Sunday, December 4, 2011

That's entertainment.

Not only do I love classic movies, but I love musicals. I might have mentioned this before. :)

I don't mind that they're "unrealistic" or sometimes a little cheesy. I don't cringe when a character bursts into song or dance. I swoon when the guy takes the girl into his arms and dances with her. I can't help myself, okay? :)

But when I first started getting into classic movies about four years ago, I didn't always have such a loving, forgiving attitude towards musicals. I thought that most of them were a little goofy and that Technicolor was sort of tacky. I loved Singin' in the Rain (still my absolute favorite musical) from the start, but I cringed at the thought of others.

Back then we still had satellite TV, but we didn't have TCM and I didn't know yet that the library has tons of classic movies on DVD. So my main way of seeing new classic films was PBS on Thursday and Sunday nights, when they showed an old movie.

And one night they showed a film called That's Entertainment.

Musicals weren't goofy or tacky anymore. They were gorgeous and elegant and funny and quirky. I was in love. :)

I taped That's Entertainment on VHS. Then the next week I was surprised to see That's Entertainment: Part II airing on PBS. I taped that one, too, and rewatched them many times (yes, I still own and use a VCR :).

The first That's Entertainment film was released in 1974. It was sort of a tribute to MGM musicals (they really are the best). You remember how MGM had "more stars than the heavens?" This movie is hosted by a lot of them: Gene Kelly (yay!), Fred Astaire, Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, etc.

It contains clips from over sixty musicals. Some of them you'll recognize instantly, and some of them you've probably never heard of.

Also, this movie was the last time that filming was done on MGM's backlot, which was falling down at that point. The backlot was sold to developers and pretty much everything was torn down. I think that is so sad! If only they would have kept it up as it was during MGM's best days and made it into a huge museum or something. I would have loved to have gone there.

Because I was just starting to get interested in classic movies, this first film was almost completely new to me. I discovered a ton of my favorite musicals from clips in That's Entertainment. :)

The second That's Entertainment film was released in 1976. This one features musical numbers that are slightly more obscure, but just as wonderful. Also, instead of focusing just on musicals, it includes other famous MGM talents: comedy stars (Marx Brothers, etc.) romantic duos (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy), and favorite lines from other top stars.

One of my favorite parts is the quote section. They poke fun at Clark Gable's line, "I love ya, (insert name of character here)," and show a whole slew of clips with him saying that line from different films. It's hilarious. :) Then there's a clip of Jean Harlow saying it to him, and he jokes that she's stealing his gag line.

Instead of having multiple hosts, this one is hosted by just Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Which I love. {Aside from some of the silly lyrics that someone wrote for Gene and Fred to sing in tune to the theme song.} And the two of them dance together for only the second time ever, which gives me chills. :) This was the last time Fred Astaire ever danced on film (he was in his late 70s).

There was eighteen years between the That's Entertainment sequel in '76 and the final film, released in 1994. This final film featured clips and musical numbers that were cut from movies and that had never been seen before. I love seeing the Judy Garland songs and the behind-the-scenes clip of how the cameras had to move to keep up with one of Eleanor Powell's tap dance routines.

Several of the original hosts had passed away before TE: Part 3 was released, including Fred Astaire. Gene Kelly is still one of the hosts, but the difference of 18 years is pretty shocking. It's really sad to see Gene so feeble- even his voice sounds week (he died two years later). There are other hosts, too, like Debbie Reynolds, Howard Keel, and Cyd Charisse (who always seemed to me to be a truly classy lady).

The reason that I'm finally getting around to "reviewing" this trilogy years later is because a few weeks ago, our bargain store got in a shipment of the four disc collection of these movies. It was only $12, and I couldn't resist. :) The DVDs are much better quality than my VHS recordings. {The set is really reasonable on Amazon right now.}

The complete set also includes an extra disc with more outtakes, featurettes, and other special features. I haven't watched them all yet, but what I've seen has been very interesting.

If you love musicals, whether you've been watching them for years or you're a relatively new fan, I highly recommend the That's Entertainment series. It does not take the place of watching the real musicals. In the first place, all of these clips are cut and edited, so they're not nearly as good as the original thing. But watching the edited clips will make you want to go back and rewatch your favorites. Also, just seeing the hosts years later is worth it.

I recommend that you keep a notebook and a pen nearby while watching, though. Because if you're anything like me, you'll come away with a list of about 15 musicals that you've never seen before and that you need to go add to your Netflix queue. :)

Until next time,


  1. These sounds really fun! I will have to check them out.

    *Sigh* They just don't make musicals like they used to!

  2. I just adore the classics, especially the musicals. They were my bread and butter growing up. :) Glad the TE films helped you discover so many favs!

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