Easter Parade is a 1948 American musical film starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, featuring music by Irving Berlin, including some of Astaire and Garland's best-known songs, such as "Steppin' Out With My Baby" and "We're a Couple of Swells."
The film won the 1948 Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. It also received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical. It was the most financially successful picture for both Garland and Astaire as well as the highest-grossing musical of the year.
In 1912, Broadway star Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) is buying Easter presents for his sweetheart, starting with a hat and some flowers ("Happy Easter"). He goes into a toy shop and buys a cuddly Easter rabbit, after persuading a young boy to part with it and buy a set of drums instead ("Drum Crazy"). Hewes takes the gifts to his dancing partner, Nadine Hale (Ann Miller), who explains that she has an offer for a show that would feature her as a solo star. Don tries to change her mind, and it looks as if he has succeeded ("It Only Happens When I Dance With You"), until Don's best friend, Johnny (Peter Lawford), turns up. Nadine reveals that she and Don are no longer a team, and it becomes obvious that Nadine is attracted to Johnny.
Angry, Don leaves to drown his sorrows at a bar. Johnny follows him and tries to persuade him to talk to Nadine but to no avail; Don brags that he does not need Nadine and that he can make a star of the next dancer he meets. After Johnny leaves, he picks out one of the girls dancing on the stage, Hannah Brown (Judy Garland), and tells her to meet him for rehearsal the next day. Hannah then performs a duet, singing a musical number with a member of the band (Norman S. Barker) on trombone, "I Want to Go Back to Michigan." The next morning, Don tries to turn Hannah into a copy of Nadine, teaching her to dance the same way, buying her dresses in a similar style, and giving her an "exotic" stage name, "Juanita." However, Hannah makes several mistakes at their first performance and the show is a fiasco.
Hannah meets Johnny, who is instantly attracted to her and sings "A Fella With An Umbrella" while walking her to her rehearsal with Don. At the rehearsal, Don realizing his mistake, decides to start over from scratch by creating routines more suited to Hannah's personality. Hannah sings "I Love A Piano", and she and Don work out a dance routine that proves much more successful than their earlier performance. The duo, now known as "Hannah & Hewes", are shown to be performing "Snookie-Ookums," "The Ragtime Violin," and "When That Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves For Alabam" in a montage of their performances.
At an audition for Ziegfeld Follies, where they perform "Midnight Choo-Choo," they meet Nadine who is starring in the show. Hannah realises Nadine was Don's former dancing partner, and demands to know if they were in love. Don hesitates, and Hannah runs out of the rehearsal where she encounters Johnny. Later, Don meets Hannah back at the hotel and reveals that he turned down the Ziegfeld offer, believing that Hannah and Nadine do not belong in the same show. Johnny soon arrives and takes Hannah out for dinner at which, after a comical routine by the waiter, Johnny reveals that he has fallen in love with Hannah. While Hannah does like Johnny, she admits she is actually in love with Don; she also admits to deliberately making mistakes when they rehearse so she can be with him longer. She and Johnny continue to have a close friendship.
Meanwhile, Nadine's show opens, and Don goes to see it ("Shakin' The Blues Away"). He is the only member of the audience who seems unimpressed. Later on, Don goes to see Hannah and tell her they will be starring in another show and invites her to dinner to celebrate. Hannah goes to dinner at Don's, only to have him suggest a dance rehearsal. She is immediately upset and turns to walk out, telling him that he's "nothing but a pair of dancing shoes" and that he doesn't see her as a woman, but as a dancing aid. Hannah is particularly annoyed that Don doesn't notice her new clothes and all the effort she has made for him. She tries to leave, but Don stops her and kisses her. Hannah then plays the piano and sings "It Only Happens When I Dance With You," after which Don realizes he is in love with Hannah, and they embrace.
The couple take part in a variety show, with a solo by Don ("Steppin' Out With My Baby"), and then the most famous number in the film ("A Couple of Swells"), in which Don and Hannah play a pair of street urchins with vivid imaginations. Don and Hannah go out to celebrate after the show, and end up watching Nadine perform. Nadine is mad with jealousy when the audience gives Don and Hannah a round of applause as they come in. Nadine is the star dancer in "The Girl On The Magazine Cover." The song features an ingenious stage act, in which women appear against backdrops that look like the covers of contemporary magazines. Nadine herself appears on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. Afterwards, she insists that Don perform one of their old numbers with her for old times' sake, as she tries to win Don back - "It Only Happens When I Dance With You (Reprise)." When Don reluctantly agrees, Hannah becomes upset and runs out.
She ends up at the bar where she and Don first met. There she pours out her troubles to Mike the bartender ("Better Luck Next Time"). Later, when Hannah returns to her apartment, she finds Don waiting for her. Don tries to explain that he was forced to dance with Nadine, but Hannah thinks Don used her to make Nadine jealous and win her back. Don tells Hannah he'll wait all night for her to forgive him, but just before Hannah opens the door, Don is kicked out of her building by the house detective. The next morning Hannah is telling Johnny about her and Don's misunderstanding. Johnny says if he loved someone he would let her know it, implying that Hannah should forget the argument and be with Don. Hannah realizes that Johnny is right and goes to meet Don for their date for the Easter Parade.
Meanwhile, Don has been receiving various gifts at his apartment that morning, such as a rabbit and a new top hat, unaware that they're from Hannah. She arrives unexpectedly at his house, as if the argument never happened. Don is a little confused by this turn of events, but is persuaded by his valet that he should just listen to Hannah and go out. As they walk in the Easter parade, photographers, echoing a scene with Nadine from the beginning of the film, take their pictures and Don proposes to Hannah
Judy Garland as Hannah Brown
Fred Astaire as Don Hewes. Gene Kelly was originally cast as Don, but Kelly was injured (he broke his ankle playing home baseball) just prior to production and Astaire, who had announced his retirement from film, was coaxed back to replace him. (Astaire would "retire" several more times over the next decade, but he would also go on to make a number of additional classic musicals in between retirements.)
Peter Lawford as Jonathan Harrow III
Ann Miller as Nadine Hale. This film marked the major MGM debut of tap-dancer Miller (who had previously been under contract to RKO in the thirties and then to Columbia Pictures in the early to mid-forties), replacing Cyd Charisse, who had to bow out of the production.
Jules Munshin as François
Clinton Sundberg as Mike the bartender
Jimmy Bates as the boy in the toy shop
In your Easter bonnet,
With all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.
I'll be all in clover,
And when they look you over,
I'll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade.
On the avenue,
The photographers will snap us,
And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet
About your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I'm taking to the Easter Parade.