The Second Greatest Sex (1955)
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Universal rarely made musicals in the 1950's so when they got around to making this one they didn't have much talent under contract to play the supporting roles, so they hired people from all over the place: pop singer Kitty Kallen, teen novelty singer Jimmy Boyd ("I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"), ballet dancer Tommy Rall, and radio hillbilly vocalist Cousin Emmy, most of them making a very rare appearance in motion pictures. And to that vaudeville/Broadway legend Bert Lahr in one of his few film appearances since THE WIZARD OF OZ in 1939. And that's even not counting forgotten stage musical performer Paul Gilbert (future father of Melissa Gilbert) and one Mary Marlo, making her film debut at age 60 (her only other appearance was an unbilled bit the next year) as Lahr's wife. The only Universal contractees in this film are Mamie Van Doren and (an obviously dubbed) George Nader.
Jeanne Crain has the lead in this film an 1880's beauty who resents fiancée Nader's obsession with the long-standing feud between two rival counties for a bank safe full of documents (didn't make sense to me either.) The men of the three counties spend years on end stealing and recapturing the vault from each other (with nary a gunshot heard). When Nader goes traipsing after the safe now stolen yet again on their wedding night, Jeanne has had enough and leads the women of the town into a sex strike on the men until they vow to give up this "war" after hearing a school teacher's tale of Lysistrata.
Most of the songs are full cast numbers although Nader "sings" a love song to Crain. Kallen also gets a solo which is danced to by Rall. Neither Boyd nor Cousin Emmy get a song of their own despite being cast presumably because they were singers. There's quite a bit of dancing in this and one may be taken aback a bit by seeing these western numbers danced to in mostly ballet fashion by the male dancers.
The billing is almost as strange as the movie. Studio contractee Van Doren is surprisingly pushed back to seventh billing, I would say she deserved at least fifth but perhaps Gilbert and Keith Andes contracts required them to be in the top six. Kathleen Case, on the other hand, has only a line or two and is billed over several players who have major roles.
Although this movie makes good use of Universal's well-used western locales it is no closer to reality than Paramount's stylized RED GARTERS. It is however, more fun, with a cast jumping into it with gusto and good humor. Too silly to be really good, nevertheless it's entertaining and worth a look if you can find it.
We have several other actors known for their singing or dancing. Paul Gilbert used to be a trapeze artist, and sings "Traveling Man", which goes with his role as a traveling salesman. Edna Skinner, as spinster schoolteacher Cassie Slater, tries to get him interested in her. She is best remembered as a regular on the "Mr. Ed" TV series.... Kitty Kallen was primarily a singer. She sings "How Lonely Can I Get", when her sweetheart is away with the other men, chasing that bank safe. While she sings, Tommy Rall dances on the restaurant furniture.......Keith Andes, who plays a parson, was known as a singer and beefcake. He sings "Send Us a Miracle", when the men are faced with the task of getting that heavy safe across a swollen river...When Liza(Jeanne Crain) and Matt(George Nader) announce they will soon marry, Sharon Bell and a chorus sing "There's Gonna be a Wedding"....Leading man Matt is dubbed when singing "My Love is Yours", singing about Jeanne Crain(Liza). Later, Liza sings(dubbed)"Lysistrata". Lysistrata was a woman in ancient Greece who organized a 'sit-down' strike by the women of 3 cities, until their men stopped their fighting over land ownership. Also, the older women took over the Acropolis, until war ceased. Liza imitated Lysistrata in most details, with a little-used fort substituting for the Acropolis. Her plan worked wonderfully. Near the end, Burt Lahr sings his version of "The Second Greatest Sex", also sung by a man and women in the closing credits....Jimmy Boyd, who plays the idiosyncratic teen son of the McClure family, was a well known singer and guitar player in the '50s, but doesn't get to sing. His comeout hit was "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"....I prefer my musicals to start out with a rousing song. We get this here with the chorus sing of "What Good is a Woman Without a Man" Not what feminists want to hear, but true for many women, at least for part of their lives. In addition, there is an uncredited song or two for the barn dance production number, which includes some acrobatic dancing by the men.
Hope you will be induced to watch and listen to this undeservedly forgotten gem. See it on YouTube, at present.