BU Film School

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

FT 540 Reading: The Band Wagon

Screenplay info
Written by: Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0045537

Synopsis
Tony Hunter's personal effects (top hat, cane, etc.) are being auctioned off. His house is being sold. A producer tells his agent that he can't even give Tony a one-picture deal: "Mr. Exhibitor says, 'Tony Hunter is box-office poison.'"

On the train, two men chat. A picture of Tony in a magazine prompts one of them to call Tony washed-up. Tony, who happens to be in the same compartment, agrees that he's a has-been. The other two are embarassed. Tony gets off the train, and goes up to a group of reporters and photographers who are there. He greets them, they chat. They leave when Ava Gardner appears. He sings "By Myself," chats briefly with Ava.

Tony's friends Lily and Lester meet him at the station. Lester has brought a script that they want Tony to be in. Tony isn't sure anyone will want to see him. Lester: "Listen, you tap dancer you -- You're coming back to Broadway -- big!" Jeff Cordova, a hotshot director who can do anything (even though he's never done a musical), will be at the helm.

As Lily, Lester, and Tony head to Sardi's, Tony remarks that 42nd Street has changed -- it used to be the great theater street of the town. Someone accidentally steps on Lester's foot. Lily gets a cab. Tony sends them on ahead, walks to the former location of the Eltinge theater, which is now a penny arcade. He tries machine, buys hot dog, looks at other machines. Song: "Shine Your Shoes."

Tony, Lily, and Lester watch Jeffrey in "Oedipus Rex." Offstage, Lily and Lester try to introduce Tony, but Jeffrey keeps interrupting to give production notes to Hal, his general manager. When he finally realizes who Tony is, he greets him enthusiastically. Tony expresses his concern about Jeffrey's lack of musical experience. Jeffrey: "I'm sick of these artificial barriers between the musical and the drama." Lester and Lily sum up the script, which is about a children's book illustrator who does lurid murder mysteries on the side. They and Tony like it because it has lots of gay song-and-dance numbers for Tony and them, but Jeffrey seizes upon the idea of the book illustrator selling out -- it's a modern version of Faust, with the publisher as the devil. Jeffrey will play the devil, and sees Gabrielle Gerard as the girl. Objections: she's a ballet dancer, turns all shows down. Tony says the show's not for him: "I know what I can do, and I'm going to stick to it." Jeffrey says he's gone stale. Song: "That's Entertainment." Lily and Lester try to convince themselves that Jeffrey's right: "It's time we did something adult for a change."

Jeffrey and Hal in Jeffrey's office. It's 3 a.m. Paul, Gabrielle's choreographer/boyfriend, comes over to say Gabrielle won't do the show. Jeffrey says that's not why he calls -- he wants Paul to choregraph the show. He adroitly maneuvers Paul into insisting, over Jeffrey's objections, that Gabrielle would be perfect for the show. As he leaves, Paul invites Jeffrey, the Mortons, and Tony to see Gabrielle's performance. Hal to paper: "And Mike -- after this -- if Mr. Cordova tells you he's casting Tallulah for Little Eva, believe him."

Tony, Lily, and Lester watch ballet. Tony worries that she's too tall, and that he can't dance with her. They go to Jeffrey's apartment. Hal tells them to wait in the library -- Jeffrey's talking to the backers, and is saving them for the finale. Lily -- if Jeffrey gets backing tonight, could start rehearsing in three weeks.

Paul and Gaby arrive, are directed to the library, but Gaby says for them to wait in the sitting room instead.

Lester and Lily try to reassure Tony. Overhear Jeffrey talking about the pits of Hades.

Gaby -- Tony doesn't want me in show. Paul tries to reassure. Overhear Jeffrey talking about the deadly sins.

Lily and Lester are uneasy. More of the same from Jeffrey's spiel.

Tony and Gaby run into each other. Tony checks her height. The conversation starts out cordially, but they end up trading barbs about dancing, his ages. Both tell their respective parties that they're leaving. Before they can, Jeffrey and the backers spill out into the hall. Jeffrey makes introductions. After the backers leave, he reassures Lily that he laid the Faust bit on a bit thick. He got the $250,000 for the show.

Rehearsal hall. Jeff makes a speech: "Oh, and believe me, kids, there's nothing in the world as soothing as a smash hit." Jeffrey gives instructions to Hal. Lily and Lester are worried about the rewrite. Lester: "... how do you keep a show light with such an important theme? It's like trying to make roast beef ice cream." Jeffrey doesn't give them direction, just tells them to "keep plugging."

Shots conveying hectic rehearsal schedule. Bit of "Got a Brand New Suit," Paul and Gaby waltzing, dancers' audition, putting chorus girls through music, Jeffrey trying smoke effect. Lily and Lester try to convince themselves Jeffrey's right.

Tony and Gaby rehearse in front of the others. Jeffrey changes line (spreading ideals on a cracker). He takes Tony aside and yells at him to let 'er rip. Tony strides around and waves his arms. Jeffrey is delighted, others appalled.

Lily and Lester argue with Jeffrey and the scene designer. Eventually Lily sides with Jeffrey. Afterwards, Lester confronts her, and they argue. Tony rehearses "Brand New Suit," which as it turns out has been cut from the show.

Paul rehearses Tony, who has been given a very simple step. Chorus does very fancy stuff around him. "Wouldn't it be just as effective if I sat quietly in a wheelchair and watched?" Tony fumbles lift with Gaby. Jeffrey says, in order to save Tony for the finale, he should exit and watch the dance from his house. Tony blows up. He's sick of Gaby's smirk, Faust, show. He leaves. Lester and Lily quarrel. "Look, right or wrong, someone has got to be at the helm."

Gaby goes to Tony's apartment. She's supposed to apologize, then gets mad at him for being mean. She admits she's a nervous wreck, he thought he was the only one. "I've behaved horribly to you, and I know it. I'm not used to behaving horribly. It's a big strain." He consoles her. They take trip in hansom cab. Talking, laughing, dance to "Dancing in the Dark."

Getting set up for opening in New Haven. Problems -- scenery overloaded, music unsettled.

Orchestra rehearsal - not enough time for change, things go awry.

Gaby, Tony outside. He massages her shoulders. Paul comes, summons them. Tony -- let her rest for a while. Paul -- I know her better than you do. Tony and Gaby go back to rehearsal. Flares explode. Jeffrey to Hal: seems a bit much, doesn't it? Gaby and Tony crack up.

Show opens. Backers are enthusiastic at beginning. Death, Styx, chanting, etc. Audience is somber. Jeffrey: "We came. They saw. We close."

Tony looks for party, he's the only one there. He goes to the hotel, hears chorus having a party. They pull him in.

Gaby hears party. Tony is regaling everyone with stories. Lily and Lester arrive.

Everyone is having a good time. "I Love Louisa." Lester -- with all this talent, should put on show. Tony -- let's put show back how it was. Tony calls Jeff -- would love to have you, but doing show either way. Does whole spiel for maid.

Jeffrey agrees to do show, says Tony must be the one in charge. Tony will sell his paintings to finance. Paul -- won't be my kind of show, doesn't want Gaby to do it. "Have a nice trip, Paul."

Shots of tour, bits of song and dance. Tony talks to Gaby, sees she's holding a letter to Paul. Lester -- she's crazy about Tony.

Opening night in NY. Tony and Gaby slightly awkward -- if it's a hit, she might get sick of seeing him everyday. Paul coming? Tony starts to ask something, then holds back.

Bits from each show number.

In wings, Tony is about to say something to Gaby. Paul comes, he and Gaby go to dressing room.

Great sequence with Tony as Rod Riley (detective), gangsters, Gaby playing good girl and bad girl.

Tony wants to celebrate, but no one else seems to want to. He remarks that it doesn't feel like a hit. He gets ready to leave, but finds that there's a party on stage. The company sings, "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow." Gaby to Tony: "Yes, there were obstacles between us, but we kissed them goodbye." They kiss. "That's Entertainment" reprise.

My notes
-- somewhat detailed directions
-- great fun!
-- songs not always integrated -- a couple of numbers come out of nowhere

FT 540 notes (from 06/19/03)
-- lowest form of entertainment

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