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Entries in Gene Kelly (22)

Wednesday
Aug102016

Best Shot/Best Costume: "Les Girls"

For this week's episode of our cinematography series Hit Me With Your Best Shot we wanted a slight curveball as a way to celebrate the release of the Costume Design documentary Women He's Undressed. It's now available to rent on iTunes or purchase on other digital platforms. (Jose's interview with the director here). The film is about the legendary Orry-Kelly, who designed a truckload of classic Hollywood features and stars, and won three Oscars in the 1950s for An American in Paris, Les Girls  and Some Like It Hot.  So those playing "Best Shot" this week could choose any of those three. I watched Les Girls since it gets the least attention and they even use its image for the documentary's poster (left).

Les Girls  (George Cukor, 1957) is not well remembered today but curiously it reminds us yet again that mainstream Hollywood in the 50s and 60s paid a lot of attention to foreign auteurs and absorbed (or ripped off - you be the judge) their styles and conceits. The semi-musical (a few dance numbers mainly) concerns a libel lawsuit involving a former showbiz act "Barry Nichols and Les Girls" and in the courtroom we hear three different versions of the group's break up in Paris. In each of the stories Barry Nichols (Gene Kelly) gets mixed up romantically with a different girl (America's Mitzi Gaynor, Britain's Kay Kendall, and Finland's Taina Elg) and their musical act eventually implodes. It's clearly modelled on Akira Kurosawa's Rashômon (1950) which had taken an Honorary Oscar from the Academy earlier that decade.

Taina Elg quits dancing in Les Girls (1957)

So let's choose a best shot and a best costume after the jump. Happily my three favorite shots come from each of the film's three acts...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul202016

Judy by the Numbers: "Get Happy"

In 'Judy by the Numbers' Anne Marie looks back at Garland's career through key songs

By the time Judy Garland turned 28, her entire adult life and her entire star persona had been a product of MGM. In 1950, Judy Garland's image - as cultivated by MGM and the Freed Unit - was of an exuberant talent, small in stature but big in heart and voice; a buoyant box office sensation. However, the reality was different. In the 13 months between the release of In The Good Old Summertime and Summer Stock, Judy Garland fought drug addiction, rehab, an increasingly strained marriage, an unsympathetic studio, and a suicide attempt that made headlines worldwide. Filmed before her attempt but released two months after it, Summer Stock is a record of the conflict between the image of Judy Garland and the reality of Frances Gumm.

The Movie: Summer Stock (1950)
The Songwriters: Harold Arlen (music), Mack Gordon (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Eddie Bracken, Gloria de Haven, directed by Charles Walters 

The Story: "Get Happy" is the number that shouldn't be from the movie that shouldn't exist. Neither Judy Garland nor Gene Kelly was supposed to be in Summer Stock.  Judy had just dropped from Annie Get Your Gun and entered rehab, and Gene's star was rising with Arthur Freed. However, Joe Pasternak coaxed them into another picture, a return to form based on the old Rooney/Garland "let's put on a show!" model. Though it was intended to be a triumphant return, ultimately Judy lags through much of Summer Stock, which needs her energy to carry through a plodding plot. She looks and sounds a little slower, though sources disagree on why - either she was recovering from rehab or further spiralling into addiction. 

In this context - and even out of it - "Get Happy" is a shock. Filmed months later at Judy's insistence, with design and directorial help from husband Vincente Minnelli, the number shows Judy shining like she hasn't in a while. She's sexy, she's witty, she's beaming, and she's urbane in a way that sticks out from her nostalgia-laced image. Even without the maelstrom of malady surrounding her, this would be a defining number for Judy. With this backstory, "Get Happy" takes on another meaning too - the "fix." If Summer Stock is the movie where Judy Garland's facade slipped, then "Get Happy" is the number that restored it, at least temporarily. Don't worry about the exhaustion! Judy's back, and better than ever. Forget your troubles!

The fix was a public one only. Though Summer Stock was a success, Judy and MGM parted ways in 1951. Divorced from the studio that had raised her, Judy Garland would find the 1950s to be both happy and heartbreaking. She would live out private struggles in public, and her image would change from child star to musical maiden to something more complicated. For some stars, the tragedies of their lives become as image-defining as their successes.

Wednesday
Jun222016

Judy by the Numbers: "Be A Clown"

Just as there are films that shine bright in a star's history, there are also films whose histories are controversial at best. The Pirate is an odd contradiction of a movie. As one of Judy Garland's most expensive films, it was also her first MGM bust. Released two years after childrearing had put Judy on hiatus, it was nonetheless stuck in preproduction for five years before that. While it landed Judy another hit song, the knockoff written four years later would become a classic. Though The Pirate was the loudest, brightest movie Judy had made to date, its most interesting sequences were left on the cutting room floor. What to do with The Pirate?

The Movie: The Pirate (1948, MGM) 
The Songwriter: Cole Porter
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, The Nicholas Brothers, directed by Vincente Minnelli

The Story: The Pirate must have seemed cursed from the start. By the time Vincente Minnelli started filming, it had already been stuck in pre-production hell since 1943. This meant that even though Minnelli tried to keep costs down, enough money had already been sunk into it that the budget ballooned to almost $5 million. Judy wasn't helping either - she reported sick to work 99 times. Then there was the issue of reshoots. The song "Voodoo" apparently enraged Mayer so much that he ordered the nitrate negative burned. The ending was a mess and had to be reshot. Then that ending got the boot in the South because it featured black men tapdancing

All of these production problems took their toll, and the resulting movie is a little bit of a beautiful mess. Nonetheless, there are three reasons to see this movie:

  1. It's the first A Movie appearance of the Nicholas Brothers
  2. Vincente Minnelli makes really beautiful color movies
  3. Judy Garland throws china like a red-haired Bucky Walters 

However, the scene that would make the film famous was "Be A Clown." As previously mentioned, it would become a modest hit for Judy, but the real hit came four years later when Judy's friend Donald O'Connor sang "Make 'Em Laugh" in Singin' in the Rain. Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed whipped up the song while trying to find a number for O'Connor. Luckily for them, Cole Porter was under MGM contract and wasn't feeling particularly litigious. While Judy would continue to sing the original throughout her career, ultimately Singin' in the Rain made Freed's version more popular. Even great talent couldn't keep The Pirate from sinking.

Wednesday
Apr272016

Judy by the Numbers: "For Me And My Gal"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

 In 1942, Judy Garland met a man who would come to be one of her biggest onscreen costars and supporters at MGM. When he was cast in For Me and My Gal opposite Garland, Gene Kelly was as upstart Broadway star, hot off Pal Joey and trying to make the transition to Hollywood stardom. According to Kelly, Judy Garland eased that transition; she was gracious, she was giving, and she was a consummate professional. Gene Kelly, stage dancer, learned how to perform for the camera by watching Judy Garland.

The Movie: For Me And My Gal (1942)
The Songwriters: Edgar Leslie & E. Ray Goetz (lyrics) and George W. Meyer (music)
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, George Murphy directed by Busby Berkeley

The Story: The title number of For Me And My Gal shows off the unique partnership Garland and Kelly shared. The two costars sing at the piano, a staging familiar to Garland fans who'd watched her share a similar scene with Mickey Rooney many times in the past. But Kelly is no Rooney. Where Mickey would mug, Gene floats. Where Mickey would riff, Gene croons. This isn't to say that Kelly can't be funny, but his relationship to Garland is different. Mickey and Judy were a couple of firecracker kids; he gave her zing and she gave him class. Judy and Gene are two contrasting talents; his dancing complements her songs. Each provides where the other is weak, creating a harmonious musical union. It's no wonder than Judy and Gene would go on to share another three movies together.

Wednesday
Mar232016

Bye Instant Watch: Sinatra, Flashdancers, and Spielberg's Worst

It's your last chance to watch the following multiple Oscar nominated titles for free on Netflix or Amazon Prime. There are more films leaving than these but you know The Film Experience isn't good copying and pasting press releases and calling it a day. It would make our lives SO much easier but it's just not how we do. This is for you Oscar completists -- you know who you are. As is our habit, we've freeze framed the titles at random and just shared whichever image came up.

Got any feelings about these pictures? Or will you by midnight on March 31st? Do you think they deserved their wins and/or nominations?

10 OSCAR TITLES LEAVING NETFLIX AT THE END OF THE MONTH
* indicates Oscar win in the category 

African violet. I can't tell you how difficult that was to come by.

Amistad (1997)
Oscar Nods: Supporting (Anthony Hopkins), Cinematography, Costumes, Score.
Shameful Confession: I've never seen this. I think it's my most significant gap in 1990s Oscar viewing. 

9 more after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun112015

Lost in La Linka

Recommended Randomness
Movie City News there's been a lot of talk of the sexism of Hollywood hiring in terms of the directors chair. David Poland decided to investigate (albeited in a limited sample way) which studio jobs since 1999 went to previously indie directors. He's since added 2000 and 2001.
VF Hollywood Courtney Love interview excerpts - good stuff on her small role in Empire which she hopes to return to for Season 2
Deviant Art Awesome Seussified illustrations via Dr FaustusAU: Mad Max, Alien, The Exorcist and more 
TimeOut NY talks to Patti Lupone. Did you guys see her on Penny Dreadful. She was surprisingly effective in straight horror drama, no comedy or singing necessary 


MNPP honors the awesomeness that is Simon Russell Beale on Penny Dreadful (I also totally love that performance - S2 is just running circles around S1)
"New York is Dead" My pocketbook can take no more Kickstarter but I would love to see the Gayby stars (besties Matthew Wilkas and Jenn Harris) in this comic series. Sounds morbidly perfect for them
Gene Kelly's Butt is my new favorite tumblr. How come noone told me about this one before? It's a cheeky wonder
Vulture Amy Schumer photobombs a random couples engagement photo in Central Park - lucky guys!

News Catch Up
Variety in news that will surprise no one Hungary has selected Son of Saul as their Oscar entry this year. It's our first "official" player
THR Emmy Nominations will be announced at 11:30 AM EST instead of the customary morning show frenzy. Will this set off a chain reaction? (I always love the early morning thing myself)
Variety Jaden Smith is joining Baz Luhrmann's Netflix series (ugh) as a graffiti artist
Pajiba the actresses who've admitted they want to play Captain Marvel from twins Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard and onward
MTV Joseph Gordon Levitt promises that the Sandman movie will be faithful - i.e. not an "action flick" like other comic book movies
Empire Danger Danger. Terry Gilliam finally has funding for Don Quixote. Do we really need this? I once read a very convincing argument (I forget which critic -sorry) during the release of that 2002 documentary about his spectacular failure to get that made that his entire career was already Quixote myths so it was for the best that he didn't go for the redundancy

Must Read
"AS IF..." you haven't already read this. But just in case you missed it. Vanity Fair has excerpts from an upcoming book on the Oral History of Clueless that seminal teen flick which is now (gulp) 20 years old. Somehow Paul Rudd still looks basically the same but the rest of us who loved it and everyone else involved have aged. I love that one of Amy Heckerling's inspirations for it was the positivity of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

For about a hot minute yesterday I thought "ooh, we should do a 'top ten lines from Clueless' article" but by the end of the hot minute I had thought of 50 with no end in sight so perhaps we'll have to wait until its 25th to come up with that. Daunting... as perfection tends to be.