My wife Laurie and I spent our 4th of July at a movie theater, enjoying the boffo classic documentary, That’s Entertainment. Produced by MGM in 1974, this epic feature was hosted on the backlot by Gene Kelly, Liza Minnelli, James Stewart, Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, Bing Crosby, and Peter Lawford. The film was produced by Jack Haley Jr., son of the star who played the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. Henry Mancini wrote a complimentary music score.
A fabulous retrospective, scenes showcased talent from what the studio proclaimed: More stars than there are in the heavens. We enjoyed Esther Williams, June Allyson, Donald O’Connor, Judy Garland, Van Johnson, Ann Miller, Mario Lanza, Lena Horne, and it goes on-and-on. Archival footage includes Jean Harlow and Cary Grant singing; plus, Joan Crawford and Clark Gable dancing!
The title of the film was derived from the musical anthem performed in the 1953 MGM classic The Band Wagon. The documentary was the very last production on the studio lot, a sad backdrop. Ironically, this moneymaker (the largest motion picture in a decade for the studio), was raking in dividends at a time MGM was in bankruptcy, and the company began to sell off the lot, parcel-by-parcel. It was so successful, the production spawned two sequels. In fact, one year in 1977, I went to see a questionable double-bill of That’s Entertainment Pt. II and Jaws. I left the movie theater curiously exhilarated and shocked… lol.
When I first saw the original That’s Entertainment on the big screen almost forty years ago, I was a senior in high school. It was the very first time I realized Hollywood had a Golden Age. It forever changed my outlook about cinema. Show business could be my career calling. What an inspiration!
And, so it goes…
Until next time> “never forget”