Song of the Day #4,444: ‘Dancing in the Dark’ – Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse

Continuing my personal ranking of the 25 movie musicals deemed essential by the American Film Institute…

#10. The Band Wagon – 1953
(#17 on the AFI list)

This is the second Fred Astaire film on the list, this time pairing him with the long, lean and gorgeous Cyd Charisse in her first leading role.

The Band Wagon is about a fading musical star (Astaire) who gets a chance at a comeback through a Broadway musical. He is paired with a rising star ballerina (Charisse) and the two get off to a rocky start before, naturally, falling in love.

The play’s director, a pompous artiste, envisions the musical as a dark retelling of the Faust story, an idea that doesn’t go over very well with early audiences. That leaves Astaire to save the day by reimagining the show into a comical song-and-dance extravaganza in time for the Broadway debut.

The Band Wagon‘s most famous song is ‘That’s Entertainment’ but its best-known sequence is today’s clip, a Central Park pas de deux set to ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ In this beautiful set piece, you watch two people fall wordlessly in love.

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Costume Design, Musical Score, and Screenplay. Astaire was nominated for an Oscar only once, in 1975 for a supporting role in The Towering Inferno. He was also given an honorary Oscar in 1950, which was presented to him by Ginger Rogers.

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,444: ‘Dancing in the Dark’ – Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Pas de deux? Does that just roll off the tongue (or in this case, keyboard) for you? You know I couldn’t let that one pass!

    As much as reality must be suspended when people break out in song in the middle of a movie, it must be suspended even further when the actors start dancing, let alone a perfectly choreographed routine, I think that is even more the case in a movie than on a broadway stage, which I assume is part of the reason more recent movie musicals have given song and dance scenes a more surreal/dream-like treatment and also why animated musicals are often more digestible to the viewer.

    • Clay says:

      I’ve never had a hard time suspending reality in a musical. In a way, it’s similar to accepting the supernatural in a horror or sci-fi film, or accepting the defiance of physics in an action film.

  2. willedare says:

    Their movements (the result of LONG hours of rehearsal and MANY takes) are so in synch… Beautiful. I also admire the tremendous craft of the set designers. Other than the grass astroturf, the boulders and trees and skyline are all very well done. Does anyone get to sing this song in the movie? The lyrics are wonderful and wise…

  3. Peg says:

    Beautiful dancing! I hate to mention that Dad used to say I reminded him of Cyd Charisse when we were very young since you described her as “gorgeous “ But he did 😊 I have no problem with the dance scenes, after all we are watching a movie so dance away!

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