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Studio contract, promoted as a lead, but could not carry a film


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I watched YOLANDA AND THE THIEF again, which just re-aired on TCM. I really do like this film and can see why, with Minnelli's fantastic color schemes and Fred's 'Coffee Time' number, it is a cult classic.

 

But I tend to find myself scrutinizing poor Lucille Bremer's performance in this picture every time.

 

In her defense, I think the role of Yolanda is not easy to pull off, and I think maybe only Judy Garland could have done it justice, or maybe Jane Powell. But Bremer just seems so miscast here like she does in virtually all her roles, at MGM and elsewhere.

 

Why was she such a misfire...?

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Was Lucille ever a model? Self-awareness in front of the camera is essential for models but can be fatal for a movie actress. I think you're right about her often being miscast, but I'd be hard pressed to say what WOULD be good casting for her. She was the kind of actress who was a knockout in the still photos but didn't come across as well onscreen. I liked her in "Meet Me in St. Louis", but that was very ensemble-oriented and didn't give her anything like a leading role.

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> TopBilled wrote: Why was she such a misfire...?

 

I saw Yolanda the other day too and wondered exactly the same thing so I did some digging to see if I could disprove the oft-repeated rumor.

 

From an article on Gay.net :

 

"In March 1946, actress/dancer Lucille Bremer appeared on the cover of Life magazine in a rare color splash. The accompanying article praised her and the new MGM film Ziegfeld Follies and it seemed Lucille was a star on the rise."

 

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"But insiders knew MGM had already pulled the plug on this gifted performer's career.

 

"Today most film buffs know Lucille Bremer as Judy Garland's sister in Meet Me In St. Louis or as Fred Astaire's dance partner in several classic numbers. But the gossip of the day also listed Lucille Bremer was MGM producer Arthur Freed's girlfriend or mistress. This trashy rumor followed the talented performer for her short but meteoric career.

 

"Bremer began as as Rockette at the famed Radio City Music Hall. Following chorus appearances in several Broadway hits, Bremer was spotted dancing at the Versailles Club in NYC by famed producer Freed. Bringing her to Hollywood, she made a screen test that so impressed studio head Louis B. Mayer that he stated, 'She's going to be big—very big!'

 

"Freed gave Lucille the plum role in Meet Me In St. Louis, and she was first rate. He next cast her as Fred Astaire's dance partner in two brilliant numbers in the all-star Ziegfeld Follies. Bremer proved to be a great partner for Fred Astaire, and her work in both is magical. Unfortunately, the filming of Follies took almost two years and the film was not released until March of 1946, after the flop that destroyed Lucille Bremer's bid for stardom.

 

"Yolanda and The Thief (1945) has the unfortunate reputation as being the only arty Freed picture that lost money. Based on a fantasy by Ludwig Bemelmans and directed by Vincente Minnelli, Yolanda is one of the most gorgeous, underappreciated musical films in history. Lucille plays a convent-bred heiress who thinks that crook Fred Astaire is her guardian angel.

 

"Although her singing was dubbed, her dance numbers with Astaire were wonderful. The film’s ending number, 'Coffee Time,' is among the greatest ever filmed. Performed on a floor of wavy, broad black and white stripes, the sequence dazzles. The cinematography and costumes are equally opulent.

 

"But when Yolanda proved to be a box office disappointment, all the blame was put on Lucille Bremer.

 

"She was given one more musical, Till The Clouds Roll By, where she played a bitchy star in the making. In her great dance number, "I Won't Dance," she’s paired with MGM heart throb Van Johnson.

 

"MGM lost interest in Lucille Bremer and sold her contract to low budget Eagle Lion. She made three films for them, including Ruthless where she gave a tough-as-nails performance as the grasping wife of Sidney Greenstreet. After that, Lucille quit the movies, married the son of a former Mexican president and had four children. After a divorce, she moved to La Jolla CA where she operated a boutique and lived the rest of her life in obscurity until her death in 1996 at the age of 79.

 

"Lucille Bremer probably wouldn’t have been a great lasting star. But her beauty and dancing ability will always be showcased in the three great MGM musicals she made, and 'Coffee Time' has the distinction of being one of the greatest dance numbers in musical film history."

 

|http://www.gay.net/entertainment/2011/01/lucille-bremer-15-minutes-of-fame.html

 

Maybe Judy Garland put it most succinctly when she supposedly said, "She retired and no one seemed to mind."

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According to notes on the IMDB, she was a nightclub dancer when she was discovered by producer Arthur Freed. She did not have any acting experience and she could not sing and was dubbed. I think putting her in ensemble pictures was best.

 

After YOLANDA AND THE THIEF flopped, MGM lost interest in her. They still owed her several pictures and put her in a Dr. Kildare programmer. Then, to fulfill the terms of the contract, loaned her out to Eagle-Lion for three more assignments. She did a bit better there, especially as part of the all-star cast of RUTHLESS. But soon after, she faded from view...no more roles at other studios and a failure to transition to television.

 

My feeling is that Freed and L.B. Mayer rushed her into a lead role without giving her time to learn the craft of acting, let alone the motion picture process. Also, she lacked natural instincts before the camera and was unable to become the next Eleanor Powell that the studio had hoped she would be.

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> {quote:title=TopBilled wrote:}{quote}According to notes on the IMDB, she was a nightclub dancer when she was discovered by producer Arthur Freed. She did not have any acting experience and she could not sing and was dubbed. I think putting her in ensemble pictures was best.

>

> After YOLANDA AND THE THIEF flopped, MGM lost interest in her. They still owed her several pictures and put her in a Dr. Kildare programmer. Then, to fulfill the terms of the contract, loaned her out to Eagle-Lion for three more assignments. She did a bit better there, especially as part of the all-star cast of RUTHLESS. But soon after, she faded from view...no more roles at other studios and a failure to transition to television.

>

> My feeling is that Freed and L.B. Mayer rushed her into a lead role without giving her time to learn the craft of acting, let alone the motion picture process. Also, she lacked natural instincts before the camera and was unable to become the next Eleanor Powell that the studio had hoped she would be.

 

According to Judy Garland expert John Fricke:

 

"For whatever it's worth, the only 'exception' Judy ever took to Lucille as far as I could tell was in a private reaction to the girl's lack of easy professional ability. In other words, it was more difficult to work with Lucille than it would have been with an actor who had more experience or 'better chops.' To drift into aspects of her purported jealousy over Lucille's looks -- or her outward cattiness because of Lucille's relationship with Freed -- seems to me to encompass a certain amount of misinterpretation or fabrication ..."

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Thanks, Valeska. With slight differences, that is basically what I wrote to Dougie. I think she was mishandled. It was too much too fast, and she did not have the chance to redeem herself after YOLANDA. The fact that she left show biz altogether, at such a young age, suggests that it was a bad experience for her and she just chose to focus her energies elsewhere after her days at MGM and Eagle-Lion ended.

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>From Anna Sten all the way up to Brad Johnson (who??) she sure had lots of company

 

Anna Sten, during her Sam Goldwyn phase, is a good example. She sort of reinvents herself later as a competent supporting actress and lead in B-films. She survived the ups and downs of the industry, unlike Bremer who just vanished.

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I do not see this thread garnering much interest in the long-term. But I am glad we started it. Lucille Bremer does deserve a fair discussion and maybe someday, someone researching her career after a screening of YOLANDA on TCM will stumble upon what we have written and resurrect her from the ashes.

 

I do plan on featuring Miss Bremer in an upcoming post on the WANTED thread. She only has about 10 film credits.

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