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.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Lucy Schmeeler: "She's a grand girl"!



Let's end the year by picking up some sailors, going on the town and celebrating a great comic talent. Happy New Year !

Lucy Schmeeler (Alice Pearce) is the super-plain room-mate of Brunhilde Esterhazy (Betty Garrett) in the 1949 MGM musical ON THE TOWN, a perennial favourite I can enjoy anytime. I do not know Leonard Bernstein's original but it seems some of the songs were junked for the movie (but doesn't that always happen, as in FUNNY GIRL or CABARET?).

We enjoy following our 3 sailors on shore leave in late 40s New York, and the real locations help. Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munchin zoom around the city and the underground train system, Gabe (Gene) sees and falls for "Miss Turnstiles" (a monthly pin-up) whom he imagines is a celebrity, while she (Vera-Ellen at her loveliest) turns out to be from the same small town as his! Jules gets entangled with ritzy Ann Miller who has a thing about "Prehistoric men" and Jules' face fits just right, as they cause havoc at the museum and the dinosaur (or Dinah Shore!) collapses! Frank teams up with taxi driver Brunhilde - Betty Garrett who woos him back to "my place" - where Lucy Schmeeler ["she's a grand girl" says Betty with vitriolic sweetness...] is staying in with a cold. Betty finally gets to her leave so she can get close to Frank. They are supposed to be looking for the elusive Miss Turnstiles, but Gabe finds her at the rehearsal halls and they do that lovely dance to "Main Street" ....

Later they all team up at the top of the Empire State Building and head off "On The Town", this sequence is bliss as they visit one crowded nightclub after another where the revue girls always sing "thats all there is folks, and goodnight to you, we hope your enjoyed our .... revue" as the last girl always shoves her rear end in their faces... Miss Turnstiles has to flee though to her late night job as a coochie dancer at Coney Island, after Gabe gets stuck with Lucy Schmeeler who joins them for a riot of a number and some other sailors from the ship mistake her for Gabe's girl, so they will have a lot to tell the other guys back on the boat ... Gabe takes Lucy home and has to let her down gently as he is in love with Vera --- poor Lucy is back to her laundry lists and won't wash for a week after Gabe kisses her! Her plain character is being patronised of course but its part of the fun here.


Things work out ok at Coney Island and the 3 girls see off the 3 gobs back on their boat, as another flock of sailors disembark to explore "New York New York its a wonderful town"!. That's it in a nutshell, but it is so infectious and a sheer delight from start to finish [screenplay by Comden & Green] - a key musical then with Kelly and Stanley Donen co-directing, paving the way for all those 50s musicals ... including SINGING IN THE RAIN and IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER (see post at musicals label) where their partnership broke up!


Alice Pearce's Lucy is a scream - Alice was a terrific comedienne, she was also Olga the "Jungle Red" manicurist spreading all the gossip in THE OPPOSITE SEX in 1956, [Dolores Gray label], that delicious musical remake of THE WOMEN, which I like so much. She was highly regarded also on tv, appearing in the BEWITCHED series, but she died aged only 48 in 1966. She also played Lucy Schmeeler in the original Broadway production of ON THE TOWN.
That iconic shot of Donen (below) with Kelly & Sinatra ...

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