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The Happy Road was Gene Kelly's next to last film on his MGM contract
and this was a personal project in which he not only starred in, but
directed and produced as well. Probably something to pass the time of
day while he was waiting for his final full blown musical Les Girls.
The film is best however when the kids are in front of the camera. The very simple story involves Kelly's son Bobby Clark who runs away from the Swiss boarding school his father has put him in to go to Paris and be with him. He also wants to prove how self reliant is. His good friend Brigette Fossey decides to join him on the odyssey and prove the same to her divorcée mother Barbara Laage.
Whatever else they do, the kids prove they're self reliant, they have the French police totally at their wits end, not to mention a bunch of NATO troops out on maneuvers, embarrassing their commanding officer Michael Redgrave no end.
Kelly is a concerned father, but he's also a poster child for the ugly American. He wasn't doing all that much for Franco-American relations with his exasperation about the French way of doing things. Laage kind of smooths out the rough edges in him by the time film ends.
With a title song sung over the opening credits by Maurice Chevalier and the film shot in France, The Happy Road will not rank as one of Gene Kelly's great films. But it's a pleasant diversion and very good for juvenile audiences.
It's been a long time since I saw this movie, so I don't really
remember enough details to rate it fairly. I do, however, dislike the
preceding review in which the reviewer is commenting more on Kelly's
life choices than on the movie itself. If you don't like movies about
children running away, I have a suggestion: Don't Watch Them! That's
like buying tickets to the ballet knowing you don't like ballets.
If you ready Kelly's biography, you'll find out there were several reasons he chose to live and work in France for some time. One of the chief reasons being that the golden age of musicals in Hollywood was winding down and he wasn't finding much work here in the states.
Yes, I realize I'm guilty of filling this post with commentary on Kelly's life choices as I just admonished the previous poster for doing. But I felt Kelly was unfairly pigeon-holed as being a Francophile by an under-educated reviewer with an innate dislike for this type of movie.
This film is a comedy adventure story about an American boy and a
French girl who escape their Swiss boarding school and set off for
Paris, where their parents live. Gene Kelly plays the boy's father,
Mike, and Barbara Laage plays Suzanne, the mother of the girl.
Directed and produced by Gene Kelly, "The Happy Road" is just that--a happy story about life on the road. There is never any real angst over the missing children. The film plays as a farce among the small towns and back roads of France. In some parts there is little dialogue, reminiscent of Mr. Hulot. This is another example of Mr. Kelly creatively branching out from the traditional format of musicals.
Thrust together by circumstance, the two parents, trade barbs about Americans and French, but learn to cooperate as their children thwart the efforts of gendarmes and generals trying to intercept their path.
Children might enjoy this film as much as, or more than, adults.
This isn't a great movie. There's no singing, no dancing, not even any
Technicolor. The story is pleasant but fairly obvious; there are no
But it's worth watching.
Briefly, it's the story of two children in a Swiss boarding school who miss their parents and decide to head to Paris to find them. Because they don't have much money, and because the story depends on it, they set off on foot, hitching rides, etc., until they finally get to Paris.
Meanwhile, their parents try to find them and keep just missing them, all the way to Paris.
None of that is particularly interesting.
What is interesting, instead, are the vignettes of French country and small-town life that fill most of the movie. (The scenes involving the British army on maneuvers don't fit with this and are the weakest part of the movie.) I won't claim that this is a documentary; it's not meant to be. But it's a pleasantly romantic view of small-town and country life in France in the post-War years, and that is interesting.
Eventually the hard-working American businessman, father of the escaped boy, learns something from these people, and that's a little forced. *Mame* will teach the same lesson much better a year later, with much better dialogue.
But this is a pleasant way to think about what is now a lost world, and to wonder what of it might be retained today.
As I said, don't expect a masterpiece. Don't expect another *Gigot*, which is really a wonderful movie. But do expect to spend a pleasant 99 minutes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lose one point: no color, just b/w.
Lose two points: no Kelly song and dance.
Lose one BIG point: not a happy road trip.
10-4 = 6
Gain one point: I watched this film to the end, so that makes it okay in my book.
6+1 = 7
7: my final number of points.
Observations and spoilers:
Cons: Road trip goofy and unrealistic. Drug addicts and moronic child molesters could have been on that same journey. Tiny car. Five people. Three on a police motorcycle. Two on a rickety old scooter (Vespa?). Where did the scissors come from? I missed that part. Children just happened to come upon kind people who fed and sheltered them. Children shown asleep together in one place and in bed together together in another place. Does this look smarmy or what? The ogre guy looked like he was gonna use his axe and have the kiddos for dinner. Ugh.
Pros: Kelly and the mother get together in the end. Not really get together, if you know what I mean. Maybe the groom-to-be dumps her at the altar, and she becomes Kelly's new wife. We don't see that part. But I digress. Beaujolaise Nouveau, salami, baguettes. At least everybody got refreshments in that tiny clown-car. I thought Redgrave was very good and effective in his role.
Most of my movies I give a 9 or 10. This one tried pretty hard. I was going to delete it after I saw no Kelly terpsichory, BUT the comedic foibles of all these idiots on the road kept convincing me to keep watching this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
5 years after the phenomenal "Singin' in the Rain," Gene Kelly probably
decided to hang up his dancing shoes. He directed this 1957 misery and
the film is miserable throughout.
Two children run away from their private school in Switzerland. They want to get to Paris to be with their respective parents, Gene Kelly, a widower who works all day and enjoys little, and Barbara Laage, a divorcée on the verge of marrying a wealthy man.
The film follows the various adventures of the children making their way to France with Kelly and Ms. Laage in pursuit.
There is just nothing to this film. How Michael Redgrave got involved as a general in charge of an army on maneuvers is beyond me.
Kelly and Laage discover things about themselves during this chase and even when they're reunited with their children, one wonders if they will get together. Actually, you don't have to wonder because you really don't care. Miserable production all around.
I dislike children's movies like "The Happy Road" which romanticise the
experiences of runaway children. In kids' movies, runaways tend to have
lots of fun and get into little or no danger, having adventures with
picturesque hobos and indulgent old ladies. I dread the thought of what
might happen to a mildly troubled child nowadays who sees one of these
unrealistic old movies and decides to solve his (or her) problems by
running away from home... into the clutches of crack addicts and
Gene Kelly was an ardent Francophile who seriously compromised his great career at MGM by doing several dodgy projects which gave him an opportunity to work in his beloved France. "The Happy Road" is one such project. It's a decent little film, proficiently made ... but if Kelly had decided not to make this movie, there would probably be one more great or near-great MGM musical among his credits.
The movie opens nicely with the distinctive voice of Maurice Chevalier on the soundtrack, singing the indifferent title song. (We never see Chevalier in this movie, and we never hear him again after the opening credits.) Kelly plays Mike Andrews: a widowed entertainer, an American in Paris (oops, wrong movie!) who is the star of a big nightclub act ... although, judging from the seedy little nightclub where we see him rehearsing, maybe he's not such a big star after all. Mike has a son Danny, about 10 years old, whom he's dumped in a boarding school in Switzerland. (I wonder if this is the same boarding school in Switzerland where Sylvester Stallone hid from the draft board during the Vietnam war.) One of Danny's schoolmates is Janeane Duval, a French girl his own age. Conveniently, Janeane has no father because her mother is divorced. (Hmm: a single father, a single mother ... I wonder how this movie will end.)
Mike decides to run away to Paris so he can live with his father, not bothering to realise that his father chose to get rid of him in the first place. (Kelly's screen character here is less sympathetic than perhaps Kelly intended.) Janeane wants to run away to Paris too, so she can be with her mother. But Janeane is afraid to run away by herself (smart girl); she wants to come along with Danny so he can protect her (stupid girl). Danny is in the 'girls have cooties' stage, so he wants nothing to do with Janeane ... but she speaks French and he doesn't (this is a boy attending school in Switzerland, remember), so he reluctantly decides to let Janeane come with him ... especially since she kindly baked him a chocolate fairy cake. (Which he immediately scoffs at the very beginning of their journey.)
When the school notifies Danny's dad and Janeane's mum that their brats have taken French leave, the two parents join forces to find their children. Along the road, Danny and Janeane meet other Eurobrats who help them. Most of the plot devices in this movie are both extremely implausible and highly predictable. Also, the child actors are given some annoyingly "wise" dialogue about global politics and other deep subjects. Michael Redgrave gives a semi-comic performance as the commander of a British regiment on field manoeuvres, and Roger Van Doude is quite funny as a Clouseau-like gendarme. There's a truly bizarre performance by a small boy in the brief role of an English peer. The child actors who play Danny and Janeane are surprisingly competent. Gene Kelly's direction is workmanlike: not nearly as skillful as his direction on some later big-budget Hollywood films.
I'll rate 'The Happy Road' 4 points out of 10. I recommend it for children, but only if an adult guardian explains to them that runaway children in the REAL world usually have a lot less fun and a lot more danger.
UPDATE: IMDb reviewer 'Hemingway and the Sea' calls me 'under-educated with an innate dislike for this type of movie'. Actually, I'm SELF-educated, and I've an innate dislike for any movie (such as this one) which depicts runaway children having romantic adventures with helpful strangers and picturesque tramps. The children in the audience need to know that running away from an abusive environment (to anywhere but to the authorities) can put them in deadly danger.
Also, 'Hemingway' accuses me of making 'political statements' about Gene Kelly. I merely called Kelly a Francophile: that's a social statement. Gene Kelly was very clear about why he left the Arthur Freed unit at MGM: by spending a year in France and London, Kelly was able to take lawful advantage of a loophole in the U.S. tax code. But in that wretched year, Kelly made two very weak French films and an unfinished British production. If he had stayed at MGM, we might now have one more Gene Kelly masterpiece on a par with "Singin' in the Rain" or "An American in Paris" (which, despite its title, was filmed entirely in Culver City). My opinion of 'The Happy Road' remains unchanged.
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