Siren Song – Ladies of Film Noir, Part 12: Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon (1953)

OK, so maybe The Band Wagon isn’t film noir. It’s an MGM musical comedy from director Vincente Minnelli, written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, starring Fred Astaire and filmed in vibrant Technicolor by Harry Jackson and an uncredited George J. Folsey. What is definitely noir-inspired, however, is the “Girl Hunt Ballet,” the big extravaganza set piece at the end of the film, part of the musical within the musical. Astaire plays a typical noir detective, “Rod Riley,” solving the kinds of sordid crimes that a person might have read about in a Mickey Spillane novel or a pulp-fiction magazine in the 1950s. The luscious and leggy Cyd Charisse, the noirish definition of a “dish,” is Astaire’s leading lady in the film and she plays dual roles in the ballet: one as a blonde beauty on the run and another as a dark-haired vixen with “more curves than a scenic railway,” both gals wearing gorgeous costumes designed by Mary Ann Nyberg. The sparkling red dress that Charisse wears toward the end of the number is a real showstopper, rivaled only by the sheer, pale blue frock that she wears during the subway scene, which is my other favorite part of the ballet.

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