Sign in to follow this  
NZ

WORST MUSICALS EVER

90 posts in this topic

I don't think Annie is the greatest musical of all time, but I would hardly call it the worst (ever watch Newsies?) Although I never watched the musical, some critics consider the movie an improvement over the actual musical.

 

Here's what Vincent Canby wrote about it:

 

HUSTON'S 'ANNIE' MAKES ITS LAVISH DEBUT

 

By VINCENT CANBY

Published: May 21, 1982, Friday

 

SOMEWHERE toward the middle of ''Annie,'' John Huston's gigantic screen version of the still-running Broadway musical, Sandy, Annie, Daddy Warbucks, Daddy's beautiful secretary Grace Farrell, and Punjab, Daddy's bodyguard, take themselves off to see a movie at Radio City Music Hall. This is the era of F.D.R., the Depression, the National Industrial Recovery Act, orphan asylums and the Music Hall. Daddy, as is his way, does things right. He buys out the house for one performance.

 

There, in lonely splendor in the middle of that vast gold auditorium, Sandy, Annie, Daddy and Grace sit in a row, with Punjab behind them, beholding the Music Hall's wonders. First there is the elaborate stage show, including the Rockettes, followed by the feature attraction, Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor in ''Camille,'' projected, for some reason, in the wide-screen ratio of today.

 

After being held spellbound by the stage show, Annie and Sandy fall asleep as soon as the movie begins. Daddy Warbucks generously hides his boredom and worries about Grace, who weeps happy bucketsfull as Mr. Taylor's Armand is renounced by the great Garbo's Marguerite.

 

''No one has ever loved you as I love you,'' says Armand with all of the conviction of a Nebraska shoe salesman.''That may be,'' says Miss Garbo, sublime even when acting by herself, ''but what can I do about it?'' It's a marvelous, moving and very funny moment that suddenly defines this ''Annie.'' It makes comprehensible what Mr. Huston, the director; Ray Stark the producer, and Carol Sobieski, the writer, are up to in their spending of a reported $40 million to $50 million, to bring to the sceen an immensely popular but not exactly classic example of Broadway schmaltz-and-hoofery.

 

''Annie,'' which opens today at Loews Astor Plaza and other theaters, is a no-expense-spared tribute to the Music Hall and the kind of show business it represents. Though it's longer than most movies that played the Music Hall in its heyday, ''Annie'' is a nearly perfect Music Hall picture. It's big, colorful, slightly vulgar, occasionally boring and full of talent not always used to its limits. It's a movie in praise of waste-space.

 

If I say that I like the film far better than the show, I also must concede that the show is the sort that almost brought me out in hives. Except for the spectacle of seeing a dog follow cues before a live theater audience, and except for David Mitchell's stunning, Tony Award-winning sets, everything about the film is an improvement over the original.

 

There is, first of all, the Annie of Aileen Quinn, who has Shirley Temple's dimples and a strutting, brassy self-assurance that Mr. Huston holds discreetly in check. Miss Quinn is a performing doll, not out of life but out of the long tradition of American show business that produced Baby LeRoy, Jackie Cooper and Margaret O'Brien. It's meant as praise to say that Miss Quinn, compared to such contemporaries as Gary Coleman and Ricky Schroder, is a sweet, modest Duse, a mistress of understatement.

 

Albert Finney, his head shaved and looking a lot like a classy Telly Savalas, seems to be having a ball as literature's most benign robber-baron, Oliver Warbucks, whose very name is auto-criticism that, as it turns out, is unwarranted. Mr. Finney sings a bit, dances a bit and barks in the Anglo-American accents of the once-poor Liverpool cabin boy who struck it rich in the States and lost his hair.

 

''I love money!'' he shouts at one point. 'I love power! I love capitalism! I don't love children!'' This is pronounced immediately before he admits to being captivated by the plucky little orphan.

 

Also most entertaining is Carol Burnett as the evil, sex-starved, drink-sodden Miss Hannigan, the wayward warden of the Hudson Street Home for Girls, the orphan asylum from which Daddy Warbucks saves Annie. Miss Burnett, curlers permanently snarled in her hair, a bottle of gin always in one hand and ever-ready with a sarcastic quip about her charges (''Why any kid would want to be an orphan is beyond me''), tears into her role as if there were no ''Tomorrow,'' which is all to the good. ''Annie,'' after all, is based on a comic strip, not on a play by Enid Bagnold. This is not an occasion for subtleties.

 

However, it's also not a movie that is as satisfying as it could have been, considering the care taken on the casting and physical production. The major hitch is the score. The music by Charles Strouse and the lyrics by Martin Charnin never deliver the epiphanies anticipated. The songs are either anticlimactic or plain dull, though, in the film, the ubiquitous ''Tomorrow'' seems less shrill and grating than in the show.

 

Here is a musical whose show-stoppers seldom stop the show. A typical example is ''Easy Street,'' in which Miss Hannigan, her excon brother Rooster (Tim Curry) and Rooster's light-fingered mistress Lily (Bernadette Peters) enthusiastically imagine the lives they'll lead after they've swindled Daddy Warbucks out of $50,000. Never do the music, the lyrics and the choreography achieve the hilarious abandon promised by the situation.

 

This is even more apparent when Annie moves uptown to Daddy's Fifth Avenue mansion and Ann Reinking, who plays Grace Farrell, comes onto the scene. Miss Reinking is not only a beauty and a comedienne, she's one of the great, dancing assets of the American musical theater, though it would be difficult to tell from the material she's given by Joe Layton, who created the musical sequences, and Arlene Phillips, who choreographed them. She seems always to be on the verge of busting loose - lifting those long legs skyward to kick out the lights in a chandelier - but the opportunity never arrives.

 

She is largely wasted, as are Mr. Curry, Miss Peters and Geoffrey Holder, who plays Punjab.

 

The film's best, all-out production number comes early in the film, at the orphanage, when Annie, her very funny, pint-sized friend Molly (Toni Ann Gisondi), and a small, unidentified person who does running flips, plus all of the other orphans explode in the frenzy of the ''It's the Hard-Knock Life'' number. Quite tolerable, too, is the film's sentimental centerpiece when Annie, at the White House, leads Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (Edward Herrmann and Lois DeBanzie) and Daddy in a reprise of ''Tomorrow,'' which becomes something of a New Deal anthem.

 

The film musical is not the form Mr. Huston is most at home in, but he must be credited for having obtained such high-spirited performances from Mr. Finney and Miss Burnett and such a cannily winning one from Miss Quinn.

 

''Annie'' is far from a great film but, like the Music Hall in the good old days, it is immaculately maintained and almost knocks itself out trying to give the audience its money's worth. They don't build movies like this anymore.

 

''Annie'' has been rated PG (''Parental Guidance Suggested'') for reasons that are beyond my powers to guess.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Dolly! is not a bad movie. It's a gargantuan ode to those big splashy musicals that were in vogue a decade and a half earlier. If it were released in 1952 and not 1969 it would have been a smash success.

 

Personally, I've always felt that Streisand carries the film, rather than submarining it. There's economy in her performance that is animated and spirited. Almost by accident she transforms what - on stage - was a marionette - back into a genuine flesh and blood woman. The set pieces are sumptuous; Put On Your Sunday Clothes, Before The Parade Passes By and, of course, 'Hello Dolly!

 

Annie too is not a frightfully bad movie, though it is far from a good one. Still, I suppose we're all entitled to our opinions.

 

Frightfully awful, as far as I'm concerned: Joan Crawford doing black...er, that is really dark brown...face in Torch Song - reusing a vocal already deleted from The Band Wagon...'Two Faced Woman.' Epically tragic waste of Crawford's talent for melodrama, reconstituted as burlesque.

 

Can't say I care much for Thousands Cheer, either. Love Kathryn Grayson's libretto at the start, and her 'United Nations On Parade' that closes the show. Judy Garlands 'The Joint Is Really Jumping' is mad fun too. Ditto for June Allyson, Gloria DeHaven and Virginia O'Brien singing 'In A Little Spanish Town.' The rest is a colossal waste of MGM's stellar talents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like Hello,Dolly! and prefer Striesand in it, over un-Funny Girl, which I find to be one of the worst performances in screen history. But, I don't think she carries the film, at all. The cast, generally speaking, is pretty dismal (excepting Danny Lockin, who's a perfect Barnaby), it is the production values and choreography carrying Hello, Dolly!, every step of the way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Dolly! is not a bad movie. It's a gargantuan ode to those big splashy musicals that were in vogue a decade and a half earlier. If it were released in 1952 and not 1969 it would have been a smash success.

 

Indeed, the old-fashionedness of it all may have worked against it with audiences of the late 60's... the values were there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only contest is which is the worst of three: Chicago, Moulin Rouge, Rent.

 

Anne

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Indeed, the old-fashionedness of it all may have worked against it with audiences of the late 60's... the values were there.

 

What does that mean? Hello, Dolly! was one of the biggest hits of the year, when it was out. How was anything working against it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

> The only contest is which is the worst of three:

> Chicago, Moulin Rouge, Rent.

>

> Anne

 

They ain't great but they ain't all bad... can think of much worse! :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's what the Times had to say about Hello, Dolly!

 

On Screen, Barbra Streisand Displays a Detached Cool

 

By VINCENT CANBY

Published: December 18, 1969

 

THIS may be the most superfluous film review ever written, with the possible exceptions of the notices for "The Sound of Music" or an esth?tic-realist's appraisal of the record of the first moon walk.

 

The screen adaptation of "Hello, Dolly!," which began a reserved-seat engagement last night at the Rivoli Theater (after a private, somewhat violent, invitational premiere Tuesday night), is not invulnerable to criticism, but I suspect that Barbra Streisand is. At the age of 27, and for the very good reason that she is one of the few, mysteriously natural, unique performing talents of our time, she has become a National Treasure. Casting her as Dolly Levi (the "n?e Gallagher" has been dropped from the film), is rather like trying to display Yellowstone National Park in a one-geyser forest preserve.

 

It doesn't really work, but most people probably couldn't care less. Miss Streisand is at that point of her career where her public personality invests everything in which she happens to appear with an importance and a resonance that have no relation to the vehicle itself.

 

This "Hello Dolly!", reported to be the most expensive musical film ever made, has some nice things in it, especially a gigantic Hollywood set that re-creates Fifth Avenue and a large portion of New York City circa 1890. It is a marvelous achievement by the sort of craftsmen who built D. W. Griffith's Babylon on a Hollywood back lot in 1916. There also are a lot of lovely, artnouveau interiors and some idyllic, gingerbready exteriors shot in Garrison, N. Y., that masquerades as Yonkers.

 

Gene Kelly, the director, and Ernest Lehmann, the producer who adapted the Broadway book, have thus "opened up" the original show. In every other respect, they have been reverential to the point of idiocy, since, by preserving something basically thin and often witless on a large movie screen, they have merely inflated the faults to elephantine proportions.

 

David Merrick's "Hello, Dolly!," the musical adaptation of Thorton Wilder's "The Matchmaker," earlier called "The Merchant of Yonkers" (itself an adaptation of John Oxenford's 1835 one-acter, "A Day Well Spent," and a later Austrian variation by Johann Nestroy), is still going strong?it played its 2,422d performance last night at the St. James?largely, I think, because it's been a practically perfect, sentimental showcase for any number of no-longer-young female stars.

 

The Broadway musical is, basically, a one-number show ? the great title tune sung to Dolly, the invincible matchmaker, and by her, when, after an absence of undisclosed duration for undisclosed reasons, she returns to the Harmonia Gardens, where she belongs. It's a moment of extraordinary theatrical artifice in that it evokes an emotion for which there has been absolutely no preparation.

 

There also are some other pleasant songs ("Before the Parade Passes By," "Elegance"), but the Jerry Herman score is generally so routine that it's difficult to distinguish between it and the ones he wrote later for "Mame" and "Dear World." The book, a farce designed to be framed by a proscenium, is serviceable nonsense about the ageless matchmaker, her campaign to win the stingiest, richest man in Yonkers for herself, plus some subsidiary adventures involving juveniles and ingenues.

 

Miss Streisand's obvious youth and real sexuality obliterated any sense of nostalgia in the "Hello, Dolly!" number and add a curious ambiguity to other aspects of the role, including her speeches directed to Mr. Levi, her late husband. (I had the odd feeling that she must have been married to him at the age of 8 and lost him at 10). The star, a fine if limited comedienne, impersonates Dolly as a teen-age Mae West, circling around the role and finding laughs occasionally, but never quite committing herself to it.

 

One result is that her best moments, with one exception, are provided by those songs that have nothing to do with the role as written?a new song, "Love Is Only Love," on which she can exercise her sweet-tough upper register, and "Before the Parade Passes By," which is done in the Streisand-Sousa manner. The exception is the wise and funny "So Long Dearie," the song by which she irrevocably traps the irritable merchant (Walter Matthau). As in "Funny Girl," Miss Streisand does not lip-sync her lyrics very well, which contributes to the detached cool of her performance.

 

Matthau gives a good imitation of W. C. Fields to Miss Streisand's Mae West, but the picture is not his, nor is it the youngsters'?Michael Crawford, Marianne McAndrew and E. J. Peaker. It belongs to Miss Streisand, who visits it looking great (and something like an eccentric kewpie doll) in Irene Scharaff costumes, and to the production designer, John DeCuir.

 

Gene Kelly, who directed two classic musicals with Stanley Donen ("Singin' in the Rain" and "On the Town"), here acts like a caretaker of a big, valuable property. He and Michael Kidd, his choreographer, have protected everything Gower Champion gave the original, and added nothing to the heritage of the musical screen except statistics.

 

 

The Cast

HELLO, DOLLY!, screenplay by Ernest Lehman, based on the stage play by Michael Stewart, which was adapted from "The Matchmaker" by Thornton Wilder; directed by Gene Kelly; produced by Mr. Lehman; released by 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation. At the Rivoli Theater, Broadway and 49th Street. Running time: 148 minutes. (The Motion Picture Association of America's Production Code and Rating Administration classifies this film: "G?Suggested for general audiences.")

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ok, i would have to say, even though i love gene kelly, brigadoon and xanadu. everyone loves brigadoon but i don't really know exactly why i don't like it but i know that i don't. and xanadu, i've never seen xanadu but the idea of olivia newton john dancing with gene kelly on roller skates or whatever they do in the 80s does not appeal to me. i love elo but gene kelly dances to harold arlen and george gershwin not electric light orchestra.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not everybody loves Brigadoon. In fact, most people I know who are fans of the show, hate the film. I know I hate it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think BRIGADOON has improved with age. Its not a great musical but on the other hand its not awful either. It was originally thought to have starred Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson in this film since the B'way musical was basically singing. When MGM filmed the musical they decided to taylor it to Kelly, hence changing it to a dancing musical. Unfortunately several musical numbers went unused including MY MOTHER'S WEDDING DAY due to possible problems with the censors. Although I like Van Johnson, he comes across very obnoxious in this film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Both Keel and Grayson would have been all wrong for Brigadoon. Of course, not as wrong as Kelly and Charisse! Too bad another studio didn't make it. At least we got a television version with Robert Goulet and Sally Ann Howes, that, although still abridged, does include My Mother's Wedding Day. And Goulet and Howes are superior to Kelly and Charisse. But then, almost anyone would have been.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Frankly, I think Goulet is awful as an actor, although he certainly had the pipes for the Lerner & Loewe score. And he made some terrible films in Hollywood. Kelly hated his own singing voice and did not do the score justice. I think Charisse is perfect casting as the wistful Fiona. BTW has anyone seen Goulet lately in those TV commercials. He is looking quite weird.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Edgecliff, I'd never heard about this other casting plan for Brigadoon but it does sound interesting. I've grown used to the film just as it is over the years, so it takes quite a bit to imagine it with anyone else in the leads.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us