Musical Monday: Brigadoon (1954)

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.

This week’s musical:
Brigadoon (1954) – Musical #53

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Vincente Minnelli

Starring:
Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Van Johnson, Elaine Stewart, Barry Jones, Hugh Laing, Virginia Bosler, Albert Sharpe, Jimmy Thompson, Eddie Quillan, Dee Turnell, Madge Blake (uncredited), George Chakiris (uncredited), Barrie Chase (uncredited)

Plot:
Americans Tommy Albright (Kelly) and Jeff Douglas (Johnson) are lost in Scotland and come across the town of Brigadoon, which only awakens every 100 years and is stuck in the 1700s. Tommy falls in love with one of the girls, Fiona (Charisse), but the town will disappear if anyone leaves and anyone who wants to stay has to leave the world they know and stay forever.

Trivia:
• Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was making “Brigadoon” at the same time as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” “Seven Brides” was nearly dropped, because the studio didn’t feel they could fund two extravagant musicals and they thought “Brigadoon” would be more successful, according to Powell’s autobiography. Producer Jack Cummings talked the studio into keeping the film and cut the budget and economized where he could. “Seven Brides” ended up being more successful, according to Powell’s book.

• In May 1952, the Hollywood Reporter reported that Kathryn Grayson and Alec Guinness would co-star with Gene Kelly. In March 1952, the Hollywood Reporter said David Wayne was considered for a role. Moira Shearer and Donald O’Connor were also considered for the roles of Fiona and Jeff, according the book Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood’s Dark Dreamer by Emanuel Levy.

• The film was based on a Broadway show of the same name, which ran from March 1947 through July 1948. The only person who reprised their role in the film was Virginia Bosler, who played Jean Campbell. Not all songs from the Broadway show were used. The songs removed included “Come to Me, Bend to Me,” “My Mother’s Wedding Day” and “There But For You I Go.”

• A television version aired in 1966 starring Peter Faulk, Sally Ann Howes and Robert Goulet.

Agnes de Mille was the choreographer for the Broadway musical, but all of her choreography was replaced by Gene Kelly’s in the film. New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther blamed the film’s failure for the “poor choreography” because the “life and smoothness of the original” were lost, according to the book “Agnes de Mille: Telling Stories in Broadway Dance” by Kara Anne Gardner.

• Originally planned to be filmed in Scotland, but the weather was too unpredictable.

• Vicente Minnelli’s first CinemaScope film.

• Cyd Charisse was dubbed by Carol Richards.

• Dee Turnell was dubbed by Bonnie Murray

• Jimmy Thompson was dubbed by John Gustafson

• Music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe

• Produced by Arthur Freed

Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in “Brigadoon”

Highlights:
– Van Johnson and Gene Kelly dancing in “Go Home with Bonnie Gene”
-The “Heather on the Hill” dance sequence
– The wedding dance

Gene Kelly and Van Johnson dancing in “Go Home with Bonnie Jean” (Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Notable Songs:
-“Waiting for My Dearie” performed by Cyd Charisse, dubbed by Carol Richards, and Dee Turnell, dubbed by Bonnie Murray
-“Go Home with Bonnie Jean” performed by Jimmy Thompson, dubbed by John Gustafson, Gene Kelly, Van Johnson
-“Heather on the Hill” performed by Gene Kelly

My review:
I remember when I watched “Brigadoon” for the first and last time. It was 2004 and I was a freshman in high school. I was devouring every musical I could get my hands on and I was bursting with excitement to see “Brigadoon.” I had seen photos and clips and it looked so beautiful. But after seeing it, I was disappointed and thereafter thought of it ruefully and with a bit of a sigh.

And then I revisited “Brigadoon” for the first time in 14 years yesterday to prepare for this musical post. It starts off with sweeping, beautiful notes and with flaming red title cards. The painted studio scenery is the backdrop for as low voices sing about lost hunters and Brigadoon. Then a flourish of Scotish townspeople rush across the screen dressed in vibrant Irene Sharaff costumes. The first few numbers are exuberant and a bit wistful (“Waiting For My Dearie”). As I watched, I found myself enjoying the film, but kept preparing myself, “Something is going to irritate me or is this is going to go south.”

But I completed the film and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it more than I did when I was 15 years old. I won’t go as far as to say it’s my favorite, but I had fun watching it and had several of the songs in my head after watching it.

I think there are a few reasons I didn’t like it the first time I saw it. I had a strong love for Van Johnson at this time (and still do), and I didn’t care for his character. Johnson’s character is a bit of a heel, scoffing at the Brigadoon situation, and is an alcoholic. I wanted the sweet Van of “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.” As for Gene Kelly, while his character is similar to his other roles, he and Van Johnson are a bit more jaded. Both characters are dissatisfied with life, and at my young age, I think this may have been a bit complex for me. Now I appreciate their desire of wanting more out of life and also appreciate Johnson’s versatility and like his bitter character more.

While Cyd Charisse doesn’t do her own singing, I think she was well cast. However, I also could see Kathryn Grayson or Moira Shearer doing well in the role. This could be a bold statement, but I think Cyd Charisse is at her most beautiful as Fiona. I like her wistful character, and I particularly love her performance of “Waitin’ for My Dearie.” Charisse only has two costume changes in this film, but her costumes designed by Irene Sharaff are simple and beautiful. I love the simple cream colored dress she wears for the majority of the film with that bright yellow shawl and orange petticoat. Then for the wedding scene, she has that gorgeous red dress.

Cyd Charisse and Dee Turnell dance in “Waitin’ for my Dearie” in “Brigadoon.” (Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

Jimmy Thompson has a small role in the film as Charlie, who is marrying Charisse’s sister, but his character is very charming and appealing. Thompson isn’t a well-known actor, but many “Singin’ in the Rain” fans would recognize him as the singer who performs “Beautiful Girl.” However, while I enjoy Thompson, I’m confused why they picked a singer to play a small role when he was dubbed by John Gustafson was dubbed.

I am curious about Thompson’s life and career but can find little on him. Thompson has 11 film credits to his name but never made it big in Hollywood, despite having a secondary lead in this film. In searches, he gets confused with a British actor of the same name who passed away in 2005.

Jimmy Thompson in “Brigadoon.” (Screen cap by Jessica P.)

In the play, the character Harry Beaton (played by Hugh Laing in the film and James Mitchell on stage) has a more expanded role and some of his own dance numbers. It would have been interesting to see that character expanded with the original numbers, though I know this would have made the film longer.

I think another thing I didn’t like about “Brigadoon” 14 years ago was the serious tone. Knowing it was the competitor of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” I thought it was going to have the same upbeat, joyful exuberance but “Brigadoon” couldn’t be more different. While there is a wistfulness to it, it focuses on life’s discontentments. There’s Harry who feels trapped in the town of Brigadoon and calls it his prison, Jeff (Johnson) is trapped by his alcohol, Fiona (Charisse) hasn’t found anyone she loves, and Tommy (Kelly) doesn’t want to marry the woman he’s engaged to. And there are consequences to finding happiness. If Harry leaves Brigadoon, the whole town disappears. If Jeff stays with Fiona, he has to live in Brigadoon forever (and live most of his life asleep). It’s a much more complicated story than “We need brides so let’s kidnap some girls!”

Because they were competitors and made at the same time, I consider “Brigadoon” a companion piece to “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” While they are completely different films, their musical stories are different and stand apart from other MGM films that were made before and during this time. Ultimately, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” was the more successful of the two films though MGM thought it would be the underdog. Unfortunately, after 1954, musicals were on the decline at MGM as studio head Dore Schary wanted to make serious message movies.

Admittedly, I do like “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” more, but I’m happy that I revisited this one after years of remembering my initial disappointment.

The highlights for me are the “Waitin’ for My Dearie” number and Van Johnson and Gene Kelly dancing together in “Go Home with Bonnie Jean.”

While I won’t be calling “Brigadoon” my all-time favorite musical, I’m happy I revisited this one. The moral of today’s story is to wait a few years and give a film another try.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

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Musical Monday: The Broadway Melody (1929)

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.

This week’s musical:
The Broadway Melody” (1929)– Musical #121

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Harry Beaumont

Starring:
Anita Page, Bessie Love, Charles King, James Gleason (uncredited), Carla Laemmle (uncredited), Mary Doran (uncredited), Jed Prouty (uncredited), Eddie Kane (uncredited), Kenneth Thomson (uncredited)

Plot:
Sisters Queenie (Page) and Hank (Love) travel from the Midwest to New York with dreams of making it big on Broadway, where Hank’s boyfriend Eddie (King) is now progressing in his career. When the sisters try out for producer Francis Zanfield (Kane), he (and everyone else) is more interested in beautiful Queenie than Hank, which causes a rift in the sisters.

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Musical Monday: Broadway Rhythm (1944)

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.

This week’s musical:
Broadway Rhythm (1944) – Musical #228

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
George Murphy, Ginny Simms, Charles Winninger, Gloria DeHaven, Nancy Walker, Ben Blue, Lena Horne, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Kenny Bowers
Themselves: Hazel Scott, Tommy Dorsey and His Band, The Ross Sisters

Plot:
Jonnie Demming (Murphy) is a Broadway producer and clashes with his family. His father, Sam (Winninger), is a former vaudeville star and still wants to act post-retirement and has ideas of how the show should be run. His sister Patsy (DeHaven) has left school to perform in a nightclub act and wants her brother to give her a job. Jonnie also has issues with his show. He needs a leading lady and tries to get Hollywood star Helen Hoyt (Simms), who also wants to get on Broadway. The only problem is she doesn’t like the show’s script.

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Musical Monday: The Girl Most Likely (1958)

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.

This week’s musical:
The Girl Most Likely (1958) – Musical #96

Studio:
RKO Pictures

Director:
Mitchell Leisen

Starring:
Jane Powell, Cliff Robertson, Keith Andes, Una Merkel, Kaye Ballard, Tommy Noonan, Frank Cady, Judy Nugent, Kelly Brown

Plot:
Dodie (Powell) is a dreamer who wants to get married to a millionaire. Her real-estate boyfriend Buzz (Noonan) proposes after he gets a raise, and she uncertainly accepts. Shortly after she meets Pete (Robertson), who she believes is a millionaire but is only a mechanic. She enjoys Pete’s company, and then meets a real millionaire, Neil Patterson, Jr. (Andres), which is what she has always dreamed of. With proposals from all three men, Dodie then has to pick which man she wants to marry.

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Musical Monday: Silk Stockings (1957)

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.

This week’s musical:
Silk Stockings (1957) – Musical #50

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Rouben Mamoulian

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Janis Paige, Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, George Tobias, Wim Sonneveld, Barrie Chase (uncredited)

Plot:
Russian composer Peter Illyich Boroff (Sonneveld) is living and working in Paris, France. Film producer Steve Canfield (Astaire) plans to use Boroff as the composer for his upcoming musical film, but this is complicated when three comrades from Russia — Comrades Brankov (Lorre), Bibinski (Munshin) and Ivanov (Buloff) — come to Paris to take Boroff back to Russia. However, Canfield steps in and charms the comrades with the highlights of Paris in the spring. Russia sends Ninotchka Yoschenko (Charisse) to Paris to bring Boroff and the comrades home, and Canfield works to charm her with Paris as well.

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Musical Monday: The Great Caruso (1951)

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.

This week’s musical:
The Great Caruso (1951) – Musical #341

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Thorpe

Starring:
Mario Lanza, Ann Blyth, Dorothy Kirsten, Jarmila Novotna, Richard Hageman, Carl Benton Reid, Yvette Duguay, Angela Clarke, Mario Siletti, Alan Napier, Ludwig Donath, Pál Jávor, Mae Clarke (uncredited), George Chakiris (uncredited)

Plot:
Biographical musical about Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (Lanza). The film begins when he is a boy in Naples and follows his rise to fame. He faces struggles along the way, such as disapproval from the fathers of girlfriends and American opera audiences not welcoming him with open arms.

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Musical Monday: Clambake (1967)

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.

This week’s musical:
Clambake (1967)– Musical #296

 

Studio:
United Artists

Director:
Arthur H. Nadel

Starring:
Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Will Hutchins, Bill Bixby, Gary Merrill, James Gregory, Suzie Kaye, Teri Garr (uncredited)

Plot:
Wealthy oil heir Scott Hayward (Presley) wants to be sure women love him for him and not his money. He switches places with Tom Wilson (Hutchins) and the two head to a luxury hotel in Miami. Tom acts like Scott and Scott acts as the hotel ski instructor. Scott falls for Dianne Carter (Fabares), who only has eyes for rich boat racer James J. Jamison III (Bixby).

Trivia:
-Ray Walker dubbed the singing voice of Will Hutchins
-Working title was “Too Big for Texas”
-Filming was delayed for 11 days because Elvis fell and had a concussion, according to The Gospel According to Elvis by Kevin Crouch and Tanja Crouch
-“Big Boss Man” and “Guitar Man” were featured on the soundtrack but not in the film.
-Filmed in Techniscope

Highlights:
-Flipper cameo
-Bill Bixby

The cast of Clambake: Bill Bixby, Will Hutchins, Shelley Fabares, Elvis Presley

Notable Songs:
-“Clambake” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Who Needs Money?” performed by Elvis Presley and Will Hutchins, dubbed by Ray Walker
-“Hey, Hey, Hey” performed by Elvis Presley
-“The Girl I Never Loved” performed by Elvis Presley

My review:
Like most of Elvis films, “Clambake” isn’t a strong film, but it’s fabulously entertaining.

It starts no differently than any other Elvis film: with Elvis driving down the road in a convertible car. Whether he’s rich or poor, he is always driving in some sort of convertible at the beginning of perhaps 70 percent of his films. It turns out he’s a rich guy in this film and he’s fed up with living life the way his dad wants him to. He also isn’t sure if a girl would want him for his personality, or for his money. So we have a take on “The Prine and the Pauper” when Elvis switches places with Will Hutchins. They both head to the same resort where Elvis will work and Will plays.

What makes this film so entertaining is the cast that the two guys meet at the hotel resort: Bill Bixby, Shelley Fabares AND Gary Merrill. Bixby is a rich playboy who all the girls flock around, Fabares is a gold digger and Merrill is the sage boat builder who takes Elvis under his wing and helps him build a race boat.

Bill Bixby is charming and really the person who I was cheering for in this film. Shelley Fabares is lovely with fantastic, mod clothing but I’m disappointed that she doesn’t get to sing. But the real surprise was seeing Gary Merrill pop up in this. Gary Merrill in an Elvis movie?!

He even is semi in a song and dance number as Elvis and a bunch of girls paint “goop,” experimental boat sealant so the boat won’t break apart during the race.

This movie isn’t an Academy Award-nominated film, but “Clambake” is colorful and fun. If you want a lighthearted, clear your mind hour and 39 minutes, this isn’t a bad way to spend it.

Note: There are on actual clambakes held during this film.

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Musical Monday: Children of Pleasure (1930)

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.

This week’s musical:
Children of Pleasure (1930) – Musical #588

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Harry Beaumont

Starring:
Lawrence Gray, Wynne Gibson, Helen Johnson, Kenneth Thomson (as Kenneth Thompson), May Boley, Benny Rubin, Cliff Edwards (uncredited), Jack Benny (uncredited), Mary Carlisle (uncredited), Ann Dvorak (uncredited), Polly Ann Young (uncredited)

Plot:
Danny Regan (Gray) is a songwriter and meets society heiress Pat Thayer (Johnson). The two plan to marry until Danny figures out that Pat is marrying him as a replaceable novelty.

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Musical Monday: The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

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.

This week’s musical:
The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) – Musical #358

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Ernst Lubitsch

Starring:
Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert, Miriam Hopkins, Charles Ruggles, George Barbier, Hugh O’Connell, Elizabeth Patterson (uncredited)

Plot:
While Lt. Nikolaus ‘Niki’ von Preyn (Chevalier) is standing at attention for the visiting king of Flausenthurm, he winks at his girlfriend Franzi (Colbert). The king (Barbier) is furious, thinking Niki is laughing at his daughter, the Princess Anna (Hopkins). To escape a potential court marshall, Niki says he was winking at Princess Anna, which complicates his love life.

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Musical Monday: Chasing Rainbows (1930)

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.

This week’s musical:
Chasing Rainbows (1930) – Musical #355

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Charles Reisner

Starring:
Bessie Love, Charles King, Jack Benny, George K. Arthur, Polly Moran, Marie Dressler, Gwen Lee, Nita Martan, Eddie Phillips, Ann Dvorak (uncredited)

Plot:
A group of actors travels across the country, touring their show. Carlie (Love) is in love with her vaudeville partner Terry (King), who falls in love with every leading lady.

Trivia:
-Introduced the song “Happy Days Are Here Again”
-The original released included a two-strip Technicolor finale, which is now lost.
-First titled “Road Showed”
-First film Jack Benny made in Hollywood, though not the first film released with him in it

Highlights:
-Marie Dressler sing/talk

Notable Songs:
-“Happy Days Are Here Again” performed by Charles King and the chorus
-“Lucky Me, Lovable You” performed by Charles King
-“My Dynamic Personality” performed by Marie Dressler

My review:
As I have noted before, musicals made shortly after the dawn of sound can be haphazard. Songs may be thrown in or randomly performed that don’t seem to fit in with the plot and dance numbers can be clumsy.

However, “Chasing Rainbows” is an exception. The mix of song and plot are done a little better in “Chasing Rainbows.” Perhaps it works better because the lead characters are in a musical show. So some songs are their performances, and others are to the person that they love.

What’s interesting is that our two leads, Charles King and Bessie Love, were both mainly done with Hollywood in 1931. Bessie Love’s career picked back up in 1950, when she started playing small roles in film and TV, but nothing at the caliber she was once at.

The actors that went on to be the biggest stars were the supporting characters: Marie Dressler and Jack Benny.

But “Chasing Rainbows” is disappointing, but it is not the fault of the director, writers or actors. When the film was released in 1930, the end of the film shift from black and white to 2-strip Technicolor finale with three songs, including Bessie Love and Charles King singing “Everybody Tap,” Charles King singing “Love Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues” and Marie Dressler reprising “My Dynamic Personality.”

However, this footage is lost and the movie ends abruptly. Bessie Love runs out of her dressing room and the movie ends. It would have been amazing to see that number that is now lost. It is also curious that the film preservationists chose not to add a photo still with a song playing over it, like is done in so many films with lost portions. But perhaps that wasn’t an option.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com