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CALAMITY JANE (1953)


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I watched this film yesterday, after recording it the day before. It turns up on the Encore Westerns channel in a very poor washed out print. But thankfully, TCM is showing a very beautiful restored copy of it.

 

CALAMITY JANE was Doris' favorite of all the movies she made, and it's easy to see why. So many things going for it:

 

An Oscar nominated score, with one of the songs ('Secret Love') receiving the Oscar for song of the year-- it was a hit song on the Billboard charts for Doris.

 

Perfect casting-- Howard Keel as the main love interest, fresh off his success in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN; the handsome Phil Carey as the military man Calamity thinks she loves; Dick Wesson in a great comic relief supporting part; and Allyn Ann McLerie as the dance hall girl wannabe (why didn't she have a greater career in movies?). Not to mention Doris herself who is having fun with the role of a lifetime.

 

And I want to speak for a moment about Doris' acting. She is more focused in this film than in any other one I've seen her do (except maybe LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME). There is not one false note in her performance. Even when she has the most over-the-top dialogue (sputtering words or phrases like varmint, mangy groundhog and nekked heathens), she doesn't step out of character and wink once at the audience-- she knows Calamity's mannerisms and speech is supposed to be animated, but she plays it straight and that helps us develop sympathy for the character. It also helps us get caught up in what will happen to Calamity, as far-fetched as the situations may be. And around the 65-minute mark (more than halfway into the story), her transformation from tomboy to a softer more feminine western gal is handled very nicely. 

 

To sum it up, CALAMITY JANE is a solid piece of musical comedy entertainment. The preposterousness and historical inaccuracies the script conjures up can be forgiven. Any shortcomings are more than made up for by the abounding charm of the players and overall ambience of the picture.

 

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I agree with you about the mystery of why Allyn Ann McLerie didn't become a major star. She certainly had the talent. I remember her as the female lead in "Where's Charlie?" with Ray Bolger. I've always wondered the same about Virginia Gibson. She was beautiful, could sing and dance, and had important roles in many musicals. But she never went as far as I believe she should have.

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I agree with you about the mystery of why Allyn Ann McLerie didn't become a major star. She certainly had the talent. I remember her as the female lead in "Where's Charlie?" with Ray Bolger. I've always wondered the same about Virginia Gibson. She was beautiful, could sing and dance, and had important roles in many musicals. But she never went as far as I believe she should have.

Allyn Ann McLerie was also in PHANTOM OF THE RUE MORGUE. She was under contract at Warners in the mid-50s, then she sort of disappeared from movies after that. She would make more of a name for herself on television. She married stage and television actor George Gaynes in 1953 (the same year CALAMITY JANE was released--62 years ago), and as of this writing, they are still going strong.

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I have heard of this film, and I know a few of the songs from it, but I've never gotten the chance to actually see it. Now, after reading all these good things about it, maybe I'll try harder to finally watch it. ;)

You're depriving yourself if you still haven't seen CALAMITY JANE. Doris Day claimed it was her personal favorite of all the ones she made at Warners. 

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