Fred Astaire was an accidental casting choice for the classic film Easter Parade. He was called in last minute to fill the shoes of Gene Kelly when he suffered an injured just before filming began.
Starring as Don Hewes, Astaire’s character is one part of a dancing duo. But his partner Nadine (Ann Miller) is ready to pursue other possibilities. In a fit of tipsy despair, Don tells his best friend Johnny (Peter Lawford) that he can teach any girl to dance well enough be his new coworker. In the bar, he chooses chorus girl Hannah Brown (Garland) even though she has to use a garter to help her remember her left leg from her right.
As Don teaches Hannah a new routine in anticipation of their upcoming show, she finds herself falling in love with her instructor. Unfortunately he is still in love with Nadine who is in love with Johnny who is falling for Hannah. It is a messy love square that leaves everyone longing for a romantic partner that isn’t emotionally available.
However, the story is of little note in a movie that is mainly designed to give the actors plenty of opportunity to showcase their talents—Astaire’s extraordinary dancing and Garland’s perky musical abilities. In one scene, the background dancers move at normal speed while Astaire performs in front of them in slow motion. Composer Irving Berlin contributed thirteen songs for the production including the title song Easter Parade.
Easter Parade turned out to be the most successful movie for both Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. It was also the most financially successful musical in 1948, and the film won the Best Original Music Score at the Academy Awards. While the production may feel slow for today’s younger viewers, this cheery musical production may inspire a new generation of aspiring performers.