Musical Monday: I Love Melvin (1953)

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.

melving7This week’s musical:
I Love Melvin” (1953)– Musical #167

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Don Weis

Starring:
Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Una Merkel, Allyn Joslyn, Richard Anderson, Jim Backus, Noreen Corcoran, Les Tremayne, Barbara Ruick, Steve Forrest (uncredited), Robert Fuller (uncredited as acrobatic cheerleader), Ned Glass (uncredited)
Themselves: Robert Taylor

Plot:
Judy Schneider (Reynolds) is a struggling actress with dreams of becoming a Hollywood star. In the mean time, she’s playing a football in a musical number in a Broadway show. Melvin Hoover (O’Connor) is a Look magazine photographer’s assistant. The two bump into each other in Central Park ,and Melvin exaggerates the importance of his job to impress Judy and her family, who want her to marry Harry Flack (Anderson). Melvin’s exaggerations go too far when he promises to put Judy on the cover of Look magazine. All the while, Judy is daydreaming about her fame.

Trivia:
-The “Lady Loves” number was originally supposed to be performed with Debbie Reynolds in a farm setting, according to “That’s Entertainment III” (1994). It was re-shot with Debbie Reynolds dressed as a sophisticated lady.
-Howard Keel was originally supposed to be the star cameo in Reynolds’ dream, rather than Robert Taylor.

Highlights:
-Robert Taylor’s cameo
-The Football Ballet
-Noreen Corcoran’s song and dance with Donald O’Connor
-Dancers in Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly masks and costumes

Notable Songs:
-A Lady Loves performed by Debbie Reynolds
-Saturday Afternoon Before the Game performed by a chorus
-Where Did You Learn To Dance performed by Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor
-We Have Never Met, As Yet performed by Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor
-Life Has Its Funny Little Ups and Downs performed by Noreen Corcoran and Donald O’Connor

My review:
“I Love Melvin” (1953) is an adorable and joyous little movie. It isn’t a big, serious award-winning extravaganza like “Singin’ in the Rain” or “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” but it’s a simple story that’s plain fun.

In his April 10, 1953, review, New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther doesn’t call the film bad or good, but “chromium-plated spun-sugar” and that it lacks substance. Crowther isn’t incorrect. “I Love Melvin” is pure escapism and there’s nothing wrong with that.

And while this isn’t a serious film, the cast is excellent. Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds are on-screen together two years after “Singin’ in the Rain” (1951). The two dance and perform with energy and professionalism. They are wonderful to watch and Reynolds and O’Connor have wonderful chemistry.

The outstanding supporting cast is rounded out by Una Merkel, Allyn Joslyn, Richard Anderson, Jim Backus, and Noreen Corcoran. For fans of the TV show “Emergency!,” actor Robert Fuller dances in the football ballet.

Mr. Crowther also wrote, “The music, while undistinguished, is sufficient to get them around and the decor is in the most splendid and expensive Metro style.”

Debbie Reynolds dressed as a football, showing how much she is struggling in her dancing and acting career.

Debbie Reynolds dressed as a football, showing how much she is struggling in her dancing and acting career.

Many of the songs are forgettable but fun. The only real memorable song is “A Lady Loves,” which sometimes gets stuck in my head. The other performances include Noreen Corcoran and Donald O’Connor skating together and Debbie Reynolds is tossed around like a football among dancing football players. The football ballet may be one of the most creative and odd dance numbers I have ever watched. While goofy and bizarre, the football number is meant to be weird to show that Judy is far from fame.

A note to North Carolina football fans: the uniforms, colors and initials of the purple and gold team are similar to East Carolina University in North Carolina. I haven’t been able to find any facts to see if this was intentional.

Along with the football ballet, there are other hilariously goofy scenes as Judy daydreams such as Robert Taylor as her love interest and dancers dressed in Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire costumes.

Debbie Reynolds dreaming that she's in a film with Robert Taylor

Debbie Reynolds dreaming that she’s in a film with Robert Taylor

Debbie Reynolds in a daydream with dancers dressed as Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire

Debbie Reynolds in a daydream with dancers dressed as Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire

While this movie is fun, it is a little sad to watch now. Both child star Noreen Corcoran and actress Debbie Reynolds passed away in 2016. Both are delightful in this movie. This may be one of my favorite Debbie Reynolds films (at least in my top 5).

If you are feeling down, give “I Love Melvin” a watch. The plot is silly and it’s not a serious film, but what does that matter? It’s pure joy.

Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds in "I Love Melvin"

Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds in “I Love Melvin”

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Musical Monday: “Call Me Madam” (1953)

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.

Call Me MadamThis week’s musical:
Call Me Madam” –Musical #430

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, Vera-Ellen, George Sanders, Billy De Wolfe, Helmut Dantine, Walter Slezak

Plot:
Set in 1951 during the Truman-era, socialite Sally Adams (Merman) heads to the fictional European country of Lichtenburg as a United States of America ambassador. Adams’ assistant Kenneth Gibson (O’Connor) falls in love with Princess Maria (Ellen) and Adams falls in love with General Cosmo Constantine (Sanders).
Based on the Broadway play with music by Irving Berlin.

Trivia:
-Film adaptation of the 1950 Broadway play that also starred Ethel Merman. The show opened Oct. 12, 1950, and ran for 644 performances through May 3, 1952. Merman won a Tony for her performance on stage.
-Sally Adams is based on based on Washington, D.C. hostess and Democratic Party fundraiser Perle Mesta. Mesta was selected by Harry Truman to be the American ambassador to Luxembourg. The musical is a satire of the behavior of gauche Americans abroad, according to Hollywood Musicals Year by Year by Stanley Green.
-Carol Richards dubbed Vera-Ellen’s singing voice.
-20th Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck was making “Call Me Madam” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” at the same time. Zannuck noted in his memoirs “Madam” was a better film but “Blondes” would make more. Blondes did double the gross of Madam, Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century-Fox edited by Rudy Behlmer

Highlights:

Vera-Ellen and Donald O'Connor dancing to "It's a Lovely Day Today"

Vera-Ellen and Donald O’Connor dancing to “It’s a Lovely Day Today”

-George Saunders has a lovely singing voice in “Marrying for Love.”
-Three minutes into the film, Merman almost says “I don’t know what the hell your talking about” but stops herself and repeats the line. “I don’t know what the he- I don’t know what you are talking about.”
-Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen’s dance to “It’s a Lovely Day Today” in the garden. And all of their dances together.
-Vera-Ellen’s wardrobe.

Notable Songs:
-Hostess with the Mostest sung by Ethel Merman
-It’s a Lovely Day Today sung by Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen. Ellen is dubbed by Carol Richards.
-Marrying for Love sung by George Saunders
-You’re Just In Love sung by Donald O’Connor and Ethel Merman
-Mrs. Sally Adams sung by a trio of ladies answering the phone. Their voices blend beautifully

My Review:
A little bit of Ethel Merman can go a long way, but you can’t deny this is her best film role.
The film was taken from a successful Broadway show that also starred Merman, “Call Me Madam” is colorful and has an excellent cast.
Merman originated several musical roles on stage such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Panama Hattie,” “DuBarry was a Lady” and “Gypsy.” However, when the shows went from stage to film, Merman’s role was always recast with a younger, sexier star. However, film audiences get to see Merman in a role she originated on film with “Call Me Madam.” Though to me, her singing voice can be overwhelming, you can tell Merman’s appeal on stage with the energy and humor she shows in the film role.
Also in the film, I would say Donald O’Connor steals the show. He sings and dances beautifully and has the opportunity to sing a duet with Merman. Vera-Ellen also dances beautifully, but her performance is lessened by the terrible accent she has to speak.
George Sanders is a surprise in the musical with his beautiful singing voice.
Though “Call Me Madam” isn’t my favorite musical, its energetic, funny and fun. The Irving Berlin songs are entertaining, the costumes are beautiful and the talent is excellent.

Donald O'Connor, Ethel Merman, George Sander,  Vera-Ellen in "Call Me Madam"

Donald O’Connor, Ethel Merman, George Sander, Vera-Ellen in “Call Me Madam”

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