Many are already familiar with the classic 1948 film Easter Parade, recently released for the first time on Blu-ray. The movie musical, set in 1912, revolves around Broadway star Don Hewes (Fred Astaire, Top Hat), whose dancing partner, Nadine (Ann Miller, You Can't Take It With You), decides to split off on her own. Frustrated, Don grabs a gal from the chorus named Hannah Brown (Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz) and tries to shape her into a suitable replacement.
Easter Parade is a light-hearted, fun romp. There is plenty of humor, perhaps than in other entries in the genre, and lots of good old Irving Berlin music, including such classics as "Steppin' Out With My Baby," "Shakin' the Blues Away," "Happy Easter," and the title song, "Easter Parade."
Sure, there is conflict; Hannah doesn't do very well when Don is dictating her every move to her. But these are played more for laughs than for a meaty story. And, in keeping with the happy tone, Don eventually embraces who Hannah is, letting her do her own thing, and she soars, becoming the best partner he could ask for. It's kind of an early version of the hot-guy-makes-a-geek-girl-pretty-and-popular-then-learns-a-lesson-from-her tale that became so standard decades later.
There is something to be said about movie musicals of this era. Perhaps they can be considered fluff, as the only drama comes from the slightly rocky relationship road to a happy, romantic ending, but sometimes that's just what's needed to curl up with on a lazy afternoon. The dark, twisty fare filling our theaters today may often involve high quality writing, but viewers don't always want to be depressed by the material. Easter Parade, by contrast, will make you smile and improve your mood.
Just because the story is a little cheesy, and mostly designed to let the cast sing and dance as much as possible, doesn't mean that the acting isn't good, especially because they excel in the singing and the dancing. Garland is a veteran by this point, and knows how to deliver. Astaire is even further into his career, and the two together are terrific. Plus, the supporting cast includes Rat Pack member Peter Lawford (The Thin Man, Ocean's Eleven) as Johnny, Don's best friend.