In Derp Blog Into Darkness, I take a plunge into the deep with movies I’ve never seen or (in some cases) never even heard of, with the only common thread throughout being that they were purchased by my partner in the years after the break with her religious upbringing. This gives me a range from mainstream comfort food to more daring, “rebellious” stuff.
LAWL “MGM’s gayest Technicolor musical”
There’s nothing to better prepare you for ROYAL WEDDING as an inexperienced musical watcher than that tagline, really. It’s a viewing experience from a completely different cinematic world than the one we have in 2013*. I like musicals, although I’ve never really delved deep into the genre per se. My biggest exposure has no doubt been Gene Kelly, more specifically SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. ROYAL WEDDING was my first Fred Astaire movie. Astaire is a bit of a weird looking guy to be a movie star, huh? I mean look at him up there! He’s perfectly charming and a great performer and all that, but it just makes you think how homogenous movie stars in our day are. Think of Astaire, Cagney, Harlow… those were some WEIRD looking motherfuckers!
The plot of ROYAL WEDDING (such as it is) has Astaire and co-star Jane Powell as a brother-sister dancing duo, hitting it big on Broadway. Their agent comes to inform them that their numbers are so good, he can get them to perform in LONDON, ENGLAND, don’tchaknow! Powell leaves behind three suitors who end up engaging in fisticuffs on the very shore when the boat leaves with the siblings. What a wild dame, especially for a 1951 movie! Now, the concept of a brother-sister dancing duo is pretty weird in and of itself, I think – especially considering that they’re playing a flirting king and maid in the opening number! But Astaire is super adamant about them both not getting married, cuz it just wouldn’t fit their lifestyle. Suitors and beaus and whatnot, all good and well, but don’t you settle down, missy!
So, of course, over the course of the film, they both meet that Special Someone to make them settle down, Powell in an impoverished lord played by Peter Lawford and Astaire in a barkeep’s daughter (Sarah Churchill). There is a minimum of conflict in these relationships; Powell/Lawford’s big obstacle is that Astaire doesn’t approve (“Nothing serious!”), Astaire/Churchill’s problem is that she’s already with someone. Okay, that last one would seem pretty big, but you know how it gets solved? SPOILERS, I guess! Astaire has his agent call some guys in the US (the rival is in Chicago) and see what he’s up to. Turns out, the fellow married someone else a few months ago! Well, that’s convenient! Wait a minute, how are we filling up a 93 minute movie here? Sounds like someone forgot that it’s a MUSICAL!
Sometimes there’ll be 30 second dialogue intervals between 5 minute tapdance scenes. My favorite was right after an elaborate dance number, Powell and Lawford are having a romantic day-for-night stroll in the English countryside, when Lawford asks Powell if she loves him. CUE SONG MOTHERFUCKER
Probably the best bit (although maybe musical scholars, as there must exist, would find it gimmicky and cheap) was Astaire being so happy about his newfound love with Churchill (and her love for dancing! Oh! What a woman!) that he just has to… you guessed it! TAPPA TAPPA TAPPA in victory all over his hotel room. And I do mean all over:
Final bit of movie-related lulz: the “royal wedding” of the title is actually just a background thing that’s kinda happening. None of the characters are royals. The royal wedding does get all the principals married, though, as Astaire and Powell, in the final moments of the film, just get SO FUCKING HYPED SON at the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Phillip Mountbatten that they just both have to get married right the fuck now hnnnghhhh and they do. This is the big final act reversal as they both, with no outside stressing, had decided earlier to keep on keepin’ on with their NO SERIOUS RELATIONS policy. But goddamn you know, that’s really impressive stock footage! So they find a descendant of Oliver Cromwell to wed them on a day where seemingly every other Briton is waving Union Jacks out on the street and he’s just happy to be out of that stupid poopyhead royalist confusion. END CREDITS
ROYAL WEDDING is a charming little movie from a bygone age that maybe isn’t THAT different from the cinematic age in which we live now. I think the (pre-STAR WARS) 70s are probably far more different to what’s in theaters now than the musical age ever was.
But now for some REAL TALK! The DVD for ROYAL WEDDING was by the same cheap publishers that did the HIS GIRL FRIDAY release talked about in this same series. Check out that link for essentially the same main DVD menu as ROYAL WEDDING but with a different title. After the end titles of RW faded out, though, I was treated with a chilling rogue image. I decided to pop the DVD into my computer disc drive, but VLC Media Player cut back to the main menu. I was gonna have to capture this motherfucker the hard way! So I played the end scene on my TV again about four times before I could register this PHANTOM FRAME
Does that mean this DVD was just transferred from a VHS and ROYAL WEDDING wasn’t the first thing on it? Is CLASSIC MOVIES into more sinister dealings than selling cheap, ugly transfers of classic movies? What? WHAT????? I will not stop my investigations until I feel the puppies lapping at my toes, dear reader, you may rest assured of that!
*Although you could argue that big blockbuster action movies have basically supplanted the musical as the dominant form of cinematic comfort food for mainstream audiences. How many times over the past decade have YOU gone out to see a young man gain powers, assume a super-identity and fight some equally powered-up bad guy? Consider this before dismissing the Hollywood musical!