Charisse's First Starring Role in Band Wagon

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After the success of Singin’ in the Rain, Arthur Freed’s winning musical streak wasn’t over yet.

His next project The Band Wagon used the music of Arthur Schwartz with Singin’ screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

Nannette Fabrey said, “The Band Wagon brought together all the people that really knew how to put on a show, know how to make a movie, and the picture still holds up.”

1. The plot was inspired on real life.

Using Schwartz’s catalog didn’t directly translate into a storyline for the new musical. As a result writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green dipped into their own pasts. Comden said, “That’s why we decided to pick a theater background, and just try to put in some of the things that actually happened to us, some of our experiences and what we knew about writing a show and to be truthful about it and make the characters convincing.”

2. It was Charisse’s first lead role.

Charisse said, “I think it’s one of the best musicals that was ever made. And at MGM that’s saying a lot.” Fred Astaire, though, was worried she was too tall for the part – a worry that became a joke in the actual script. Astaire enjoyed working with Charisse, who, unlike some of his other on-screen partners, was a trained dancer. “He said, ‘You know, when you dance with Cyd Charisse, you’d been danced with.’ So I was always very flattered by that remark,” she said.

3. The shoe shine was Minnelli’s discovery.

While out with his daughter, Liza, Director Vincente Minnelli passed a shoe shine that made a performance out of his job. Minnelli was so impressed that he took down his name, and later, used him for “Shine on Your Shoes” number. After the film was released, Leroy Daniels proudly displayed stills from the movie at his stand.

4. The “Triplets” number was tough business.

In order to make the baby dance sequence work, Fred Astaire, Nanette Fabray, and Jack Buchanan had their heels strapped to the back of their thighs, and fake legs, with baby shoes at the bottom, were created to give the illusion they were small. “We learned to dance on our knees,” said Nannette Fabrey. The hardest part was jumping down from the high chairs because if any performer fell down (which was easy to do), the whole thing had to be redone. At one point, the stars even received novocaine injections in their knees to help ease the pain.