In its initial incarnation, The Band Wagon was a plotless musical revue with songs by composer Arthur Schwartz and lyricist Howard Dietz, and skits by Dietz and George S. Kaufman, starring (for the last time anywhere) the dance team of Fred and Adele Astaire, that opened on Broadway on June 3, 1931, for a run of 260 performances (good for the Depression era) and spawned the standard "Dancing in the Dark." Twenty-two years later, in July 1953, a much-altered film adaptation starring Fred Astaire arrived. The movie had a script written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green that told the backstage story of a fading movie star who revives his career by returning to Broadway in a new musical. The score included some of the songs from the original stage production ("Dancing in the Dark," "New Sun in the Sky," "I Love Louisa") along with interpolations from other Schwartz-Dietz shows ("A Shine on Your Shoes," "By Myself," "Triplets," "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan," "Louisiana Hayride") and the newly written anthem "That's Entertainment." A soundtrack album was released on MGM Records. In 1990, CBS Records, on the cusp of becoming Sony Music Entertainment and in temporary possession of the MGM film archives, released an expanded version of the soundtrack album, and six years later, Rhino Records, in association with Turner Classic Movies, which had since acquired the MGM film archives, released a different expanded version of the soundtrack. On January 1, 2004, the soundtrack album, in its original form, went out of copyright in Europe, where rights last only 50 years, and British reissue label Hallmark, as is its wont, has reacted by releasing this, its own unlicensed version of the soundtrack. It contains the nine tracks from the 1953 MGM release without any of the bonus material on the later reissues. The tracks have been re-sequenced to no purpose, and annotations are nil. This makes the Hallmark album inferior even to rival Prism Leisure's version, which includes some rare '30s recordings, not to mention the CBS/Sony or Rhino/Turner editions.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann