Monday, April 02, 2007

Be a Clown, Be My Love

Some more MGM musicals will be released on DVD on July 24.

They include:

- A sspecial edition of MGM's cult flop The Pirate, an Arthur Freed/Vincente Minnelli/Gene Kelly/Judy Garland/Cole Porter musical made at a time when Minnelli's musicals were kind of stilted and garish. After the failure of this movie, he and Freed toned it down a notch and started setting musicals in familiar settings with somewhat more realistic plots. (Minnelli and Freed's next two musicals together, American in Paris and Band Wagon, are both contemporary stories, not wacky period pieces like The Pirate.) And yes, Freed completely ripped off Porter's "Be a Clown" four years later when he wrote "Make 'Em Laugh" for Singin'in the Rain.

- A double-feature of Fred Astaire musicals: Royal Wedding, which up to now has only been available in bad-looking public domain prints, and The Belle of New York, Freed's last attempt to do an original whimsical fantasy musical (and, like all his whimsical fantasy musicals except maybe Brigadoon, flopped at the box office) and Vera-Ellen's only chance to do a lead role at MGM.

- Words and Music, which bears absolutely no resemblance to the life of Rodgers and/or Hart.

- A double bill of Mario Lanza/Kathryn Grayson musicals: The Toast of New Orleans and That Midnight Kiss. Both were produced by Joe Pasternak, who was MGM's schlockiest producer of musicals but whose films were probably more consistently popular than Freed's. Pasternak's movies always had certain basic ingredients: sweet, innocent characters and plots, wacky ethnic supporting characters, and lots of light pseudo-classical singing (he made Deanna Durbin a star at Universal). Midnight Kiss may be his ultimate film because it features most of his favorite contractees after Durbin: Mario Lanza, Grayson, and pianist Jose Iturbi, who Pasternak kept putting into movies like Anchors Aweigh for no appreciable reason. Here are the three of them in a number that was cut from the film, but will be on the DVD as a bonus feature:


Galen Fott said...

Speaking of "Royal Wedding," does anyone know if there's at least a still photo somewhere of the rig used to pull off Astaire's "dancing on the ceiling" routine? It would be amazing to have some behind the scenes footage of that on the DVD, if any exists.

Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

Speaking of Judy Garland, there is an exciting and popular new group on Yahoo called THE JUDY GARLAND EXPERIENCE. The group features amazingly rare audio files, great photo's, lively discussions and more. The membership includes Garland family members, new fans, old fans, authors, historians, everyone is welcome. Please come by and check out our little Judyville, you may never want to leave.

Anonymous said...

Be aware of The Judy Garland Experience. There are no known family members.There are lots of fights and attacks against other people. If you want to avoid drama, seek another group.