Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thanks A Lot, But No Thanks

Warner Brothers Home Video has a bunch of lesser MGM musicals coming out on DVD this April.

Of these titles, I'm fondest of It's Always Fair Weather, the last of the Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen musicals, and a surprisingly dark and cynical followup to On the Town: three old military buddies re-unite after leaving the service, only to find that they dislike each other and that they hate their own lives. The cast is great -- Kelly, Dan Dailey, Michael Kidd, Cyd Charisse, Dolores Gray -- and it's one of the few early CinemaScope musicals to make effective use of that awkward screen shape. (The previous year, Donen had dealt with CinemaScope by filling it with Seven Brides and Seven Brothers; here he divides the frame into three and gives one section each to the three guys.) Basically it's a great musical in every way except the important one: the score, which was the first of many times that André Previn would demonstrate his total lack of ability as a songwriter. A terrific musician, but a real dud as a melodist. So the weak songs drag the film down, as does the lack of a good romantic number for Kelly and Charisse, but I still like it better than On the Town -- which also has score problems (namely the bland new songs written in place of Leonard Bernstein's).

Three Little Words is also worth a look; a biopic of two lesser-known songwriters, Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (best known for their superb songs and scripts for the Marx Brothers), it's more enjoyable than most biopics, since it's unpretentious and doesn't try to inflate the importance of its subjects. Jack Cummings, who produced this and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, had lower budgets than MGM's other musicals producer, Arthur Freed, but compensated for it by producing films that were less overblown than some of Freed's, and often had better songs and more opportunities for the performers. Vera-Ellen in particular gets more to do than she usually did with Freed. And any movie with Arlene Dahl is, by definition, a good movie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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