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This sweet and funny silent stars Mary Pickford as an orphan who, after much kindhearted mischief, goes to college and finds true love, thanks to her anonymous personal trustee, whom she dubs "Daddy-Long-Legs" after the seeing his legs in a shadow. It's a familiar story, since it was remade in 1931 (with Janet Gaynor), 1938 (as the Netherlands film Vadertje Langbeen), and 1955, with Leslie Caron and Fred Astaire.
There are quite a few memorable images in this lovely version: the drunk dog, the one-armed doll, and the scene with the baby cupids.
The recent score by Maria Newman complements the movie, unlike the wretched one she wrote for another Pickford film, The Love Light (1921).
The Love Light (1921)
Pickford/Marion Collaboration Misses The Mark
This film was a rare departure from little-girl roles for Mary Pickford, who almost succeeds in giving a perfectly moving performance. The script, by Frances Marion, throws Pickford's Angela so many curves that it becomes tiring watching her sometimes-hammy reactions. Marion was Pickford's best friend, and she hand a hand in as many as seventeen of America's Sweetheart's movies. One can hope these were more successful.
Marion, director as well as writer, crammed so many melodramatic topics into The Love Light that one feels as if she thought she'd never work on a film again. Spies, unrequited love, blindness, war, betrayal, death, theft, natural disasters, insanity, and a lynch mob on top of everything else. These are enough concepts to deal with comfortably in at least two movies, but they are all unhappily jammed into about 90 minutes.
Marion's husband Fred Thomson is easy on the eyes and natural on camera as the American that Italian Angela takes into her home. The other players are mostly standard overactors, with the possible exception of Edward Philips as Angela's charming younger brother Mario.
Another thing to beware: the all-too-modern score recently imposed upon it by Maria Newman. At times it seems as if she hadn't even seen the movie.
There are some good moments ("Stewed Chicken", for instance), but overall it's only for fans of the star and writer/director.
Three Little Words (1950)
Three Little Words, the "story" of songwriters Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar, probably is only accurate where their names, songs, and a rough frame of truth is concerned, but who cares? The cast is great. Fred Astaire has some really good dances. Red Skelton's comic potential isn't really used in this, and he seems almost like Fred's sidekick, but he does all right. It's certainly not his best. I usually don't like Vera-Ellen, but even I like her in this. And once you see past the black wig, that is most definitely Debbie Reynolds as Helen Kane, the girl singing I Wanna Be Loved By You. The songs are absolutely sensational. Oh yeah, the song Lucky Star (not written by Ruby-Kalmar), which Debbie would later sing with Gene Kelly at the end of Singin' in the Rain, is briefly featured.
Les Girls (1957)
Gene, Kay, and Why Am I So Gone About That Gal
Those are reasons to watch the movie. Gene is an obvious choice-- because he's Gene! Kay Kendall is screamingly funny. Her hitting the perfume bottle is the most hilarious thing in the movie. While opera singing, no less. And the number Why Am I So Gone About That Gal is one of my favourites. Sort of bizarre (bikers walk in to restaurant closed for night, big cheese of the group got a black eye from her last night...) but the dancing is so great that you forget about it.
The Harvey Girls (1946)
"On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe..."
There's your plot right there. No, I'm just kidding. Sort of. See, this movie doesn't have much of a story, so the numbers kind of fill in. Judy's lovely and in great voice, Virginia O'Brien is dead-pan (as always) and Cyd, unfortunately has only one short number. Lame movie, but the poor girls can't do anything about it. Excellent songs though... See it if you're a fan of any of the cast (even scary Marjorie Main).
Let's Make Love (1960)
Is It REALLY That Bad?
Actually, yeah. Bad script, bad theory, GOOD stars, but the last one can't cancel out the first two, so it's a flop. Marilyn's My Heart Belongs to Daddy is good, but she's done better. If you're a fan of one of the leads, by all means, but otherwise...
Come All To the Square!
Brigadoon's plot is a little strange, but that doesn't matter. Good songs, quick lines, and great stars hold it together. Although it was later in his career, Gene Kelly is great in this. I believe that his best number in Brigadoon is Heather on the Hill, with the lovely Cyd Charisse. Her portrayal as a small-town girl is a bit hard to buy due to her worldly and sophisticated air, but her performance is not unwatchable by any long stretch. Her character Fiona is nicely set up with the wistful song Waitin' For M'Dearie. She's dubbed, but the voice fits. Van Johnson is very funny, with his lines and their perfectly-timed deliveries. I like the teaming of Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, but I can't imagine them here. Another thing about the casting; they seem to be having fun. A great example of this is in the number I'll Go Home With Bonnie Jean. Johnson and Kelly hit an exceptionally high note for a good amount of time, and, impressed with each other, shake hands. Little things like this add to the charm. Yes, the sets are obviously just that, and the film would've been that much better if it had been filmed on location as Gene Kelly wanted it, but Brigadoon is still good and something to see.
Swing Time (1936)
Ginger Pursues Fred For a Change!
You heard me. Yes, in the beginning he's chasing her, but when he gives her the cold shoulder in order to avoid falling for her so he won't have to tell her about his fiance, she snuggles up to him (amid the loveliest scenery ever; snow). The two actually kiss-- you don't see it due to some clever directing and an opened door, but the evidence is all over Fred's face. Another great moment earlier in the movie (when he's still wooing her) is when he's singing The Way You Look Tonight and she comes out and puts her hand on his shoulder; he looks absolutely delirious. This is, in my humble opinion, the very best of the excellent Astaire-Ginger movies. Every move danced, ever note sang, every expression expressed in this masterpiece is flawless. It doesn't get any better than this. I see a lot of musicals and Swing Time will remain in my top five for years.
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
"Look at old fella what's-his-name in The African Queen..."
This movie isn't good so much for the script and lines as it is for the three stars, Marilyn, Lauren, and Betty. They are so gorgeous (particularly in the modeling scene) that the plot is forgotten. And who cares! This is an entertaining, fun movie with EXCELLENT costumes and scenery. See it if you're a fan of Monroe, Bacall, Grable, big cities or great snow-covered countryside.
"You remind me of a man..."
This movie's sort of bizarre. If you can get over the idea of Cary Grant standing on a school stage dressed in shining armor, you'll be fine. (The playboy angle just doesn't seem like much of a stretch.) Anyway, there are some pretty clever lines (especially the hoodoo one), and an imaginative storyline, and Shirley Temple was downright pretty when she grew up, but overall The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer isn't anything unforgettable.