Over the Easter weekend we watched the old MGM favourite “Easter Parade”. I’d forgotten that the film includes Fred and Judy’s version of “I Love a Piano”. I should have remembered the song when it was Piano Day a couple of weeks ago. Certainly a fitting celebratory song for the occasion!
The song is by Irving Berlin who composed all the other songs for “Easter Parade”. Apparently in the musical revue “Stop! Look! Listen!”, where the song was first performed, a giant piano keyboard ran right across the front of the stage. And next to the giant keyboard were six pianos with six pianists playing the song.
“I Love a Piano” has been covered by many other top performers in addition to Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. Actually, I’d also forgotten how many really good song and dance routines there are in the film. The opening number where Astaire dances round the little boy who’s got the Easter Bunny is jaw-droppingly intricate and unsympathetic to the child. And the magazine cover sequence is extraordinarily pointless but beautifully executed. And some of the other numbers are total classics.
The ‘B’ team are interesting. Peter Lawford plays Jonathan Harrow who’s in-love with the Judy Garland character, Hannah Brown. And Ann Miller plays Nadine Hale, Astaire’s dancing partner and love interest at the start of the film.
Lawford’s matinee idol good looks took him into countless film and stage roles, The “Rat Pack” and marriage to President Kennedy’s sister. Miller was a well known dancer who reputedly started her show girl career aged thirteen. She was particularly well regarded for her tap dancing which is seen to great effect in “Shakin’ the Blues Away”. When “Easter Parade” was released in 1948, Miller was twenty five and Garland, twenty six. Astaire was a youthful forty nine years.
You might like to listen to this 1916 version of “I Love a Piano” sung by Billy Murray (no relation to us as far as I know!) Born in 1877, Murray recorded his first songs in 1897 and went on to become one of the most popular, and prolific, recording stars of his era. Under his own name and also several pseudonyms, he’s reputed to have recorded over 6000 popular songs which sold over 300 million copies.
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