Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Fantasy double bill: Designing Woman / The Long Long Trailer

A Vincente Minnelli double-bill ....

One of my '50s favourites and what must have been the height of chic back then, when I was about 11, is Minnelli's 1957 DESIGNING WOMAN - sort of a retread of WOMAN OF THE YEAR. Here its sports writer Gregory Peck who falls for and marries fashion designer Marilla (Lauren Bacall at her most) and their misunderstandings trying to fit in with each other's lives back in New York. Add in his ex, the Broadway star Dolores Gray who gets to wear some fabulous frocks and sing a song or two, who gets a few bitchy scenes with Bacall (who is working on her show), some boxers trying to fix a fight, and the choreographer friend of Marilla's who seems to be gay but proves to be the tough family guy in the final free for all. Is Vincente playing with gender stereotypes here? - whatever, its great fun. I love the scene where Greg meets Dolores in the restaurant to tell her he has just got married, which she takes quite well apart from tipping the plate of ravioli into his lap. Great '50s fashions and interiors too ... very Minnelli. It's got the look MAD MEN aspires to. Peck and Bacall are a perfect pair, but then Greg was perfect with so many: Audrey, Ava, Jean, Deborah, Ingrid, Sophia, Susan.

More droll fun in Minnelli's 1954 THE LONG LONG TRAILER which must be one of the first movies I was taken to as a kid. We did not have television in Ireland until the early 60s so I grew up without seeing Lucy and Desi - so this was our first exposure to them. Its a pleasant ambling tale of Tacy (Ball) coaxing husband Desi to invest in the very long 3-ton trailer and the mishaps that follow on their honeymoon. Its at once a hymn to the delights of '50s America and the wide open spaces, so very 1953 or 54, and maybe also a glimpse of the nightmare of what suburban life can be (or maybe thats a modern interpretation). Minnelli breezily directs with a nice colour palette - lots of his trademark yellows (the car, the trailer) and the two leads are fun. Marjorie Main (a trailer park neighbour) and Keenan Wynn (a traffic cop) just have a scene each. There are some laugh out loud moments: Lucy falling into the mud, Desi trying to reverse the long long trailer into the family parking space and best of all, her trying to make the Caesar salad back in the trailer while he drives, a sequence that gets more and more delirious - then there is the tense sequence of them driving up the mountain incline with all her hidden rocks and cans stashed away in the trailer! There is a nice ending too - and its all delightfully fifties.

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