Ella Peterson is a Brooklyn telephone answering service operator who tries to improve the lives of her clients by passing along bits of information she hears from other clients. She falls ...
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Ella Peterson is a Brooklyn telephone answering service operator who tries to improve the lives of her clients by passing along bits of information she hears from other clients. She falls in love with one of her clients, the playwright Jeffrey Moss, and is determined to meet him. The trouble is, on the phone to him, she always pretends to be an old woman whom he calls "Mom." Written by
Judy Holliday recreated her Broadway role as Ella Peterson. Others who recreated their Broadway roles in the movie were Jean Stapleton as Sue, Dort Clark as Inspector Barnes, Bernard West as Dr. Joe Kitchell and Doria Avila as Carl. The original Broadway production opened at the Shubert Theater (moving later to the Alvin Theater) on November 29, 1956 and played for 924 performances through March 7, 1959. The musical was nominated for the 1957 Tony Award for Best Musical. See more »
When Jeff contacts Susanswerphone from Brooklyn Heights, he speaks with Sue, "the other one", but Sue is supposedly out with Otto at the Crying Gypsy Cafe, not working the switchboard. See more »
A Mediocre Musical That I Would Still Recommend Seeing
First, let me say that I am a fan of Judy Holliday. She displays her broad array of talents in this film, but that is about all this film has going for it. See "Born Yesterday" for a vehicle that better uses her abilities. In that movie, Judy's romantic interest was William Holden, and the chemistry was there. In "Bells are Ringing" her romantic interest is Dean Martin. I felt no magnetism between the two. And I felt that he was unsuited for this role. It was interesting that Dean's character, a writer named Jeffrey Moss, was afraid of failure in the wake of losing his former partner, with whom he had success. Dean himself was only 3 years beyond his split with Jerry Lewis, and must have wondered--at first--if he could duplicate the tremendous successes they had as a team.
Jeffrey Moss, when we first meet him, is in his bachelor flat, surrounded by used glasses, presumably used for alcohol consumption. And he has three cigarettes smoking at the same time. He is obviously used to drinking around the clock and seems to have little if any genuine affection for the numerous women in his life. He is a writer frozen with fear of failure and looks to be on the road to achieving that end.
The concept that Ella, played by Judy, interjects herself into his life and becomes his muse is a good one. But their relationship works only on that professional level. No sparks ensue. Martin's character did not even seem to know anything about Ella, let alone have any deep feelings for her as a woman.
The story itself is very dated, but interesting because of that. The conventions of 1960 as sometimes funny, sometimes ridiculous. Note that the men from Vice equate modeling and a red dress with prostitution, though film standards prevent them from using that word. New York City is caricatured as an emotionally cold city, where buildings from the past are destroyed to make way for buildings of steel and neon lights. It was probably totally believable because it was partially true.
I noted the movie sign for "Gigi", which--like this film--was an Arthur Freed production.
Frank Gorshin got to use his Brando impersonation, delightfully, in his role as the aspiring actor Blake Barton.
Some of the off-screen voices that Ella converses with sound like they could have been voiced by Judy herself.
I thought I detected similarities to "Guys and Dolls" (1955) and "Li'l Abner" (1959)), which is no criticism, just an observation. And Judy's performance makes me wonder if Streisand ("Funny Girl" in 1965) might have seen her performance.
I read elsewhere online that one viewer thought the dance in the park by Martin and Holliday was the best part of the film. For me, the number was painful to watch, in part due to their lack of emotional attachment, in part because it seemed so contrived.
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