Classic Movies Through an LGBT Lens
BY Trudy Ring
November 16 2012 5:49 AM ET
Above: Jane Powell and Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding
The third installment of the series, premiering tonight, features the 1951 MGM musical Royal Wedding, with Stanley Donen directing Fred Astaire, who among other things dances on the ceiling.
That dazzling sequence is familiar to anyone who’s seen That’s Entertainment, but the film has many other things to recommend it, especially to LGBT audiences, says Maietta. “It’s a musical, and God knows, don’t we all love musicals,” he says. Plus it has Astaire at the peak of his career, the expert helmer Donen in what was only his second directorial effort, and a screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner, who also wrote the lyrics for the film’s songs, to music by Burton Lane. The plot is almost incidental, but it has Astaire and Jane Powell as an American brother-sister dance team who find romance with, respectively, Sarah Churchill (daughter of Winston) and Peter Lawford in London at the time of Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth’s wedding. “It’s just such a joyous musical,” Maietta says.
However, it marked a less than joyous time in the life of one of the all-time great gay icons, Judy Garland, who was originally slated for Jane Powell’s role. Garland was exhausted after filming Summer Stock, but she cut a much-needed vacation short when she was cast in Royal Wedding. She prerecorded some songs for the movie, but she was in a precarious physical and emotional state, and her absenteeism and tardiness led to her firing from the production and the end of her MGM career. “She was just at that point in her life where she had no more to give,” Maietta says.
Garland did make use of some songs from the film, Maietta says — she sang one of them, “Too Late Now,” on her 1960s TV series, and her daughter Liza Minnelli has performed another, with surely one of the longest titles ever: “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life.”