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  1. My Fair Lady Question

    I still enjoy My Fair Lady immensely even though I know that neither Audrey or Jeremy did any of their own singing. Regardless, Audrey is Audrey - luminous, beautiful, elegant and sophisticated. She is a lady through and through and that sells the film even when her voice cannot. Incidentally, the original DVD release included Audrey's vocal arrangements as an extra. She did attempt to sing 'Show Me' and 'Wouldn't It Be Loverly?' While I can appreciate her efforts they really did not measure up. Yes, Julie Andrews would have been wonderful as she had been on the stage. But she was an unknown quantity at the time and Jack Warner had a lot of money wrapped up in the film. He needed a 'name' and that name was Audrey Hepburn. The film still works for me and Marnie Nixon is nothing short of astounding. She is a chameleon of song styles. She sounds like Deborah Kerr speaks in The King and I. She manages a solid cockney accent for My Fair Lady and she's wonderful at doing Brooklyn for Natalie Wood in West Side Story. Incidentally, (RE: Kathryn Grayson) if you're a fan of Anchors Aweigh (as I am) Grayson doesn't hit the high 'C' not at the end of 'The Heart of a Lonely Poet'. That note was later dubbed in for her by a contract singer at MGM. Oh well, we all need a little help now and then!
  2. ON THE TOWN (1949)

    On The Town is fun but flawed. Arthur Freed discarded the stage show's original score in favour of new songs that, at least in my opinion, don't entirely measure up to the originals. Also, only the opening 'New York New York' production number was actually shot in New York City to give the movie it's east coast flavour. The rest of the film is all vintage back lot MGM and process screens. I'm not condemning the movie. I like it a lot. There's plenty to love about it. But it's not the perfect entertainment it ought to have been for these reasons.
  3. "The Merry Widow" (1934/1952)

    The 34 version of The Merry Widow is ageless and the one to see. It's hasn't been available on home video since the mid-1980s and on VHS when Ted Turner released it under the old MGM/UA Video label. Warner Home Video now owns the rights. They have long promised a DVD (since 2002 actually) but this never materialized. I suspect when they finally get around to it, the movie will become part of their 'Archive Collection' - a poor cousin 'burn on demand' release as opposed to a properly minted DVD. The 52 version is rather painful to watch. Neither Lamas or Turner can or do sing. Remember that the original film is an operetta with Jeanette MacDonald warbling most of the score and Chevalier blissfully singing 'girls, girls, girls.' The remake has Technicolor going for it and that's about it. Otherwise, its a rather colourless experience and should be - and probably is - largely forgotten.
  4. "Athena" ('54)

    Athena doesn't really work for me. Jane Powell is in fine voice as is Debbie Reynolds. But the numbers are a hopeless mish-mash. The Girl Next Door is a cheesy hand me down from Meet Me In St. Louis (The Boy Next Door) with gender specific alterations made so that Vic Damone can sing it. The title track never gets any play time in the film. It's just something warbled by a chorus under the credits. Love Can Change the Stars was supposed to be the big romantic ballad between Powell and Purdon (who is about as rigid and flat in his role as Adam Shaw as an actor can get). Instead it's a Powell solo with a brief reprise by Reynolds and Damone. 'I Never Felt Better' is about the best of the lot - fun-loving and expertly played. But 'Imagine' is a dull pas deux, Venezia is just bizarre, a sort of Neopolitan nightmare and grossy overblown production nunber, while Chacun le sait belongs to that vintage of Jane Powell musicals from the mid-to-late 1940s. Again, in and of themselves the songs are not terrible. But as a whole they never fuse into a collective song and dance extravaganza. The cohesion necessary to make Athena a classic on par with An American in Paris, or even Hit The Deck or Silk Stockings, just isn't there. FYI - you probably already know this but the film was originally conceived by Esther Williams and Chuck Walters as a starring vehicle for her. Then she became pregnant and Production Chief Dore Schary took the project over, rewriting it for a singer instead. I can sort of see Williams in this film more than I can see Powell. I mean, big splashy aquacade star meets bodybuilding bo-hunks...it's not as awkward a fit as operatic loving health nut meets aspiring politico. N'est pas?
  5. Remakes of Musicals in general

    I agree with the person who said that as a rule remakes tick him off. I'm not a fan of remaking anything, but at the same time I have to agree that there are several non-musical films from the 1930s that were remade as musicals in the 1950s that I absolutely adore. The first is High Society, a remake of The Philadelphia Story (which I also love). Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly are valiant successors to Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in the original and the songs by Cole Porter are all show stoppers. Also love Silke Stockings, the musical remake of Ninotchka that I actually find superior to the Garbo original non-musical comedy. Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse do this remake proud and Porter again gives us vintage tunes not to be forgotten. By the mid-50s and onward musical remakes of this sort were pretty awful however. If you've seen the musical version of Frank Capra's Lost Horizon, or the musical version of Goodbye Mr. Chips then you know exactly what I mean! El stinko times ten!!!! I disagree with the person about TV's Oklahoma! I've always been a huge fan of the film version. Saw it in Todd A-O projection in a theater and it just floored me. I'll agree that Camelot was not a stellar musical but I don't want to see it remade either. I've heard Emma Thompson is remaking My Fair Lady. Oh no! The only credence I give such nonsense is that hopefully it will inspire the original film to be released on Blu-ray and DVD.
  6. "It's Always Fair Weather"

    I have mixed feelings about It's Always Fair Weather. I think it's the title that gets me because the story itself is very downbeat and more serious than your usual fluff from MGM. Kelly's roller skating number is a tour de force as is Dolores Gray's Thanks A Lot But No Thanks and Cyd Charisse's Baby You Knock Me Out. I also love the 'trash can' dance. I think the problem I have is that the songs and dances seem to belong to that lighter-than-air vintage of MGM froth while the story is decidedly more Dore Schary noir than vintage L.B. Mayer glam-bam. The two styles seem in constant conflict with one another, like a boxing match between two genres and neither wins in the end. I do have to admit that there's so much to admire, but as a whole the film really doesn't work for me. Sorry.
  7. "Star!"

    Star! is one of those big glossy musical bio pics, more fiction than fact that just had the dumb luck of coming at the end of that 60s cycle of movie musicals. Like Hello Dolly!, another superb movie musical produced two years after it by Fox, if just did not have audience interest behind it to succeed. Julie Andrews best performance in a movie musical will always be tied between The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. But it is saying much that she managed to cleanse herself of that 'practically perfect' persona from the aforementioned films to at least attempt playing Gertrude Lawrence in STAR! - a woman hardly known for either her sweetness or light hearted touch. At its heart, I think Star! is flawed because it attempts to go back to the heady days of MGM pre Arthur Freed and the 'integrated musical' format. The numbers in star have absolutely nothing to do with the plot except to loosely chart Miss Lawrence's rise to fame. Yet, even here the premise is flawed, completely overlooking Gertie's success in The King and I on Broadway and glossing over Lady in the Dark with The Saga of Jennie number. The numbers are interesting, but stagebound. The best of them, like Berlington Bertie, The Saga of Jennie, Physician, Someone to Watch Over Me and Forbidden Fruit are amusing because they truly capture the essence of what those stage successes were all about. Translating stage essence to film has never been Hollywood's strong suit and a lot of the other numbers in this film illustrate a short-sightedness so narrowly construed that although we can admire Miss Andrews for her musical interpretations the number as a 'number' in a 'movie' falls short of our expectations. Of course, it did not help the film's reputation that after playing only a month or so they panicked and elected to pull the film from circulation, chop it to death with heavy handed editing and then re-release it as Those Were The Happy Days where it still bombed. Finally thoughts: STAR! is fun to watch but it doesn't rival the very best musicals from its own period.
  8. Last MGM Movie

    While MGM did transfer ownership first to Lorimar Telepictures and then Sony in the mid to late 80s the backlot did not survive this transfer of ownership, suffering the wrecking ball in 1975 after Kirk Kerkorian's takeover to raise capital for his Las Vegas hotel; itself the scene of destructive chaos in 1981 when the second largest fire in hotel history claimed 85 lives. MGM's sad final days are chronicled in the book "Fade Out" which might be a good starting point in your research of the last movie shot on the MGM backlot but I do believe That's Entertainment! is among the last. By the time That's Entertainment Part II was made a scant two years later the intros by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were confined to soundstage work because the backlot had been demolished to make way for the condos that currently still stand. A few other points to consider: the Smith house from Meet Me In St. Louis was spared the indignation when a studio backlot fire consumed it in the late 1950s. This is why the TV series based on the film relocated the Smith's to the house that once belonged to the Smith's next door neighbour, John Truett. One final point that should be cleared up: initially it was Ted Turner's intension to continue making movies at MGM once he acquired the studio from Kerkorian. Unfortunately for Mr. Turner, he was not the media giant then that he eventually became and quickly realized he had neither the capital nor the resources to resurrect MGM from oblivion. He was therefore forced to sell off the studio and other assets to save his own fledgling company from bankruptcy.
  9. Well film lovers, with this season's releases of The Sound of Music, White Christmas, The Night of the Hunter, The Red Shoes, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, et al on Blu-Ray it does do a lot to wet the avid collector's rabid appetite for more of the same. So here's your chance to list the classic films you'd most likely want to see get a Blu-ray release in 2011. Add to this list and make your presence and opinions known. Some titles to consider: The Magnificent Ambersons Lawrence of Arabia Marie Antoinette (1938) The Prisoner of Zenda (1936) The Merry Widow (1936) Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) The Guns of Navarone Citizen Kane Gilda The Blue Dahlia Touch of Evil The Rains Came Meet Me In St. Louis My Fair Lady The Ten Commandments Easter Parade Anastasia (1956) The Band Wagon 55 Days at Peking El Cid The Fall of the Roman Empire Cleopatra Ben-Hur To Catch a Thief Sabrina Breakfast at Tiffanys Alfie Red Dust Roman Holiday Funny Face The Swan Foreign Correspondent Rebecca Spellbound Notorious Rear Window Love is a Many Splendored Thing Two for the Road How to Steal a Million The Great Ziegfeld Wilson Maytime Naughty Marietta Rose Marie Dark Victory How to Marry a Millionaire Niagara Gentlemen Prefer Blondes All About Eve All This and Heaven Too Now Voyager The Birds This Is Cinerama The Brothers Karamazov Brigadoon The Glass Key To Kill a Mockingbird Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Hit the Deck The Odd Couple The Great Gatsby Oliver! Grand Hotel Dinner at Eight Weekend at the Waldorf Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) Grand Prix Love in the Afternoon The Apartment Some Like It Hot Judgment at Nuremberg The Children's Hour Separate Tables The Great Waltz Cavalcade Laura Leave Her To Heaven A Night to Remember Tales of Hoffman La Dolce Vita Annie Hall Auntie Mame The Awful Truth Holiday Holiday Inn Bringing Up Baby High Society Adam's Rib Woman of the Year The Big Sleep The Barefoot Contessa Dial M For Murder Funny Girl Gaslight Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Giant High Noon This is the Army Ivanhoe Scaramouche Jezebel State Fair The King and I Oklahoma! Carousel Flower Drum Song Kiss Me Kate The Little Foxes Manhattan Wife Vs. Secretary Victor/Victoria
  10. Remakes of Musicals in general

    Remakes are a bad idea period! However, I do have to say that when MGM undertook to remake some of their best loved comedies and dramas from the 30s into big budget musicals in the 1950s they came up with two of the best musical entertainments of that decade: High Society (a remake of the Philadelphia Story) and Silk Stockings (a remake of Ninotchka). Both these musicals are top flight in every way and really stand out as exceptional entertainments of their own. MGM had less luck with their glossy Technicolor remakes of the Merry Widow, starring Lana Turner as a non-singing widow in the role originally warbled by a luminous Jeanette MacDonald, and The Opposite Sex, that added songs to the classy George Cukor classic The Women and all but destroyed the appeal of that film for me. MGM tried to go back to that well again in the 60s with Goodbye Mr. Chips. The formula was painfully out of touch and lacking with the superb Greer Garson and Robert Donat in the original 1939 weepie.
  11. Oklahoma! Yeowee!

    I'm assuming you're referring to the Cinemascope version of the film - the more widely screened version at the time of the film's general release. If you haven't seen it, you should also watch the Todd A-0 version as it contains alternative takes and restaging of many of the dance sequences. The currently available DVD from Fox Home Video contains both versions, although the Todd A-0's color is a bit off. This is a curiosity since I own the laserdisc released by Fox in the mid-1990s that has been lovingly restored with eye popping color and marked improvements in fine detail and clarity for which the Todd A-0 American Optical large format film stock was justly famous.
  12. AFRICAN AMERICAN musicals

    If I were you I'd make post haste to see Cabin in the Sky, Stormy Weather and Carmen Jones - top flight entertainments with all black casts. Don't waste your time on The Wiz - attrociously second rate and horribly miscast! If you haven't seen the following (not musicals) you should: Island in the Sun and Pinky.
  13. A STAR IS BORN!!!!

    I'd just like to say that this film is a lost masterpiece. Of course, opinions will vary, but Cukor's output is hardly dull and this film is certainly anything but. I think what throws people today who have watched and loved Judy during her MGM output (Oz included), is that Star has none of the ultra frothy glam that MGM gave her and its other musical stars in spades. That's as it should be. Warner Bros. IS NOT MGM. Their penchant for gritty drama bodes well with Star because Star is really a melodrama with music as opposed to a musical with connecting dialogue. The distinction is worth noting. The score is first rate. Gotta Have Me Go With You is transformed into a taut bit of plot advancement as Esther struggles to keep Norman from making a public spectacle of himself. Here's What I'm Here For advances the narrative structure while conveying Esther's true emotions to Norman. A New World is hauntingly beautiful, Garland's rendition with minimal musical accompaniment framing the depth of Esther's love for Norman. Finally, Lose That Long Face is a perfect counterpoint in high flying exuberance to the backstage sense of dispair that we find Esther in as she realizes she cannot stop the man she loves from destroying himself before her eyes. The one musical number that does not advance the narrative is the lengthy Born In A Trunk - shot after the rest of the film and foisted onto Cukor by the powers that be who felt a splashy musical number was needed to counterbalance the drama. Even so, Born in A Trunk explains, perhaps more satisfactory than anywhere else in Garland's career, the real life struggles and hardships of making it to the top that were of course part of Garland's own tapestry of life. When coupled with the backstage trauma/drama Judy suffered in her personal life, her emotional highs and lows that would have long made an emotional cripple out of any other star from her vintage, this A Star Is Born emerges as one of the most heartbreaking, tragically poignant and utterly satisfying films of the 1950s, if not of all time. That Jack Warner hacked into Cukor's masterpiece shortly after its general release and excised footage that now necessitates still photographic inserts a la a fine restoration search made possible by the late Ron Haver is regrettable. The inserts bring the story to a halt an otherwise gripping melodrama of the highest order.
  14. Original "Fame" coming to blu-ray in January!

    I'll go one step further. Remaking Fame WAS pointless. The original - a fantastic drama with music - gave me admiration for the guts it takes to chase after one's dreams. The remake reminded me of a bunch of American Idol rejects hopelessly flailing about in the hopes that no one would notice just how awful they all were!
  15. Irving Berlin's "This is the Army" (1943)

    Oh...Crawford in blackface in that film. Even at the ripe old age of 39 that image still makes me cringe! Talk about bad taste.

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