The Band Wagon is a 1953 musical comedy film that many critics rank, along with Singin' in the Rain, as the finest of the MGM musicals, although it was only a modest box-office success. It tells the story of an aging musical star who hopes a Broadway play will restart his career. However, the play's director wants to make it a pretentious retelling of Faust, and brings in a prima ballerina who clashes with the star.
The songs were written by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, and some were created for the original 1931 Broadway musical also called The Band Wagon, with a book by George S. Kaufman and starring Fred Astaire and his sister Adele. (Fred Astaire also stars in the movie.) The song "That's Entertainment!", which Schwartz and Dietz wrote specifically for the film, was a hit and has become a standard. Another song orchestrated by Conrad Salinger, "Dancing in the Dark", is considered part of the Great American Songbook and was from the original Broadway production.
The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Color, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay. Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who received the nomination for the screenplay, patterned the film's characters Lester and Lily Marton after themselves, although the fictional characters were a married couple and Comden and Green were not romantically involved.
In 1995, The Band Wagon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2006, this film ranked #17 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.
Stage and screen star Tony Hunter, a veteran of musical comedy, is concerned that his career might be in decline. His good friends Lester and Lily Marton have written a stage show that they believe is perfect for his comeback.
Tony signs up, despite misgivings after the director, Jeffrey Cordova, changes the light comedy into a dark reinterpretation of the Faust legend, with himself as the Devil and Tony as the Faust character. Tony also feels intimidated by the youth, beauty, and classical background of his female co-star, noted ballerina Gabrielle "Gaby" Gerard. Unbeknownst to him, she is just as insecure in his presence, awed by his long stardom.
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