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YOLANDA AND THE THIEF (1945)

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This is a totally misconceived musical fantasy that never knows what direction it's heading in. Parts of it are sticky-gooey religious drek with heiress Yolanda Aquaviva (Lucille Bremer) graduating from a convent to take her place at the head of the country's richest family. The other story thread concerns grifters (Fred Astaire and Frank Morgan) entering the country (it looks like Bolivia) to escape the American police. With assistance from an archangel (Leon Ames)the stories meet.

 

Mildred Natwick, as the loony aunt, comes off best in a delightfully comic performance. Ames and Morgan have almost nothing to do. Astaire, with his worst toupee in a major film, seems bored. Bremer (of the twitchy eyes) has almost zero acting talent. The color cinematography and set decoration will knock your eyes out, but as the scenes run from obvious artsy sets to real back drops, there seems to be no consistency or authorial vision.

 

Aside from a few comic moments (which belong to Natwick) the only things that saves this film from total failure is the musical number "Coffee Time." The set up is a carnival where Astaire and Bremer get pushed into doing a dance together. The oddly syncopated "Coffee Time" catches the viewer off guard because it's so damned good and quite arresting.

 

The number is introduced by three girls who clap in counter beat to the slightly South American sounds of the main melody. Then swirls of dancers join in, also clapping their four-beat counter tempo. Finally Astaire and Bremer take the spotlight and for a few moments they both come alive as they dance across the amazingly psychedelic floor of black and white wavy streaks. This is a great song/number stuck in a lousy film.

 

After the song, we resume the dreary narrative. I have no idea what director Vincente Minnelli was trying for, but nothing works. It's not a fantasy, it's not funny, and the religious angle is a total dud. Thank heaven for Mildred Natwick, the color cinematography, and "Coffee Time."

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I think it belongs in the category of "Interesting failures". Certainly not one of Minnelli's best musicals, but you gotta give the guy credit for trying to do something different.

 

Well, at least I do. ;)

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The film is an interesting failure but I think the blame lies with Lucile Bremer. I stated before she is totally miscast and seemingly too sophisticated to play Yolanda. Someone like Pier Angeli or Leslie Caron would be more suited to the role. Unfortunately those two ladies weren't around at the time. Also, in his autobiography Minnelli states Bremer just did not have star quality and her career was short lived. I do love the "Coffee Time number." Producer Arthur Freed used the song again in THE SUBTERRANEANS which oddly enough co-starred Leslie Caron.

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The movie may have been miscast, it's been a while since I see it, but I think perhaps another problem is that Minnelli was ahead of his time in many ways, and maybe audiences just weren't ready for unconventional musicals like Yolanda and The Pirate, which I believe was another big flop for the Freed unit, in spite of reuniting Gene Kelly and Judy Garland.

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It's interesting that Bremer got a starring role here. I wonder who else was considered since Bremer was mostly a supporting player at MGM...

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Bremer was the girlfriend of Producer Arthur Freed. Try as he may Freed could not make Bremer into a star even though he showcased her in some very good vehicles including MEET ME IN ST LOUIS. Bremer never had the appeal of dancers like Cyd Charisse or Leslie Caron.

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The only time during the movie when she seemed comfortable was during the "Coffee Time" number. Her singing voice was dubbed.

 

Bremer made only 5 more films after *Yolanda* and retired in 1948 after a 10-film career.

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It's going to be shown again tonight / early Tuesday morning at 12:30am ET:

 

*Yolanda And The Thief* (1945)

A con man poses as a Latin American heiress' guardian angel.

Cast: Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan, Mildred Natwick Dir: Vincente Minnelli C-108 mins, TV-G

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I you've ever seen the periodical, "Classic Images", the current issue has a long biographical article about Lucile Bremer, and the reasons why her career was derailed. YOLANDA had a lot to do with it.

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The problem with making films for yourself, is that it is quite a risk whether or not your tastes are shared by the masses. Not sure who they thought would get the appeal of *Yolanda and the Thief*. Not sure what the appeal is? I'm a casual fan of musical films, and I hate it. Always have. I did give it a bit of a go, again, but couldn't get very far into it. Just unwatchable, to me.

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For me, anyway, this film is the most visually arresting musical that I have ever seen from MGM.

 

Vincente Minnelli was dealing with some very unconventional musical material - a school girl who believes that a con man is an archangel.

 

Lucille Bremer tries hard, awfully hard - but her "essence" is just too sophisticated.

 

It's quite "a downer", really - to watch her fail so miserably.

 

In order to make the film work, an actual girl would have had to be used.

 

A girl, no more than seventeen.  And, preferably, not a star, either.

 

But maybe the unconventionality of the material inspired Minnelli to over-compensate by making it so visually elaborate.

 

And he had to know that Bremer wasn't really working in the lead role.

 

But, while I do not like the film, I am grateful for it, too - because I can always get lost in its' visuals.

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I like this film. I think it is aided considerably by the supporting cast. Frank Morgan and Mildred Natwick are very good. Plus, who would dislike those glossy MGM production values. It's a film that had all the right ingredients.

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I like this film. I think it is aided considerably by the supporting cast. Frank Morgan and Mildred Natwick are very good. Plus, who would dislike those glossy MGM production values. It's a film that had all the right ingredients.

Minnelli's film work is endlessly fascinating.

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