|Page 1 of 10:||         |
|Index||99 reviews in total|
Despite all of the critical bashing of Brigadoon, I thought it was very
nicely presented. Before I go any further, be forwarned that I have never
seen Brigadoon on stage - only on screen - so I can't make comparisons.
IMHO, MGM couldn't have casted a better Tommy; Gene Kelly is perfect and
(although I agree that he may not be the best singer ever) I didn't doubt
his ability to play the part a bit. Van Johnson steals the show as well.
As well, Cyd Charisse was wonderful as Fiona, she made the character seem so
believeable and was perfect for the part.
Granted, Brigadoon would have been much better had it been filmed on location in Scotland, but due to budget cuts MGM was forced to film it in beautiful, sunny Culver City. The painted backgrounds are obvious (the same injustice was done to "7 Brides" which, like Brigadoon, was to be done on location but was ultimately filmed at the studio) but the backdrops are not meant to be the centerpiece of the show; why are we placing so much fault on these? I agree that the dance sequences got to be a bit long, but with Gene Kelly, who cares?
We can, however, be thankful that MGM didn't cast Howard Keel or Kathryn Grayson in Brigadoon. As much as I love Keel's work in his other MGM endeavours (such as Show Boat and 7 Brides), he would have been totally wrong in Brigadoon and Grayson's operatic singing would have done Fiona a terrible injustice.
Overall I thought Brigadoon to be a wonderful screen interpretation of one of Broadway's crown jewels. It will definately be getting a second viewing here!. Rate 8/10
This Vincent Minelli musical is usually considered a flop, which is unfair. Gene Kelly wanted to shoot it on site in Scotland (where Brigadoon is set), but it was vetoed as too expensive. So Minelli had to create a magical, 18th Century Scottish village on a studio set. He also was using cinema scope for the first time, and felt it lacked the compositional unity and beauty of the regular film he had been using. It is apparent it's a set, but the story and music is so superior (despite the lack of two songs, including my favorite - "My Mother's Wedding Day") that one can actually forget the artificiality of the set. Moreover, the actual issue of artificial sets seems ridiculous when considering the story. If the set was actually realistic, the film would have had to be shot in one day, because the set would have vanished for a century at the end of the day (as the village does in the story)!! Except for one five minute sequence at the end of the film, set in a noisy New York City nightspot, most of the film is set in the Scottish highlands. Tommy (Gene Kelly) and Jeff (Van Johnson) are vacationing in Scotland, when they stumble into a village that is not on their maps. The village is Brigadoon. It is later explained by the village elder, Mr Lundie (Barry Johns) that the village was granted a special wish of it's very religious minister to preserve it forever by having it only reappear once a century, so the people in it would never be hurt. There is, however, another side to the deal: the citizens have to remain (as well as their livestock) within the boundaries of the town by sundown, because they go to bed early, and awake one hundred years later the next day. If any decides to leave the town's boundaries, that person will cause the wish and blessing to dissipate, and the town will be destroyed and it's citizens destroyed. BRIGADOON is a very colorful and tuneful show, and a nice blend of humor and tragedy. It also asks what people require for happiness: simplicity or sophisticated modern life. Jeff would opt for the latter (and he does quite strenuously up to the conclusion of the movie), but he is a confirmed alcoholic - some advertisement for modern civilization and it's benefits! Tommy is more inquisitive and easier - and he finds he is not so happy with modern life. But the search for happiness is not an easy one, and it takes a tragedy and much soul searching for Tommy to reach his conclusion. And there is the music, especially Learner and Lowe's "The Heather On the Hill" (attractively sung and danced by Kelly and Charisse), and "It's Almost Like Being In Love." A failure by Minelli? Well it's not MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, or GIGI, or THE PIRATE but it is far better than many other musicals.
I'm sure that when Gene Kelly and Van Johnson wandered into that quaint
Scottish village called Brigadoon they must have thought they were
entering a Scottish theme park. Certainly no modern conveniences around
and everyone dressed in costume. But there's a reason for it, a most
enchanting reason, the heart and secret of Brigadoon.
Brigadoon ran in the 1947-1948 season on Broadway for 581 performances in the initial production. It was Alan Jay Lerner's and Frederick Loewe's first really big Broadway success though it was their second collaboration. MGM bought the property for the Arthur Freed unit and it lay dormant for a few years while a lot of creative and financial differences got worked out.
Gene Kelly curiously enough had the reverse problem with this that his Broadway hit Pal Joey had. The original production of Pal Joey was his first big musical hit and he never went back to Broadway after. But when the film for Pal Joey finally got made it was with Frank Sinatra in the lead and the part was changed to a singer's as opposed to dancer's role.
Similarly the original Broadway Tommy Albright was a singer named David Brooks and Fiona was played by Marion Bell both pretty good singers. Kelly who could carry a tune had a whole lot of trouble with some of the songs, in fact he himself asked that his version of There But For You Go I be cut from the final film.
Changing over to dancing leads, Kelly got Cyd Charisse as his partner and as was usual, Cyd's singing was dubbed with Carole Richards's voice. They did do some mighty nice dancing though, especially The Heather on the Hill ballet and Kelly's lighthearted romp to Almost Like Being in Love which was the big hit from Brigadoon.
Kelly wanted to shoot the film on location in Scotland, but MGM eying budgetary problems and director Vincente Minnelli's desire to do it on their sound stage the film was shot indoors with Brigadoon recreated at Culver City.
One of my favorite numbers from Brigadoon is My Mother's Wedding Day which the character Meg Brockie sings. It was eliminated by the Breen office censors would you believe. They thought it inappropriate for drunken Scotsmen to be cavorting about on a solemn occasion like a wedding. As a result the character of Meg Brockie was cut down to nothing. A pity because Pamela Britton won rave reviews for her Broadway performance and Dody Heath is left with next to nothing in the role.
Still there's enough of Brigadoon for audiences to still enjoy and dream about an enchanted Scottish village we might all like to escape the travails of the world to.
It is said that both Gene Kelly and Vincent Minnelli were disappointed that MGM finances prevented then from filming "Brigadoon" abroad in more "natural settings." However, the beautiful studio sets to my mind work just fine for the whimsical fantasy being told. It is true that the basic idea of the story is a bit far-fetched, but then that's what fairy tales are all about. If one goes with the plot's broad premise, one can sit back and enjoy a charming Lerner-Loewe score, lovely studio settings and backdrops, pleasant choreography, and fine dancing, highlighted by Kelly's and Cyd Charisse's memorable "Heather on the Hill."
I have adored Gene Kelly ever since I saw Singin' in the Rain when I was about 10, but I had never seen Brigadoon until renting it a couple of days ago. Yes, the story is far-fetched--but somehow it works. Yes, the scenery looks like it is from a high school play, but I became too caught up in the story (yes, there IS a story) to care. In reading the other comments, I'm SO glad that the Keel/Grayson team wasn't used. Keel is too macho and gruff and Grayson is too sugary. I think Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse gave their characters the necessary gentility and earthiness. My only complaint is that I wish the director let the viewer linger with the closing scene for a few more seconds. It ends a little too abruptly and with a few unanswered questions about Van Johnson's character. Despite that, it was very enjoyable and even ponders some deep points, especially in the line "Sometimes things you have faith in become more real to you than the things you can see and touch." Watch it with a light heart and you won't be disappointed.
Other commentors have criticized this movie up and down for its casting, props, stage, singing and dancing. I don't profess to be an expert on any of those things. I enjoy movies and I enjoyed this one. It is the story line that gets me most. That an entire village appears for just one day every 100 years may be far fetched but is great fantasy. I'll have to admit that I've enjoyed this story more in live theater than the movie version, but the movie version is much easier to pop in the VCR for anytime viewing. I think its a great movie and might make a great remake if someone was willing to address the criticisms left here by other commentors.
"Brigadoon" is really one of the best musicals ever made, a stunning blend of remarkable music with an unbeatable story. This movie *had* to be popular at some point-- what ever happened?! Nobody even knows it exists anymore! Wait a minute... this is sounding very familiar. Lerner and Loewe's disappearing-village fable expertly combines the mysticism of the Scottish Highlands with the unbreakable dancing chops of Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. It is an explosion of sound, color, and (a tolerable level of) emotion. And as a Scotsman, something makes me connect to the blaring bagpipes and the fantastically well-done accents, not to mention the glorious costumes and phenomenal sets. This is the movie musical as it was originally intended, a fascinating mixture of tunes and story, of fantasy and realism, of words and the things better left unsaid. This is a lambasted masterpiece and deserves recognition for what it is: very near to the perfection many better-known copycats claim is their own (I'm talking to you, "Sound of Music" and "West Side Story").
This combination of bonny Scotland, charming brogues, music, singing, dancing, unrequited love, fairy tales, and a rather supernatural "mist"-ique is irresistible. Given the dancing talents of Gene Kelly, the singing talents of most of the cast, the charm of Van Johnson, the down-home humor (especially in the character of "Meg Brockie"), and the suspense of the fleeing and hunted Harry Beaton, in the alluring and disappearing village of Brigadoon, not to mention the heartbreaking and even more suspenseful romance between the lovely Fiona in the centuries-old village and the modern-day charmer (Kelly) -- what is there not to like? Lerner and Loewe provided their magic yet again, and millions of movie-goers were caught up in their spell. I was in this musical in our college Spring musical (as the smitten, then mourning "Maggie Anderson," who secretly loves Harry Beaton -- a shy lad who, of course, loves a lass about to be wed instead!), when I came to love this story, and then this movie. It's a classic, and well worth the viewing time!
And that is exactly the story BRIGADOON tries to tell. Two urbanites from
New York, Tommy (Gene Kelly) and Jeff (Van Johnson), are grouse-hunting in
Scotland--yes, they've come all the way to Scotland to shoot grouse, if you
can believe that to begin with!--when they happen upon the tiny magical
little Scottish village of Brigadoon, a (very literal) throwback to the
mid-18th century in customs, livelihood and people. The Campbells are
holding a wedding for their daughter Jean, whose sister Fiona (Cyd Charisse)
is the first person who doesn't treat the strangers like... well, strangers.
It doesn't take long, just a walk through 'The Heather On The Hill', for
Tommy and Fiona to fall deeply in love. The only problem is that Brigadoon,
thanks (or not) to their eager chaplain Mr. Forsythe, surfaces once every
hundred years--it's been two hundred since Mr. Forsythe made his 'contract
with God', and only two days have passed for the villagefolk in that same
year in 1754. The question becomes one of love, of whether one is able to
give up everything for a miracle: just as Mr. Forsythe has to give up his
beloved Brigadoon to bring it its miracle, Tommy and Fiona, because 'if you
love someone deeply enough, anything is possible', get their miracle as
There is certainly charm aplenty in BRIGADOON: the morning fair 'Down On MacConnachy Square' is lively and bustling; the beautiful dance between Kelly and Charisse as they gather 'The Heather On The Hill' is tender and beautiful, with more balletic romance than any choreography of Kelly's to date; even the forward girl who tries to turn Jeff's head (only to disappear from the movie thereafter) is cute in her way and her fervent belief that she might actually have a romance like that of her parents. BRIGADOON most certainly sets out to charm--even the general dodginess of the Scottish accents does not really detract from the rest of the film.
However, there is an element of uneasiness in BRIGADOON, perhaps conscious, perhaps not, that somewhat undermines its message. It wants us to believe that it really is the humanity, the *kind* of humanity that one gets in Brigadoon and in New York that makes one place preferable to the other. This is quite unsubtly displayed in the merry dreaminess that surrounds Brigadoon, in contrast with the almost *too* loud chattering that goes on in the New York bar teeming with humanity. Yet one is never quite sure whether Brigadoon is really the utopia it appears to be: this is underscored by the fact that (despite Kelly's pleas for on-location filming in Scotland) the scenery is obviously constructed on a set. It's still eerily beautiful in a fake way, and this is the trouble with the village portrayed in the film. Everything *seems* perfect, idyllic--happy and charming and easy and light. But then you learn the real history of the village, and the aura surrounding it doesn't look so much as magic but as *black* magic. Mr. Forsythe sounds more like an authoritarian dictator obsessed with his Brigadoon than a benign sweet old chaplain, and when Harry Beaton (Hugh Laing) tries to make a break for it, the hunt for him and the subsequent covering up of his death has such sinister undertones that one really starts to feel uncomfortable about what the people have become in the two short days (for them) that they have known about their village's uniqueness.
Of course, the film itself actually states this uneasiness that the audience will feel, not merely suggests it. This is evident in how Tommy performs a gentle reprise of his courtship dance with Fiona and rushes off, full of glee and love, to tell Jeff that he is staying in Brigadoon... only to be persuaded by a few curt sentences from Jeff that he should really give up the love of his lifetime to return to reality, to return to New York. Jeff plays the cynical, hard-headed pragmatist in all of us, and is then immediately depicted as a drunkard who spends all his days lounging in a bar, broken by his own inability to have faith in a 'miracle'. It's fitting for this film full of contradictions that the person who saved Brigadoon was the one who refused to believe it, and that the people of Brigadoon were saved by the death of one of its number.
Perhaps this is far too much analysis than BRIGADOON can bear. If one doesn't poke beyond its shiny, lavish MGM surface (and there really is no need to), then it is merely a star vehicle for Kelly, not a particularly good one, but one that is moderately entertaining and does allow him to showcase his talents (though again, not too effectively). The best number is probably the most famous song in it, 'Almost Like Being In Love', sung by a heart-light and foot-merry Kelly as he dances through a Scottish farm. The runner-up would be the beautiful 'Heather On The Hill' couples ballet--Kelly's ballet training really comes to the fore in BRIGADOON, his other films having been more influenced by tap dancing.
All in all, a charming package with a sinister underside, if one can believe that this shadowy underside to BRIGADOON--both village and film--could exist. 7/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What more can be said about Vincente Minnelli's "Brigadoon" (1954)? It
is a charming and ethereal bit of musical blarney set in a mythical
Scottish village that materializes from the highland mist once every
hundred years. The film stars Gene Kelly (Tommy Albright) and Van
Johnson (Jeff Douglas) as a pair of American vacationers hunting grouse
on holiday. Jeff is the bitter cynic; Tommy, a cockeyed idealist. Both
of these vices will be put to the test when the two stumble across
Brigadoon's quaintly out of touch folk. At first marveling over the
rustic backwardness of their new discovery, the pair quickly realize
that something strange is afoot. When Tommy develops more than a
passing interest in the sumptuous beauty, Fiona (Cyd Charisse), she
eventually confesses the truth about Brigadoon; that its hallowed
ground and prophesy will prevent she and Tommy of ever being together.
Made during a period in MGM's history where the purse strings were being tightened on all film budgets, "Brigadoon" arguably suffers from being confined to a series of indoor sets that are, after all, paper mache with canvas backing. Both Minnelli and Gene Kelly petitioned the studio to let the film be made on location in Scotland, but to no avail. Yet, in a retrospective of fifty plus years, none of Brigadoon's obvious artifice seems to matter. In fact, it enhances the mythical quality in much the same way as the old MGM has since vanished into the mists of time. What is prevalent and obvious throughout the film is that Minnelli has made the absolute most of the resources granted him. The sets are marvelous and detailed. The dance sequences, particularly "The Gathering of the Clans" and "Wedding Dance" are miracles of staging and execution. Kelly and Charisse's "Heather on the Hill" is sublime, while "Go Home With Bonnie Jean" provides the sort of grand spectacle that MGM musicals were quite famous for.
Warner's DVD is a mixed blessing. After previously made available in a non-anamorphic transfer (the worst of all possible solutions), this new incarnation is enhanced for widescreen televisions. However, "Brigadoon" was shot during a period in Hollywood's history where no one was certain whether the grandeur of Cinemascope would catch on. Hence, the film was shot twice, once in the anamorphic process, the other in a full frame Academy ratio. Though the Academy version was never theatrically released, it would have been of considerable interest to both film historians and buffs to have both it and the Cinemascope version presented here for posterity. Unfortunately, only the Cinemascope version survives.
Warner's DVD is nicely balanced. The color, by Ansco, is rich (if not quite as rich as Technicolor might have been), with blazon reds, deep greens and powerful yellows. Black and contrast levels are deep and solid. A hint of edge enhancement appears in the thatched rooftops of the village but nothing that will distract. The audio is 5.1 and quite a powerful presentation; uncharacteristically rich and vibrant beyond expectation. Three outtake musical numbers are all the extras offered up on this occasion.
|Page 1 of 10:||         |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||Newsgroup reviews||External reviews|
|Parents Guide||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|