Filmsite Movie Review
The Band Wagon (1953)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Show's Turn-Around -- A Return to the Original Musical Revue Production:

In the tradition of "let's put on a show," Lester suggested that they could conduct their own production:

Gosh, with all this raw talent around, why can't us kids get together and put on ourselves a show? Maybe we can find ourselves a barn or something, and maybe... (long pause) I could stand anything but failure.

Tony decided to call Cordova and announce that the show would not be closing, but would be reverted back to the 'light-hearted' and entertaining script and songs that were originally proposed and envisioned by the Martons - it would be revamped and converted from a serious drama back into a musical comedy revue show:

We're not closing this show, if you can call it a show. We're going on. We're gonna keep it on the road and we're gonna redo it from top to bottom. It won't be a modern version of Faust, Pilgrim's Progress, or the Book of Job in swing time. It'll be our show, the show we started out to do, the book the Martons wrote, with the songs you threw out. It'll have laughs and entertainment. Remember entertainment?

As it turned out, the person who answered the call was Cordova's German chambermaid (Lotte Stein). Meanwhile, Cordova (with Paul) had quietly snuck into the room and had overheard all of Tony's declaration. Cordova admitted that his directorial ambition was misguided: ("I got carried away in the wrong direction"), and that it was proper for Tony to be put in charge of the show: ("You've got to be the boss, Tony"). He also mentioned how he would like to participate, now that Tony would be in charge, but that the biggest challenge would be to find new financial backers since they had abandoned the show: "There isn't any money. Colonel Todd and the backers have stolen away into the night." Tony had a solution to the loss of funding - the sale of his Degas art collection of paintings.

Tony also proposed that the revamped show would be going on a pre-Broadway tour for five to six weeks, and Cordova agreed to help with the bookings. Arrangements were made to appear in Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and Baltimore before returning to Broadway. Choreographer Paul decided to withdraw since the show would no longer need him with Tony in charge. During a private conversation with Gabrielle, he insisted that she quit the show and join him in leaving: ("With Tony doing the dances, it's not gonna be my kind of show. Yours, either. I don't want you to do it"). With a renewed spirit of liberation, she told Paul that she was happy to stay and star with Tony: ("I wouldn't think of leaving the show, Paul...It's my career, and I want to stay").

The two parted ways when she refused to walk out with him and accompany him on a 9:00 am train back to New York the next morning. Tony was excited with the revival of the show as a revue musical that would include "dancers, singers (and) the sketches," with a number of new musical numbers minus the "junk" (the Faustian thematic plot).

In Philadelphia, one of the new songs optimistically performed (dubbed by India Adams) and danced by Gabrielle (in a sparkling yellow "sun" dress and with a red puff-decoration on her right wrist) was: "New Sun in the Sky."

I see a new sun up in a new sky And my whole horizon has reached a new high
Yesterday my heart sang a blue song But today hear it hum a cheery new song
I dreamed a new dream I saw a new face And I'm spreading sunshine all over the place...

In Boston, tuxedoed, top-hatted Tony and producer-director Cordova with canes performed an elegant soft-shoe dance: "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan." The backdrop of simple pastel bands was inspired by painter Paul Klee’s art. Cordova admitted his original plan was a flop. Sharing a spotlight, the duo was identically-costumed and mirrored each other, to express how they were now synchronized and on the same page:

I guess I'll have to change my plan
I should've realized there'd be another man
I overlooked that point completely...

In Washington, another new musical number was tried out and performed by Lily Marton and other cast members: "Louisiana Hayride" - a folksy country song backed by a huge hay-wagon and other hillbillyish country singers-dancers:

Get goin', Louisiana hayride
Get goin', we all is ready
Start somethin', Louisiana hayride
No use for callin' the roll
Oh, I like that sport sittin' in the hay
Lovin' it away, oh, oh
For the time is short
Crack your little whip
Get your little ship to go

During their next train ride from Washington to Baltimore (on their way to success in New York), Tony told Lester in private that he had fallen in love with Gabrielle, although he still feared that she loved her ex-boyfriend Paul, who she was corresponding with: ("Lester, I'm very much in love with this girl. It's ridiculous, I know, things being as they are, but there it is"). Lester jokingly responded: "Personally, I think the girl's crazy about you, but what you can see in a beautiful, young and talented girl is beyond me."

In Baltimore, the trio of Lily, Cordova, and Tony performed the memorable number in Scene 6: "Triplets." It was choreographed with each of the performers, dressed as 'little people' in identical baby clothes and bonnets, who both loved and hated each other. One by one as they sang the song, they jumped from their high-chairs onto the floor to land on their feet/knees. [Note: The performers actually jumped - painfully - onto their knees, with prosthetic baby feet attached.]

Three little unexpected children
Simultaneously the doctor brought us
And you can see that we'll be three forever...

We do everything alike
We look alike We dress alike
We walk alike We talk alike
And what is more
We hate each other very much
We hate our folks We're sick of jokes
Oh what an art it is to tell us apart...

We eat the same kind of vittles
We drink the same kind of bottles
We sit in the same kind of highchair
Highchair, highchair
Oh, I wish I had a gun, a wittle gun
It would be fun to shoot the other two
and be only one

Opening Night on Broadway in New York:

The marquee of the Alcott Theatre on Broadway announced the musical revue's opening night. The show was scheduled for six nights a week, plus two matinees. It was a coincidence that Tony and Gabrielle simultaneously arrived at the theatre's alleyway stage door during the rainy night - a good omen. She wished him "good luck" and kissed his cheek. He began to tell her of his true feelings for her, but was nervously apprehensive: ("Sweetie, I just want to say that no matter what happens tonight, it's been...Gaby, I've been wanting to ask you something....I felt there's been an obstacle between us. I wanted to...What I wanted to ask... Perhaps, I better not"). She agreed that it wasn't the right moment: ("I wish you wouldn't, Tony").

The next scene began with a zoom-in closeup of the show's program - a collection of random musical routines. [Note: There was a major continuity error. The cover of the program stated that it was being held at the Stratton Theatre.] The pages turned with an assortment of unrelated segments:

  • Scene 1: "New Sun in the Sky"
  • Scene 2: "Triplets"
  • Scene 5: "Louisiana Hayride"
  • Scene 6: "Girl Hunt" - A Murder Mystery in Jazz (Tony Hunter as Rod Riley, Gabrielle Gerard as The Blond and The Brunette)

The "Girl Hunt" Ballet - The FInale of the Revue Show:

In the play's dance finale, Tony and Gabrielle appeared in a jazzy, balletic 8-minute dreamy, semi-incoherent, pulp B-movie production number titled the "Girl-Hunt" (memorably choreographed by Michael Kidd). It was a film-noirish take-off or satire of Mickey Spillane's hard-boiled pulp detective novels, reflecting the Martons' original script that mentioned a childrens' book author who moonlighted by writing "lurid murder mysteries full of violence."

In the number, Hunter portrayed the character of private eye, gumshoe detective Rod Riley, while "Gaby" took two roles: a frightened Blonde, and a dangerous, sinister femme fatale Brunette siren.

The curtain (decorated with the covers of pulp detective novels) was machine-gunned vertically before opening up. In a shadowy and foggy urban cityscape (clearly a theatrical set), detective Rod Riley's laconic voice-over described the noirish setting. On the deserted street, Riley was dressed in a beige jacket and fedora, with a white tie, and navy-blue button-down shirt.

[Note: Behind him was a poster for the film The Proud Land - the fictional movie produced by the unscrupulous Kirk Douglas character in self-referential director Minnelli’s previous movie The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)]:

The city was asleep. The joints were closed. The rats, the hoods, and the killers were in their holes. I hate killers. My name is Rod Riley. I'm a detective. Somewhere in a furnished room, some guy was practicing on a horn. It was a lonesome sound. It crawled on my spine. I had just finished a tough case. I was ready to hit the sack.

(A Blonde appeared in a full-length lemon yellow-and-white striped trenchcoat with matching flats, and flung herself for protection at Riley)

I can smell trouble a mile off, and this poor kid was in trouble. Big trouble. She's scared, scared as a turkey in November.

(Another random passerby in a long trench-coat walked into the street, and picked up a whiskey bottle. He disappeared in a fiery blast of smoke - as a trumpet hit a high note)

There was nothing left of the guy, nothing at all, except a rag, a bone, and a hank of hair. [Note: The quote that described his remains was based upon Rudyard Kipling 1897 poem "The Vampire."]

The guy had been trying to tell me something, but what?

(Riley was accosted and beaten unconscious by three thugs. He later regained consciousness.)

So that's the way they wanted to play. All right. Somewhere in the city there was a killer and that was bad. Bad for the killer, because I shoot hard. And I hate hard.

(A dress shop's window display featured a mannequin. The material of her dress matched the "rag" of the victim)

I was playing a hunch.

(Riley entered the purple-walled dressing room or lobby of the shop where he was enticed by many slinky female models involved in a fashion show. He spotted a green gem on a pedestal. From the other side of the room, a Brunette femme fatale in a slinky, sparkling-sequined, dark-red high-slit dress with matching high-heeled red shoes first appeared in triplicate due to mirrors on both sides. She approached Riley, and led him into a side storage room with disembodied mannequin parts and a bolt of the tell-tale "rag" fabric. He was again attacked by the three thugs and the emerald jewel was stolen)

She came at me in sections. More curves than a scenic railway. She was bad, she was dangerous. I wouldn't trust her any farther than I could throw her. She was selling hard, but I wasn't buying.

(One of the attackers was the mysterious Mr. Big, who fled from the store. Riley pursued them into the Times Square/42nd Street subway station, where more thugs were firing at each other with guns. The Blonde, wearing a pale blue sheer negligee with bodice ruffles and adorned with butterflies, slid into view and clung to his leg for protection. As Riley danced with the Blonde, two of the thugs shot each other dead in the background. A second pair of thugs also ended up killing each other. A bullet meant for Riley, as he was embraced by the Blonde, struck and killed another thug.)

This had to be Mr. Big. Get him and you get them all. There was something about this kid that made you want to protect her for life. That bullet was meant for me.

(Riley took the "hank of hair" to a wig shop, and then was led to climb up a tall, ascending set of red fire escape stairs. He entered into the apartment window of a masked female in a foamy bathtub who showed off the emerald ring. Riley was again knocked unconscious by three thugs.)

Maybe this was a long shot, but I've seen some funny ones pay off. I was beginning to see daylight.

(When Riley regained consciousness, the female in the bathtub was missing, and so was the emerald)

These mugs were smart, but they made one mistake. They got me mad.

(Riley took the "bone" to the entrance to the DEM BONES CAFE, with an image of a skeleton with swaying hips. Inside the speakeasy cafe, the patrons (mostly thuggish men in dark suits with citrus-colored shirts) were performing a stylistic, shuffling dance. He was eyed at the bar by the Brunette, who was wearing a dark, olive-green covering that obscured her red sparkling dress. She partially strip-teased by removing the covering, and moving closer to Riley to perform a striking, bold dance-duet with him. Their dance was interrupted by a trumpet blast from the band, signaling the thugs to flip open their switchblades. Riley fought off the thugs and realized that nitro-glycerine had been in the glass bottle, used in the murder committed earlier, that was shattered by a high trumpet note. At point-blank range, he shot and killed Mr. Big - who was revealed to be The Blonde with the green emerald jewel. She kissed him before expiring in his arms.)

Suddenly, all the pieces fitted together. I knew how the crime had been done. The high note on the trumpet had shattered the glass. The glass with the nitro-glycerine. Now I knew who the killer was, but it didn't matter anymore. Killers have to die.

(After solving the case, Riley returned to the dark nighttime streets. The Brunette lit Riley's cigarette with her extended black-gloved right arm sporting a diamond cuff-bracelet. They walked off together into the cityscape, as the curtain closed behind them.)

Another page in the casebook of Rod Riley was finished. The city was asleep. The joints were closed. The rats, the hoods, and the killers were in their holes. I felt good, but something was missing. She was bad, she was dangerous. I wouldn't trust her any farther than I could throw her. But she was my kind of woman.

The Aftermath of the Hit Broadway Opening:

The Broadway show's opening was a tremendously successful hit, Tony was in his unusually-quiet dressing room, but dismayed and puzzled by the fact that no-one had come to congratulate him ("It certainly doesn't feel like one"). He asked Hal: "Doesn't anybody ever come backstage anymore on opening nights?" He also assumed that he would now be alone - without Gabrielle's love - when he asked Hal: "Did Gaby go out with Paul?" Without obvious self-pity, he told his valet Bobby (Bobby Watson) that he was going out to celebrate by himself in a nightclub with a glass of champagne. He began to hum and sing the tune of "By Myself" (a reprise).

As he exited the room and emerged onstage, he was completely startled and surprised to see the entire cast awaiting him with a party, to honor him and express their gratitude for managing and saving the show. As a tribute, everybody sang: "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

Gabrielle stepped forward to speak on behalf of the entire company and cast, to explain what Tony meant to all of them. She added that she was in love with Tony ("We belong together") - she had broken up with Paul:

Tony, the whole company got together. We all chipped in, and we bought you - nothing. So we have nothing to give you but our gratitude, our admiration, and our love. The show's a hit, but we all feel no matter what might've happened to it, it was wonderful knowing you, working with you. Maybe some of us didn't see eye to eye with you at the beginning. Maybe we thought we wouldn't work out together, but we have. Yes, there were obstacles between us, but we've kissed them good-bye. We've come to love you, Tony. We belong together. The show's going to run a long time. As far as I'm concerned, it's going to run forever.

Thrilled and overjoyed, Tony gave Gabrielle a long and passionate kiss in front of everyone. The entire group, including Lily, Lester, Cordova, Gabrielle and Tony with the entire chorus/cast, turned toward the camera to reprise: "That's Entertainment!" as the film concluded on a high-note.

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