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I'm probably one of the greatest suckers for a Rodgers and Hammerstein
musical in existence. THE SOUND OF MUSIC is my all-time favourite movie.
Each day I probably unconsciously hum half a dozen of their legendary show
tunes. And if there's one type of movie that I need in my staple film diet,
you betcha it's a musical.
That probably makes me a suitable candidate to be enchanted by this remake, in a current modern day tundra of literally no musical films in production, right?
However, as much as I'd like to see the genuine musicals of yesterday back into production bringing out more Freed units, Busby Berkleys and Judy Garlands, I might as well keep on dreaming. This not only embarrasses the genre, it throws a giant obstacle into the path of the musical making a comeback into mainstream popularity.
The cast of CINDERELLA may have big names to back it up, but what is Brandy, Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander and Bernadette Peters without a decent screenplay which not only doesn't fit together, but isn't in the slightest bit funny? And although I appreciate a movie that runs under two hours, I also happen to like something called believability. The costumes and sets bog down the production in a syrupy mess, in a village that looks like something like a candy factory and successfully removed all the whimsy, and added all the pitifulness with the wishes and dream message.
The only performance I enjoyed was Bernadette Peters, but her image which has made her difficult casting in movies, only proves too well why she should stick to Broadway, where she has not forged a brilliant career with material worthy of her talent, but is able to show why Broadway audiences have loved her for over three decades.
Shirley Jones, the star of the film versions of OKLAHOMA! and CAROUSEL stated once when asked if there was a way to sing Rodgers and Hammerstein, she said, "Yes, *exactly* as it is written". Watching the cast attempting to defy the perfected combination of lyrics and music by adding obvious sounds of R&B music to those tunes and turkey new offerings is somewhat stomach churning. In fact, I couldn't make it through the first hour before I got up from my chair and ran terrified from the TV set. As much as I wanted to like an offering from Rodgers and Hammerstein, I don't think the current production was really what they had in mind.
Perhaps I'm being too judgemental on a family movie, but I didn't really go into watching the movie expecting the standard of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. The only thing that saves the film remotely from complete doom are the wonderful, romantic songs, like "Ten Minutes Ago", "In My Own Little Corner" and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful".
Rodgers and Hammerstein's only foray into TV is probably best seen left in the hands of professionals, like Julie Andrews. Tailor-made for her role, she is undoubtedly the quintessential Cinderella. If her 1957 version of the classic was ever made available publicly, it'd probably be extremely popular.
As a result of this forgettable and disastrous film, are Rodgers and Hammerstein turning over in their graves?
I wouldn't be at all surprised if they are.
CHARLIE'S ANGELS is the type of no-substance movie that guarantees an
audience regardless of when the film debuts at the box office or whether the
opening is marred with somewhat widespread critical panning. With the
infamous stories of spite, jealousy and rivalry that emerged from the set
during the past year, along with the three stars vying to wear the best
scantily clad attire possible, this has in part fueled an increased
awareness among the teenagers. Everyone else probably went along to compare
the faithfulness of another TV/film adaptation, or to sigh at the possible
ruin of yet another classic TV series.
The movie seems to be built around stereotypes of the stars type cast persona, and surprisingly the screenplay seems to be doing all it can to back this up. If this film doesn't get Lucy Liu beyond her `Ally McBeal' credibility, or at least in terms of box office figures, it is hard to say what will. Her performance is definitely enjoyable, but once again, she seems to struggle past the dominatrix bitch that has probably influenced her film work since day one as Ling Woo. Yet she is the only Angel that can convince one of her suitability to the role. Cameron Diaz's transition to an action style flick hasn't allowed her to leave at home the familiar tricks of goofiness employed in `My Best Friends Wedding' with equally cringe-worthy scenes in both films and Drew Barrymore's heartfelt sincere moments seems to retread everything from `Ever After' to `Never Been Kissed.'
Despite the comic implementation of Bill Murray, he seems to have few funny things to do, let alone lines to proclaim. While I enjoy Matt LeBlanc's performance on `Friends' for many weeks throughout each year, is it not possible to allow Joey Tribianni resting time during the film release season? If LeBlanc continues to reprise the dim actor in film appearances, it is likely that his movie career will become washed up after the comedy series comes to an end. It is probably Tom Green, Drew Barrymore's real life boyfriend delivers the goods in his hilarious and very welcome performance. The remainder of the film's characters seem to be hurriedly stolen ideas and spoofs of the quintessential film villain, which the screenplay makes no attempt to develop except in a abrupt change of pace that doesn't really work when culminated with false dramatics.
Music video director McG has a somewhat coveted film debut with the popularity of the film at the box office. However, the surprisingly well executed action of the first thirty minutes of ANGELS begins to sag after this point, and never quite redeems itself even at climax. The opening credits of the film are in itself slotted together like a music video. Unfortunately, the light-hearted elements of the film are often a major let down, and are unfortunately few and far between, while I questioned whether or not I was obliged to laugh dutifully. This is merely the fault of the screenplay and its seventeen writers, in which its flaws are covered up with the obviously big-budgeted and purposefully, planted action sequences. It is quite difficult to believe that such a large pool of writing ability was unable to come up with a stronger story.
The film's sound track is a mixture of 70s, 80s and 90s music, along with a few new additions. There's nothing too special here, but the music is often used at unnecessary moments in many sprinkled handfuls throughout. Obviously the biggest treat of the film was the Matrix-like action style effects. Sadly enough, I don't think they know what they're doing in there either.
CHARLIE'S ANGELS the TV series was big, loud and cheesy. Merely it was all about the look of the show, and at the end of the day, what people thought of it. The film probably does credit to this factor. I enjoyed the film, and it definitely can't be taken seriously, but I hope it won't be necessary to alter my opinions if a string of sequels released for the sake of it follow.
It would validate this film best if I state outright at this point that I am
a great fan of the movie SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, also released in 1952 and
generally ignored by the Academy, seemingly due to the shower of accolades
handed out to AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH did not win
many Oscars beyond the coveted best picture award, but even this fact has
poisoned my viewpoint of the justification of the Academy's decision, and
that this in itself displays the incomprehensible factor that the statuette
ended up at Paramount, not MGM.
However, my eventual purpose of viewing this film was threefold: to see Jimmy Stewart, Dorothy Lamour and one of the final best pictures of the 1950s, which I had not seen. All my SINGIN' IN THE RAIN prejudices aside, I was very pleasantly surprised.
Cecil B. DeMille's opinions of the circus as a human machine made up of many parts' is interesting as it evokes the assemblage of any motion picture, and certainly, an enormous production such as this one. The script, generally convincing in its theme, can deliver on its expectations and bring to life a drama-comedy-epic-action-romance-musical that actually works, all elements and sub-plots played alongside. Even if these aspects make for melodramatic story lines, I have assumed that the purpose of the film is generally basic entertainment. And the basic story the dramatic lives of circus performers culminating and reaching their peak underneath the glamour and colour of the big top isn't too bad either. DeMille's well-handled direction is intriguing and always expectantly, a job well done.
There are many good examples of an all-star ensemble cast, but this one ranks close to the top Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, Dottie Lamour, Gloria Grahame each may bear no resemblance to their character's personalities, but play their parts interestingly well. Generally, I found Stewart's portrayal as Buttons the clown, masked behind a multiple personality, to be the best performance in the film. It is difficult also not to mention the many great and entertaining real-life circus performers that truly made up the spirit of THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, and continue to do so in their differed entertaining medium today, so it is really quite a nice tribute to their dedication.
To satisfy the varied genres of the film, each character is where they are to fuel the particular element. Angel (Grahame) enhances the comedy with her natural talents, and Phyllis (Lamour) and Holly (Hutton) to fill out the musical aspects with an extensive musical program, including `Jumpin' Jack' and the title song. Romance is demonstrated in a series of different love triangles involving five of the six lead characters. Drama is seen with the integration of all these aspects, involving Buttons (Stewart), tension between Sebastian (Wilde) and Brad (Heston), and the case of post ANNIE GET YOUR GUN competitive one-upmanship between Holly and Sebastian on the trapezes. Finally, in the case of action, the sensationalism of the train scene brings all these emotions to a halt to create one of the biggest epics of 1950s Hollywood, and to destroy some of the colourful and glamourous illusions of circus life.
Despite the fact the film definitely exceeded my original expectations of it and the fact that it filled its three-hour plus running time certainly impressed me. However, I would like to continue to retain my position on the unfair juxtaposition of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, and it is doubtful my opinion will swing to favour THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH any time soon.
There are many examples of classic film that have mistakenly been filmed in
a garish process of technicolour, often when artificial sets are fiendishly
evident. In the case of IT HAPPENED IN BROOKLYN, it would have been far more
beneficial otherwise, even if the studio-bound Brooklyn sets were lacking in
simply to merely awaken the audience and poignantly show
what could have been a greatly livened and exciting musical in MGM's top
ranks. The faded shades of black and white had me continually straining to
find any signs of life, especially when the whole thing would have
photographed and run more smoothly in colour.
Despite the treat of a star-studded cast featuring Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Kathryn Grayson and Peter Lawford, only the stellar performances of Durante and Sinatra are worth the running time. Lawford as the grandson of an English duke is too stuffy to fit in within the movie and is too pompously intolerable to put up with for the common audience member, although one can eventually like him a little more by the film's end. Kathryn Grayson's nightingale operatic soprano voice is pleasant, if not fiendishly good, and her performance charming, but despite early flashes of temperament, her effort proves to be wasted in a film that seems to retread every other film of hers except for KISS ME KATE. Gloria Grahame also makes a small appearance as a nurse at the beginning of the film who would have been a better substitute for both Lawford and Grayson had it not been for her singing inability. Her few performances under contract to the studio are demonstrative of talent and beauty at the studio that did not fit into the general mould of performers which is reflected because they did not know what to do with her by relegating her minor parts.
However, the story line of BROOKLYN is somewhat interesting and can almost justifiably be credited for this factor, in comparison to the continuous output of films from the studio which lead the viewer through the tiresome back lot tour. Sinatra, Grayson and Durante take at least forty five minutes to succeed in doing to Lawford what only took Judy Garland twenty seconds to do to Jose Iturbi in THOUSANDS CHEER. The screenplay seems to specialise in prolonging epic delays in its events and lacks the rousing comedy of a Comden and Green script, but in general is not too bad an effort, even if some of the most important scenes are either rushed or haltingly abrupt. There is a general message of kindheartedness which in turn makes the film cheerful and pleasant even though `everyone is miserable in Brooklyn', and the fact that the director is almost screaming at his audience to love the film and the people in it.
As always with the majority of many films of the genre, the musical program intentionally exceeds the plot's importance, which can be expected. In MGM's case, this method often produced a hit song. Despite some lovely music and lyrics by Cahn and Styne, I strain to remember any song. This may have been because opera was strongly integrated in a film of style clashes and thus I couldn't remember any of the songs since opera is generally a painful experience, or because they lacked the entertaining passion of many other MGM's songs. In addition to this, Andre Previn's piano solos are thrown in. Gene Kelly is missing but since none of the lead actors are good enough dancers, a pre-teen kid is pushed into the mix to pick up where Kelly's athleticism left off.
Because of these haphazard factors, IT HAPPENED IN BROOKLYN can be best compared to a jigsaw of innovative elements virtually impossible to put together. None of the factors are able to complement each other, but the film is demonstrative of a well-handed routine musical that could have stood out with others had Busby Berkley or the Freed unit been at the helm. It is an enjoyable entertainment piece that showed great promise, but I'll be damned if I know why.
Any movie not plugged for mass hysteria and advancements of special effects
that seem to occur with every movie released promising unique and original
experiences is literally a must-see. Although the film currently co-incides
with the release of "Mission Impossible 2", this is definitely the more
intelligible and less senseless of the two. "Gladiator" proves that an epic
can be good, produced on a massive scale and not run over three hours.
Sometimes two and a half hours however, is still not enough to finish a
large popcorn and drink.
One of the most noticeable elements of the film is its breathtaking cinematography, much of it possible by the special effects and beautiful European locations, not reliant on exploding helicopters, let alone the flaming city of the Rome. Spectacular battle sequences, a glimpse into an interpretation of the afterlife and even the employment of the simple slow motion technique provide handsome treats for the eyes.
Russell Crowe is the general turned slave, turned gladiator, turned risen hero, turned Hollywood star. His rugged, reluctant performance is naturally the centrepiece of the movie, although almost the entire cast turns in good performances, enhanced by an above average screenplay.
The only disappointing performance is from Joaquain Phoenix, whose pompous Commodus evokes a road company Peter Ustinov as Emperor Nero from "Quo Vadis", only no one will be handing any Academy Award nominations or nods of any sort to him. In terms of the possible bouquets handed out to "Gladiator", come February 2001, it looks like the film will be receiving a whole lot of them.
"Gladiator" evokes the classic epics of the Golden Era, "Ben-Hur", "Spartacus" and the definitive biblical epic, "Quo Vadis." Although the latter was filmed under more strained, theatrical-like conditions now almost fifty years ago, "Gladiator" is reminiscent of the film, albeit a more attractive looking one. Its plot line even seems to be similar, Ancient Rome, corrupt authorities, handsome hero falling for the forbidden fruit...a woman, even if Crowe's has a sense of partial fidelity amid faith and personal devastation.
The success of "Gladiator" has been enjoyed, primarily because the current generation has yet to see such a grand, lavish epic. Since I am fifteen, I can truthfully state this is the only large scale, true historical epic I have ever seen, made in the current day. Since there's enough historical accuracy, heroes, special effects and gory battle violent sequences, which insures box office and something for everyone, there's enough in this film to convince me that, for now, Hollywood may be capable once again of occasionally making films like they used to.
Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour may never have been the Nelson Eddy
and Jeanette MacDonald of the 1930s and 1940s Hollywood musicals, but
anything they ever recorded during this period was better than any of the
painful operetta stuff of the latter screen duo. Brilliant songs are
featured once again, including `Too Romantic' and `The Willow and the Moon'.
ROAD TO SINGAPORE essentially is a romantic comedy with mass complications of playboys with serial patty-pan punching techniques, cheating people with soapsuds cleaner and both falling for Dottie. The slapstick gags featured are not as hilarious as the definitive film of the series, ROAD TO MOROCCO, but due to the enormous success of SINGAPORE, the trio's comedy skills allowed for a continuing series in which the progressing films became zanier.
Generally good direction, an agreeably funny script and a supporting cast headed by Charles Coburn only amounts to part of the fun.
However, once again Paramount, and in a more generalised context, Hollywood itself, displays its lack of understanding for foreign culture. Singapore, or the island in question, which isn't actually Singapore, looks like an extremely undeveloped Malaysia. The natives don't actually convince one of being native, nor do any of the ceremonial activities trick for one second.
Dorothy Lamour, although an exquisitely beautiful actress, does not resemble an islander native, although it isn't exactly her fault.
In the same manner, some people may find this film offensive, or any of the ROAD films because they are not a true representation for any culture. But most movies made during this period simply didn't have much regard to exact details of foreign lands. And in such a brilliant comedy, it doesn't really matter.
Only after hiring THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S did I realise that it was in fact
a sequel and that I may have problems with understanding some of the events
of the previous film. It was probably the result of learning about the film
as it was the movie that appeared on the display board at the cinema
momentarily in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Yet it has a captivating charm and
likeable flavour that doesn't seem to require GOING MY WAY to continue its
story or for newcomers to understand.
Due to the overwhelming success of GOING MY WAY, it was an impossible task for ST. MARY'S to live up to with an immediate public demand for a sequel, but on all accounts this particular sequel is in fact on the better side as sequels are concerned.
It was therefore not possible for ST. MARY'S to win best picture since in contention with the brilliant THE LOST WEEKEND at the 1945 Oscars, but it holds the special distinction for Bing Crosby as the only person in the Academy's history to be nominated for the same role twice. In fact, the film is worthy and deserving of all the nominations it received.
Leo McCarey once again delivers with a light hearted, wholesome, more than enjoyable story and with his own special touch of direction, with a touch of humour and the ever continuing throes of church dilemmas.
Bing Crosby, without the feisty support of the great Barry Fitzgerald, faces Ingrid Bergman in the run-down St. Mary's school/convent and her entire congregation against his free spirited priest ideals, and the always brilliant Henry Travers with a few plans of his own.
Highlights include Ingrid Bergman's study into the unknown world of boxing and anything sung by Bing, in particular "Aren't You Glad You're You?" and the title song. The film may have benefited even more greatly with the inclusion of more musical sequences, but since the film was the highest grossing movie at the box office in 1945, little can be asked for.
Like most film series, the first is usually always the best, and GOING MY WAY certainly has a lot going for it, but in comparison, so does THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S.
The only biopic less truthful than TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY is probably NIGHT
AND DAY based on the life of Cole Porter and played by...of all people, Cary
Maybe Robert Walker is no more convincing as Jerome Kern, but it hardly matters. After all, at least MGM's greatest interest in the presentation of the spectacular musical numbers did avert the possible deadly insignificance of overwhelming life detail of the great composer, a huge financial risk due to the big budget and the public ever hungry for a spectacular musical from MGM.
Jerome Kern died during the production of the film, so in all, it became a tribute to his life and his impact on music for four decades, rather than the supposed dramatic life story. However, with romance, tragedy and plenty of glamour, colour, songs and anyone contract star with a reasonably minor name not already involved in more than two projects at the studios, MGM proved as the king of the Hollywood musical, they could get any story to boot.
As with the majority of musicals, the actual story was the second priority. Despite knowing nothing about Jerome Kern other than his great music contribution, the most part of it is not believable other than the creation of fictional conflict, and all in the controlled environment of the studio. Yet the songs, musical direction and all the other elements are first rate. Perhaps the only complaint could be that Gene Kelly is missing.
And in the grand MGM manner, the musical highlights make up for it all, and there are plenty of them.
Beginning with the opening of the first 'real' musical of the American theatre, SHOW BOAT, Kathryn Grayson, Tony Martin, Virginia O'Brien, Caleb Peterson and Lena Horne perform the superb musical within the musical, also allowing a glimpse of the superb Lena Horne as Julie, had she not lost the role to an unconvincing Ava Gardner in the actual 1951 film remake.
Judy Garland as the legendary Marilyn Miller, performs her two numbers "Who?" and "Look for the Silver Lining" brilliantly. Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore and June Allyson are also memorable performers within the musical.
With the inclusion of approximately two dozen musical numbers and additional dancing sequences, TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY, despite its faults with the facts of the concerned subject matter, is a prime example of MGM's creative musical grandeur and brilliance.
TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY is extremely likeable viewing entertainment, similar to sitting down at a soda fountain for a couple of hours with Judy Garland, Robert Walker, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Tony Martin, Kathryn Grayson, June Allyson, Cyd Charisse, Virginia O'Brien, Gower Champion, Lucille Bremer, Van Johnson, Angela Lansbury, Van Heflin and in short, any employee at the MGM studios, and enjoying the sight.
"Oklahoma!", the first modern musical, conquered the audiences in search of
a differed non-Ziegfeld glamour tone. In turn "On the Town", Adolph Green
and Betty Comden's masterpiece little creation, proved the fact that
audiences were ready for a new kind of musical entertainment...a show
carried by a small, intimate group of principal performers.
In retrospect, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra have matured as sailor characters in the four years since "Anchors Aweigh", clearly evident through the fact that this time the men search the town no strings attached...no young boys, operatic singers and the entire MGM studios...and they're fancy free. Although they're in search of girls again, this time it is without Jose Iturbi on their backs...and there's only twenty four hours to do it in as they scour the big apple, ambitious to find love and see it all in a day.
In tow with the brilliant Kelly and Sinatra, is Jules Munshin, who played a food enamoured waiter in the 1948 Judy Garland/Fred Astaire vehicle "Easter Parade" and now responsible for destroying a dinosaur. The delightful singing and dancing cast is headed by Betty Garrett, a determined taxi driver responsible for ferrying the group around during their all too short stay, Ann Miller, the anthropologist and Vera-Ellen, the beautiful subway 'celebrity' Miss Turnstiles.
"On the Town" became a musical pioneer in itself when Kelly rallied for filming to occur in New York itself when most filming was done previously in the controlled conditions of an indoor sound stage. However, it provided a whole lot of firsts for the Freed department besides another practice run with Kelly. It marked Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's co-directorial debut. Comden and Green excised their wise cracks and humour in their witty, amusing New York tale. And Gene was allowed to choreograph another serious ballet which killed the humourous and youthful-like story and revived it with great songs.
MGM, the champion of musical production and its legendary Freed unit this time didn't have to recreate "Ziegfeld Follies" or "The Great Ziegfeld" to achieve a successful musical, nor did they have to hand out as many paychecks. Perhaps they finally began to realise that.
Unfortunately musicals were coming to an end, as was the pairing of Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson, possibly the musical team to follow Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. The work that followed of the great actors in "On the Town" became scarce. What followed next was Kelly's legendary career topping performance in "Singin' in the Rain", Sinatra winning an Oscar in "From Here to Eternity" and Miller in "Kiss Me Kate". Yet what followed for the others, and everyone else specialising in musicals, is questionable.
Despite all that eventually happened to the mostly forgotten musicals of Hollywood's Golden Days and this being one of the last, the fact that they don't make them like they used to is not a worry because this is such a brilliant musical example.
Talking camels that manifest falsehood in moments of battle. Best friend
rivalry over a beautiful princess in another distant time, in another exotic
setting. Unconvincing sets of desert and sea make viewing a bit of an
eyesore for those wary of its artificial conception. However, the interiors
are done with just the right touch incapable for MGM to create with over
doing the sets entirely without a hint of Ziegfeld. Nor is anyone
Even better, "Morocco" has a hilarious and brilliant script directed by a Paramount director that obviously has an important asset essential for the trademark mix of these films, a sense of humour. Some of the most memorable scenes from any of the "Road" films occur in "Road to Morocco". And they certainly couldn't belong anywhere else.
Perhaps today the third film of the series is unjustly best remembered for some of the hit songs it spawned, "Moonlight Becomes You" and the title song. However, other songs featured in the score should not be forgotten, despite the loveliness and catchiness of the other two.
However, this film has something brilliant going for it that is sometimes missing in other screwball or highly comic films of the era. There is no Cary Grant, and no Carole Lombard. Yet all the actors manage successfully with zany screwball antics typically capable of the above at the highest of standards. The best thing the film has is Bing, Bob and Dottie and the teaming of the trio should not be forgotten as possibly one of the best in comedies.
What this film must have done to wartime morale is amazing in a solemn era difficult to forget post Depression era. Yet today it remains as fresh as ever and anything else featuring Crosby, Hope and Lamour should not be passed over. It was certainly an unexpected gem of a surprise, and probably one of the few movies where the same jokes can get away with working twice.
Whatever its flaws, "Morocco" is one of my twenty favourite films of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and the fact it's got a short time is even a greater bonus.
Yet once the all too rare movie magic of the film sets in, you never want the road to end.
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