vehicle for Tony, to be staged by the hot new director Jeffrey Cordova. Tony accompanies the Martons to the Broadway theater where Cordova is starring in his own adaptation of Oedipus Rex , and after watching the heavy-handed dramatics onstage, is skeptical about Cordova's ability to direct a musical comedy. After the play, they meet with Cordova, and Lester and Lily describe their show as a comic romp about an illustrator of children's books who writes lurid murder mysteries on the side. The Martons are taken aback when the flamboyant Cordova announces that he sees the show as a modern version of Faust , and casts himself in the role of the devil. Cordova then surprises them by vowing to cast sought-after ballerina Gabrielle Gerard as the female lead. Tony is wary of Cordova's concept, but the director insists it is time for Tony to remake his image. Later that night, Cordova summons Paul Byrd, Gaby's possessive boyfriend and choreographer. He offers Paul the job of choreographer on the new show and, through flattery and manipulation, succeeds in getting Gaby for his leading lady. The following evening, Tony and the Martons go to the ballet to watch Gaby perform, and Tony is intimidated by both her height and her classical training. They then convene at Cordova's home, where the director is meeting with potential backers. Lester and Lily overhear part of Cordova's histrionic pitch to the investors--emphasizing the "fiery furnaces of doom"--and are alarmed at how little it resembles their original story. Tony and Gaby meet and immediately rub each other the wrong way. The quarreling stars are about to walk out when Cordova comes out of his meeting and introduces the artists to his new backers. Rehearsals begin, and Tony grows increasingly frustrated with Cordova's directorial style, Gaby's patronizing attitude and the changes to his role. Tony walks out, and is venting his anger in his hotel room when Gaby comes to see him. She is impressed to see that he has decorated his room with pieces from his valuable art collection, and the two performers speak openly with each other for the first time. Tony and Gaby take a moonlit buggy ride through Central Park, and begin to fall in love. Relations are stormy between the Martons, however, as Lester accuses his wife of letting Cordova influence her too strongly. They are still feuding when the company moves to New Haven for out-of-town tryouts, and numerous last-minute problems with the production's elaborate special effects try everyone's patience. The New Haven opening is an abysmal failure, and the show's backers depart in a funereal mood. Tony, Gaby and the Martons revive their spirits at the cast party, and Tony informs Cordova that the show will not close, but will be changed back to the light-hearted entertainment it was originally intended to be. Cordova agrees to put Tony in charge of the show, and when he points out that they have lost their funding, Tony decides to sell his art collection. Paul orders Gaby to quit the show, but she refuses and the two part ways. The revised version of The Band Wagon completes a successful pre-Broadway tour, and one night Tony admits to Lester that he has fallen in love with Gaby, but fears she may still prefer Paul. The Broadway opening is a hit, and the cast pays Tony a heartfelt tribute after the show. While expressing the company's gratitude, Gaby also makes it clear that she has come to love Tony, and they kiss. 

Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Director: Vincente Minnelli (Dir)
  Jerry Thorpe (Asst dir)
  Jack Greenwood (Asst dir)
  Al Alt (2d asst dir)
Producer: Arthur Freed (Prod)
  Roger Edens (Assoc prod)
  Bill Ryan (Assoc prod)
Writer: Betty Comden (Story and scr)
  Adolph Green (Story and scr)

Subject Major: Dancers
  Musical revues
  Theatrical directors
Subject Minor: Art--Collectors and collecting
  Carriages and carts
  Faust (Play)
  Motion picture actors and actresses
  New Haven (CT)
  New York City--Broadway
  New York City--Central Park
  Romantic rivalry
  Theatrical backers

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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