Image from here
I figured I had better do something light-hearted before Amy stops reading this altogether, so we're doing MGM's 1944 classic musical,
I'm not really a big fan of musicals in general. My mother was all about them when I was a child, and many of the LP's that she played on our big console record player were soundtracks. It got worse when she got an Electra 225 with a cassette player. I thought if I heard about how the wind comes sweepin' down the plain in Oklahoma one more time, or how unsinkable Molly Brown was, I was going to pull out my hair.* My hatred of musicals peaked when I had to sit through my older brother's junior high school production of H.M.S. Pinafore, which I know is technically an opera, but whatever. Such distinctions were lost on me in fourth grade.
But high school boys will follow high school girls almost anywhere, so when Meet Me in St. Louis played on Sunday night at the Arts Center, I was there. And I have to confess that I was pleasantly surprised. It was a nice little family comedy, centered around a group of children and their misadventures. And the singing and dancing aren't quite so ridiculous as I had feared. Think Sound of Music, but with the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair instead of Nazis.
The most memorable part of the film today is probably Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Apparently, the song was originally supposed to be about the soldiers fighting in WWII or something. The fact that this movie was supposed to occur in 1904 really didn't enter into the decision to change the lyrics, such was the fantasy-land that was 1940's musicals. They decided to rewrite the lyrics because the original seemed too sad to sing to a little girl.
Singin' In the Rain came out almost a decade later, but is another opportunity to see the old people in laxative commercials when they were young and hot, sporting pointed breasts and pencil-thin mustaches.** The plot is more zany but just as predictable as Meet Me in St. Louis, and is really no different than a bomb shelter full of other musical comedies of the 1950's. This one is special because of the dancing.
If you're a fan of Dancing with the Stars -- which I definitely am not -- you owe it to yourself to see some of these old movies starring people who really knew how to dance. And before it became a competitive sport. Gene Kelly is almost unbelievable, and the cast is packed with first-rate dancers. The notable exception is Debbie Reynolds, who was apparently a gymnast with very little dance experience. Kelly was quite mean to her, and was surprised she would talk to him after the film. This led to Fred Astaire famously finding her "crying beneath a piano," and agreeing to help her with her dancing.
Of course, it's the title song dance sequence that has gotten most of the attention, but the whole movie is fun to watch. Especially with other people. Drunk. Maybe playing a game, or doing a puzzle or something at the same time.
* I had hair then.
**Though hardly ever on the same person.