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USA 1951
Directed by
Stanley Donen
92 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Royal Wedding

Dancer and choreographer Stanley Donen had co-directed On the Town two years earlier with Gene Kelly the success of which gave him this film, his debut as a solo director.

Loosely based on the real life experience of Fred Astaire whose sister and dancing partner, Adele, married an English peer and designed to cash in on public interest in the 1947 marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip (stock footage of which is interpellated into the film), Royal Wedding tells the  story of American sibling song-and-dance team Tom (Astaire) and Ellen (Jane Powell) Bowen who are booked for a London season at the time of the eponymous event.  Both prioritizing career over marriage they are forced to re-evaluate their commitment when Ellen falls for the dashing Lord John Brindale (Peter Lawford), and Tom becomes smitten with the elegant Anne Ashmond (Sarah Churchill, daughter of Winston).

Unfortunately the film is a dull affair. Not only is Astaire thirty years older than Powell, making for an unlikely double act, but Astaire essentially reiterates his schtick from his classic 1930s films with Ginger Rogers. The panache of those films however is well and truly absent here with the screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner being routine and its would-be bonhomie forced. 

Some of the songs with lyrics by Lerner to music by Burton Lane (who wrote the music for original 1947 Finian’s Rainbow stage show) are rather dated especially those in an operetta-ish mode by Powell but a rollicking duet between her and Astaire, “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life? is fun. There’s a couple of comedy dances, one with Astaire and Powell trying to keep their balance as the ship lurches from side to side, Astaire hoofing solo in the ship’s gym and, most impressively, a number in which Astaire dances on the floor, walls and ceiling of his hotel room, an effect which was achieved by building the room in a rotating barrel and synching the camera to its movement.




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