miliosr

The M-G-M Musical

65 posts in this topic

I picked up a copy of Three for the Show from February 1955 which stars Betty Grable, Jack Lemmon and Marge&Gower Champion (on loan-out from M-G-M). This was a Columbia musical remake of the studio's own Too Many Husbands from 1940. In both versions, a woman thinks her husband is dead, marries another man and then has the first husband return from the dead. (Grable plays the woman in Three for the Show, Lemmon plays the first husband and Gower Champion plays the second husband. Marge Champion is on hand as Grable's friend who has her own designs on Gower Champion.)

If you feel like you've seen this story before, you have. Not only is there the Too Many Husbands-Three for the Show lineage but there's also the My Favorite Wife (also 1940, with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne)-Something's Got to Give (the never-completed 1962 version with Marilyn Monroe [who died before it could be completed], Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse)-Move Over, Darling (the 1963 version with Doris Day and James Garner) lineage.

In any event, Three for the Show is a middling movie musical from the 50s with a lot of the flaws that were common to the musicals of that period. The great Jack Cole was the official choreographer but most of his work here plays like outtakes from other, more successful films. There's a garish male harem number with Grable, Lemmon and Gower Champion that strives for the magic of his "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love" number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and fails miserably. There's also a "dream ballet" for Marge Champion which is full of portentous "psychological" content. These were very common in the 50s but age has not been kind to them.

Probably the best thing in the movie is a late-in-the-movie duet between Marge and Gower Champion, which was definitely choreographed by Gower Champion. Also of interest (although unintentionally so) is comparing Grable's dancing to that of Marge and Gower Champion in the movie's opening number. Seeing them side-by-side you can really see the difference between a hoofer (Grable) and two real, professionally trained dancers (the Champions).

Lemmon gives his all in this to no great avail. No cause for despair, though -- his Oscar-winning turn in Mister Roberts was his next film!

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Studio shift -- Paramount has been putting a big chunk of their vault on YouTube for free streaming. It's an oddball collection, but I'm just about to watch Artists and Models (a film I have always meant to see) and there's plenty more on tap...

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Another studio shift but with an MGM star, Franchot Tone in Joseph von Sternberg's "The King Steps Out'" filmed at Columbia. Very unusual scene (linked below).

Von Sternberg and Lucien Ballard, the cinematographer, set the singer, Grace Moore, within an open window with out of focus curtains and what looks like an out of focus potted geranium. Way in the background the singer's backside is caught in a reflection on the glass of a picture. When Moore comes forward for the climax of the song, she's completely enveloped in shadow Very subversive on von Sternberg's part - something Degas might do but few cameramen/ directors would - except Welles, who learned from Sternberg - or James Wong Howe.

Also highly unusual was that the singing was recorded live, not dubbed.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xz-8i3wuTs

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I picked up a copy of the 1953 M-G-M melodrama Never Let Me Go, starring Clark Gable as a newspaper reporter who falls in love with Soviet ballerina Gene Tierney (or Gene Tiernechova, in Ballets Russes-ese.) Basically, the storyline has Clark falling in love with Gene but the Soviets won't let Gene leave Russia. So, Clark has to smuggle her out.

The reason I bought a copy of this forgotten picture and am discussing it in the 'M-G-M' musical thread is that the movie features the London Festival Ballet (LFB) as the 'Moscow Ballet,' Anton Dolin as 'Gene Tierney's Dance Partner,' and Belita as Gene's treacherous fellow dancer who's more loyal to Joe Stalin (or maybe her career at the 'Moscow Ballet') than she is to Gene. You get to see the LFB in various parts of Swan Lake and, while the dance sequences aren't numerous or extensive in any sense, you do get a little glimpse into what a ballet company of that era would have looked like. Dolin only partners in this but he still looks fit given that he was 48 at the time this was made. (One wonders if careers lasted longer then because mid-20th century bodies didn't have to contend with people like Wayne McGregor.) In any event, Dolin's billing should have been 'Gene Tierney's Dance Partner in Extreme Close-Up' and 'Dance Partner to the Stunt Double in Everything Else'.

The movie itself is nothing special and has a strange structure: The first 30 minutes (set in Russia) is romantic melodrama, the next 45 minutes (in which Tierney is absent) is action-adventure as Gable&co. develop and implement their plan to get Tierney our of the Russia, and the final 15 minutes is like a proto-version of the von Trapp family fleeing Austria in The Sound of Music. Never Let Me Go was one of Tierney's first pictures after her contract with Fox expired, and she is ravishing-looking in it. Hard to believe she experienced so much stress and heartache in her personal life.

This was Clark Gable's third-to-last picture for M-G-M, to which he had been contracted since 1931. Never Let Me Go performed indifferently at the box office but Gable would go out on a high at M-G-M. His final two pictures for the studio, 1953's Mogambo (w/ Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly) and 1954's Betrayed (w/ Lana Turner [!] and Victor Mature [!!]), were both big earners.

Recommendation: Fun to watch on a slow night and of historical interest because of Dolin and the London Festival Ballet.

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Thanks for that miliosr. As it happens i recently viewed a very early Gable picture, Night Nurse.

It's remarkable how even in 1931 Clark Gable was already "Clark Gable." All the mannerisms were already there, just not packaged in the super-slick MGM way.

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canbelto - I have Night Nurse on one of my Forbidden Hollywood sets. What you said about Clark Gable is what I see with Barbara Stanwyck. I feel like she was more or less the Barbara Stanwyck we all know and love in 1931. She just needed the Hollywood studio system to polish her up a bit.

Here's another clip w/ Clark Gable from 1931. (He was sixth-billed behind, among others, Joan Crawford and Cliff 'Ukelele Ike' Edwards.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLMZbKZHwlY

"Oh, so that's what's become of Bonnie! Hahahaha!!"

"Oh, Sylvia!"

Did Belita skate?

No, she just stands around playing a stereotypical Soviet heavy. It would have been a more interesting movie if they had thrown in a completely gratuitous skating scene!

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No, she just stands around playing a stereotypical Soviet heavy. It would have been a more interesting movie if they had thrown in a completely gratuitous skating scene!

:lol: , I totally agree!

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miliosr, I love the vintage clips of big studio stars before they were, well, big studio stars.

Here's Clark Gable and Joan Crawford introducing Fred Astaire:

By the way, the vintage clips show Joan Crawford as really different than her later films. Weird how in the early days she was picked as the wholesome, singing/dancing bubbly girl.

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Crawford was at M-G-M for a long time -- from 1925 (still the silent film era) to 1943 (WWII-era). She was smart about evolving her image, just as her great rival at the studio, Norma Shearer, was. They both intuited -- correctly -- that, if they stood still, audiences would tire of them. So, Crawford evolved out of her "great gal" Charleston dancer persona into, eventually, the more hard-boiled persona that let her slide effortlessly into Mildred Pierce when she moved over to Warner Brothers in 1945. And Shearer evolved out of her girl-next-door persona in silents into her free-living persona of the early talkies and, eventually, into her "classy lady" persona of the late-30s and early-40s.

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Q: What was M-G-M's most profitable musical of 1953? The Band Wagon w/ Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse? Kiss Me Kate w/ Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and Ann Miller? Dangerous When Wet or Easy To Love w/ Esther Williams?

A: Wrong on all counts. M-G-M's most profitable musical of 1953 was Lili, starring Leslie Caron and directed by Charles Walters.

Lili takes place in post-World War II France. Caron plays the title character, a naïve, orphaned waif of 16 who finds a temporary home at a travelling carnival. There, she becomes besotted with 'Marc the Magnificent,' a womanizing magician played by the very handsome and very charming Jean-Pierre Aumont. Lili also meets Paul (played by Mel Ferrer), a former premiere danseur who was injured during the war and now can only work as a puppeteer, which he considers to be an inferior art to the dance. Lili unselfconsciously interacts with the puppets in Paul's show; seemingly unaware that the puppets aren't real. Lili's interaction with the puppets makes the act popular to the point where she becomes part of the "act" with Paul and his partner, Jacquot (played by Kurt Kaznar). Complicating all of this is Lili's infatuation with the untrustworthy Marc, and Paul's inability to express his emotions, particularly his love for Lili, except through the puppets.

Lili doesn't enjoy the same reputation that two of Caron's other M-G-M musicals, Gigi and (especially) An American in Paris, enjoy even though, during its day, Lili was every bit as profitable as the other two. Still, while Lili is more of a cult musical than the other two, it continues to have its charms lo these 63 years later. Caron is a standout as Lili and Aumont matches her all the way as the sleazy but charming Marc. They are ably supported by Kaznar and, of all people, Zsa Zsa Gabor as Marc's assistant, Rosalie. (If it's humanly possible for there to be such a thing as a "classic Zsa Zsa Gabor film", Lili may be it.) Perhaps the only weak link is Ferrer, who plays the emotionally distant Paul too well -- you can't blame Lili for not seeing anything in him until, somewhat implausibly, the end of the movie.

Charles Walters directs with his usual light touch (and acts as the dance double for Aumont in one of the movie's two dream sequences.) The M-G-M art direction team does an admirable job with creating and sustaining the illusion of a French carnival. (I may be the only person in this world who prefers M-G-M France to France-France.)

The greatest star of all is composer Bronsilau Kaper's score and especially its hit song, "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo", which Lili sings with the puppets and which appears in various forms throughout the score.

Filmed in 1952, the M-G-M brass had no confidence in the movie and thought they had a major flop on their hands. Much to their surprise, the film was a huge hit and received six Academy Award nominations for: Best Actress (Caron), Best Directing (Walters), Best Music (Kaper), Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Color) and Best Art Direction (Color). (Only Kaper won.)

Alas, the DVD copy I bought of this is of the DVD-R variety. If ever a movie cries out for an official remaster, it's this one as the use of color would look extraordinary in high definition.

When I bought the DVD, I also bought a copy of Kaper's score from Film Score Monthly. Not only do you get to hear all of the musical cues from the movie on the soundtrack but you also get a wealth of unreleased bonus tracks. Recommended!

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who did the Glass Slipper? I loved that film!

macnellie

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who did the glass Slipper? I loved that film!

M-G-M reteamed Caron, Walters and Kaper for that. They filmed it in Summer 1954 and it was released in early 1955.

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The M-G-M art direction team does an admirable job with creating and sustaining the illusion of a French carnival. (I may be the only person in this world who prefers M-G-M France to France-France.)

I can't say that I like MGM France better than the real thing, but I do love it. I've only seen this film once through (and then clips here and there), and I have good memories of it.

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