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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Summer Films: South Pacific

LIZ: First off, when I say South Pacific, I am referring to the 1958 movie, not the 2001 TV movie or the play, neither of which I’ve seen. Now that I’ve made that disclaimer, on to the movie.

I love the music (how could you not like a Rogers and Hammerstein collaboration?). “I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy” are a lot of fun and have catchy tunes.

I must admit to having sung the former with a good bit of feeling at times. “Some Enchanted Evening” is, of course, a romantic favorite.

I like the cast too. Bright, cheerful Mitzi Gaynor is perfect for the nurse in love. The sailors are a great comic relief, about a 101 pounds of fun worth actually.

Pretty much the only thing I didn’t like about the movie was the storyline … It just felt preachy. The lieutenant lost my sympathy leading Liat on when he had a girl back in the States, and I just didn’t see why Nellie had such a problem with Emile having had a Polynesian wife. Side note: The play actually won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1950. I know Carousel, Singing in the Rain, and The Sound of Music are just a few of the musicals that aren’t all laughs and giggles, but I still have a hard time putting musical and drama together in a movie description.

LIZ GOES INTO SHOCK: I did a little snooping on IMDB and discovered that most the voices in the movie were dubbed! The lip-syncing was excellent, but WHY? The scene where Emile sings (you think anyway) “Some Enchanted Evening” to Nellie loses something knowing that it’s faked. Don’t get me wrong, I like the actors, but surely there were enough singer/actors to cast people who could actually perform the role in its entirety. Mitzi Gaynor actually does her own singing, by the way.

Conclusion: It’s not my favorite Rogers and Hammerstein musical, but it has great music.

JAZ: Nellie Forbush is terribly, passionately, ditzily, hopelessly in love with Emile De Becque.

But something’s keeping her from marrying the handsome, millionaire, golden-voiced, charming French-accented man of her dreams.

Handsome, millionaire, golden-voiced, charming French-accented De Becque (The one on the left). Not crazy about the pleated khaki pants, though. 

Is it that they’ve known each other a mere two weeks? Or that he’s twenty-ish years older? Or that he killed a man in France? Or that he has two “mixed” children, which would bother most women in the WWII era?

No, it’s the fact that his long dead and gone wife was Polynesian (“I lived as I could,” he explains apologetically).

Why? Beats me.

In other racist news, Lt. Cable can’t seem to wrap his mind around marrying Liat, the beautiful Vietnamese woman he loves.

Basically South Pacific revolves around their getting over their prejudices. But for a film all about intercultural tolerance, there’s amazingly little of it going on.

Apparently De Becque’s true name is “Frenchman,” because that’s what he gets called 99% of the time. Forbush condescendingly asks the children several times if they understand her, despite the fact that they’re trilingual and she knows only one measly language. And (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) only the suitably lighter-skinned couple ends up together. Cable dies tragically in battle, thus dooming the one possible interethnic marriage. What does that say about the film’s true stance on racial prejudice?

Oh, and what’s up with all the color filters?

Yellow!

Orange!

Yellowy orange! Yeah!

Beaver liked the grass skirts. He said they made him hungry.

We give this film 3 carrot sticks out of five. For the awesome song and dance numbers.

The Phantom of the Opera

Welcome to Our Mutual Friends Blog! This month we’re talking about “scary” or ghoulish classic movies or books. We’re starting with The Phantom of the Opera.

Jaz on The Phantom of the Opera

I wish Hitchcock had directed a film version of The Phantom of the Opera. As it is, I contented myself with the 1943 movie starring Claude Rains (The Phantom), Susanna Foster (Christine Dubois) and Nelson Eddy (Anatole Garron). While Claude Rains was a talented actor, this role didn’t quite mesh with his onscreen personality. I see him as the repentant accomplice in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, not a sinister, masked musical fanatic. But I did like the effect of the ominous caped shadow fleeing through dark halls.

The film is based on a novel of the same name, first published as a serial in 1909 –according to the all-knowing google – by French author Gaston Leroux. I haven’t read it, but informed sources (i.e., my sister) clearly indicate the film is to the novel like a mini marshmallow is to a 24-oz steak: light and sweet versus dark and intense.

Susanna Foster and Nelson Eddy show off their gorgeous voices, and that helps make up for the film’s lackluster attempt at horror. There’s one scene in particular that I liked: when Christine stood in diva Biancarolli’s place and sang a succession of impossibly high notes as clear as glass. What a moment of triumph!

Clear glass aside, I found it a bit difficult to empathize with Foster’s character. She seems shallow and affected. Her joyful reaction to the news that Biancarolli had been taken ill, as well as her indifference to the rival suitors, makes her appear callous.

This film was not without humor – albeit unintentional. In one scene Anatole Garron breaks a deadly fall by gripping onto a stage curtain for dear life. After hanging there for a good while, he manages to catch hold of a rope and slide down to safety. The entire time, three workers on the stage below idly glance up at his antics. And the sight of the phantom working away at the chandelier’s giant chain with a tiny hand saw was rather humorous. I kept expecting him to turn away in frustration.

I didn’t have time to view the 1925 silent film, but it looks creepy. I might watch it this weekend. Expect an update soon …

Liz on The Phantom of the Opera

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched the Andrew Lloyd Webber The Phantom of the Opera and or listened to the soundtrack. However, the plot of the movie has several major holes, like how did a gypsy boy grow up in the caverns of an opera house to become a well-educated “genius” (according to Meg’s mother) living in posh surroundings? The 1943 movie of the same name has a much better plot and some pretty good music, though of a more classical bent that Webber’s score. I haven’t read the French book on which all of these are based, so I can’t compare them to it.

The 1943 movie: Claude Rains does an excellent job as the poor, soft-spoken violinist who morphs into the cruel phantom of the opera. In love with one of the chorus girl, Rains secretly pays for her to have voice lessons until he tragically loses his job due to arthritis or some joint trouble that hinders his playing. Having spent his savings on paying for Christine’s voice lessons, he tries to sell a symphony he’s written. The arrogant music publisher refuses to talk to him. Rains hears someone playing his composition, mistakenly believes the publisher has stolen his music, and goes mad and strangles the publisher. The man and his assistant were doing acid etching when Rains arrived, and the assistant throws the tray of acid into Rains’s face, causing the phantom’s famous deformity. Rains seeks shelter under the opera house and turns his love for Christine into a passion to make her prima donna at whatever cost—a much better origin for the phantom of the opera than that given in the Webber play in my opinion.

Christine has two suitors in the movie, a tenor played by Nelson Eddy and a policeman. Both are likeable and their attempts to beat the other out and win Christine’s affection are humorous.

The end of the movie was a bit surprising, but I won’t give that away. I’ll simply recommend you watch the movie to find out what happens.

Favorite Musicals: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

This is a Special Edition of Our Mutual Friends. In addition to being about a fabulous movie, this week’s post is written by a special guest, friend and fellow aspiring author Lucy Morgan-Jones.

I can’t resist saying a few words about the movie, but then I’ll be quiet and let Lucy do the talking.

 Liz on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Red heads! Seven of them! That’s enough to make this a great movie. The catchy songs, great dance routines, and fun storyline are extras. The movie just makes me smile—“Bless your beautiful hide,” alphabetized brothers, Frankincense, Sobbin’ women, the bride kidnapping.

Interestingly, this movie also helped me with connect with one of the members of my critique group. I recognized the influence of this movie on her story and mentioned it. We then discovered we had a “mutual friend” in classic movies, particularly musicals, and I decided it would be fun to have her on the blog. So, without further ado,

Lucy on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

“Bless you beautiful hide, wherever you may be. We ain’t met yet, but I’m awilling to bet—she’s the gal for me!”

Not exactly words a gal dreams of hearing from hunky hero. Yet there is a certain appeal in his honest quest for a hardworking wife to love forever… er, make that cook and clean for his six other brothers.

I love this movie. Lovely scenery. Ratbag brothers who clean up rather well, exquisite dancing, fun, as well as melancholy singing (who could forget the wood-chopping scene and the song “Lonesome Polecat”) as well as the fun scenes where the remaining brides are abducted from town and later when they fall in love with the brothers and don’t want to be returned home.

I have a love for all things musical and this subconsciously influence my writing. When I wrote a novel last year it was influenced by Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In a conversation with someone who also appreciates movies, this person said that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers had no plot. No plot! Of course it has a plot! Movie feathers ruffled, I sat down and began writing my story. It has definite overtones of a certain musical or two—and a plot… I hope. The idea of a hasty marriage, a home life that isn’t expected (finding out your new house is occupied by numerous extra men and it needs a through clean) and still having a happy ending… now that intrigued and inspired me in my writing.

Some random facts:

The brothers have been named alphabetically from the Old Testament and in chronological order are: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (short for Frankincense, the Old Testament having no names beginning with F), and Gideon. All of the brothers have red hair and are well over six feet tall, except Gideon, who is younger and shorter than his brothers.

MGM was much less interested in Seven Brides than it was in Brigadoon which was in production at the time, even cutting its budget and transferring the money to the Lerner and Loewe vehicle.

The dresses worn by the female cast were made from old quilts that costume designer Walter Plunkett found at the Salvation Army.

To perform the electrifying dance numbers and grueling action sequences, choreographer Michael Kidd cast four professional dancers, a gymnast and even a baseball player as Adam Pontipee’s six rough and tumble brothers. All seven of the brides were played by professional dancers.

Because there was no way of distinguishing between the Pontipee Brothers on the one hand and the Town Suitors on the other, the studio decided to make all of the Pontipee Brothers red-headed.

Even more amazing is the fact that this movie was filmed in only 48 days… and each scene filmed twice (one for widescreen) and one normal so it would play at all cinemas. So if you watch this on DVD in widescreen you could be seeing footage that is rarely seen before!

Enjoy!

About Lucy

Lucy is a follower of Christ, passionate reader of books and mum of four precocious children. She makes her home in north central Victoria, in Australia and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Christian Writers Downunder.

You can typically find her enjoying a cuppa while she teaches her children school, reading awesome stories, critiquing awesome stories, or lurking on facebook.

So, which brother do you think is the baseball player? And which song or dance scene is your favorite?

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?