Musicals

Hello Dolly! (1969)

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This is one of the first musicals I ever saw, and it is one that has held a special place in my heart ever since. This features so many memorable and toe tapping songs, stunning costumes, and an unforgettable performance by Barbra Streisand.

I’ve never been much of a fan of Streisand as an actress, I love her as a singer though; however in Hello Dolly! I really love her performance and think she was the perfect choice as actress and singer for the role.Streisand makes Dolly, outgoing, amused by the reactions to her matchmaking/interference by some people, and makes her vulnerable and fragile at times.

Dolly is grieving, following the death of her husband, but when the time is right she realises that she can move on and allow another man to claim her heart. Dolly’s serious/emotional side is revealed in the park scene; her sad reaction to watching all the young couples enjoy the day brings home to us what she has lost from her own life, she then pulls herself out of her sadness and joins in the happiness of the day, by singing Before The Parade Passes By.

Gene Kelly directed this and filmed much of it out on location. The film is set in the late 1800’s and tells the story of New York matchmaker, Dolly Levi(Barbra Streisand).

Dolly ends up falling in love with the man she is currently trying to match with a suitable wife. That man is wealthy Yonkers store owner, Horace Vandergelder(Walter Matthau). Horace likes Dolly, but is annoyed by her interference and how she seldom takes life seriously. Horace takes life too seriously and is a very grumpy man.

Cornelius (Michael Crawford)and Barnaby(Danny Lockin)are two clerks who work for Horace. When Horace is away in New York, wooing the elegant Irene Molloy(Marianne McAndrew), Cornelius and Barnaby head to New York for a well earned small break.

Chaos and comedy ensue when Cornelius ends up falling for Irene, and a series of misunderstandings lead the two men to be mistaken for millionaires. Barnaby enjoys his own flourishing romance with Irene’s bubbly assistant, Minnie(E.J. Peaker).

This all leads to a dinner at the lavish Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, this is a dinner that you won’t forget in a hurry. This dinner spectacle is overseen by head waiter Rudy(David Hurst).

Irene Sharaff designed the films beautiful costumes and they are lovely to look at. My favourites are Dolly’s gold beaded evening gown, Dolly’s purple dress and feather hat she wears during the parade, Irene and Minnie’s blue and red evening gowns, and Dolly’s pale pink dress and hat she wears during the proposal scene.

My favourite songs are the following: Put On Your Sunday Clothes, Hello Dolly, Elegance and Before The Parade Passes By.

Louis Armstrong makes a fun cameo, as the bandleader at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant who sings Hello Dolly with Barbra. That sequence is my favourite in the whole film, I love the song and the way Barbra and Louis perform that scene. It is also in this scene where we see Barbra in that unforgettable gold dress. Does anyone know what ever happened to that? It really is something to behold and I’d like to think someone out there has it safe.

I love Michael Crawford as the hapless Cornelius. His role is very comic, but also quite touching and he plays this superbly. We love his character and want him to get a happy ending and the respect of his boss. Michael does a lot of physical comedy in this and shows his skill at this as he would do later in the TV series Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.

Everything about this film is big, from the vast crowd scenes, to the songs, to the visual spectacle(costumes, sets etc). One of the last great musicals to come out of Hollywood, and overseen by a musical legend(Gene Kelly).

My favourite scenes are the following. Cornelius and Barnaby hiding in Irene’s hat shop when Dolly and Horace come calling. The entire Harmonia Gardens sequence. The park dance and the parade that follows. Dolly’s conversation with her dead husband. The Put On Your Sunday Clothes sequence. Horace’s hysterical dinner date with Ernestina Semple(Judy Knaiz). The opening sequence.

Never seen this before? What are you waiting for? Put on your Sunday clothes, buy a train ticket for New York, and stop off for a meal at the Harmonia Gardens with Dolly and her friends.

Please leave your thoughts on the film below.

 

 

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Musicals, Romance, True Story

The Sound Of Music(1965)

This film is one of the most beloved musicals ever made. It’s a film that is loved by people form all around the world. The film is filled with likeable characters, gorgeous scenery,  beautiful costumes and unforgettable songs. This is one I never get tired of watching and doubt that I ever will. It’s funny, moving, romantic and contains so much energy and joy(much like Maria herself).

The film is based on the true story of the Austrian Von Trapp family. The widowed naval captain who fell in love with his children’s governess, Maria. The governess was a Nun who brought joy back into his life(and the lives of his children.) Fleeing the Nazi rule during the Second World War, the family moved to Vermont in America and became famous for their singing.

Robert Wise directed The Sound Of Music. It was filmed out on location in Austria.

Maria(Julie Andrews)is a free spirited young woman, she is happiest walking through the mountains and enjoying life. After joining a convent she finds it difficult to conform to the rules of the disciplined life there. Maria is sent by the Reverend Mother(Peggy Mount)to be the governess to the seven children of widowed naval hero, Captain Georg Von Trapp(Christopher Plummer).

The Captain and Maria don’t get on when they first meet, she is appalled by the rules and strictness of his household, and at how his children don’t have fun. The Captain is annoyed at how she doesn’t obey his instructions. As time goes on he finds himself falling in love with her, and with the way she treats his children and approaches life.

Maria falls in love with the Captain too, but she is confused by her feelings(having never been in a relationship before.) Matters are complicated by the arrival of the elegant and beautiful Baroness (Eleanor Parker)who is also in love with the Captain.

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This film is so much fun. It’s one of those where you join in with all the songs, and you’ve watched it so many times you more than likely know all the dialogue too.

Julie Andrews is effervescent on screen, she makes Maria’s positive outlook on life infectious. She is also very good in the scenes where she is confused by her growing feelings for the Captain. You can feel her awkwardness, her embarrassment and the internal agony she is enduring every time she is near him. There is a vulnerability and innocence about her that perfectly fits the role.

Christopher Plummer famously didn’t enjoy making this film, but that certainly doesn’t show in his performance. He convinces you of his character developing from strict and controlling Captain, to gentle and fun loving father. The scene where he sings with his children for the first time in years is one of my favourite scenes in the film. After the song has finished he hugs them all, and it is like he is finally seeing his children for the first time in years. I also have to admit to the Captain being my first ever film crush when I was growing up, he is truly one gorgeous man.  🙂

The romantic scenes between Maria and Georg are so tender. My favourite is their dance where they look at each other and both know(whether Maria wants to admit it or not is another matter)that they have fallen in love with each other. It is so well done and convincing, it is almost like we as the viewer have stumbled across a private moment and are intruding upon it. I also love the gazebo scene.

Eleanor Parker has the hard task of essentially playing a wicked stepmother, yet also making you sympathise with her character at times. The Baroness genuinely loves Georg, she is awkward around the children but loves him. Parker steals every scene she is in and gets to wear some of the most beautiful and glamorous gowns in the entire film. I want that gold and white evening dress she wears so much.

Richard Haydn provides comic relief as Max Detweiler. Max is one of the Captain’s closest friends and is referred to by the children as “uncle Max”. It is Max who sees the potential and talent this gifted family has for singing. Although at times he is self centred he redeems himself by helping the family escape. We never learn his fate, but I’m sure it wasn’t good.

The seven child actors were mostly unknown apart from Angela Cartwright (who had starred in the TV series Make Room For Daddy and Lost In Space.) They all work very well together and are funny and adorable in equal measure. My favourites are Charmian Carr(who we sadly lost earlier this year)as Liesl, the eldest of the Von Trapp children. I also love Kim Karath as Gretl, who is the youngest child.

My favourite scenes are the following. A soaking Liesel being discovered climbing into the house at night by Maria. The entire party sequence, especially the scene where Georg makes a verbal stand against the Nazi’s and Maria and Georg dance. Liesl and Rolfe(Daniel Truhitte)dancing in the gazebo. The nuns removing parts from the Nazi’s cars to prevent them from chasing the Von Trapp’s, and confessing this theft to their Reverend Mother. Maria and Georg arguing by the lake about the children. Georg’s reaction to seeing Maria has returned from the convent. The Nuns singing about Maria and how confusing she is to them. Maria and the Reverend Mother discussing Maria’s feelings for the Captain. Maria taking the children out into the town and hills. Liesl and Georg’s duet. The wedding scene.

The Sound of Music is a film that has long held a place in my heart. It’s uplifting, it gives hope that the right romantic partner is out there somewhere for you, and (like in Jane Eyre)proves that true love isn’t about the physical appearance, but about two souls and hearts connecting.

Writing all of this has made me want to go out and dance in my garden, then get some jam and bread, and then settle down and watch this again.

Do you love this one as much as I do? As ever, share your thoughts below.

 

British Cinema, Musicals, Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 3: It’s Great To Be Young! (1956)

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I wonder how many of you have even heard of this one? I’m betting not very many at all, and that is why I wanted to write about it because it deserves to be better known.

I first saw this on TV many years ago, I missed the first few minutes of it, so I didn’t even know the title of what it was I was watching. I saw that John Mills was in it, and I found myself enjoying the story, so I kept right on watching. Over the years a scene in this stayed with me (the students locking themselves in the music studio refusing to come out)and every now and then I get to thinking about the film. I just wished I knew the film title so I could buy a copy.

It took me some time after this to find a list of John Mills films and read through the plot descriptions, but I kept on going until I discovered it had been called It’s Great To Be Young! A couple of years ago, I was thrilled to see this was available on DVD and I made sure I bought a copy.

This is a film that will bring a smile to your face, and a tear to your eye. Uplifting and touching with some cracking music(courtesy of jazz great, and radio comic genius, Humphrey Lyttelton),this is perfect to watch when you need cheering up.

Beloved music teacher, Mr.Dingle(John Mills)loves music, he loves playing music, teaching music and discussing music. His passion for his subject makes him a big hit with his students. He is easy-going and more of a friend to his pupils than just a teacher. He runs a jazz class for his students which is well received. When the school gets a new headmasterMr. Frome(Cecil Parker), Dingle finds himself being pressured to stop teaching jazz and having to just stick to the regular(boring)curriculum.

The dislike between Dingle and Frome escalates and soon Dingle’s career is on the line. It is up to his students to make a stand for the teacher they love.

John Mills is excellent as the energetic teacher who makes his lessons fun and listens to, and works with his students. Cecil Parker provides solid support as the stuffy headmaster who rigidly imposes his way of teaching on his new colleagues.

The child stars are all superb, with Dorothy Bromiley in particular making a strong impression as Paulette, who is falling in love for the first time in her life. I love the scene between her and John Mills, when Paulette asks him for advice on how to deal with her feelings.

This one makes you think of all those teachers who meant a great deal to you, and had a positive impact on your life. Who wouldn’t want a teacher like Dingle?

The outfits and hairstyles may be outdated now, but the music, and what the characters are going through will never age.

Any other fans of this? To the rest of you, this one comes highly recommended.

 

Musicals, Romance, Silent Film

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 1: Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

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Happy Friday, everyone! I picked this for two reasons: firstly given the endless rain we’re having here in my part of the UK, I think the title is very apt; secondly because this is one of the best films from Hollywood’s classic era. It is filled with endless fun, loveable characters and stunning costumes.

Hollywood, in the 1920’s,handsome screen legend Don Lockwood(Gene Kelly)is paired with the beautiful Lina Lamont(an Oscar robbed Jean Hagen). The pair are the film couple, and rumours are rife that they may be in love off screen. Don can’t stand Lina, but she encourages the rumours because she actually does have feelings for him.

When the studio heads decide to make a sound film following the success of Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, Lockwood and Lamont are once again paired together. There is one snag though, Lina has a very unpleasant voice and there is worry about how that will be received by audiences. Enter Kathy Seldon(the late Debbie Reynolds), a dancer and singer who catches the eye, and captures the heart of Don(much to Lina’s displeasure.) Kathy will dub Lina’s voice on screen, but when she does will never get credited for it, Kathy is happy to go along but Don doesn’t like her being used. The stage is set for arguments, tears, heartbreak and laughter.

This is a film to cheer you up and has a real sense of fun about it.Catchy songs, plenty of humour courtesy of Donald O’Connor, as Don’s best friend Cosmo and an unforgettable appearance by legendary dancer Cyd Charisse(she gets one of the best film entrances ever in a sexy dance with Kelly.) A young Rita Moreno can be spotted in a small supporting role.

Jean Hagen is superb as Lina. Although she is the films villain, I actually do feel sorry for her as she represents so many Silent stars whose careers ended when sound came into the movie business.  I think it is a real shame that Jean didn’t win an award for her performance here.

The Technicolor use is gorgeous and the costumes are beautiful. This will put a smile on your face, get you tapping your toes and singing along.

My favourite scenes are the following. The harassed director trying to get the perfect shot, but Lina’s microphone keeps cutting out. The Good Morning dance. The screening where the dialogue gets messed up and the actors voices switch. The finale and that unforgettable dance scene between Kelly and Charisse(what happened to that beautiful green outfit she has on?)

Makes you want to grab your brolly,find the nearest puddles and dance and sing.

Please leave your thoughts on this film below.

 

 

Musicals, Romance

High Society(1956)What A Swell Party This Is…

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Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Louis Armstrong(and his band), Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, Lydia Reed,John Lund,Sidney Blackmer,Margalo Gillmore and Louis Calhern are the stars of this elegant musical.

This musical version of The Philadelphia Story was released in 1956. I saw this version before seeing the Katherine Hepburn one, and although I love the 1940 film; I think that this version will always be my favourite.

Grace Kelly is perfectly cast as the beautiful, icy, society heiress Tracy Lord. Kelly really makes me feel for Tracy in the poolside scene where she says to fiancé George(John Lund),”I don’t want to be worshipped, I want to be loved”.

Bing Crosby is Tracy’s ex husband, Dexter; the man she will always love but whose human shortcomings she could never accept/understand.

Frank Sinatra is tell it like he sees it news reporter, Mike Connor; who along with good friend and tough gal(and obvious right woman for him)Liz Imbrie(Celeste Holm),is covering Tracy’s wedding to George Kitteridge(John Lund). Tracy must choose between George, Dexter and Mike, which of these men does she really love?

Featuring some cracking music and songs, many courtesy of the legendary Armstrong who plays himself as a friend of Dexter’s(Armstrong also serves as the films narrator/guide.) Well Did You Evah?, My Little One and True Love are favourites of mine.

A beautiful film about beautiful people living the elegant highlife, and proving that all the wealth and glamour in the world can’t create happiness.

This is one that always leaves me in a good mood when I’ve watched it. Funny, romantic and a good remake. Highly recommended if you haven’t seen it.

Please let me know your thoughts on the film if you have seen it.