In anticipation of Saturday’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, settle into the Fandor library and catch Royal Wedding. The musical, starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell, follows a pair of siblings who are invited to perform in London at the 1947 wedding between Princess Elizabeth (who would become Queen in 1952) and Prince Philip. Filled with some of Astaire’s most memorable dance numbers, Royal Wedding finds a way to encapsulate our cultural fascination with the British royals. That the film was made more than half a century ago makes it all the more interesting when held up to the light of today.
Over the past couple of weeks, it seems one can’t turn anywhere without catching some bit of news about this Saturday’s royal wedding. Yet, for a country founded in part on the principle of rejecting monarchy, it’s a strange phenomenon to find U.S. citizens so enthralled by all of this pomp and circumstance. Surely, a lot of the fanfare is contextual. Markle is, after all, a biracial, divorced, American actress, quite unlike her royal predecessors, which makes the event even more exciting. Still, Royal Wedding came out in 1951, well before Markle was born. This sort of buzz has been around for decades.
Perhaps a lot of the obsession centers on a unique flavour of celebrity culture, and how seemingly connected we are to the lives of the bride and groom. Much of the world has seen Prince Harry come of age. Between “knowing” him, and the sense of knowing Markle from her work as an actress in Suits, it’s easy for people to feel tied to their story. There’s also the overwhelming amount of time and money being poured into this wedding. In the U.S., where weddings are often seen as the most important day of a person’s life, it’s compelling to witness what it looks like when such a dream is built using nearly unlimited financial resources. Speaking of financial resources, it’s also notable that, unlike a lot of celebrity-oriented events, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle aren’t (actively) trying to sell us anything. We may hear about who made his suitor who designed her dress, but it seems unlikely that Prince Harry will be endorsing a soft drink during the commercial breaks. Though TV coverage inevitably commodifies the event, there remains something pure about Harry and Meghan themselves, two young people just trying to get married.
In that sense, the upcoming royal wedding represents a comforting love story to watch. The world gets to see the making of an unconventional princess as she marries her one and only prince. Given the perpetual onslaught of disconcerting news, can you blame people for wanting to escape a little into the fantasy of an improbably ideal romance? It can be at once intriguing, reassuring, and mesmerizing—a lot like Fred Astaire’s dancing.