Archive for Gene Kelly

Rashomon Amour

Posted in Dance, Fashion, FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2018 by dcairns

Fiona was VERY taken with Kay Kendall’s drunk scene in LES GIRLS. I was too, but also taken aback. We’ve all learned, supposedly, to be more sensitive and thus to be a touch affronted at Hollywood’s flip treatment of alcoholism. But I find I’m rarely that bothered by Arthur Housman doing his detailed dipso routine in Laurel & Hardy films. Kendall playing a solitary drinker who gets riotously blotto a la Judith Hearne is a bit stronger. But she does play it magnificently.

Lots to enjoy in this one, even if George Cukor could never be bothered staging his own musical numbers: here he passes them to Jack Cole, so they’re in safe hands.

It’s all a meditation on the nature of truth and the elusiveness of reality, conducted by MGM. Like RASHOMON with better songs. Although not many of the numbers are that memorable — the set design makes the biggest splash when Gene Kelly pastiches Brando in THE WILD ONE.

 

It’s Kelly’s last real Hollywood musical leading man role, and already he’s somewhat sidelined: you might think making him the object of desire for three glamorous women (Kendall, Mitzi Gaynor and the more obscure Taina Elg, who is actually very good despite the Scrabble-score name — “She’s got a great LOOK!” diagnosed Fiona — some credit belongs to Orry Kelly here). The narrative emerges via three competing testimonies in a libel case, which ought by rights to be delivered by les girls, but Kelly still had enough clout to elbow Gaynor out the way and deliver the denouement himself.

A sexy masterstroke by the naughty Orry — backless dresses that manage to make perfectly decent leggings look as rude as bare bottoms ~

The story is by Vera Caspary of LAURA fame, who must deserve some of the credit for the waspish dialogue. Brandishing a placard at us declaring WHAT IS TRUTH?, the  movie can seem at times too impressed with its own cleverness — a religious sandwich-board would be unlikely to quote Pontius Pilate, methinks — but it’s tastefully lavish, oddball and hugely entertaining, which is what we wanted over the festive period.

Last Christmas Fiona had acute depression, anxiety, horrible medication side-effects, and we both had flu and chronic insomnia and the cat was dying. This year Fiona only broke her ankle slightly so it can be considered a great improvement.

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Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , on March 23, 2017 by dcairns

I figured, from the extensive cast list and from seeing other early George Sidney musicals at MGM, that THOUSANDS CHEER was going to be a bit plotless. In fact, it’s a perfect storm — a plot you can’t care about, interrupted regularly by musical guest slots that don’t relate to it. By the end, Fiona was getting pretty damn impatient, but even that harsh critic did perk up a bit at the sheer spectacle here ~

That’s part of Sidney’s thing, I guess — he can do visual things that are breathtaking, and is as likely to do them in a turkey (early Gene Kelly, when the studio’s policy seems to have been, “For God’s sake, don’t let him dance too much!”) as in one of his legit masterpieces.

Where the Sidewalk Never Ends

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on February 8, 2017 by dcairns

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My friend Travis had been to New York long before me. I asked about the worryingly high curbs. I knew the average curb in America wasn’t that high, from movies I’d seen. But I knew that Gene Kelly had jumped on an off a curb in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN that looked like a White Cliff of Dover transported to the MGM lot, and Jimmy Cagney staggered along in the shadow of a curb he can barely see over.

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No, there are no curbs like that, I was told.

So how could they get away with showing the American public things the public knew didn’t exist? And why try? Either there were, in those long-ago days, mountainous, leg-breaking curbs, maybe to keep the Indians out (most Indians are not real tall), or it was some kind of deliberate artistic artifice, along the lines of “Everything on the screen should be bigger than in real life?”