Summer Stock (1950)

Summer Stock film poster

Jaz: Summer Stock makes a great case for saving the newspaper industry. And recycling. Because not only does Gene Kelly make glorious music with newsprint, he also reads the articles AFTER dancing all over them. After which I’m sure he lined the canary cage … and then composted it. If that’s not love for paper-based media, I don’t know what is.

Summer-Stock-Kelly-Newspaper

I’d like to see YOU tap dance on your Kindle!

I love musicals, Gene Kelly, and Judy Garland (excepting a brief period when my sister played Garland’s music nonstop — for months I couldn’t listen to “The Trolley Song” without wincing). To see all three of them joined in technicolorful harmony was bliss. It makes me want to watch Meet Me in St. Louis and For Me and My Gal again.

Summer stock friendly star

Judy Garland singing “Friendly Star”

Perhaps nostalgia has something to do with it: a part of my childhood is punctuated by the sound of the Summer Stock soundtrack on scratchy vinyl. My personal favorite? The Gospel-inspired song, “Dig for Your Dinner.”

As for plot, if it’s depth you’re going for, brush off that copy of Moby Dick. But if you want to see whether or not the theater group pulls off their barn-staged musical, Gene Kelly tap dance on the dining room table, and Judy Garland get happy — in a strange, albeit wonderfully artsy choreographed act — leave the dust bunnies undisturbed.

summer-stock-judy-garland-1950_i-G-67-6719-ELVA100ZBeaver and I give it four carrots (out of five).

Note: This post is in no way meant to discourage the reading of Moby Dick. In fact, I fully intend to finish it myself. Right after I watch Meet Me in St. Louis.

Liz: I was unsure about the movie for the first few minutes, but then Gene Kelly showed up and it got a whole lot better.
summer stock garland kelly
I liked the overall story–hard-working girl trying to save her farm gets shackled with her irresponsible sister’s boyfriend’s acting troupe. Trouble of the heart then arises when her paternally dominated fiancé (and his father) objects to the show being put on in her barn and when she falls for her sister’s boyfriend as he begins to learn where on the family tree the leading lady characteristics really are.
The cast includes numerous familiar faces beyond the main stars, which always makes me happy. The musical numbers were okay. Nothing spectacular, but not bad, though I wasn’t sure what to make of the semi-religious ones, such as the one where Judy Garland dances around in a suit jacket and stockings.
summer stock 1950 3
I usually don’t like romances between two people already involved in relationships, but I liked this story. It was a bit cliché with the oft used circumstance of one character being in a lackluster engagement with a likable-but-not-romantic-hero-type and the other being in a relationship with a beautiful but spoilt and selfish woman. Predictable, but was cute nonetheless.

Overall conclusion: Enjoyable and worth the watch.

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Silents: The Artist

Liz: The Artist: 2011 award winning silent film about silent film star George Valentin struggling to transition to talkies and rising star Peppy Miller who tries to help him.

It sounds strange to say, but I like George Valentin’s face. He has a great smile and looks like someone from time period of the movie—the late twenties to early thirties. The film felt as if it were shot during that time. The costumes, the movie studio, the bits of silent films on the silver screen, all reminiscent of Singing in the Rain, made the movie fun to watch regardless of the plot.

The Artist was well done with regards to acting and cinematography. I loved the music, and the occasional use of sound (in a dream and at the end) was brilliant (Jaz: agreed!) and worked great with George’s trouble moving from silent to talkie pictures.

I didn’t like that George was married when his attraction to Peppy became obvious. He didn’t cheat on his wife, but he did treat her poorly. “I’m unhappy,” his wife said. “So are millions of us,” he replied. She wasn’t perfect either, but I don’t blame her for leaving the arrogant fool. I really wanted to like the guy, but there were times when it was difficult. In fact, several times I wanted to shake him and remind him he was married or tell him to get over himself, quit moping and get back to work. Although I can’t approve of Peppy’s infatuation with the married George, I admire her devotion to him even after he loses his career, his wife, his money, and his self-respect.

I also thought George’s love of the spotlight and his depression were overplayed a bit. I got the idea well before the plot moved on.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie and would watch it again.

Jaz: I’m just going to say it: Jean DuJardin is no Gene Kelly. Okay … Dujardin had to learn tap for The Artist, whereas Kelly started dance lessons when he was eight. So I can’t really compare them. Dujardin’s performance was pretty impressive. Still, with all the obvious parallels to Singin’ in the Rain (falls in love with a cute extra, tap dancing scenes, similar appearance, silent-talkie shift) it’s hard to ignore.

Now that that’s out of the way, The Artist is a great film. Clever, tongue-in-cheek, and the cinematography is refreshing. Some scenes are heavy on the melodrama, as when Dujardin maniacally burns reels of film, but who doesn’t like the occasional bit of melodrama? Especially in black and white. I’ve always thought the latter allows for more creativity in the film medium.

Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo’s talent and chemistry work well, so much so that the supporting actors didn’t steal the show. And that’s saying something, because Clifton the chauffeur (played by James Cromwell) and Jack the dog were ridiculously likable.

The Artist got a lot of critic attention – less so from American audiences on its opening weekend. When I went to see it there were about four other couples in the theater. Sigh. Silent films just don’t make a lot of noise with U.S. audiences anymore…

Favorite Musicals: Singing in the Rain

Sorry we are late posting this week. Life has been hectic, but I hope first post on favorite musicals brightens your week.

Jaz on Singing in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain. What a glorious film. Should I begin with Gene Kelly, my first movie star crush? Or the film’s witty plot and dialogue? Or the phenomenal musical numbers?

I’ll just start at the beginning.

It’s 1927, The Jazz Singer has just come out and Hollywood is in an uproar. At Monumental Pictures, all silent film production stops and its two biggest stars, Lina Lamont and Don Lockwood, told they must begin a “talkie.” Their first attempt is a fiasco: The Dueling Cavalier is laughed out of the theater opening night (No, no, no! YES YES YES!!!). After a night of brainstorming and a dance, Lockwood, his friend and accompanist Cosmo Brown, and perky aspiring actress Kathy Seldon come up with a solution: make it a musical.

There’s one glaring problem, though. Snobby Lamont has the voice of a helium-addict gerbil and a brain about half its size. “She can’t act, she can’t sing, she can’t dance – a triple threat,” Cosmo quips. Kathy obligingly offers to dub for Lamont at the risk of her own budding career. Cue title song (sigh…).

Lina is infuriated when she finds out. Later, however, she changes her mind and threatens to sue the studio if Seldon is not permanently assigned as her dub singer in all future films. This effectively destroys Seldon’s film career, and … well, you’re just going to have to watch it and see.

Singin’ in the Rain is one of the best musicals ever made. Not only is it a brilliant satire, it has some of the greatest performances you’ll see in a film. Be sure to note O’Connor and Kelly’s distinct styles – one energetic and elastic, the other smooth and laidback – in “Moses Supposes.” Talented actress Jean Hagen plays the role of Lina Lamont hilariously, and in “Make ‘Em Laugh, Donald O’Connor does just that. It was Gene Kelly’s iconic rain dance, however, that first made me fall in love with this film.

Liz on Singing in the Rain

Singing in the Rain, why do I love thee?

Let me name the whys.

Gene and Donald, and Debbie too

Dancing and singing, and big cakes with frosting

Bright yellow jackets and rainy mornings

Proper settings and old motorcars

Microphones in bushes

Dumb blondes and men behind curtains…

Actually, I think it would be easier to name the things I don’t like about it: the long and strange Broadway scene, and the very short time they gave to the beautiful song “Would You?” I would love to hear more of the song; I prefer it to “You were meant for me” which Gene Kelly sings in the “proper setting” of the studio (I do like that song though).

The most memorable songs for me are “Good Morning” and, of course, “Singing in the Rain.” Gene Kelley really seems to be enjoying himself as he sings in the rains—even when he stands under the gutter spout, and “Good Morning” is such a cheerful song that it makes me cheerful as well.

Funny, romantic, full of great songs and dances performed by talented actors—and with the added interested of a bit of cinema history—Singing in the Rain is one of my favorite musicals and movies in general.

What do you like about Singing in the Rain? Which is your favorite song or dance routine?