Archive for Kathryn Grayson

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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.

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Fifty Shades of Kathryn Grayson

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on January 31, 2017 by dcairns

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ANCHORS AWEIGH! may not be ON THE TOWN, but then, what is? It’s jolly good, and George Sidney directs with colossal, cartoonish energy. The score is so enthusiastic, so animated, it’s no surprise when Tom & Jerry turn up in person (though it’s a somewhat disturbing surprise when Jerry speaks, with a woman’s voice.

However, despite enjoying the wit and visual invention of the storytelling and filming, and the songs, and Gene Kelly’s dancing and the relentless portrayal of Frank Sinatra as an utter chump, which does not seem, in retrospect, like an obvious idea — I *did* feel occasional pangs of existential angst at Kathryn Grayson’s insanely chirpy countenance and incessant trilling and twinkling. And when the screen faded to black leaving only her eye-gleams, like pinholes into the Beyond, I was somewhat chilled.

But here’s a lovely transition caught halfway —

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And this bit is hilarious. Fascinatingly so, since it shows our heroes forced to improvise a song for plot reasons. Now, characters in musicals seem able to improvise songs at the drop of a hat, and we never question their preternatural skill. Now, just because the story requires it, Gene and Frank really have to struggle — even though the basic song, “If You Knew Susie,” is a familiar one. Think about it. What gives?

Bonus: a wildly improbably Grady Sutton as love rival.

The Shrew Must Go On

Posted in Dance, FILM, literature, MUSIC, Politics, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2016 by dcairns

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There’s a bronze statue of an orangutan holding its young at Edinburgh Zoo, and as a kid I was crazy about climbing on it. There should be more statues you can climb on, statues should be tactile, interactive things, to take advantage of their solid, three-dimensional nature. Anyway, I was unexpectedly reminded of this when Fiona and I went to see KISS ME KATE at Filmhouse in glorious 3D.

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Say, how dod you do a glass shot in 3D? And note the MGM product placement bottom right.

The movie, fluidly directed by George Sidney (a largely overlooked figure in the Freed Unit’s stable of filmmakers), throws lots of crap in the audience’s face, to be sure, but the most effective moments of depth are the close-ups and medium shots, where I was constantly wowed by the strange spectacle of huge, colour, moving, realistic heads and shoulders in living three dimensions. It was a bit like the outsize photorealist sculptures of Ron Mueck, come to life. I wanted to climb up there and clamber about on Howard Keel or his co-stars. It helps that Kathryn Grayson and Ann Miller both have balconies you could do Shakespeare off.

(It was also a bit like the sculpted dioramas in a ViewMaster, the people being so smoothly and pinkly complected that you suspect them of being plasticine.)

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The whole thing was most entertaining, and though some of Cole Porter’s naughtier lyrics were censored for the screen, some real eye-brow raisers made it through. The Breen Office’s failure to excise “Lisa, where are you Lisa? / You gave new meaning to the Leaning Tower of Pisa,” can perhaps be understood: the line is perfectly meaningful if interpreted in an innocuous way. And Howard Keel sings it while reclining, so that if you were to picture him naked with an erection (you filthy beast) it would be at the wrong angle to suggest the famous Pisan monument.

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But “If she says your behaviour is heinous / Kick her right in the Coriolanus” doesn’t even begin to make sense as anything other than a dirty joke, so I have to assume the censor was just plain dumb, or so ashamed of what they thought the line MIGHT mean that they hesitated to bring it up.

The reordering of songs from the stage show is much more harmful than the cuts, and seems at times pretty bloody random. I mean, I’ve never seen the show, but given that this was Cole Porter building on Kern & Hammerstein’s success with Showboat, where the songs were all germane to the plot, I couldn’t help but noticing that as performed in the movie, many of them aren’t. Brush Up Your Shakespeare is great fun, but why are the rude mechanicals singing it to the Shakespearian star, in an alley, after their role in the show is over?

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The other weird thing is the heroine’s return for a happy ending — several plot turns seem to be getting jumped out here. The Taming of the Shrew NEVER works for me. Despite Shakes’ usual genius for not committing himself too strongly to particular opinions, this and Merchant of Venice seem so infected by the bad attitudes of the day that, despite the additional complexities he adds which stop them working as straight up masculinist or anti-semitic propaganda, they tend to leave a bad taste (unless you edit Shrew to the point where its meaning is reversed, as in the Fairbanks-Pickford version). Porter’s metatextual backstage farce version comes close to resolving a lot of the problems, but somewhere along the way some injudicious cuts have problematized it all over again…

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But — great, great fun. Especially when Hermes Pan lets Bob Fosse take over the choreography for his big bit, and you get a glimpse of the wonderfully contorted body-shapes of things to come.