Cast & Crew
As soon as brother and sister dance team Tom and Ellen Brown's long-running Broadway show closes, they learn from their agent, Irving Klinger, that the show has been booked by his London-based brother Edgar to play at the Mayfair theater during the festivities surrounding the wedding of Princess Elizabeth. A few days later, the flirtatious Ellen leaves her suitors on the dock while she and Tom set sail for England. As she boards, Ellen catches the eye of Lord John Brindale, a well-known "skirt chaser," who winks at her. During the voyage, Johnny and Ellen are amused by their similarities and begin a romance. Once in London, Tom warns Ellen not to party during rehearsals, and Ellen promises to be good.
On the way to auditions for the show, Tom encounters Anne Ashmond on the street. She thinks that he is following her and is surprised when she discovers that he is the show's star. Tom immediately hires her for a part in the show, then asks her out that night. Back at the hotel, Ellen and Tom both say they are turning in early, then separately sneak out to meet their respective dates. During the evening, Anne tells Tom that she has loved to dance since childhood, when she would sometimes imagine herself dancing on the ceiling. Later she takes Tom to a pub run by her American-hating father James, who is easily won over by the friendly Tom. Anne admits to Tom that she is engaged to American Hal Rayton, who lives in Chicago, but they enjoy each other's company and agree to go out again, without the pressure of a romance. During rehearsals, Ellen keeps her promise not to go out, while Tom sees Anne every night.
The day before the opening, Johnny goes to see Ellen and Tom at their hotel and promises to be in the theater the next night. That evening, though, Ellen is heartbroken when she receives flowers and a card from Johnny saying that he cannot be at the opening because he has to attend a party for the royal couple. Tom is also blue because Anne will not be at the opening night party, but will be home waiting for a call from Hal, who has not written in months. Agreeing that the show is the most important thing, Tom and Ellen decide to go to the party together. The next night, the show is a hit, and Ellen is overjoyed when Johnny leaves a royal party to be with her. Now alone, Tom wanders over to the pub and learns from James that Hal did not call. Because James and his estranged wife Sarah are scheduled to view the royal wedding gifts the next day, and James is nervous to see her, Tom promises to come along for moral support. Walking home, Tom passes by the theater and takes a photograph of Anne from a lobby display. In his hotel room, Tom gazes lovingly at the photograph and imagines himself dancing on the ceiling.
Meanwhile, Ellen and Johnny decide that they are in love and Johnny asks her to marry him. The next morning, Edgar brings the newspapers to Ellen and Tom, who read their glowing reviews over breakfast. Before Edgar leaves, Tom asks him to call Irving in New York and see if he can find any information on Hal. That afternoon, Tom accompanies the nervous James to meet Sarah and Anne, and the tentatively reconciled couple happily go to view the royal wedding gifts. Before the performance that night, Edgar tells Tom that Irving learned Hal has been married for several months.
After the show, Tom confesses to Anne what he has learned and is surprised to find that she is happy about the news. They admit that they love each other, but when she asks if he wants to marry her, he declines, saying that he would be a flop as a husband. At the hotel that night, Ellen and Tom nervously reveal the news of their respective romances, but talk each other out of marriage and agree to keep the act together, just as it has always been. On the morning of the royal wedding, all of London is celebrating, except Tom and Ellen, who downheartedly view the parade together. Inspired by the jubilation of the crowd, Tom and Ellen realize that they cannot be happy unless they get married and determine to do so immediately. Edgar agrees to arrange everything while Tom finds Anne and Ellen finds Johnny. That afternoon, the two couples are married and walk arm-in-arm through the throng of celebrating Londoners.
Gwen L. Jones
J. D. Jewkes
Alan Jay Lerner
Alan Jay Lerner
Jack Martin Smith
Alfred E. Spencer
Edwin B. Willis
Broadway lyricist Alan Jay Lerner had just scored a hit with Brigadoon when MGM producer Arthur Freed convinced him to give screenwriting a try. He was only supposed to spend ten weeks exploring story ideas at MGM but ended up staying six months. During that time, he crafted an Oscar-winning script based on George Gershwin's An American in Paris (1951) and explored his own idea for a musical based on Fred Astaire?s early days on stage, when his sister Adele was his dancing partner. The team had broken up when Adele married a British lord she fell in love with during a tour to England. That gave Lerner the idea for a film musical about a brother-and-sister act who find romance when they take their show to England for Princess Elizabeth's Royal Wedding (1951).
Initially June Allyson was assigned to co-star, with former dancer Charles Walters directing. The role was a big thrill to Allyson, who had long wanted to work with Astaire. But when she fell ill during the first days of musical rehearsals, her doctor informed her that she was finally pregnant after years of trying. She called Astaire first, breathlessly informing him that, "I want you to be the first to know, I'm pregnant." After a stunned silence, he asked "Who is this?"
Then somebody decided to give the role to Judy Garland. Given her frail mental and physical health at the time, it was hardly the wisest choice. And after spending a year-and-a-half nurturing her through her pervious film, Summer Stock, Walters begged to be spared a similar ordeal. Instead, Freed decided to make Royal Wedding the first solo directing assignment for Stanley Donen, who had helped stage some of Gene Kelly's best dance routines and had co-directed On the Town (1949) with Kelly.
But it would take more than a new director to get Garland through the film. After a few days of rehearsal, she protested that she couldn't work mornings and afternoons, so Freed let her cut back to half day. A few days before filming was to start, she started calling in sick. Freed reluctantly had her dropped from the film, which led MGM to cancel her contract after 14 years with the studio. The move made headlines and triggered Garland's first suicide attempt, but Freed still had a movie to make.
Fortunately for him, Jane Powell had just finished work on another musical. Astaire urged Freed to snap her up but was less than happy to learn during rehearsals that Powell had been born the year he and his sister had stopped dancing together. Powell would become pregnant during filming, too, but so late her condition did little to interfere with shooting.
Garland's departure brought one unexpected boon for Astaire. One of the songs written for her, "You're All the World to Me," didn't seem right for Powell, so it went to Astaire, who sang it to a picture of leading lady Sarah Churchill (daughter of Sir Winston). He had long dreamed of doing a number in which he would dance on the walls and the ceiling, and this provided the perfect opportunity. To accomplish it, the furniture and fixtures were all nailed down, and the room was placed in the middle of a rotating barrel. Cameraman Robert Planck was strapped to a large ironing board, along with his camera, so he could rotate with the room. Then Astaire simply danced rightside-up as the room revolved around him, creating one of the most fondly remembered routines in movie musical history.
Director: Stanley Donen
Producer: Arthur Freed
Screenplay: Alan Jay Lerner
Cinematography: Robert Planck
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith
Music: Johnny Green
Cast: Fred Astaire (Tom Bowen), Jane Powell (Ellen Bowen), Peter Lawford (Lord John Brindale), Sarah Churchill (Anne Ashmond), Keenan Wynn (Irving Klinger/Edgar Klinger), Albert Sharpe (James Ashmond).
C-94m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.
by Frank Miller
Royal Wedding Soundtrack - New on CD - The Soundtrack to Royal Wedding
Lerner also wrote the film's original screenplay (his first), based on an idea of Arthur Freed's. Freed conceptualized a musical set against the events of the 1947 marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten. He then put Lerner under contract to write the story and screenplay, and teamed him with Burton Lane. Both men were fresh from Broadway triumphs with other collaborators in 1947. Lerner had teamed with Fritz Loewe to write Brigadoon, while Lane and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg wrote the memorable score for Finian's Rainbow. The teaming of Lerner and Lane was fortuitous, as they crafted great songs together, not only for Royal Wedding but also for other projects in subsequent years.
From the outset, Freed intended Royal Wedding as a picture for Fred Astaire, and Freed hoped to reteam Astaire with Ginger Rogers after their huge success in The Barkleys Of Broadway. Rogers stepped into Barkleys at the last minute, replacing Judy Garland, who could not complete the film due to illness. While Rogers enjoyed working with Astaire again on Barkleys, she wasn't interested in another reunion, at least not that quickly. Freed settled on casting June Allyson, then at the height of her popularity at M-G-M. With Astaire and Allyson in mind, screenwriter Lerner drew from reality and came up with a story about a famous brother-and-sister Broadway team, Tom and Ellen Bowen, who bring their hit show to London at the time of the royal wedding. The usually flirtatious Ellen falls in love with a British nobleman she met on ship (portrayed by Peter Lawford), while the older brother/confirmed bachelor Tom is enchanted with a lovely English dancer (portrayed by Sarah Churchill, daughter of Winston). The story ends with a double wedding of the principals at the same time as the royal wedding. (An interesting footnote: The studio's first choice to play Astaire's love interest was English ballerina Moira Shearer, who piqued Freed's interest after her memorable performance in 1947's The Red Shoes.)
The plot points were not entirely foreign to Astaire's own life. It was in 1928 that he and his sister Adele brought their hit show, Funny Face, to London. While there, Adele fell in love with an English Lord, and she permanently retired from show business. Fred, who had to go solo, eventually became one of the greatest motion-picture legends of all time.
Set to direct Royal Wedding was Charles Walters, who made his directorial debut at M-G-M with Allyson and Lawford as his stars in 1947's Good News. Allyson and Lawford had just starred in the studio's hit remake of Little Women (1949), and the studio was anxious to take advantage of their excellent chemistry yet again, this time in Royal Wedding. Walters' subsequent films, Easter Parade (1948) and The Barkleys Of Broadway (1949), both starred Astaire, so their professional association was ripe for reteaming. However, fate stepped in and changed everything.
A few days into production, Allyson unexpectedly found herself pregnant and had to bow out of the production. Scrambling for a star, Freed decided to give Judy Garland another chance to reteam with Astaire. Freed's previous attempt to replicate their success together in Easter Parade with The Barkleys Of Broadway was ill-fated, as Garland's illness led to her being removed from that production. Having just completed Summer Stock under the direction of Charles Walters, Garland was still in tenuous emotional shape, and Freed's desire to give her one more chance in front of the cameras was something Walters wanted no part of. He was exhausted from the Summer Stock experience and asked to be replaced. Freed then handed over the directorial duties to Stanley Donen, who, following the success of his codirectorial smash, On The Town, had yet to direct a film on his own. Freed had earlier assigned him the reins of the Esther Williams vehicle Pagan Love Song, but Williams and Donen did not get along with each other (to put it mildly). As a result, Donen bowed out of that job and was replaced by Robert Alton. So, with Donen at the helm and Garland cast with Astaire, all seemed on target for Royal Wedding. Composer Lane was particularly pleased that Garland was in the picture, as he had known her for years and, in fact, wrote the score for her Babes On Broadway in 1941. But issues arose immediately.
After only a few days of rehearsals, Garland was having problems, frequently reporting to the studio late or not at all. Both Freed and Astaire would have none of that yet again. Garland was removed from the picture and her contract with the studio was terminated.
A panic ensued to try and save the picture. Who to replace Judy? Freed looked at the bevy of Metro talent and selected Jane Powell, a huge star at the studio, but one who had never appeared in one of Freed's pictures. Only 21 at the time filming began, Powell's superb acting, singing, and dancing abilities made her a perfect costar for Astaire, and once filming finally began, all proceeded with incredible smoothness.
When Powell was finally cast, Lerner and Lane collaborated on a new song for the picture to take full advantage of her large musical range and exquisite voice. The result was the hit "Too Late Now," which ended up earning an Oscar® nomination for Best Song.
Nick Castle was engaged to stage the musical numbers, although Astaire created the choreography for his own numbers. With Donen at the helm, the star and director collaborated on some of the most memorable routines Astaire ever filmed. Donen had idolized Astaire as a youth; in fact, it was his repeated visits to the local cinema to see Fred & Ginger movies that made him pursue a career in show business.
Royal Wedding is best known as the film in which Fred Astaire "dances on the ceiling"-in the number "You're All The World To Me." The sequence became immortal when excerpted in M-G-M's hit 1974 compilation That's Entertainment!. Donen devised the concept: The room in which Astaire would be dancing would be built within a 20-foot-diameter tube that would turn along with the camera, which turned with the room. All the furniture and fixtures in the room had to be nailed down so they would remain in place as the room turned. The cinematographer was harnessed to the camera in the process. Although complicated, the sequence was pulled off without a hitch. The same effect was later adapted by Stanley Kubrick for a famous scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Interestingly, the melody for the song was actually written by Lane 17 years earlier-known as "I Wanna Be A Minstrel Man" in the 1934 Samuel Goldwyn musical Kid Millions.
Astaire's other big solo turn was also briefly featured in That's Entertainment!-in the number "Sunday Jumps," Fred dances with a hat rack and various items inside the ocean liner's gymnasium. Lane wrote a catchy melody, perfectly suited for the vocal stylings of Astaire, and Lerner created a nifty lyric to match. However, as Fred began developing the routine in rehearsal, he opted for a straight instrumental with no lyrics. The impeccable perfection of the M-G-M orchestra, conducted by Johnny Green, was given even more of an opportunity to shine in this stand-out sequence.
Fred and Jane Powell had three duets together: the clever "Ev'ry Night At Seven," which opens the picture; the stunning, Technicolored "I Left My Hat In Haiti," which is the last big number; and "Open Your Eyes," which is sung by Powell and followed by a dance duet wherein the duo's ability to perform is hindered by their transatlantic ocean liner's battle with heavy seas. The ship begins to tilt, and the Bowens must try to keep their balance. Again, studio trickery helped pull this stunt off, and it made for another enjoyable number. Powell was given the chance to sing one other lovely ballad, "The Happiest Day Of My Life," which was originally intended for the Sarah Churchill character.
Comic relief was also on the bill as Powell and Astaire tore into Lerner & Lane's tongue-in-cheek "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life?" With Fred as a gangster and Powell convincingly playing against type as his moll, this number was a fine vaudevillesque turn in the tradition of "A Couple Of Swells" from Easter Parade and was a highlight of the picture.
Lane & Lerner wrote only one other song for Royal Wedding, intended for Astaire, entitled "I Found Me A Baby." However, it was never filmed or even prerecorded.
Once the casting calamities had passed, production on Royal Wedding was efficient and satisfying to all concerned. Prerecordings had begun in early June with Astaire, while Powell rehearsed. She began her prerecordings at the end of that month. Shooting commenced on July 6 and ended on October 5, 1950. Actual shooting time during that period was only 33 days, and despite the delays and problems early on, the picture came in at a cost of $1,662.235.96, just a bit higher than the $1,577,765 originally budgeted. The picture was previewed successfully in early 1951 and the only tightening done was the removal of Lawford's vocal reprise of "Ev'ry Night At Seven."
Royal Wedding finally opened in New York on March 9, 1951, to mostly enthusiastic critical reviews and strong box-office receipts. The national release followed two weeks later, and the film went on to earn nearly $4,000,000 in its domestic theatrical release. The success of Royal Wedding was just the beginning of good fortunes for Arthur Freed that year. He followed with the triumphs Show Boat and An American In Paris only a few months thereafter.
This Turner Classic Movies Music/Rhino Handmade collection represents the first release of the entire score of Royal Wedding (available in May 2003), including some choice underscoring cues. In addition, we are pleased to present a promotional recording featuring Jane Powell and Fred Astaire being interviewed by studio personality Dick Simmons, which promoted the film's release to radio stations at the time.
Royal Wedding Soundtrack - New on CD - The Soundtrack to Royal Wedding
June Allyson was first cast in the role of Ellen, but became pregnant. 'Garland, Judy' was cast next, but MGM terminated her studio contract.
Moira Shearer was considered for the role of Anne.
The story was loosely based on the real-life partnership of Fred Astaire and his sister Adele.
The ship's rocking during "Open Your Eyes" was based on the Astaires' own dancing experience on a voyage to London in 1923. A boat-rocking device was used to create the film effect.
The idea of dancing with a clothes tree had been suggested to Astaire earlier by Hermes Pan.
The following information was taken from Hollywood Reporter news items, M-G-M press releases in the production file on the film in the AMPAS library and the M-GM Music Collection and the Arthur Freed Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library: In early 1949, Fred Astaire and June Allyson were cast in a picture tentatively titled Niagara Falls. That film was to have a honeymoon theme and be set in Niagara Falls. Because the title Niagara Falls was registered to Hal Roach Studios, which produced a picture of the same name in 1941 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), M-G-M changed the title of the Astaire-Allyson production to Royal Wedding and moved the setting of the story to London.
In late May 1950, before production began, Allyson, who was by then pregnant, was replaced by Judy Garland, who had co-starred with Astaire and Peter Lawford in Easter Parade (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). According to memos in the M-G-M Collection, Garland was suspended by M-G-M on June 17, 1950 for not reporting to rehearsals for Royal Wedding. According to director Stanley Donen's autobiography, Charles Walters was initially assigned to the film but withdrew because he did not want to work with Garland again after the difficulties he encountered on her previous film, Summer Stock (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). On June 19, 1950, according to newspaper accounts, a deeply depressed Garland attempted suicide in the wake of her third, and final, suspension from the studio to which she had been under contract for fourteen years.
Memos in the M-G-M Collection document that Ben Goetz, then head of production at M-G-Ms British studios, attempted to obtain color newsreel footage of the November 20, 1947 royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, from Gaumont-British News, but was initially unable to obtain any because of the objections of the royal family. Eventually some footage of the parade was obtained, but none that featured either the royal couple or the interior of Westminster Abbey. In order to obtain permission to use the footage included in the film, M-G-M additionally agreed to change the pictures release title in Britain from Royal Wedding to Wedding Bells to avoid any inference that the picture was about the real royal wedding. Footage of the wedding parade that shows a horse-drawn coach, seemingly that of Elizabeth and Philip, was not of the actual coach used by the royal couple.
Several of the films musical numbers have been shown in documentaries on musicals, including "I Left My Hat in Haiti," "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life," "Sunday Jumps" and "You're All the World to Me." In "Sunday Jumps," Astaire dances solo to an instrumental background as he rehearses dance steps using, among other things, a coat rack and barbells. Alan Jay Lerner wrote lyrics for the song, but they were not used in the film. Portions of this number were included in a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner commercial shown on television in the late 1990s. The computer-altered dance routine showed Astaire dancing with a vacuum cleaner instead of a coat rack. The controversial ad, one of two featuring Astaire, was made after Astaire's 1987 death.
"You're All the World to Me" is one of the most famous dance numbers ever filmed, and is popularly known as the "Dancing on the Ceiling" number. In the number, which is also an Astaire solo, "Tom Brown" is seated in a small sitting room in his hotel and starts to sing to a photograph of "Anne." As he does, he begins to dance, first on the floor, then on the walls and the ceiling as the tempo accelerates. As explained in an illustrated Life magazine article on March 26, 1951, the number, which "makes him [Astaire] seem to trample on the laws of gravity," was accomplished by use of a small rotating room. The camera, cameraman and furnishings were anchored to the floor so that, as the room rotated, it would appear that Astaire, the only "object" moving, was dancing on the walls and ceiling. In his autobiography, Donen stated that Lerner was the person who came up with the idea of Astaire in a dancing on the ceiling number, although in interviews, Astaire stated that the idea originated with him. Most contemporary reviews only briefly mentioned the number, with many singling out "How Could You Believe Me...," which featured Astaire and Powell in a comic, Brooklyn accented song and dance routine, as the shows highlight.
Some contemporary and modern sources have pointed out similarities between the characters of Tom and "Ellen Brown" and Astaire and his real-life sister Adele. Like the characters in the film, the Astaires were popular musical comedy stars both on Broadway and on London's West End. Like the character Ellen, in 1931 Adele retired from the stage to marry a member of the British nobility, Lord Charles Cavendish. Unlike Powell, though, who was thirty years Fred Astaire's junior, Adele was a year older than her brother.
Actress Sarah Churchill was the daughter of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Royal Wedding marked her American motion picture debut. According to memos in the M-G-M Collection, the publicity department was told that it could not specifically mention Churchill's father in the exploitation campaign for the film. In a memo to studio executives, M-G-M trailer producer Frank Whitbeck stated "...on the suggestion that Sarah Churchill be featured prominently in the trailer, I am not sure this is a good idea. Miss Churchill is a fine performer, but photogenically I don't think that she would be that attractive unless people knew that she was Winston Churchill's daughter, and as you suggest, we could not use any such reference."
Royal Wedding received only one Academy Award nomination, for Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner's song "Too Late Now." According to M-G-M production records, the film cost $1,590,920, less than $12,000 over its estimated budget.