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Red Garters (1954)
A Must for RC Fans!!
Rosemary Clooney was without a doubt at the peak of her young beauty and vocal skill when "Red Garters" was made. If you're an RC fan like me, then "RG" will be like a box of valentine candy for you. Much has been said about the minimalist Technicolor sets and "stagey" feel of this movie. It was surely intentional not only to spoof the western genre which was HUGE at the time. But I'm sure also it was intended to showcase the performances of the actors. Many surprises abound:
1.) Gene Barry's remarkable dancing ability. 2.) Joanne Gilbert (a beautiful Fairuza Balk look-alike) 3.) The adorable Pat Crowley who went on to fame on TV in "Please Don't Eat the Daisies". 4.) Buddy Ebsen's charming scarecrow-like dance number. 5.) Hunky Guy Mitchell ('nuff said!) 6.) Jack Carson's delivery that seems somewhere between Clark Gable and W.C. Fields. 7.) The Agnes DeMille-style choreography by Nick Castle. 8.) Gorgeous costumes by Edith Head (who else?)
Yes, it's corny. Yes, it seems like a ripoff of Oklahoma at times. Yes, the Native American racial stereotypes are horrendous!
Truly this film is about Rosie. When she looks directly into the camera and sings her heart out, it is truly a sight to behold!
BUtterfield 8 (1960)
Dated fashion foray for Liz
If dated 60's camp with sexual innuendo and great outfits for the leading lady are your thing, then B8 will not disappoint. However speaking as a fan of such fare, this film leaves me a bit cold. Its camp moments and dialog are numerous enough, but B8 holds its best shocker for the end. The film, like Liz's character is a big tease. Taking small but well-placed stabs at sexual mores of the time period, but never really going further. Add Laurence Harvey's womanizing alcoholic, Dina Merrill as the waspy compliant wife, Eddie Fisher (La Taylor's current hubby at the time) in the non-essential role as Liz's pal, and Mildred Dunnock as Liz's annoying mother in denial, and you'll be hard pressed to find a likable character. Liz herself did not consider this her best performance. Shirley MacLaine called it "the Oscar I lost to the tracheotomy" referring to Taylor's near death from pneumonia complications in 1960. B8 (like other films that were based on camp sex novels of the 60's) would make a great remake if it remained set in the 60's but kept the shocks of the original book intact. If you love Liz, chances are you'll love B8. If you're looking for an accurate portrayal of O'Hara's landmark novel, this is not it.
Never released on VHS or DVD! WHY?!!!
I'm not sure how much starpower a film has to have before being considered for release on DVD or video but you'd be hard pressed to find another (with the exception of maybe the also tragically unreleased "What A Way To Go") that carries more megawattage than "Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed?". Dean, Elizabeth, Carol should have been enough to lift this film out of obscurity. But add in all of the wonderful character actors and the delectable Jill St. John (at the peak of her charms!) and you've got enough to make your own 60's rat-pack- style TV special! Granted the script is a bit dated (standard 60's sex comedy) but isn't that why we love these films? Elizabeth Montgomery shines with pre-Bewitched impossible youth and beauty. Carol Burnett is incredibly zany (possibly not yet learned to control her comedic powers). My only guess is that it is copyright issues that have kept this little gem from the video market. Dino alone must have an incredible fan base to keep the constant flow of his re-released material pumping out the way it seems to do. So I don't think it's an issue of this not being a profitable venture. Keep you eyes peeled on the TV schedule and set the VCR or Tivo and capture this laugher!
What a Way to Go! (1964)
Edith Head's Crowning Achievement
Add this title to the growing list of "Why isn't this on DVD yet?" titles. This film also has the distinction of never being released on VHS either. When it's shown on AMC or TCM it seems to switch back and forth from the Widescreen to Standard formats. Perhaps a full Widescreen transfer print is not available? The plot basis is somewhat "one-joke" in that it is essentially this: Woman keeps marrying men (mostly poor) who eventually become fabulously wealthy, ultimately die, and leave her everything. In any case, this film is an absolute showcase for the work of 2 of Hollywood's greatest female legends: Shirley MacLaine and Edith Head. Shirley sings (though I'm not sure it's her voice in this one) dances (matching Gene Kelly step for step, backwards and in heels nonetheless!) and runs the acting gamut from drama to comedy and back again. She must have had a ball making this one as it's an actresses' dream. Playing opposite a list of Hollywood's top leading men in scenes that parody everything from silent films, to European new wave, to screwball comedies, to the lushest of Hollywood musicals; Shirley is resplendent in over 70 Edith Head originals. This movie should be prerequisite for students of Head's work. DVD gods of Hollywood, please give this one the full widescreen DVD release as it so ultimately deserves!