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THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT!

        

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The first two theatrical ‘That’s Entertainment!’ movies — wonderful compilations of some of the best segments from MGM’s golden era of musicals — were released in 1974 and 1976, respectively, several years before I became the film critic for the Deseret News, but the third entry in the trilogy came in the mid-1990s, while I was the movie guy. So my review of ‘That’s Entertainment! III,’ published in the Deseret News on Aug. 5, 1994, is below . I also reviewed a DVD set of all three films, published on Oct. 11, 2004, and that is also included below. Why, you might ask? Because Warner Archive has now reissued a Blu-ray set of all three G-rated movies (it was originally released in 2010 but has been out of print for some time), a good reason for fans to rejoice.

 

“That's Entertainment! The Complete DVD Collection”

"Let's put on a show!"

If that battle cry, heard most often from Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, means anything to you, then you must be a fan of old movie musicals. And this is the set for you.

These three compilations of classic-movie clips are chock-full of great musical standards, fabulous dancing, hilarious comedy and, well, just good old-fashioned fun.

— "That's Entertainment!" (1974) was a smash at the box office, proving long before the advent of home video that great song-and-dance entertainment could still pull in an audience. This one has some of the best that MGM's archives have to offer, and it's hosted by MGM's biggest stars — Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Peter Lawford, Liza Minnelli, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor.

— "That's Entertainment, Part 2" (1976) was inevitable, given the huge success of the first film. Gene Kelly directed this one, and he and Fred Astaire host, narrate and get to sing and dance together. This film also branches out a bit to include clips from comedy movies, utilizing the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello and many others.

— "That's Entertainment! III" (1994) came some 18 years after the previous entry in the series and is hosted by June Allyson, Cyd Charisse, Lena Horn, Howard Keel, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Debbie Reynolds and Mickey Rooney. Charisse and Horne seem ageless, and even after two extensive compilation films, there is plenty of classic, and sometimes hilarious material. This one also has a lot of numbers that had never before been shown to the general public, including Ava Gardner's singing from "Show Boat," which is dubbed over in that movie, and Debbie Reynolds in songs that were cut from "Singin' in the Rain" and "I Love Melvin."

The bonus disc includes even more previously unseen material — including an MGM 25th anniversary newsreel, outtakes of everyone from Frank Sinatra to Jimmy Durante, an excerpt from a 1976 episode of "The Mike Douglas Show" with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and others pitching "That's Entertainment, Part 2.”

  

— THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT! III    

If you have seen either of the previous "That's Entertainment" films, you know what to expect with "That's Entertainment III" — a compilation of clips from MGM's golden era of terrific musical comedies.

 

What you may not expect, however, is how fresh and fascinating the material is this third time around. You might be thinking, how much could be left after two previous endeavors? As it happens, quite a bit.

 

"That's Entertainment!" was a delightful series of highlights from MGM's best musicals, hosted by stars from the era. And "That's Entertainment, Part II," while not quite up to the first film (and with too many so-so comedy sequences) was an enjoyable followup.

 

But "That's Entertainment! III" — coming some 18 years after "Part 2" — is a wonderful return to form. And this time the emphasis is on behind-the-scenes machinations, including never-before-seen outtakes and discussions of censorship, as well as the expected sparkling song-and-dance sequences.

 

A number of familiar stars from the era host the film — June Allyson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney and Esther Williams among them. Each is enjoyable, introducing various themed segments. (An interesting sidelight is seeing each of these stars now, a reminder of how much time has passed since the era of romantic musicals.)

 

But there is no question that the most affecting moments are provided by Gene Kelly, who has been the senior anchor for all three films, and two star performers who seem ageless, the still stunning Cyd Charisse and the still magnificent Lena Horne.

 

         

 

Gene Kelly, left, and Fred Astaire trip the light fantastic in the 'That's Entertainment!' films (1974-94)

 

Charisse introduces several delightful moments, including numbers she performed with athletic dancer/choreographer Kelly. Horne, whose segment is arguably the film's most compelling, talks candidly about racism during her star days and shows us a song cut from "Cabin in the Sky" — because the powers-that-be felt audiences would be offended by a black woman in a bubble bath!

 

There are also many hilarious bits of business here, from comedy scenes (the bizarre contortionists The Rose Sisters) to some of the outtakes, especially a side-by-side juxtaposition of a lip-synced song, "Two-Faced Woman," performed by both sexy Charisse, in a sultry dance cut from "The Band Wagon, and histrionic Joan Crawford, in blackface, which was included in "Torch Song."

 

There are quite a few numbers shown here that the general public has never seen before, from Debbie Reynolds doing songs cut from "Singin' in the Rain" and "I Love Melvin" to Ava Gardner performing a "Show Boat" tune — before it was decided to have another singer dub her voice (a rather dubious decision, given how well Gardner does on her own). There's even a song-and-dance routine with Judy Garland from "Annie Get Your Gun," which was filmed before she was replaced by Betty Hutton.

 

And there are, of course, plenty of dazzling moments from some of the greatest MGM musicals — "The Wizard of Oz," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "Singin' in the Rain" and countless others.

 

The clip choices here and the film's pacing are fabulous. There's no question that the title of this series is apropos — for pure entertainment, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything as rich and enjoyable as "That's Entertainment III."