A history of the MGM musical from The Hollywood Revue of 1929 to Gigi, with the clips being introduced by such luminaries as Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Bing Crosby, Liza Minnelli and Elizabeth Taylor.
In October 1973, MGM stopped making movies. But while airline mogul Kirk Kerkorian began selling off the lot and the studio's most famous sets and props, he retained control of the film catalogue, which afforded Jack Haley, Jr. and his team unique access to the MGM musical's greatest hits. However, this was no mere an act of crassly commercial compilation. It was a work of archival preservation, as not only were old prints saved, but the sound was remastered to guarantee the optimum performance quality.
It was also a history lesson in what was and still is an essentially dormant genre. Thus, it was all the more regrettable that the writers chose to take such a patronisingly lofty view of the earliest Talkies, with their chubby chorines in virtually static lines and tinny tenors trying to stay within range of the primitive microphones, as some of the later excerpts were hardly the height of sophistication themselves.
The denial of musical activity elsewhere in Hollywood was equally foolish, as the suggestion that Fred Astaire and Busby Berkeley only really came into their own at MGM made the picture feel more like propaganda than a celebration of a uniquely American artform. Even Bing Crosby was forced to concentrate on the pair of pictures he made at the studio and he looks as uncomfortable reminiscing about someone else's memories as Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and James Stewart (unlike Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minnelli, who ham up their parts shamelessly).
As you would expect, the selection concentrates on such icons as Astaire, Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. But the unexpected showstoppers featured the dazzling tapping of Eleanor Powell and the aqua-balletics of Esther Williams. There were also some charming surprises, such as James Stewart warbling through 'Easy to Love' in Born to Dance and Clark Gable strutting his way through`Puttin' on the Ritz' in Idiot's Delight.
Having racked up over $12 million at the box-office, Haley sought to repeat the trick with That's Entertainment, Part 2 (1976;), That's Dancing (1985;) and That's Entertainment III (1994;), which featured several fascinating outtakes.
The prototype for now ubiquitous 50 best blabla clips ever shows is well worth a look. They really are a bunch of the best ever...