Of enjoyable MGM musical The Belle Of New York, The Observer said, “…in its new way seems to be one of the most refreshing musicals Hollywood has sent us for a long time”. It was produced by the legendary Arthur Freed, among whose pictures were the great musicals such as Babes in Arms (1939), Meet Me in St Louis (1944), Ziegfeld Follies (1946), On the Town (1949, Take Me Out to the Ball Game , An American In Paris (1951), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Band Wagon (1953) and Gigi (1958).
Freed had originally intended to make The Belle of New York in 1946 with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland but the project was dropped when Garland dropped out during rehearsals. However, the production was reactivated for ASTAIRE. Based on a successful 1897 stage show, Astaire was cast as a playboy who had left five brides at the altar, finally to fall for straight-laced Salvation Army lass VERA-ELLEN.
The score features eight new songs by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer, among them Seeing’s Believing , Naughty But Nice , Baby Doll, Who Wants To Kiss the Bridegroom and a song that was destined to become an Astaire trademark, I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man .
Director Charles Walters had originally wanted Mae West for the role of VERA-ELLEN’s aunt but she wanted too much money. But a strong cast and top notch songs and magnificent choreography made this a hit and the sequence of Astaire and Vera-Ellen literally dancing on air to the tune of Seeing’s Believing remains one of the classics of the musical.
USA / MGM / 82 minutes / 1952 Filmed in technicolor
Writers: Robert O’Brien, Irving Ellinson / Adaptation: Chester Erskine From the musical play by Hugh Morton and Gustave Kerker / Music and Lyrics: Johnny Mercer, Harry Warren / Cinematography: Robert Planck / Producer: Arthur Freed / Director: Charles Walters
Cast: Fred Astaire, Vera-Ellen, Marjorie Main, Keenan Wynn, Alice Pearce, Clinton Sundberg, Gale Robbins, Henry Slate, Roger Davis, Tom Dugan