Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Cult Flops - I Love Melvin

MGM, 1953
Starring Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Richard Anderson, and Una Merkel
Directed by Don Weis
Music by Josef Myrow; Lyrics by Mack Gordon

First of all, Musical Dreams Movie Reviews is going on hiatus for vacation from the 13th through the 18th. Regular reviews will resume Tuesday the 19th. 

While Singin' In the Rain wasn't a runaway success, it did well enough to make Reynolds a star and give O'Connor some cachet outside of the Francis the Talking Mule film series. MGM rushed them into another Technicolor romp, this time a smaller-scale romantic comedy with a couple of good dance numbers. How do they do without Gene Kelly? We begin with a musical number in the mind of Hollywood-obsessed Judy Schneider (Reynolds) and find out...

The Story: Judy would do anything to become a movie star, but for now, she's a dancing football in a Broadway show. She literally runs into Melvin Hoover (O'Connor) in the park. He's more focused on his job as a photographer's assistant for Look Magazine, until he sees her in the show and catches her after a botched throw. He's smitten and offers to get her a spread in Look. They fall for each other, but her father Frank (Allyn Joslyn) wants her to marry wealthy but dull Harry Flack (Anderson). Judy does love Melvin, but her main interest is still a movie career. When Frank pushes Harry harder at his daughter, Melvin says he can get Judy on the cover of Look, and even makes a mock-up of it. Judy buys the story...and now everyone thinks she'll be on the cover.

The Song and Dance: O'Connor and Reynolds run with this one, vivacious and energetic together and in their solo numbers. I also give credit for a fairly unique story; it's not as offbeat as Where Do We Go From Here, but it's not your typical backstage plot or teen romance, either. It's just a small, sweet romance between two young people who dream of being far more than they are. Darling Noreen Corocan steals every scene she's in as Judy's adorable younger sister. Look for Robert Taylor in a cameo during Judy's first dream sequence. 

Favorite Number: We open with that dream sequence, "A Lady Loves to Love." She imagines herself as a sophisticated socialite dancing with the top-hat-and-cane bearing "gentlemen of the press" in a fancy feathered outfit and sparkling jewels. Melvin and Judy sing how "We Have Never Met Yet," but are each looking for someone like the other and have many similar hopes and dreams. "Saturday Afternoon at the Game" is the big Broadway football chorus number. It's a spoof of similar sports-themed musicals, with tap dancing quarterbacks tossing Reynolds in the air like a pigskin. 

Corocan explains to a depressed O'Connor that "Life Has Its Funny Little Ups and Downs" before he shows off for her in a roller skating number somewhat similar to Kelly's in It's Always Fair Weather. O'Connor realizes that "I Wanna Wander" and have fun with the props at Look Magazine in his other big solo. He wonders "Where Did You Learn to Dance?" in his big duet with Reynolds.

Trivia: There was originally a second "Lady Loves" number. Melvin "directed" his version, with Judy as an unusually glamorous farmer's wife in a more rural setting. It was cut from the movie, but exists in full and was used in That's Entertainment III

Apparently, Howard Keel was to have been the cameo in Judy's dream sequence, complete with a song, but was cut and replaced with Taylor.

What I Don't Like: This isn't one of MGM's elaborate extravaganzas. It's a small-scale romance that's almost sitcom-ish in feel despite Judy's acting aspirations. The specific references to real-life photo-magazine Look and Frank's attitude toward his daughter's marriage makes the story a bit dated. And while the dance routines are fairly memorable, the music itself is pedestrian. Judy's other big fantasy is a dance routine with men dressed as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and the masks and imitations are a lot more creepy than fantastic. Some of O'Connor's racial caricatures in the "Wander" number border on the stereotypical and may offend many folks today.  

The Big Finale: If you love O'Connor or Reynolds or are looking for a smaller-scale musical, you'll want to give this adorable charmer a cover shot. 

Home Media: On DVD and streaming, the former from the Warner Archives.

No comments:

Post a Comment