That's Entertainment comes back, bouncingly, for a second encore
That's Entertainment III didn't sound like an appealing prospect. Part two of the series was a serious step down from the original, and approximately as much time had passed between That's Entertainment II and III as between the Godfathers of the same numerals. Not good karma there. You'd think that if any real need for another song-and-dance anthology existed, or if there were enough remaining footage worth the trouble, we'd have seen part three long ago. At least, I would think that, since I'm generally ready to see the musical -- as opposed to the Western or horror film or even the silent film -- dead and buried.
My antipathy toward the musical form may be a result of growing up in the decades when the musicals painted themselves into the corner of realism. Ninety-five percent of The Sound of Music was dedicated to a conventionally told story about marrying nuns and approaching Nazis, which was fine enough. But then characters that I was trying to take seriously would break into song, and they would seem unbearably silly.
But most of TE III's remarkable footage ignores that problem by dating from an earlier, purer time in musical history, when it was the story that interrupted the song and dance. The Fred Astaire films were unabashedly about Fred Astaire's dancing; everything else, including his joie de vivre, followed. The old MGM musicals virtually dispensed with plot, keeping their characters lighter than air.
The story here is that That's Entertainment III is one terrific compilation, and is perhaps the perfect summer movie. It certainly is when you're watching Esther Williams' hallucinatory underwater cavorting or Astaire's cooler-than-silk stepping. Watching him in action made me realize how far popular dance has fallen. Does anybody outside of ballet take hoofing as seriously, or do it anywhere near as gracefully, as Astaire? And if they did, where would they demonstrate their talents? MTV?
Astaire's clips alone are worth the price of admission, but other dancers come as more of a revelation, at least to a near ignoramus of the genre such as myself. Cyd Charrise had far too much sexual giddyap to let Technicolor slow her down. I could actually see her while she danced with Astaire, something I could never do with his more celebrated partner, Ginger Rogers. The film also contains a series of previously unseen outtakes, including a handful of Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland numbers.
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That's Entertainment III has far too many wonderful bits to be discussed in detail here. Let's just say that it's the best part III ever made.
-- David Theis
That's Entertainment III.
Directed by Bud Friedgen and Michael J. Sheridan.