It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
Judy Holliday, Dean Martin, Fred Clark, Jean Stapleton, Eddie Foy Jr, Ruth Storey, Dort Clark, Frank Gorshin, Donna Douglas (uncredited), Elizabeth Montgomery (uncredited)
Ella Patterson (Holliday) is a telephone operator who works for an answering service, Susanswerphone, and she tries to help out all of her subscribers. She falls in love with the voice of one of her subscribers Jeffrey Moss (Martin), who is a playwright that isn’t writing. When his agent (Clark), who is also a subscriber, says he will be fired if he doesn’t turn in a script soon, Ella takes matters into her own hands to help him out and coming face to face with him. The only problem is that Ella and her Susanswerphone could get shut down by investigators who are suspicious that it’s a front for an escort service.
-Judy Holliday’s last film. She passed away in 1965 due to breast cancer.
-Judy Holliday and Jean Stapleton were both in the original 1956 Broadway show and reprised their roles in this film. The Dean Martin role was played by Sydney Chaplin, son of Charlie Chaplin.
-Written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
-The last film Arthur Freed and Vincente Minnelli collaborated on for MGM.
-Holliday was unhappy on the film and didn’t like the film version in comparison to her Broadway experience. She even tried to break her contract, offered to give back her salary and suggested Shirley MacLaine take over the role. Minnelli didn’t take Holliday up on the offer and she finished the film, according to the book A Hundred Or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli by Mark Griffin
-The intro commercial for the answering service “Susanswerphone”
Awards and Nominations:
André Previn was nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture
-“It’s a Perfect Relationship” performed by Judy Holliday
-“Better Than a Dream” performed by Judy Holliday and Dean Martin
-“Just in Time” performed by Judy Holliday and Dean Martin
-“Drop That Name” performed by the chorus and Judy Holliday
-“The Party’s Over” performed by Judy Holliday
When I first saw “Bells are Ringing” in high school, I was disappointed. But a recent re-watch changed my mind and I thought it was a lot of fun. It’s colorful, has entertaining songs and a great cast.
While it’s entertaining to watch, apparently Judy Holliday did not enjoy making this film, according to Minnelli biographies, Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood’s Dark Dreamer by Emanuel Levy and A Hundred Or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli by Mark Griffin. However, you can’t tell it. Holliday’s performance is energetic, funny and makes it appear that she’s having the time of her life.
Dean Martin is also wonderful in the film, as well as Jean Stapleton and Frank Gorshin in their supporting roles. If you look really closely in the scene with Frank Gorshin, young Elizabeth Montgomery is a beatnik reading a book in the foreground.
Not only did this mark the last time producer Arthur Freed and Vincent Minnelli made a “Freed Unit” film, I believe it’s one of the last true MGM musicals. By this time, the Judy Garland and Jane Powell musical extravaganzas were a thing of the past and “Bells are Ringing” is a curtain call to how things once were for MGM. After this, the “Freed Unit” was no more. It was also Judy Holliday’s last film before she died in 1965 due to breast cancer.
While this film marked several endings for careers and eras, it’s still an entertaining romp.