That’s Entertainment, Part II

Movie Information

In Brief: Another two-hour commercial for MGM that continues the attempt to rewrite the history of movies as the history of MGM. The new footage by Gene Kelly is appallingly cheesy, and the clips are a mixed bag (kind of the movie equivalent of B-sides) that seem to have been edited with a meat cleaver. Strictly for star-gazers who are not terribly choosy. At least it's not Part III.
Genre: Compilation
Director: Gene Kelly (Hello, Dolly!)
Starring: Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire
Rated: G

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.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.