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On ‎12‎/‎20‎/‎2018 at 1:15 PM, dirac said:

it also works as an ensemble piece; you really do feel that you’ve gotten to know this family. (Garland hardly appears in what is arguably the most celebrated portion of the film, the Halloween sequence with O’Brien and the other children.)

 I just love Tom Drake in this and his line readings (“The welsh rarebit was ginger peachy.”)

One of the strengths of Meet Me in St. Louis is that M-G-M cast it from strength from its contract roster -- not just Garland, O'Brien and Drake but Mary Astor, Leon Ames, Lucille Bremer and Marjorie Main as well.

The Halloween segment is justly celebrated but I always feel like it came out of an entirely different movie. As if M-G-M had scrapped a movie that wasn't working, salvaged the Halloween sequence and inserted it in Meet Me in St. Louis.

And Tom Drake was from the Brooklyn part of St. Louis. :)

 

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16 hours ago, miliosr said:

The Halloween segment is justly celebrated but I always feel like it came out of an entirely different movie. As if M-G-M had scrapped a movie that wasn't working, salvaged the Halloween sequence and inserted it in Meet Me in St. Louis.

Apparently Mayer (and Freed) initially felt that way and wanted it cut. Then Minnelli ran the picture for Freed without the Halloween sequence and Freed said, "It's not the same picture," and the scene stayed in. The movie is structured episodically, so I don't think the Halloween episode sticks out quite that much, but it's true that it's the sequence that does least to move the story forward, which is why the execs objected to it, and it has a tone all its own - it really is rather scary, for one thing.

However, I like that the kids seem to be operating in their own little world (no helicopter parents in old St. Louis, I guess). If nothing else, the segment is a showcase for the unique gifts of Margaret O'Brien. For all Minnelli's legerdemain I don't think it works without her.

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Just saw the new Little Women. 

There are things I loved about this version and also things I really disliked. Here is what I liked:

- I loved the flashback structure. I thought that it solved one of the biggest problems of the Little Women -- the warm, charming, but slow-moving first "childhood" half with the somewhat depressing, adult second half. By tying the two together constantly in flashback we see how childhood dreams dissolve into harsh realities.

- I loved Saoirse Ronan as Jo. I love Winona Ryder but she wasn't strong enough as Jo. Ronan does have the fierceness and tomboyish-ness.

- I LOVED Jo's bittersweet reaction to Laurie marrying Amy. Love is not always romantic and it's possible to be absolutely heartbroken that a childhood friend has now moved on. 

- The development of the Amy/Laurie romance. Thought it was well-done and believable. 

- I liked how Beth was portrayed as genuinely sickly from the beginning. It made her early demise believable.

- I loved the really physical fight between Jo and Amy. There was nothing ladylike about it. In general I enjoyed the rough-and-tumble of this Little Women compared to the previous versions.

Now with that being said, there's some things that didn't work for me:

-  Florence Pugh as 12 year old Amy: NO. She was a great adult/Europe Amy but as a 12 year old? No. Her voice is the deepest and huskiest of the sisters. 

- The very modern vocal inflections during the movie were jarring. 

- The scene with Meg at the ball cut one of my favorite scenes from the book: when Meg overhears the other girls making fun of her dress and socioeconomic status. 

- Professor Bhaer. I know Gerwig wanted it to deliberately be ambiguous if the ending was fiction or reality. But in this version the seem like they barely know each other and there's nothing to suggest Jo really likes him.

- Meryl Streep as Aunt March. Yes yes I know Meryl is a goddess but sometimes I feel like her acting is now a collection of tics and mannerisms and this is exhibit A.

But overall I enjoyed this version. I think it's a great supplement to the 1994 version. Both have their virtues and flaws. 

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On 12/25/2020 at 12:46 PM, dirac said:

Any new movies to add to our list? Any old movies revisited?

I rewatched Words and Music (1948) which, technically, isn't a Christmas film. But M-G-M did release it in December 1948 as one of the studio's big releases for the holiday season.

If it's possible for a bad movie and a great movie to co-exist in the same "body," Words and Music shows how. The "bad" part is the highly fictionalized story of songwriters Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The outright fabrications and omissions (i.e. Hart's sexuality) aren't helped any by Mickey Rooney's over-the-top playing as Hart and Tom Drake's stolid playing as Rodgers. The mawkish (and ludicrous) ending with Rooney collapsing in a rain storm in front of a shoe store is particularly cringeworthy.

BUT, the musical numbers (the "great" part) truly are great. M-G-M was at peak strength in 1948 in terms of its roster of dancers and singers. On hand for the fun are June Allyson, Cyd Charisse, Perry Como, Judy Garland, Betty Garrett, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, Ann Sothern, Mel Torme and Vera-Ellen. Allyson's "Thou Swell," Garland's "I Wish I Were in Love Again" (w/ Rooney), both of Lena Horne numbers, and Kelly and Vera-Ellen's "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" are particular highlights. (Interestingly, many of the players on this movie -- including Drake, Como, Garland, Garrett, Horne, Sothern, Rooney and Torme - would all be gone from M-G-M after 1950.)

The DVD comes with an excellent commentary track from film historian Richard Barrios who provides many interesting details as to the genesis of this production. (Originally, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra were considered for the parts of Hart and Rodgers while Lucille Ball was suggested for Betty Garrett's part. There was also supposed to be an Esther Williams aquatic number!)

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Thanks, miliosr. The whole point of these songwriter bios was to provide an excuse for showcasing a bunch of great songs, but if the numbers and performers weren't absolutely top-of-the-line they could be painful. This one was good. I didn't know it had been intended for Kelly and Sinatra, who would have been better as stars if no better casting as the two principals.

When the writer was gay a whole new layer of fictionalization was called for, the most notorious example being the Cole Porter biopic starring Cary Grant, "Night and Day," with Grant uneasily nuzzling Alexis Smith as Linda. I always liked this story: One of the screenwriters, I think it was William Bowers, rang Porter to apologize for his part in making the movie. Porter told him he loved the movie, thought it was wonderful. A mystified Bowers consulted Oscar Hammerstein II, who asked him how many songs were in the picture. Twenty-plus, Bowers said. "Well, of course he loved it. You don't think he noticed that stuff that went on between his songs, do you?"

Fun fact: For a time Balanchine lived with Lorenz Hart (no, not what you're thinking). Balanchine said Hart taught him English,

larry-hart-and-balanchine-482x600.jpg

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I watched The Polar Express with my family this weekend. I didn't understand the point of it at all. I've never read the book and I think you have to grow up with the source material. Also found the motion capture animation kind of creepy.

Happy Holidays!

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Nice story, dirac. about the Cole Porter bio – sort of like the Lorenz Hart lyric about marriage being the short interval between divorces. Great photo of Balanchine and Hart. 

I think Hart's long-lived sister-in-law and biographer Dorothy kept the lid on any speculation about his sexuality. I remember hearing there were a pair of twins Hart was mad about, so maybe the twins in Words & Music are something of an in-joke. Of the W&M clips on YT, I especially liked June Allysion in the Vivienne Segal Thou Swell role and Ann Sothern in Where's the Rainbow. Some of the biting irony of the original On Your Toes and Lady is a Trump that you hear in the classic Goddard Lieberson revival recordings seemed missing. But Hart's intricate, self-critiquing lyrics are sometimes more complex than many singers can completely convey. 

Re Sothern, kept thinking of this yellow dress which was here at the San Francisco modern museum two or three years ago:

https://focusonmatisse.com/product/the-yellow-dress/

Also: once at a production of Eugene Onegin or Queen of Spades at the Met, I struck up a conversation with a woman who had been a dancer in the original On Your Toes in 1936I asked her about Hart and she remembered him as being very much in love a woman who he always was with (!). When I asked her afterwards what she thought of the Pushkin opera, she put her hands to her ears and said, "too much shooting!" But what about Slaughter on Tenth Avenue I thought later on the way home. 

Edited by Quiggin
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Quote

Some of the biting irony of the original On Your Toes and Lady is a Trump that you hear in the classic Goddard Lieberson revival recordings seemed missing. But Hart's intricate, self-critiquing lyrics are sometimes more complex than many singers can completely convey. 

His ironies contain ironies. It can take awhile to really "get" Hart. I don't know if I always do.

I'd like to think that Balanchine's idiosyncratic but expressive English owed something to him.

Quote

When I asked her afterwards what she thought of the Pushkin opera, she put her hands to her ears and said, "too much shooting!" But what about Slaughter on Tenth Avenue I thought later on the way home. 

:)

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Thanks for the link, canbelto, to the Gottlieb review in the Atlantic. I followed it to the Nolan and Marmorstein biographies and found this reminiscence by Leonard Spigelgass about the world Lorenz Hart moved in –

Quote

Larry loved actors. There were often lots of blacks at his parties, which was very unusual in those days. Of course, what an orgy then was wouldn’t be an orgy now. I mean, kissing with the lights on! Shocking!

You have to understand, homosexuality in that period was on two levels. To the world at large you were beneath contempt, but inside, inside you were a member of the most exclusive club in the world. No ordinary CPA could get into that circle, Larry Hart, Cole Porter, George Cukor. That was the world.

Gottlieb says that R&H songs were "not as jazzy as the Gershwin songs." But they did indeed become the basis of many great jazz standards. Frank Sinatra first, then Chet Baker and Miles Davis recorded famous versions of My Funny Valentine (Baker 100 times). Bix Beiderbecke started the ball rolling in 1928 with Thou Swell in double time, followed by Lester Young, Blossom Dearie and Ella Fitzgerald. Miles Davis recorded It Never Entered My Mind, as has Anita O'day, in a wonderfully slurred version. There's Blue Moon by Coleman Hawkins (1935) and Mel Tormé (Words & Music above). So there are at least 20 core R&H jazz standards, whereas the biggest Rodgers and Hammerstein jazz hit I can think of has been the treacly My Favorite Things which John Coltrane had made (exorcised?) into a jazz masterpiece.

Chet Baker

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SGAcP7Zh6U&feature=emb_title

Bix Beiderbecke

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1AXUNrz6YA

Edited by Quiggin
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16 hours ago, Quiggin said:

Gottlieb says that R&H songs were "not as jazzy as the Gershwin songs." But they did indeed become the basis of many great jazz standards. Frank Sinatra first, then Chet Baker and Miles Davis recorded famous versions of My Funny Valentine (Baker 100 times). Bix Beiderbecke started the ball rolling in 1928 with Thou Swell in double time, followed by Lester Young, Blossom Dearie and Ella Fitzgerald. Miles Davis recorded It Never Entered My Mind, as has Anita O'day, in a wonderfully slurred version. There's Blue Moon by Coleman Hawkins (1935) and Mel Tormé (Words & Music above). So there are at least 20 core R&H jazz standards, whereas the biggest Rodgers and Hammerstein jazz hit I can think of has been the treacly My Favorite Things which John Coltrane had made (exorcised?) into a jazz masterpiece.

Chet Baker

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SGAcP7Zh6U&feature=emb_title

Bix Beiderbecke

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1AXUNrz6YA

Rodgers & Hart were not always delighted with what Jazz performers made of their songs ("I Like to Recognize the Tune").

As for "My Favorite Things" - I watch "The Sound of Music" every Christmas on ABC and Miss Andrews sings it very nicely indeed. So there.

Coltrane's version is great. He performed it with a soprano saxophone, which was not much in use then.

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On further consideration...........I think that "released at holiday season" doesn't quite fit into our topic. Gotta have at least one Christmas or holiday-related sequence of significance. Please feel free to start a new thread for the object of your enthusiasm, however. :)

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For New Year's, I watched Holiday Inn (1942) - which has Christmas and New Year's content!

To say that Holiday Inn is problematic would be the understatement of the year. The blackface "Abraham" number really is as terrible as its critics have said. What makes it especially bad is that everyone working at the inn when "Abraham" is performed is in blackface -- the band, the waiters and waitresses, even the coat check girl!

The other thing that bothers me about Holiday Inn is the relationship between Marjorie Reynolds' character on the one hand and those of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire on the other. By the time the movie ends, I find myself wondering -- "Why does she want to be with either one of these selfish, self-centered jerks?"

All that being said, I still watch Holiday Inn every year to see the movie's real star -- the "inn" itself (which is really just a stage set, as the finale reveals.) I never tire of the scene where the inn is semi-dark and Crosby and Reynolds converse before singing "White Christmas" together. The scene is so beautifully lit and shows off the inn in all its glory.

Honorable mention: The way Virginia Dale says "picture" as "pic-cha".

I also watched the New Year's eve party scenes and some others from The Divorcee (1930) with Norma Shearer. Filmed in late 1929-early 1930, the party scenes really capture that transitional moment when the Roaring Twenties were ending and the Depression years were beginning. Some other choice moments: the car crash scene (with some bad rear projection), Shearer looking especially beautiful in location shooting from Catalina Island, and anything with Florence Eldridge as Shearer's friend, Helen, and Robert Montgomery as Shearer's retaliation one-night stand, Don.

As much as Joan Crawford resented Shearer for "stealing" this picture from her, I honestly can't picture the Crawford of 1929-30 playing this part. And I say that as a Crawford fan!

Edited by miliosr
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I just watched Soul on Disney Plus and think it will become a holiday classic even though it's not exactly a Christmas movie. But it definitely has echoes of It's a Wonderful Life. Joe is like George Bailey -- he needs to realize that the world is better off with him. I cried buckets.

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6 hours ago, canbelto said:

I just watched Soul on Disney Plus and think it will become a holiday classic even though it's not exactly a Christmas movie. But it definitely has echoes of It's a Wonderful Life. Joe is like George Bailey -- he needs to realize that the world is better off with him. I cried buckets.

I watched Soul last night and I think I need to see it again.  I don't know quite what to make of it.  Some critics have deemed it a masterpiece.  It really deals with profound themes and is not a child's cartoon at all,  although children will probably enjoy the scenes with the cat.  Pixar had an unofficial African American consultation group which became official as production went on,  and those cultural aspects struck me as unusually authentic for a Hollywood film.  It's not a holiday feel-good film,  but it does make you feel,  and think.

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7 hours ago, miliosr said:

For New Year's, I watched Holiday Inn (1942) - which has Christmas and New Year's content!

The other thing that bothers me about Holiday Inn is the relationship between Marjorie Reynolds' character on the one hand and those of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire on the other. By the time the movie ends, I find myself wondering -- "Why does she want to be with either one of these selfish, self-centered jerks?"

All that being said, I still watch Holiday Inn every year to see the movie's real star -- the "inn" itself (which is really just a stage set, as the finale reveals.) I never tire of the scene where the inn is semi-dark and Crosby and Reynolds converse before singing "White Christmas" together. The scene is so beautifully lit and shows off the inn in all its glory.

As I remember, Joan Caulfield got similar short shrift in "Blue Skies." It often happens in these buddy movies, which is basically what the Crosby-Astaire pairings are. (Bing was the bigger star at the time so he got the girl.)

I'm not a big fan of the movie but I agree that the inn is convincing and sometimbes lovely, and of course it  has "White Christmas."

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