The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R

 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


Powered by Squarespace
Comment Fun

The Highs & Lows of RALPH BAKSHI
comment(s) du jour

"Wow it's so nice to see somebody else appreciate American Pop" - Doctor Strange

"Cool World has its moments but PG-13 hurt the film's potential to be so much more" - Steven


Keep TFE Strong



Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference to The Film Experience in terms of stability and budget to dream bigger. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience


For those who can't commit to a dime a day, consider a one time donation for an article or a series you are glad you didn't have to live without.

What'cha Looking For?

Entries in Mary Astor (4)


Smackdown 1941: Margaret, Mary, Sara, Patricia & Teresa

Behold the Supporting Actresses of 1941, two stalwart mothers, two helpless pawns, and one reckless diva. All but one of them, the diva and eventual winner, were in Best Picture nominees in this highly satisfying Oscar showdown.


Allgood, Astor, Collinge, Wright, and Wycherley

Oscar had entered its teenage years by 1941, (14th annual Academy Awards) but it was still a green enough institution that all of its supporting actresses were first timers. Mary Astor, who won the Oscar, was the only star among the nominees and she was having a great year also starring in the noir classic The Maltese Falcon. Career momentum issues should never be underestimated with Oscar outcomes. Astor was joined in the shortlist by two sturdy character players in their 60s: the British stage actress Margaret Wycherley and the Irish screen actress Sara Allgood (who had been featured in some early Alfred Hitchcock movies). Rounding out the nominee list were two true finds making their charmed film debuts in the Best Picture nominee The Little Foxes, Patricia Collinge and Teresa Wright, the latter of whom was an instant darling in Hollywood and would win the Oscar the following year for Mrs Miniver. There's that momentum factor again.


Angelica Jade Bastien, Anne Marie, Nick Davis, Nathaniel R, Stinkylulu and You - we tabulate reader votes and quotes from your ballots appear!

Without further ado, the main event...


SARA ALLGOOD as "Mrs. Morgan" in How Green Was My Valley
Synopsis: A mother of six boys and one girl watches her family come apart over the ravages of coal mining on their once idyllic town
Stats: 62 yrs old. First and only nom. 36 minutes of screen time (or 30% of running time). 

Angelica: Warmth, teary-eyed noble sense of self, and protectiveness indicative of a mother figure in a picture that displays the ways things were. There are brief, interesting flashes that give her character more weight but even then it isn’t a performance I would care to revisit or even felt particularly moved by. ♥♥

Anne Marie: The Academy does love its long-suffering mothers. Allgood is appropriately fierce and folksy. Unfortunately, she's never given much to do. Her banter with the father is great and she does bring some humor, but at no point does Allgood play Mrs. Morgan as a believable three-dimensional character instead of Welsh window dressing. Allgood adds little to the film besides extra saccharine nostalgia-- something with which How Green Was My Valley already overflowed.  ♥♥

Nathaniel: Her famous mother tiger speech with an elemental storm whipping up around her is actually the least of it. It's in the gestures and physicality that she transcends: leaning defeated against her doorway, a hilariously broad moment with socks and shoes, arms outstretched or swiping at her sons and husband, and two wrenching atypically still moments (involving gossip and a mining accident, respectively) when she's lost in worrying thought. It's silent film acting at its best and who needs the sound in How Green Was My Valley anyway? ♥♥♥♥

Nick: Allgood’s fairly generic and physically typecast as the stalwart mother in Ford’s mining-town memory-piece, winning her nomination by being one of few women in a male-driven frontrunner. Her big scene admonishing strikers who have ostracized her husband feels awkward and unmodulated. She’s better with a late, blank-faced close-up before an empty elevator platform, but she’s just delivering on directorial instructions.  I see few of the subtleties an Anne Revere might have brought to this part   

Readers: "Essentially pretty thin but leaves a fond memory nonetheless. She's playing a cliche, and more or less playing into the cliche but she's adorable at it.." - Goran  (reader avg: ♥♥♥¼

StinkyLulu: Allgood’s Mother Morgan feels like a collection of snapshots gathered in a scrapbook. Her declamatory zeal and stalwart spirit vividly animate this archetype in the instant (and in ways that reveal the actress’s roots in the Irish theater). But her captivating constancy seems to lack the independently clarifying continuity necessary to cue a coherent characterization amongst the scattered, glancing episodes the film affords her. ♥♥

Actress earns 14¼ ❤s

MARY ASTOR as "Sandra Kovak" in The Great Lie
Synopsis: a famous concert pianist becomes pregnant with the child of another woman's man
Stats: 35 yrs old. First and only nomination. 47 minutes of screen time (or 43% of running time). 

Angelica: Astor is a maelstrom of female desire. For the most part she is able to strike the right balance between the glamour, vulnerability and the surreal nature needed for women’s pictures. Even better she looks like she’s having fun while doing so. She especially does interesting things with her voice as she purrs, cracks, and devours her way through the film. ♥♥♥♥

Anne Marie: In a diva-off, Astor goes at Bette Davis with her well-manicured claws out and damn near walks away with the picture. Considering the film, that's not saying much. The Great Lie thrives on its leading ladies' explosive rivalry. Whenever they're apart, the seams in the melodrama begin to show. Astor throws shade like a pro, but she can't distract from a ridiculous film. A fun performance, but ultimately unworthy of an Oscar win.  ♥♥♥

Nathaniel: The Great Lie requires more than a few scenes for acclimation - yes, you're watching a Bette Davis movie in which a chain-smoking love-to-hate-her diva drops death stares with quips and that woman is NOT Bette Davis. Astor struts around with such supreme entitlement that you absolutely believe that she thinks of Davis as her supporting actress. Astor's hot exclamatory moods and chilly threats reverberate in exactly the same way those huge chords she keeps dropping on the piano, do -- BOOM! Here's your drama, bitch. ♥♥♥♥

Nick: Astor plays her first scene as comedy; you can see The Palm Beach Story around the corner. Later, she reprises some cooped-up anguish from Red Dust, pitched even higher.  She and Goulding let the tones in her performance veer a little broadly… but she’s still typically entrancing. Her physical gestures, her implacable will, her acting of the character’s own acting, her brilliant reading of the one-word line “Money”: they all make her a worthy duet-partner with Davis, elevating the tawdry Great Lie into something special. ♥♥♥♥ 

Readers: "Glorious. Thanks to Mary's enormous skill rather than being offputting she's fascinating." - Joel  (reader avg: ♥♥♥♥

StinkyLulu: True, I never quite buy the character’s supposed dissoluteness (and — with George Brent at the tip — this is one tepid love triangle). Even so, Mary Astor’s arch, aristocratic vulnerability in the role of hard-partying, pampered recording artist is somehow genuinely compelling. But Astor’s most enduring, most delicious accomplishment here? Being the femme formidable enough to bring out the stone butch we all knew lived deep inside Bette Davis. ♥♥♥♥

Actress earns 23 ❤s


PATRICIA COLLINGE as "Birdie Hubbard" in The Little Foxes
Synopsis: an alcoholic mistreated wife warns her beloved niece, who she worries will end up just like her, about the lack of love in her family
Stats: Then 49 yrs old. Film debut! First and only nod. 21 minutes of screen time (or 18% of running time). 

Angelica: Bringing almost harsh buoyancy to the role. The most moving, powerful moments are when we see how utterly depressed she is at the lack of worth she carries in her family. In these solemn moments we can see how depression changes the architecture of her face, the slope of her shoulders, creates subtle changes in her voice. While she can’t wrestle away the attention away from its lead she is an interesting counterpoint of older, southern femininity to Bette Davis’s Regina. ♥♥♥♥

Anne Marie: Lillian Hellman wrote Birdie to be a symbol of the genteel South that was destroyed by Reconstruction. Patricia Collinge makes Birdie Hubbard into something more: a fragile, whole woman, layering constant fear with hopeful sweetness. Each time she’s abused, Birdie crumbles a little further before shoring herself up behind a flimsy smile. Rather than fall into martyrdom, Collinge tempers Birdie’s victimhood with the wisdom that Birdie’s most pitiable pain comes from her desperation to be loved.  ♥♥♥♥♥

Nathaniel: Whole scenes go by in which we only see her, if we see her at all, observing silently, dead still, from a corner; she's mere wallpaper to the vipers around her. The character's story may be over-explained in a final monologue (we got the gist from Collinge's work) but the actress wrings it for maximum anxious humanity and absolutely sells the depth of affection and alarm for her niece in two gorgeous face-dropping sequences. ♥♥♥♥

Nick: Birdie Hubbard, the “Aunt Fanny” of The Little Foxes, is less formidable than Agnes Moorehead in Ambersons but Collinge endows her with comparable charisma, making her loneliness and blather into something magnetic.  Her tipsy showcase monologue discloses brutal self-awareness but not total self-awareness; she doesn’t redeem Birdie’s dissipation as a removable veil or unfair projection.  Sad, funny, earnest, she safeguards the crucial “sym-” in “sympathetic” and communicates wonderfully in deep-focus backgrounds without pulling focus. ♥♥♥♥ 

Readers: "In an often icy film about reducing life to a financial transaction, Collinge makes her very humanity read as cumbersome baggage to her husband's success, profoundly earning her character's tragedy." -Sean D. (reader avg: ♥♥♥♥

StinkyLulu: Collinge has such a clear handle on the character of Birdie Hubbard — perhaps the most tragic flibbertigibbet in all of American dramaturgy — that it’s a shame that neither she nor Wyler seemed to quite figure out how to bring that clarity to camera. I remain convinced that Collinge is delivering a devastating performance; it just happens to be right outside of (or simply flattened by) Wyler’s frame. ♥♥

Actress earns 23 ❤s


TERESA WRIGHT as "Alexandra Giddens" in The Little Foxes
Synopsis: A young woman tries to make sense of her family's shady dealings as her goodhearted father takes ill and a reporter comes courting
Stats: 23 yrs old. Film debut! First of three noms. 41 minutes of screen time (or 35% of running time). 

Angelica: Even though I’ve seen this film several times one constant remains: how much this performance annoys me. In the beginning, she comes off as almost too naïve and wide-eyed. Her innocence isn’t lovely but shrill. She gets more interesting shadings as she questions her mother. But still she brings little nuance or depth to a role of a young girl finding her sense of self in the shadow of a monstrous mother figure. ♥♥

Anne Marie: Someone has to be the soul of the film. Xandra spends a lot of time being lectured to, but Wright plays her as an active, empathetic listener. Even if she's heavy-handed with Xandra’s more petty and childish side, her commitment justifies that dramatic turn in the last act. Wright would play a similar character in Shadow of a Doubt, and maturity would give her the ability to build a steadier character arc.  ♥♥♥♥

Nathaniel: Teresa's brand of noble and naive earnestness, too pure to be completely undone by the hard truths she suddenly learns about a monstrous loved one only works for me in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) but I'm glad she had this arc to play for a dry run of that vastly improved star turn. But in this utterly amazing ensemble and this fine Oscar shortlist, she's the weak link, however capable she is at dramatizing true affection and dim awareness. ♥♥

Nick: By 1943’s Shadow of a Doubt, Wright nailed her distinctive balance of sweetness and mettle.  In The Little Foxes, she’s just getting started.  I’m not yet fully sold.  My favorite moments involve her quizzical, slightly shamed response to her semi-suitor’s excitement that she’s finally defying her mother—as if she never perceived her own acquiescence.  But she overdoes girlish naïveté in early scenes and could afford a smidge more power in later ones.  ♥♥ 

Readers: "This year's theme seems to be that Bette Davis elevates all her costars' performances..." -Suzanne (reader avg: ♥♥⅓

StinkyLulu: Teresa Wright is absolutely adequate as the young Alexandra, reliable and effective, playing childlike innocence as plausibly as she conveys early onset cynicism. Though her handling of Hellman’s declamatory chatter might be less expert than the old pros surrounding her, Wright’s vivid acuity delivers her best moments, especially as she “listens” and learns. ♥♥

Actress earns 14⅓ ❤s

MARGARET WYCHERLEY as "Mother York" in Sergeant York
Synopsis: A farm widow worries and prays for her wayward eldest as he tries to find his way in the world before leaving for war
Stats: 60 yrs old. First and only nom. 18 minutes screen time (or 13% of running time). 

Angelica: There is a quiet presence and wisdom brought to the role. But at the same time even if she plays the role well she plays it exactly as expected. There is no interior life to the character so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised at how little of an impression she left on me. ♥♥

Anne Marie: Another fiery, folksy mother, this time the American model. Like Allgood, Wycherly doesn't get much to do except act noble, inspire nostalgia, and quote the Bible. Wycherly played a terrifying mother in White Heat, so she clearly had the ability to create vibrant characters, even if her limited screentime prevents her from doing so in Sergeant York. When playing poor-but-proud characters, there’s a difference between “simple” and “simplistic.” Unfortunately, Wycherly's Ma York is the latter.  

Nathaniel: The filmmaking does all the heavy-lifting, continually cueing up a reverent theme when Mother York enters a frame, but it rarely asks much of her once it's given Still and all, in a sea of broad ACTING caricatures and bizarre Tennessee accents, she manages a surprising amount of earth-worn toplands authenticity. And I love her lack of sentiment when eyeing her wayward son. ♥♥

Nick: A distinguished graduate from the Of Beulah Bondage school of supporting actressing, Wycherly brings a similar, rough-hewn, cabin-folks understatement to all her scenes—even a late reunion that could easily have gone lachrymose. Such consistency, clearly enforced by her director, speaks to both the performer’s admirable resolve and the limited parameters of the role, as conceived and executed.  Points for her distracted fingering of a wicker basket while defending her son from local judgment. Business!  ♥♥

Readers: "Ma York may not say a lot, but still waters run deep, thanks to Wycherly." - Tom G.  (reader avg: ♥♥

StinkyLulu: At first, Margaret Wycherly’s cadaverous clarity in the role of Sergeant York’s mother freaked me out. (Was she the live model for the witch in Snow White or what?) Then I became fascinated by (and even fond of)  Wycherly’s “Country Crone” version of archetypal mother love. Sure, it’s all penetrating gazes and impenetrably homespun homilies, but Wycherly’s clarifying presence anchors this film’s (and Cooper’s) unexpected effectiveness, which is sorta what actressing at the edges is all about. ♥♥♥

Actress earns 12 ❤s


Oscar chose Mary Astor, the most famous and accomplished of the nominees prior to 1941. The Smackdown panel loved her, too. But maybe we should have Bette Davis, 1941's good luck charm in this category, break the news to her.

Look at it this way, Mary. We already shared a man and a child... You have practice!

Mary Astor has to share the Smackdown win!  In a shocker, despite five panelists and all reader ballots tabulated, we have to call it a draw.

The winners are Mary Astor & Patricia Collinge in a tie! 


Thank you for attending! 
If you enjoyed it, share it on facebook or twitter or other social media sites. Surely you have a friend who loves Old Hollywood! If you're new to the Smackdown we've revisited 1952's pie-throwing brawl,  1968's sinister sapphics, 1980's warm hugs, and 2003's messy histrionics. Previously over 30 Smackdowns were hosted @ StinkyLulu's old site

Further Reading? If you'd like to dig deeper, here's the way these five characters are introduced, a tribute to How Green Was My Valley, and the Best Leading Actress (non-Oscared) from '41, twice over. Our panel also sounded off on other Supporting Actresses worth your time

What's next for the Smackdown?
We've scheduled this whole summer in advance for your viewing pleasure. For June we'll be celebrating 1964 all month (consider it a 50th anniversary spectacular) so queue up a storied and interesting quintet of films: My Fair Lady, The Chalk Garden, The Night of the Iguana, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, and Zorba the Greek and join us by sending in your reader ranked votes and commenting on the '64 festivities. In addition to the Smackdown fiilms, we'll look at the James Bond film Goldfinger and possibly a few more titles to be determined.. Any requests?


Introducing... The Supporting Actresses of 1941

The next Supporting Actress Smackdown hits this coming Saturday and you can still vote as part of the panel. Your votes count toward the outcome since one of the panelists spots is for the readers! We'll look at How Green Was My Valley for Best Shot late tonight but for now, it's another edition of "Introducing..." How do we first meet these 1941 characters who will then grant their actresses the honor of becoming Academy Awards Nominees? Was the direction, music and lighting already helping to single these ladies out for honors?

Here's how they're introduced in their films...

Click to read more ...


Oscar Horrors: Hush Hush Campy Agnes

[Editors Note: For today's episode of Oscar Horrors, I invited award-winning writer Manuel Muñoz ("What You See in the Dark" "The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue") to join us. I've gave all the contributors a list of every Oscar nomination from the horror genre and they chose their own subjects. -Nathaniel R.]

Here Lies... Agnes Moorehead in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte is either Grand Guignol catnip or the most ridiculous Scooby Doo plot ever, depending on your level of generosity.  The film lacks the sustained camp thrills of its kissing cousins What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Strait-Jacket.  But it remains obligatory viewing, whether to fulfill your quota of the era’s is-she-crazy suspense vehicles starring Hollywood’s aging belles, or to check out Oscar offerings with peculiarly high nomination counts.  Charlotte picked up seven (yes, seven) Oscar nods and while you might shrug off most of them as applause for technical show, a major Supporting Actress bid (and maybe an almost-win) came with the fourth and final invite to the big dance for Agnes Moorehead as 

But first, the tawdry beginnings.  Set on a once sunny Louisiana estate in 1927, the film introduces us to a young Charlotte, whose father doesn’t approve of the news he’s heard from her secret suitor.  At an elaborate party (and in one of the most nimbly arranged sequences of the film), things get downright bloody, and Charlotte emerges from the shadows with one of the most conspicuously stained dresses ever to stun a crowd.

Fast forward decades later, and our fun begins

Click to read more ...


Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

To honor the passing of the great songwriter Hugh Martin Friday at 96 years of age, a repost of a review of one of my 100 favorite movies, a member of my personal canon. (If you joined us after 2008 you can pretend it's a new essay!) Imagine giving the world such perfectly crafted enduring gifts as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The Trolley Song". R.I.P. Mr. Martin.

Meet Me in St. Louis "The Blossoming of Judy Garland"

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Directed by Vincente Minnelli; Written by Irving Brecher and Fred F Finklehoffe from the novel "5135 Kensington" by Sally Benson; Starring Judy Garland, Mary Astor, Leon Ames, Margaret O'Brien, Lucille Bremer, Harry Davenport, June Lockhart, Tom Drake and Marjorie Main; Production & Distributor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Released 11/28/1944

It's Summer 1903 in Missouri and the Smith family are buzzing about the World's Fair coming to their town the following spring. Teenage daughters Rose (Lucille Bremer) and Esther (Judy Garland) are dreaming about proposals from handsome men, the eldest son Lonnie (Henry H Daniels Jr) is off to college and the father Lon (Leon Ames), a junior partner at a law firm, is about to tell the family that they're all relocating to New York Ci -- oh, but let's stop there. For any plot summary of Meet Me in St. Louis does the movie a great disservice. This classic musical isn't plot driven at all so much as a series of three seasonal vignettes of family life: Summer, Autumn and Winter with the following Spring in 1904 serving as a coda. Almost all of what might be called "plot" in Meet Me In St. Louis is imagined. That is to say, that the story drivers are all in the future. One day the family will move to New York. One day Rose, Lonnie, and Esther will be married. One day St. Louis will catch the attention of the nation. In essence the movie is a lovingly rendered still life of a family (and town) on the brink of great changes rather than an animated portrait of the changes themselves.

St. Louis begins smartly in the kitchen, the heart of any home. Mrs. Anna Smith (Mary Astor) and her maid and cook Katie (Marjorie Main) are preparing ketchup. Katie thinks it's too sweet, Anna thinks her husband will like it that way. Various members of the cast scoot through the kitchen sharing their opinions, too. They can't seem to agree on the flavor: too sweet? too sour? too spicy? too watery? Vincente Minnelli the real gourmet cook in the director's chair doesn't have the same problem. He gets everything right.

If the director was nervous about handling his first big budget color feature with a bonafide superstar in the lead role, you'd never know it from the results. Minnelli had only directed two black and white pictures (Cabin in the Sky, see previous article, and I Dood It both in 1943) prior to this big break but Meet Me In St Louis moves with such easy confidence, gently in and out of song and book scenes, you'd think he had nothing at all to prove.

Take the terrific economy and pacing --the movie is at once both leisurely and jam packed with comic, musical and dramatic beats -- of the final two scenes that conclude the first and longest act in the movie (Summer 1903). First there's a lengthy party sequence at the Smith home wherein Esther comically tries to seduce "The Boy Next Door" John Pruett (Tom Drake). She's endearingly amateur at seduction though Judy Garland is of course anything but amateurish when it comes to ingratiating herself to the viewer. John accompanies her through her house as she turns off the lights. It's ostensibly her duty but she's makes a huge drawn out production of it -- she's only doing it to set the mood for their first kiss. The amusement of the scene is that Esther doesn't realize she's succeeding and misreads John's nerves and equally adolescent flirting. When he finally hightails it out of her house without the kiss she's been longing for she flips the lights back on, at once. It's a great deflating punchline. The follow up scene, the classic Trolley sequence, repeats the punchline.

Buzz, buzz, buzz went the buzzer
Plop, plop, plop went the wheels
Stop, stop, stop went my heartstrings

As he started to leave, I took hold of his sleeve with my hand
And as if it were planned... he stayed on with me
And it was grand just to stand with his hand holding mine
To the end of the line.
Esther is obviously singing/dreaming about John but hasn't noticed his arrival beside her for the last chorus. On her last joyous note she turns to finds the object of her affections staring her in the face. It totally throws her. Oops! Once again she's more comfortable in the dream than in the reality. It's the perfect performance note to hit for this girl who is not quite yet a woman.


Speaking of which...

Judy Garland was 22 years old when St. Louis hit theaters. She was already a screen sensation with multiple Mickey Rooney hits and The Wizard of Oz behind her. According to reports she was hesitant to take this role, another teenage character, since she had wanted to move into more grown up roles. Esther Smith turned out to be just what she was after all along. The answer was right in front of her. (There's no place like home and all that).

Esther Smith proved the perfect bridge role for one of the greatest stars of all time, taking Garland from teenager to woman both onscreen and off. By the third act (Winter 1903) Esther and John are in the thrall of requited love and faced with rather adult choices about their futures. By the time Esther is singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to her young sister Tootie (Margaret O'Brien), Judy Garland is a grown woman in full bloom and the camera treats her accordingly. By the time the film was released, Garland and Minnelli were in love and living together. It all came together gloriously. Arguably Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) is the emblematic peak of Garland's film career between her 'star is born' role in The Wizard of Oz (1939) to, well, A Star is Born (1954) itself.

But all this talk of Judy's blossoming (she was never lovelier onscreen), changing seasons, loving families and screen romances also does a disservice to the spicy flavors within this musical. While it is a sweet nostalgic slice of Americana, it never descends into mere treacly pablum. The Fall 1903 segment adds enough sour to the soup, focusing on the sometimes gruesome antics and morbid imaginations of Esther's young sisters Agnes (Joan Carroll) and particularly Tootie played by child star Margaret O'Brien who received a juvenile Academy Award for her performance --just like her co-star had in The Wizard of Oz. And the delicate balance of flavors continues all through The Winter 1903 segment when Rose and Esther behave badly at a local dance. One particular bit has Esther putting on her first corset. Rather than play up the beauty of her figure, Minnelli and Garland opt to spike the scene with laughs and physical comedy.


I feel elegant but I can't breathe.

Furthermore, the sweetness of Esther and John's romance is tempered with their very un movie-like (if barely acknowledged) realization that they're moving too quickly. The movie never settles for just one flavor. In short, it's delicious. Or, to quote Esther herself, "heavenly... simply heavenly".

For all of the undoubtedly careful mix of moods and delicate character arcs that Minnelli stirs into his career-making hit, the most impressive thing might well be how effortless his achievement plays. With the semi resurgence of the film musical in the Aughts, much has been written about modern audiences hesistation to suspend their disbelief when characters burst into song. Modern musicals still feel a bit tentative, like they're scared to do at all what musicals are best at doing. Today's filmmakers would do well to study Meet Me In St. Louis which fills its central family's life with music: they hum, they sing phrases of songs even when no production number is on the way, they play piano; Music feels as natural here as it's ever felt in a movie. The space between musical performance and acting of the non-singing variety is blissfully blurred. In the Trolley Song sequence already discussed Judy spends the first verse of the song fretting. She's not singing at all, letting the crowd handle the number as she makes her way through the crowded car. By the time she's spotted her would be man running toward the car (He hadn't forgotten her invitation after all!) the sudden lift in her spirits is expressed quite naturally by her joining in... Everyone else is singing, why shouldn't she? There's another wonderful moment late in the film which I think best expresses Minnelli's graceful direction through performance, plot and song. Mr and Mrs Smith have had a row over the family's impending move to New York and their children have already exited the scene in anger. The mother and father begin to make peace at the piano. And as the father's voice lifts, the sisters are all gently coaxed back into frame, with unspoken forgiveness on their minds. It's a beautiful grace note in an altogether heavenly movie. A