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, 4 April 2015

Some Minnelli's for Easter ....

We have been enjoying some prime 1950s Minnelli films: musicals, dramas, comedies ..... THE BANDWAGON remains our favourite musical - see separate label. We recently covered TEA AND SYMPATHY, and also reviewed TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN a while back, THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE and DESIGNING WOMAN are particular favourites, very stylish entertainments which find Minnelli in his element, as per previous posts on them - check all at Minnelli label. I may have to go back to SOME CAME RUNNING and GIGI again (we did not care forthe 1955 THE COBWEB at all though) ..... and those other dramas like HOME FROM THE HILL (1960) ..... I actually like 1954's BRIGADOON, that studio-bound Scottish highlands musical, a childhood favourite, though it has its very obvious limitations - but Minnelli makes the most of the glittering New York interlude. For today, its BELLS ARE RINGING and KISMET, and back to the DESIGNING DEBUTANTE.
The get-up in New York's get-up-and-go comes from the switchboard operators of 'Susanswerphone'. Need a wakeup call? Your appointments? Encouragement from 'Mom'? A racetrack bet? It all comes from that dutiful nerve - or naive - centre that keeps enterprises enterprising and maybe wedding bells ringing.
Judy Holliday reprises her Tony-winning Broadway role of irrepressible switchboard girl Ella in a jubilant adaptation that marked her final movie and the final teaming of movie-musical titans Arthur Freed and Vincente Minnelli. Dean Martin co-stars as a struggling playwright in for a surprise when he learns 'Mom's' identity. The sparkling Jule Styne/Betty Comden/Adolph Green score includes Holliday's heartfelt "The Party's Over" and the Martin/Holliday duet "Just In Time". You've dialled the right numer, musical fans!
So goes the nice blurb for this 1960 Minnelli musical, it starts with nice Scope views of New York (rather like THE BEST OF EVERYTHING or BUT NOT FOR ME) as we look in on that telephone service. Telephones play an important role (as in PILLOW TALK where Rock and Doris have to share a line, and of course that telephone service in SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY which relays messages to its users...).
BELLS ARE RINGING is a pleasant view but lacks the pizazz of THE PAJAMA GAME or FUNNY FACE or MY SISTER EILEEN or KISS ME KATE or ..... It is marvellous seeing Judy Holliday one more time, sadly in her final film, she is the whole show here as the telephone operator who meddles in the affairs of clients, with nice support from Dino, Jean Stapleton and Frank Gorshin doing a Brando. Minnelli seems rather subdued here but creates some nice colour schemes and decors, but the subplot about racketeers seems tedious. The score is conducted by Andre Previn. Holliday also sings up a storm when she tells us she is "going back to be me, at the Bonjour Tristesse Brassiere Company". Judy Holliday died aged 43 in 1965, but was marvellous in her movies ever since ADAM'S RIB in 1949.
Much more brash is Vincente's 1955 KISMET, a gaudy Arabian Nights fantasia, with that score adapted from Borodin, which thankfully provides good roles for Howard Keel and Dolores Gray - while Ann Blyth scores as Keel's daughter and Vic Damone as the Caliph. The convoluted plot features begger/poet Hajj (Keel) wanting a better life for his daughter, meanwhile she and the Caliph meet and fall in love, then Dolores Gray comes as as Lalume and she and Hajj end up together ..... the nice score includes "Stranger in Paradise", "This is my beloved", "Baubles, Bangles and Beads", "Night of my Night" and "Not Since Nineveh" as the wicked Wazir wants the Caliph to marry one of his choices, while the bandit chief is looking for his long lost son who turns ou to be the Wazir, who promptly has his father killed. This is all delirious fun as the various strands come together and the Wazir gets his just deserts. Minnelli makes it all look great too. Dolores Gray shines too as she does in her other MGM mid-50s movies (Dolores Gray label). We also liked Blyth in THE STUDENT PRINCE, 1954 and of course her immortal Veda in MILDRED PIERCE
The supporting cast has a nice bevy of old-timers with Monty Wooley, Sebastian Cabot, Jack Elam, Jay C Flippen and Mike Mazurki, This was another Sunday afternoon matinee favourite when I was young, and would b e a delicious double bill with the 1956 JUPITER'S DARLING another MGM extravaganza, with Esther Williams in her last musical, with Keel as Hannibal, with all those elephants ....

THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE, 1958, is all about Kay Kendall's Balmain wardrobe: Kay in champagne coloured Balmain chiffon and feathers, or that red suit with matching hat for her first scene, Rex looks bemused by it all and their apartment is a joy too - with those lovely green lamps and sofas, and yellow and red furnishings all very Minnelli. Angela Lansbury plays another bitch mother who wants that chinless wonder for her own deb daughter, while Americans Sandra Dee and John Saxon are the young couple. There is a lot more on this at the various Minnelli/Kendall labels. 

DESIGNING WOMAN is delicious fun too and so very 1957, another childhood favourite. Greg and Bacall are perfectly matched here and the plot is a joy. 

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