Royal Wedding (1951)

Tom (Fred Astaire) and Ellen Bowen (Jane Powell) are a singing, dancing brother-sister stage duo. When their show in New York City closes, their agent books them in London, where preparations are being made for Elizabeth II’s quickly approaching Royal Wedding.

On the ship to England, Ellen meets and falls for Lord John Brindle (Peter Lawford), who seems to be her perfect match. But Tom isn’t so happy about his sister’s new-found love life. She beings spending more time with John than she does at rehearsal, which leaves Tom feeling both annoyed with and disappointed in her.

With a dark cloud of frustration now looming over the London booking, Tom holds auditions to look for dancers. During the auditions he meets a potential love interest of his own in dancer Anne Ashmond (Sarah Churchill). And soon, his own dedication to the show beings to falter as his affection for Anne grows.

Will the siblings be able to pull their act together, or will the complications of their love lives bring permanent ruin to their stage careers? Stanley Donen directs this 1951 romantic musical, which is remembered as Royal Wedding but was released under the title of Wedding Bells in the UK. It was written by Alan Jay Lerner.

From the very beginning of the film, the audience is endeared to the brother-sister relationship of Tom and Ellen. There is a very fun banter between them. Their relationship is caring, but catty – it is obvious that they mean a lot to each other and are very close, but they like to poke fun at each other and do have their little disagreements. Having one very close sibling myself, I could easily relate to the loving but sometimes frustrated way that this brother and sister regard each other.

As for the performances of these two leads, they’re both solid, though Astaire steals the show as expected. Jane Powell gives a good performance as the infatuated Ellen. Her voice is beautiful during her musical numbers, even though it isn’t the type of voice that I usually find appealing.

“How Could You Believe Me…,” performed alongside Astaire, is particularly delightful. To me, it seemed that she was lacking the spark and screen presence that would have allowed her to compete with Astaire’s charm, but her performance is believable nonetheless.

You’ve probably deduced by now that Astaire was my absolute favorite part of this film. His character is lovable, made even more lovable by Astaire’s natural magnetism and charisma. His dance numbers are top-notch and include a few gravity-defying stunts. Astaire was so full of talent and pizazz that I never cease to be amazed by his performances.

Admittedly, the plot of this film is a bit weak, with absolutely no twists or unpredictable moments to speak of. However, when appreciated as a light and fluffy musical romance, it’s still a good watch. Better musicals very do obviously exist, but Royal Wedding is very fun and worth viewing for the talents of Astaire alone. The score: 3/5

*All images used in this post are credited to Doctor Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans, doctormacro.com

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