Tag Archive for 'Musical'

The Singing Nun

The Singing Nun (8/24/15) TCM (1966 **) Directed by Henry Koster, starring Debbie Reynolds, Ricardo Montalban, Greer Garson, Katharine Ross and Ed Sullivan. When a nun lands a recording contract, then goes onto fame and glory, it makes it surprisingly hard to do the Lord’s work. Oh, the mid-1960s were a strange time. This is one of those films that everybody was aware of, most people had seen, but was really not a particularly good film. The screenplay (based on a true story — more on that in a minute) seemed to have been written in about a week, and the lighting throughout felt more suitable for a TV show than a feature film. Attempts to add contemporary relevance (“I’m going to have an abortion, sister!”) seemed completely discordant. And I didn’t even find the music to be particularly memorable! Though I’m not interested enough to do a lot of research, I’m understandably curious about whether or not this project was rushed into production based on the success of The Sound of Music, released the year before. Now I mentioned that The Singing Nun was based on a real person, a woman named Jeanne Deckers, who achieved fame in the early 1960s because of a French-language chart-topping song “Dominique.” Her story is actually quite tragic, and in 1985 she was no longer a nun and committed suicide, along with her female lover.

Finian’s Rainbow

Finian’s Rainbow (6/28/15) TCM (1968 ***1/2) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the musical by E.Y. Harburg, Fred Saidy and Burton Lane, starring Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele and Don Francks. When Finian McLonergan steals a leprechaun’s pot of gold and travels to America’s deep South, it doesn’t take long before the rightful owner shows up and demands its return. While it certainly doesn’t seem that long ago, I’d previously watched and reviewed this film back on 3/1/06, and described how it became one of my sentimental favorites. While it’s not a perfect movie, I’m so glad to report that its place in my heart hasn’t changed much since childhood. I haven’t much to add other than this time around I noticed some similarities to The Muppet Movie (1979). Specifically, compare the Muppets’ “Moving Right Along” to Keenan Wynn in “The Begat.” In addition to that, I also began to wonder if Finian‘s original musical was influenced to any degree by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Curiously, googling the obvious search terms shed absolutely no light on the matter. (Favorite)


Evita (6/21/15) SHO (1996 ***1/2) Directed by Alan Parker, based on the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, starring Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. When Eva Duarte marries Argentina President Juan Peron, she finds a level of adoration few women ever dream of. It had been years since I’d watched this film, and it remains a distinct pleasure. I think Alan Parker, who had directed Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) and The Commitments (1991) was a perfect choice to helm this film based on the musical by the team behind Jesus Christ Superstar. It could be argued whether Madonna was the best choice as the film’s lead, but I thought she brought a voice and real gravitas to the role. Ultimately, however, I think the real star of Evita is the music, and it has a soundtrack that will continue playing in your head long after you’ve watched the film.

Thrill of a Romance

Thrill of a Romance (5/28/15) TCM (1945 ***) Directed by Richard Thorpe, starring Van Johnson, Esther Williams, Frances Gifford and Lauritz Melchior. A newlywed gets abandoned by her jerk husband on their honeymoon and in his absence she falls in love with a G.I. First off, to really enjoy this film, it helps if you love opera, because Thrill of a Romance features lots of operatic singing. If that’s not your thing, never fear: It also features quite a few scenes with Ms. Williams swimming, very nearly becoming a swimsuit fashion show. The film doesn’t have much of a plot, but then you wouldn’t really expect one from light fare like this. That Williams would wind up with her five times co-star Van Johnson was a foregone conclusion, but since her character was technically married… well, there remained the question of how it would happen without crossing 1940s codes of morality and infidelity. Since Williams’ husband exited for business dealings before their first night together as a married couple, I wondered if the film would somehow address the unconsummated state of their marriage and use that for grounds of annulment. Instead, the writers took another, not-nearly-as-satisfying solution.

Bathing Beauty

Bathing Beauty (4/25/15) TCM (1944 **1/2) Directed by George Sidney, starring Red Skelton, Esther Williams and Basil Rathbone, plus Xavier Cugat and Harry James and their respective orchestras. A misunderstanding lands a red-headed songwriter in hot water with his beautiful fiance. Here’s my 8-word review: “Not enough swimming, too much Red Skelton mugging.” This is one of those films that was pleasant enough to watch and (thanks to the big band music) a joy to listen to, but the story’s ridiulous premise stretched incredulity beyond the breaking point and didn’t leave much room for characterization. Also, what’s the hell is the point of watching an Esther Williams movie if she’s not wearing a different bathing suit at least every 15 minutes?

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (4/11/15) FXM (2011 **) Directed by Mike Mitchell, starring Jason Lee, David Cross and Jenny Slate, featuring the voices of Justin Long, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate. Dave Seville takes his musical rodent family on a Carnival Cruise, but a hang-gliding mishap strands them all (along with nemesis Ian) on a tropical island. Having watched (and not hated) the first two live action Alvin and the Chipmunks films, I wanted to round out the set and so I set our DVR to record the third. It’s definitely the weakest of the three, and I have an unsubstantiated hunch that its script might have been rushed to take advantage of the unexpected box office success of the series. There wasn’t much story to begin with and it was complicated by a villain that the audience is expected supposed to care about in spite of his or her dastardly behavior.

Easter Parade

Easter Parade (4/10/15) TCM (1948 **1/2) Directed by Charles Walters, starring Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Peter Lawford and Ann Miller, music by Irving Berlin. When the female half of a dance duo leaves for greener pastures, her former partner takes revenge by hooking up (in the 1940s sense) with an insecure, apparently dyslexic, chorus girl who doesn’t know her left foot from her right. In the TCM introduction to the film, composer Irving Berlin was painted in pretty money-grubbing shades of pastel colors. Knowing this, I found myself a little critical of some of the film’s lyrics, which didn’t seem to be up to his “White Christmas” standards. Having said that, for some period after seeing the film, I found that its title song ear-wormed its way into my brain, burning a hole shaped like the line “and you’ll find that you’re… in the rotogravure.” On a different note, Judy Garland looked pretty shaky for much of the film, and I wondered how pronounced her drug habit was at the time.


Godspell (4/5/15) TCM (1973 ****) Directed by David Greene, based on the musical by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, starring Victor Garber, David Haskell, Katie Hanley, Merrell Jackson and others. The Gospel According to St. Matthew is brought to musical life by a bunch of face-painting hippies in the vacant streets of New York City. It’s not exactly a tradition, but I often think of watching this film each Easter, and it was on an Easter morning that I did. I’ve loved this film since I was a child and I’m embarrassed to admit I basically cried continuously all the way through. While I’m very familiar with Godspell, I seem to see something new with each viewing. This time around I recognized, possibly for the first time, just how well-directed it was. Looking at its director David Greene’s filmography, his greatest awards success was in television, including an Emmy in 1977 for Roots. Another thing I think I’ve probably noticed previously but don’t remember if I’ve ever written it down: One of the film’s most famous images (and used on the cover of the soundtrack album) is the cast dancing atop one of the Twin Towers while it was still under construction. Watching Godspell with post-9/11 eyes, the film’s opening imagery with the World Trade Center coupled with the sound of a jet airplane is especially spooky. On a personal note: This was the first time I’ve watched Godspell since my mother passed away, and I’ll always be grateful to her for taking me to see this film and Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) when they were originally released. (Favorite)

Glee, Season 6

Glee, Season 6 (3/20/15) FOX (2015 ***1/4) Series created by Ian Brennan, Brad Fulchuck and Ryan Murphy, starring Chris Colfer, Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley and Jane Lynch. 13 episodes, originally aired 1/9/15 – 3/20/15. McKinley High alums return to Lima, Ohio to help usher in a new generation of glee club performers. Oh, Glee. It’s the end of an era for the world’s most famous fictional show choir kids. This final abbreviated season was an opportunity for the creator’s to wrap things up and go out with a sense of Slushee-spattered dignity. I have to hand it to them: They mostly pulled it off, recovering from the train wreck clusterfuck that was its abysmal fifth season (which I gave 2 stars). The recipe was simple enough: Get back to basics, even though it meant moving recent NYC transplant characters back to Ohio and making them Glee Club directors. I think I’ll always have mixed feelings about Glee as a series. It was a show my wife and I watched more or less from the beginning. Sometimes we looked forward to it, but often we watched out of habit. The musical numbers were always enjoyable, even if many of the accompanying storylines were so dumb they made my head hurt.

Doctor Dolittle

Doctor Dolittle (2/26/15) Encore (1967 ***1/4) Directed by Richard Fleischer, based on the books by Hugh Lofting, music by Leslie Bricusse and Lionel Newman, starring Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley, Richard Attenborough and Geoffrey Holder. A British veterinarian with the ability to “talk to the animals” and less-than-polished people skills goes on a voyage to find the Great Pink Sea Snail, as one does. I reluctantly acknowledge that, by objective standards of cinematic quality, Doctor Dolittle is not a great film. I say this even though it was nominated for Best Picture. However, it remains a sentimental favorite of mine, and watching it again after all these years conjured forth fond memories of childhood. I particularly loved the music and fetched by wife to listen with me to “Fabulous Places,” a song I’ve come to associate with her and her love of travel. (I was delighted that as the characters sang that she was able to say “been there” time and again.) Another personal tidbit: As a child, I had the LP of the film’s songs as performed by… Alvin and the Chipmunks. Some of the songs from that album can be found on Youtube.com, and I highly recommend checking them out.