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IT’S MID-afternoon. Maybe a holiday meal with the family is either in preparation or has been concluded. Maybe the familial/liturgical/political chatter has temporarily subsided. What to do? See if there’s a Netcam of Pope Francis’s first Paschal Celebration? Or there’s always a visit to the Easter Island Home Page (really: http://goo.gl/siYxc).
But, instead, why not gather around the televisionic hearth and watch an Easter Flick?
In the trio of brief reviews that follows, I’m thinking the fluff, not the substance of Easter. I leave the latter to a higher authority; no, not that One.
Easter Parade, 1948, is a charming Irving Berlin musical staring Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Ann Miller and Peter Lawford. It’s Eastertime, 1911 (per IMDb) or 1912 (per Wikipedia), and two hoofers split. Ann Miller wants to dance out on her own (is she in love with Peter?) Fred seeks a new partner (enter Judy). By the time all the hoofing dust has settled, it’s a “two boys meet two girls/two boys lose two girls/etc., etc.”
Its most memorable song is, of course, “Easter Parade.” There are also “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” “Better Luck Next Time,” and “It Only Happens When I Dance With You.”
My own modest contribution to English criticism, “Flabby Fun with the Word ‘Only’ ” at www.wp.me/p2ETap-2W, suggests what’s incorrect with this last song title.
There are some obscure Berlin efforts too: “I Want to Go Back to Michigan,” “A Fellow With An Umbrella” and “Snookey Ookums.” I like “The Ragtime Violin” that Fred sings to Judy, though.
Holiday Inn, 1942, predates the accommodations with those sparkly ceilings by a decade (Memphis, 1952). Another Irving Berlin musical, this one stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. As its name suggests, the flick is pan-holiday rather than Easter-specific. But it does get a reprise of “Easter Parade,” originally written by Berlin for a 1933 Broadway revue As Thousands Cheer.
Of course, its big hit is “White Christmas,” one of twelve songs written expressly for the flick. Also “Blue Skies,” “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” and “Happy Holidays.” I had to research the others, though you might recall “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” or “Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep.” There’s also “Abraham,” a dated—and, today, not uncontroversial—bit of Crosby in black-face.
Bugs Bunny’s Easter Funnies, TV, 1977, is great fun. In a classic case of casting against type, it’s Daffy Duck who ends up playing the Easter Bunny, thus leaving Bugs, Sylvester, Pepe Le Pew, Foghorn Leghorn and Yosemite Sam to portray themselves.
Mel Blanc had marvelous vocal abilities. Warner Bros. Looney Tunes stalwarts Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Hal Geer and their crew had the perfect touch of cartoon sweetness and aggression.
I conclude on a non-cinematic ecclesiastical note. King Clovis of the Franks, c. 466-511, was the first Christian king to rule Gaul, aka France. When being instructed on the significance of Easter, he is said to have drawn his sword and shouted, “Had my men and I been at Calvary, there would have been no crucifixion!”
A modern scholar observed “It would be difficult to imagine another on whom the Christian message of redemption was more wasted.”
Have a Happy—and meaningful—Easter. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013