Since 1974’s That’s Entertainment had proved successful at the box office (not that hard to do when 90 percent of your movie is culled from clips you own), it was inevitable that there would be a Part II (1976). The problem was that MGM had pulled their choicest musical clips for the first one, so the pickings were lean this round — so lean, in fact, that they ended up excerpting scenes from non-musical movies. The new footage — directed by Gene Kelly — looked for all the world like a low-rent TV special and wasn’t helped by a not very engaged Fred Astaire and unpleasantly smug Kelly as the only hosts. Not all of the film clips are bad — a few are even good — but nearly all of them are clumsily edited. (Hooking together two scenes from Rouben Mamoulian’s Silk Stockings (1957) to create one extended musical number is absolutely appallingly bad.)
As film history, this one makes the first film look like a scholarly work. Here we get a clip from Going Hollywood (1933) that makes Bing Crosby look like an MGM star, when the truth is this was a one-shot and nearly all of Der Bingle’s films were for Paramount. Similarly, we get clips from Ernst Lubitsch’s The Merry Widow (1934) — the last and least of Lubitsch’s Maurice Chevalier-Jeanette MacDonald musicals, but the only one made by MGM. (No mention is made of their superior Paramount series.) Now, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald were MGM stars, but New Moon (1940) was not one of their “biggest hits.” Yes, Abbott and Costello made three movies for MGM, but their best known work was all for Universal, which you won’t learn here. Some of the clips are downright mystifying — as when they showcase Greta Garbo in a dance number from Two-Faced Woman (1941) like this was a good thing. The truth is that movie was such a disaster that it caused her to quit making movies. Approach with caution.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show That’s Entertainment, Part II Sunday, Aug. 25, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.