Musicals


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Silk Stockings

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Silk Stockings [Blu-ray]

Tagline – BIG BOUNCY BEAUTIFUL!

Starring – Fred Astaire (Steve Canfield), Cyd Charisse (Ninotchka Yoschenko), Janis Paige (Peggy Dayton), Peter Lorre (Brankov), George Tobias (Vassili Markovitch).

Released – June, 1957

Directed By – Rouben Mamoulian

Produced By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Description – American film producer Steve Canfield is making his next picture in Paris, France. Canfield wants the music for the film to be composed by Russian Peter Illyich Boroff. This is fine with Boroff as he likes Paris so much he does not want to return to Russia.

His decision does not sit well with the Russian government and they send three operatives from Moscow to bring the composer back to the mother country. In order to keep Boroff from being brought home, Canfield must come up with something to dissuade the Russian operatives from their mission.

He decides to use the most effective means possible by bribing the operatives with women, nightclubs, and champagne. In addition, Canfield asks his leading lady Peggy Dayton to use her feminine wiles to help with the problem.

Back in Moscow, the commissar of the Ministry is worried why the mission is taking so long. He decides to send the very hard-lined agent Ninotchka Yoschenko to bring everyone home. While she steadfastly refuses to be lured by the decadent appeal of Paris, somehow Canfield is able to romance her in the hope of sabotaging her mission. He goes so far as to even propose marriage.

Upon hearing how Boroff’s music has been changed to suit the film, Yoschenko and Boroff return to Russia.

While this may seem like the end of the films production, Canfield has one more trick up his sleeve.

NOTABLE: After the completion of Silk Stockings, Fred Astaire decided to take a break from musicals and concentrate on non-musical roles. He would not make another musical until 1968.

For Director Rouben Mamoulian this would be his last motion picture. He would spend the remainder of his career directing Broadway plays.

The original Broadway play of Silk Stockings ran for 478 performances. The storyline is a remake of the 1939 film Ninotchka starring Greta Garbo who was also directed by Mamoulian.

Cyd Charisse’s vocals were performed by Carol Richards. Richards had also sung for Charisse in the films Brigadoon (1954) and It’s Always Fair Weather (1955).

Funny Face

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Funny Face (1957) (BD) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – ‘S Wonderful! ‘S Marvelous!

Starring – Audrey Hepburn (Jo Stockton), Fred Astaire (Dick Avery), Kay Thompson (Maggie Prescott), Michel Auclair (Professor Emile Flostre).

Released – February, 1957

Directed By – Stanley Donan

Produced By – Paramount Pictures

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Quality Magazine editor and publisher Maggie Prescott is on the lookout for the next big fashion trend. She wants something different, a new look, that is both “beautiful” and “intellectual.” Photographer Dick Avery is just the man for the job.

Maggie and Dick decide to start by finding the perfect location for the new look. They discover and take over a small book store called Embryo Concepts. The store is managed by Jo Stockton, a shy and philosophical young woman. Maggie decides to use Jo in some of the first fashion shots in order to give them a more intellectual look.

Jo agrees to do the shots, but right now has only one ambition. That is to get to Paris and attend a lecture by famed philosopher, Professor Emile Flostre.

While developing the negatives of the shots, Dick believes he sees something in Jo’s face. Something that makes Jo perfect for the entire new look fashion campaign. Maggie and Dick send for Jo and she is immediately set upon by hair designers, and fashion and makeup experts.

This is something that the philosophical Jo wants no part of, that is, until she hears Dick mention something about a fashion show in Paris. This would be the perfect opportunity for her to get to France.

It isn’t long before Maggie, Dick, and Jo are off to Paris. Dick and Jo begin shooting photos at all the famous landmarks in the beautiful city. It’s then that something no one expected begins to happen. Dick and Jo are falling in love.

NOTABLE: Funny Face received Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.

The character of Dick Avery, as played by Fred Astaire, is based on real-life photographer Richard Avedon who set up most of the photography for the film.

When scenes were filmed in Paris there existed a political problem in France that left cast and crew on edge due to the violent riots in the city.

Actress Cyd Charisse was offered the role of Jo Stockton, but turned it down. Initially, the agents for Audrey Hepburn also turned the role down, but after reading the script Audrey Hepburn overruled them and wanted the role. Hepburn had also been offered the lead in Gigi, but preferred to do this picture.

The films producers wanted both Hepburn and Astaire for the lead roles and resulted to a little trickery in order to get them both. When speaking with each, the producers told them that the other had already signed to do the picture, feeling that they would not pass up the chance to work together. They were right.

httpv://youtu.be/XjXxl3WF6R4

 

Guys and Dolls

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Guys and Dolls [Blu-ray]

Starring – Marlon Brando (Sky Masterson), Jean Simmons (Sgt. Sarah Brown), Frank Sinatra (Nathan Detroit), Vivian Blaine (Miss Adelaide).

Released – November, 1955

Directed By – Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Produced By – The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Description – It’s late 1940’s New York and the town is full of gamblers. Not that it always isn’t full of gamblers, but this time something special is brewing.

Nathan Detroit is trying to organize and find a location for “The Oldest Established Floating Crap Game in New York.” Usually an easy task, this time Detroit has a couple of problems with the project.

First, he is short of money, and secondly, the police, led by Lt. Brannigan, are “putting on the heat.” Police pressure had caused all of Detroit’s usual locations to turn him down. Only one location, the Biltmore Garage, is willing to allow the game, but it doesn’t come without additional cost. $1,000 to be exact, with payment due up front.

If these are not enough problems for a respectable gambler to deal with, behind the scenes, Nathan’s girlfriend has tired of their fourteen-year engagement and wants to get married and for Nathan to go straight.

Enter Sky Masterson, a gambler willing to bet on just about anything, for just about any amount. Nathan hatches a plan to bet Masterson $1,000 that he can’t get a girl, of Nathan’s picking, to go to dinner with Masterson in Cuba.

Masterson accepts the bet, and the game is on. The girl Nathan has is mind will be quite a challenge. Sgt. Sarah Brown is with the Save a Soul Mission and strongly opposes gambling. To get Brown to accept his offer of a date, Masterson decides to pose as a gambler looking to reform.

With the mission currently empty and “a store full of repentance with no customers,” Sgt. Brown, although a little suspicious, would like nothing better than to reform a gambler with the reputation of Sky Masterson.

Right now, Nathan Detroit is feeling pretty good about his chances of winning the $1,000 from Masterson and begins to assemble all the gamblers who are in town for the big crap game.

But, it’s not over yet as Police Lt. Brannigan keeps showing up at the wrong time and place, and dangerous gangster Big Jule is in town for the game, and Big Jule doesn’t like to lose.

NOTABLE: Guys and Dolls received four Academy Award nominations: Best Cinematography, Color, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color, Best Costume Design, Color, and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Marilyn Monroe wanted to play the role of Miss Adelaide, but director Mankiewicz was not interested in working with Monroe again (All About Eve), and pretended he never received her phone messages.

Guys and Dolls was the only Samuel Goldwyn production to be released by MGM.

Frank Sinatra was not happy with the non-singing Marlon Brando getting the role of Sky Masterson, the role Sinatra himself wanted and referred to Brando as “Mumbles.” Not to be outdone, a number of years later, Brando said of Sinatra, “Frank’s the kind of guy who, when he gets to heaven, is going to give God a hard time for making him bald.”

The original Broadway production of Guys and Dolls opened in November of 1950, ran for 1200 performances, and won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

Before losing the bid for production rights to Samuel Goldwyn, Paramount had thought it had the dream cast with Clark Gable as Sky Masterson, Bob Hope as Nathan Detroit, Jane Russell as Sgt. Sarah Brown, and Betty Grable as Miss Adelaide.

 

Oklahoma

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Oklahoma [Blu-ray + DVD + DHD]

Tagline – Now a motion picture as big as all outdoors!

Starring – Gordon MacRae (Curly), Gloria Grahame (Ado Annie), Gene Nelson (Will Parker), Charlotte Greenwood (Aunt Eller), Shirley Jones (Laurey), Eddie Albert (Ali Hakim), James Whitmore (Mr. Carnes), Rod Steiger (Jud Fry).

Released – October, 1955

Directed By – Fred Zinnemann

Produced By – Magna Theatre Corporation, Rodgers & Hammerstein Productions

Distributed By – Magna Theatre Corporation, RKO Radio Pictures

Description – Based on the 1943 Broadway play, Oklahoma takes place in Claremore, Oklahoma during the early part of the 1900’s. Lately, Curly has been acting just a little strange whenever he is around Laurey Williams and it is becoming obvious that he is more than a “little sweet” on her.

Curly asks Laurey to  a box social dance assuming that she will say yes. When she teases him a bit about not having proper transportation he describes an imaginary surrey pulled by a team of snow-white horses. Disappointed with the real option for travel she is offended by his deception and accepts the same invitation from rival Jud Fry.

Will Parker also plans on attending the dance and intends to ask Ado Annie to marry him. He has been to the Kansas City, where they actually have telephones and indoor plumbing, and earned the required $50.00 that Annie’s father says he must have in order to propose marriage. However, Will has some competition for her hand in traveling salesman Ali Hakim.

Let the musical game of romance begin as the two love-struck cowhands compete for the girl’s of their dreams against a surly ranch hand and a ladies man traveling salesman. It won’t be easy as there is a murder plot in the works and a tragic accident in the near future.

NOTABLE: Oklahoma won the Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, and Best Sound, Recording. Nominations were also received for Best Cinematography, Color, and Best Film Editing.

In 2007, Oklahoma was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

This was the first Todd-AO production. Created by Michael Todd, the film was shot twice. Once at 24fps to be released in 35 mm CinemaScope and the second 70 mm version released in Todd-AO.

Most of the filming for Oklahoma was done in Nogales, Arizona due to the many oil wells in Oklahoma that were a distraction for exterior scenes.

Many notables auditioned for roles in this film and included James Dean and Paul Newman for the role of Curly, Joanne Woodward for the role of Laurey, and Eli Wallach and Ernest Borgnine for the role of Jud.

This was director Fred Zinnemann’s first musical and cost a then-whopping $6.8 million dollars.

Oklahoma marked the film debut of actress Shirley Jones.

Oklahoma was purposely filmed with very little movement of the camera in order to give in a Broadway feel.

The censors had a problem with the original Broadway lyrics for the song Kansas City. The verse, “I could swear that she was padded from her shoulders to her heels. And later in the second act when she began to peel. She proved that everything she had was absolutely real.” was changed to “I could swear that she was padded from her shoulders to her heel. And then she started dancing and her dancing made me feel that every single thing she had was absolutely real.”

It’s Always Fair Weather

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

It’s Always Fair Weather

Tagline – MGM’s Gigantic and Joyous Musical

Starring – Gene Kelly (Ted Riley), Dan Dailey (Doug Hallerton), Cyd Charisse (Jackie Leighton), Dolores Gray (Madeline Bradville), Michael Kidd (Angie Valentine).

Released – September, 1955

Directed By – Stanley Donan, Gene Kelly

Produced By –  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Description – Ex-GI’s Ted, Doug, and Angie, became best friends while serving together during World War II. The war has ended and the trio has returned home to spend their last evening together in their favorite New York bar.

Before going their separate ways, they discuss their hopes and dreams for the future and agree to meet again at the bar in ten years. Ten years is a long time and, although they all show up for the ten year meeting, things have changed.

In very little time they realize that they have grown apart during the ten year period and are now very different people. Ted became a boxing promoter and it didn’t work out, Angie runs a small hamburger stand and struggles to get by, and Doug is in advertising and nursing an ulcer.

Each man is now forced to face the reality that his life has not turned out to be one of fulfilled hopes and dreams. However, they are destined for one more reunion when Ted falls for Jackie, a beautiful woman with a plan.

Jackie, a television program coordinator, has secretly arranged for the men to be brought together again on a popular live TV show. But, arranging the circumstances to bring the men together has hit a snag… it seems there are a group of gangsters looking for Ted.

NOTABLE: It’s Always Fair Weather received two Oscar nominations, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.

Originally conceived as a Broadway sequel to ‘On The Town,’ the plans were changed at Gene Kelly’s insistence. It was produced as an MGM musical upon Kelly’s return from Europe where he had been making musicals to take advantage of tax laws. The films failed, the tax law was revoked and Kelly returned to America.

Cyd Charisse’s singing was dubbed by Carol Richards.

Although receiving good reviews, It’s Always Fair Weather was a financial disappointment. There were a number of reasons as there is a certain sadness to the film and audiences just didn’t like unhappy musicals. Also, more and more Americans were staying home to watch television.

Many consider the tap-dancing on roller skates solo to ‘I Like Myself’ by Gene Kelly to be one of his finest routines.

httpv://youtu.be/kr5Gscf9bDI

httpv://youtu.be/Aus1PA5-SyI