|Index||5 reviews in total|
The Great Morgan could well be the most unusual musical in the entire
MGM canon. Produced for overseas audiences (heaven knows what
impression they must have gotten about America from this!), Great
Morgan is an extremely disjointed affair, although this is intentional.
The "plot" if you can call it that is Frank Morgan (a top comic actor of his day) is hired to put together a movie using odds and ends from the MGM vaults. He does so by splicing together a string of completely unrelated short subjects and musical numbers, interspersed with a repeated loop of a scene from some melodrama. The effect is not unlike some early David Lynch or Antony Balch film. If this film weren't lost for so many years, I'd have almost considered it an inspiration for Monty Python's disjointed style too.
For MGM musical fans, the main reason for seeing this is for a brief dance routine from Eleanor Powell that had been edited out of one of her films (exactly which one is impossible to say - some sources say Broadway Melody of 1936 but she looks older than she did in that film. And she doesn't look right for the IMDb's guess of 1939's Honolulu, either).
Powell is as sexy as ever, but unfortunately there is a definite air of lack of respect for her and indeed for many of the other performers in this film, which is rather annoying. Powell had actually left MGM by this time, and this was presumably a way of burning off some extra footage while adding a bit of sex appeal to the proceedings. A similar feeling of disrespect is felt when the underrated Virginia O'Brien performs a lively number with Jimmy Dorsey and his band (I think this was probably cut from "Ship Ahoy" which also featured Powell along with O'Brien and Dorsey). As with Powell's segment, the film keeps cutting away to reaction shots of annoyed and bored studio executives who obviously would rather be watching something else.
Not all the segments are musical. A long "Lake Woebegon Days"-style Americana segment about the automobile is quite interesting for automobile lovers, and an overlong but extremely well-filmed segment on badminton provides some attraction for sports enthusiasts, but will leave you wondering "what the heck is this doing here?". The film's other major musical segment, a long Latin-themed vignette that fills up most of the first half of the film, is pretty interminable.
Aside from Powell and O'Brien's segments, the best part of the film is its gag ending.
The Great Morgan (which occasionally shows up on TCM) is a long 57 minutes to sit through for what is basically only a half-hour of worthwhile material (I'm including the badminton short because it was kinda cool, if overlong), but serious MGM musical fans should check out this curio, as should fans of Eleanor Powell. Hopefully, though, the original footage of her dance number still exists somewhere and will one day be shown in a more respectable venue.
This isn't really a feature film. It's actually an amalgamation of shorts
tied together by a flimsy and unfunny storyline about actor Frank Morgan
(playing himself) producing his first movie at MGM. There are five shorts
all, four musical vignettes (Eleanor Powell, Lucille Norman & Carlos
Ramirez, the King Sisters, and Virginia O'Brien and Tommy Dorsey), a Pete
Smith short ("Badminton"), and a "Passing Parade" short ("Our Old Car").
It's hard to understand why MGM would bother doing this, when those shorts could have been shown separately before their feature films. In any case, it doesn't work. None of the shorts are first rate, while the silly Morgan storyline is painful to watch. But not all is lost. "The Great Morgan" allows us to take a rare glimpse at a few behind-the-scenes MGM workers: sound recorder Douglas Shearer (Norma's brother), art director Cedric Gibbons, and costume designer Irene. Too bad Louis B. Mayer didn't play himself (a more dignified movie equivalent is played by Leon Ames). Also, there's a clever (and bizarre) twist at the end involving Leo, the lion, and the ever-befuddled Frank Morgan. That one last minute is worth seeing -- else, you won't believe it.
Frank Morgan, the professional bumbler, decides he's not getting the respect
(and money) he deserves at "the studio," so he calls studio boss "KF" --
Leon Ames -- and demands the job of producing a picture. His proposition is,
surprisingly, accepted, and after weeks of Morgan's confused shooting, and
going ever farther behind schedule and over budget, KF demands to see the
result. Disgusted with the professional editor's inability to make any sense
from the available footage, Morgan fires him and cuts and splices the film
himself -- after, predictably, dumping the contents of the film storage
shelves on the cutting room floor.
In the projection room, the resulting product, of course, turns out to be a disaster. (Everything about this movie and the film-within-the-film is predictable, but who cares?) Interspersed with a bit of inane "original footage" -- some of it, naturally, upside down -- Frank has picked up pieces of other MGM productions, which are presented complete and straight: A "Donkey Serenade" (not Allan Jones'}; a neat Elinor Powell dance sequence; songs by Virginia O'Brien with an unbilled Tommy Dorsey and Band, and by the King Sisters; and two MGM shorts complete with title, credit, and "The End" cards -- the familiar John Nesbitt Passing Parade "Our Old Car," and a "new" (to me and IMDb) Pete Smith Specialty on professional "Badminton," that's worth the price of admission.
A very entertaining little movie, especially if you like Morgan and the films of the '40s. I do.
Beloved American character actor Frank Morgan plays himself in this
offbeat film. Morgan, who thinks he's not getting the respect he
deserves, convinces studio head K.F. (Leon Ames) to let him produce his
own movie. The result is a curious and jumbled collection of short
subjects, including several musical numbers, a sentimental look at "Our
Old Car", and a segment about badminton. All shorts are strung together
with shots of Morgan and Ames watching the movie in a screening room.
Morgan is his usual befuddled self, Ames is classy and dignified as usual, and some of the shorts are mildly entertaining. The musical numbers are very dated, and the badminton short just goes on and on and on. "Our Old Car" is pretty good for lovers of nostalgia. The final gag is quite funny, if you can wait that long. Good movie for die-hard Morgan fans, tough sledding for others.
I'm a fan of character actor Frank Morgan (the wizard in "The Wizard Of
Oz"), and, as a fan of old films, I think the work that is being done
with film preservation is much needed. So, when I read that this
hour-long film which had been thought lost had been found, I was quite
Yawn. There's nothing here to hold your attention for an hour. There's a silly plot line with frustrated actor Morgan becoming a bumbling producer. In actuality, that thin plot attempts to hold together a number of MGM shorts...but it's not short enough. These shorts are of minimal interest (or is it just that it's dated?).
This film was a great disappointment, and I can only assume that Frank Morgan was forced to do this film.
|Ratings||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|