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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
Let’s Do It Again (1953) – Musical #300
Jane Wyman, Ray Milland, Aldo Ray, Leon Ames, Valerie Bettis, Karin Booth, Mary Treen, Tom Helmore, Dick Wessel, Kathryn Givney, Herbert Hayes
Constance Stuart (Wyman) is a musical star and her husband Gary Stuart (Milland) is a composer for stage musicals. Gary told Constance he was going out of town, when really he was in town the whole time, attending jazz sessions and carousing. When he returns home one morning, he finds Constance left the night before with another man and hasn’t returned. When she arrives in her evening clothes and saying they had car trouble, he doesn’t believe her and the two separate. During their separation, Gary tries to win back Constance, even while she’s being romanced by another man (Ray).
• Musical remake of “The Awful Truth” (1937)
• Working titles were “Love Song,” “Anyone But You” and “Great While It Lasted.”
• Aldo Ray dancing (and the feet that aren’t him dancing)
• “These are the Things I Remember” performed by Jane Wyman and Ray Milland (dubber unknown)
Oh, the musical remake. While I love movie musicals, sometimes these adaptations make me heave a heavy side.
This film phenomenon was particularly prevalent in the 1950s. Hollywood writers and producers took comedic film successes of the 1930s and 1940s and transformed them into Technicolor musical spectacles — often not as successful as their predecessors. Examples of the films that were remade include NINOTCHKA (1939), IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940), TOO MANY HUSBANDS (1940) and THE WOMEN (1939).
Often, rather than just adding music to help progress the plot, the film is made into a backstage story and one of the lead characters is a musician, dancer or singer (like in Ninotchka/Silk Stockings, Too Many Husbands/Three for the Show, The Women/The Opposite Sex).
Sometimes when I watch these musical remakes, I can suspend belief and try to think of it as its own film and not compare it to the superior original. For example, the last time I watch THE OPPOSITE SEX, I focused on the excellent cast and lavish sets and costumes, and I had fun watching it.
However, in the case of this week’s Musical Monday, LET’S DO IT AGAIN (1953), even focusing on the story here didn’t improve the film. LET’S DO IT AGAIN is a remake of THE AWFUL TRUTH, a story that was first introduced on the stage in 1923 and was first put on screen in 1925. The story was most famously told on screen in 1937 starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy under the direction of Leo McCarey. This screwball comedy about distrust in a marriage is considered one of the best film comedies ever made.
Jane Wyman, Ray Milland and Aldo Ray play the respective roles in this musical remake. For the musical element, Wyman is a musical stage star and Milland is a composer of hit songs.
The plot follows married couple Constance Stuart (Wyman) and Gary Stuart (Milland). Gary is supposedly returning home to his wife after being out of town (though we know he never left town and has been with women and in jam sessions). Gary returns home early one morning to find Constance went out the night before and never returned. When she comes in wearing the evening dress he left in, he doesn’t believe her story of car trouble and the two separate. But even during their separation, Gary tries to win Constance back, while she’s being courted by Frank McGraw (Ray), a rich hick.
While LET’S DO IT AGAIN does not have the glitter and charm of THE AWFUL TRUTH, it does have its moments and I laughed a few time. I frankly remembered this film as being horrible, and it’s not the worst … but something doesn’t gel. One scene I thought was very funny was in the night club while Constance and Frank are dancing together. Gary expects Frank to be a bad dancer and asks the band to play a complicated number, and Frank is an expert dancer. Between Milland’s disgusted facial expressions and the dancing feet (which the viewer knows don’t actually belong to Ray), I thought this was a funny scene.
More than anything, what LET’S DO IT AGAIN lacks is chemistry between its stars. Milland and Wyman co-starred in the drama THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) several years before and work well together. Now both Academy Award winners, as a married couple in a musical comedy, they just don’t work.
In the early part of her career at Warner Bros., seeing Jane Wyman in a musical is not unusual. In her 1930s and 1940s roles, she played spunky characters who could easily fit into a dance number.
But by the 1950s with her Mamie Eisenhower-like haircut, something just doesn’t work here. I THINK she’s doing her own singing (because she did sing in general), but I am not 100% sure. The only time I felt Wyman really sold it, is when she sings and dances while pretending to be Milland’s sister. This is just a different time in her career.
Ray Milland’s singing voice is clearly dubbed and doesn’t match him. He sounds more like Perry Como.
Aldo Ray is adorable and handsome, but may not the right person for the part. Perhaps they should have just brought back Ralph Bellamy.
There are some musical numbers by Valerie Bettis and they are quite bizarre. There are several songs throughout, but all but “These are the Things I Remember” are largely forgettable.
Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspect of this film were he costumes by Jean Louis. Wyman wears some costumes that appear lavish but are questionable and weird.
While I didn’t think this was the worst musical remake I’ve ever seen, it just doesn’t work. With an excellent cast, they all should have been used in another film that wasn’t this. It’s a waste of talents and it’s impossible to improve on THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937).
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I had to laugh when I first saw the title of your post — the only “Let’s Do It Again” I know about stars Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, and Jimmie “J.J.” Walker! Funny, too, that the main song you remember is “These are the Things I Remember.” Ha! I know you aren’t too high on this movie, but your description of the bizarre musical numbers and weird costumes is making me want to give it a try! LOL
As time goes by, and we are subjected to noisy, violent Superhero films, little studio attempts from the 1950’s look better and better–and Let’s Do It Again succeeds for me merely as an opportunity to lust after the studio sets, the “mod” furniture and the often bizarre costumes; Wyman is clearly doing her damndest to get a rise out of Milland, perhaps a little old for this kind of screwball fun, but I never was bored or done in by too much noise.