That’s Entertainment!

That’s Entertainment! is a 1974 compilation film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It was followed by two sequels and a related film called That’s Dancing!.

The film, compiled by its writer-producer-director, Jack Haley, Jr.  under the supervision of executive producer Daniel Melnick, turned the spotlight on MGM’s legacy of musical film from the 1920s through the 1950s, featuring performances culled from dozens of the studio’s famous films. Archive footage of

Judy Garland

Eleanor Powell

Lena Horne

Esther Williams

Ann Miller

Kathryn Grayson

Howard Keel

Jeanette MacDonald

Cyd Charisse

June Allyson

Mickey Rooney

Mario Lanza

and many others was featured.

Released during the height of the Watergate scandal and just after the Vietnam war, That’s Entertainment! was marketed with a tagline of “Boy, do we need it now!” The idea of celebrating the happy-go-lucky musicals of an earlier era hit a nerve with a nostalgic public; That’s Entertainment! was hailed by critics and would become one of the top twenty highest-grossing films of 1974.

The film was compiled in various segments hosted by a succession of the studio’s legendary stars:

 Frank Sinatra

Gene Kelly

Fred Astaire

and others like: Peter Lawford, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Bing Crosby, James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, and Liza Minnelli.

Most of the hosts were filmed on MGM’s famous backlot, which looks disturbingly ramshackle and rundown in this film, because MGM had sold the property to developers and the sets were about to be demolished (several of the stars, including Bing Crosby, remark on this during their segments). The most notable degradation can be seen when Fred Astaire revisits the ruins of a train station set that had been used in the opening of The Band Wagon two decades earlier, and when Peter Lawford revisits exteriors used in his late-40s musical, Good News. That’s Entertainment! was the last major project to be filmed on the backlot.

Over the years, under the leadership of Louis B. Mayer and others, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has produced a series of musical films whose success and artistic merit remain unsurpassed in motion picture history. There were literally thousands of people …. artists, craftsmen and technicians …. who poured their talents into the creation of the great MGM musicals. This film is dedicated to them.

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