Vincente Minnelli

The Clock (1945)

The Clock 1945 Poster

When soldier Joe Allen (Robert Walker) arrives in New York City to start his 48-hour leave, he happens to meet secretary Alice Maybery (Judy Garland) when she trips over his foot and breaks her shoe. After he helps her get her shoe taken care of, Alice and Joe spend the afternoon together, visiting New York landmarks such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Before they part, they make a date to meet later that night underneath the clock at the Astor Hotel.

Back at her apartment, Alice tells her roommate about the soldier she’s just met. While Alice is thrilled about the new man in her life, her roommate cautions her about picking up strange soldiers. But she ignores her roommate’s advice and keeps her date with Joe. They share a wonderful night together that results in them losing track of time and missing the last bus of the night. But with a stroke of luck, they end up catching a ride with milkman Al Henry (James Gleason). The young couple accompanies Al on his milk deliveries, which don’t end until the very early hours of the morning.

As Alice and Joe start their second day together, their minds move towards marriage. They want to be married that very day, before Joe has to go back on duty. However, they fail to account for the time it would take to get the mandatory blood test. But Joe and Alice are nothing if not persistent and they spend the day running around town trying to get their blood test rushed and manage to get it done just in the nick of time. The judge marries them right there in his office. However, the experience feels so rushed that Alice hardly feels like she’s really married. As they leave, they pass by a church where a wedding has just ended and step inside to repeat their vows. This time, it feels more real for Alice and when Joe leaves the next day, they part feeling like a real husband and wife.

Not only was The Clock the only non-musical film Judy Garland made during her time at MGM, it was one of the few movies of her entire career she doesn’t sing in. When it was released in 1945, it wasn’t a hit with audiences because they were disappointed in the lack of singing. It’s too bad audiences were so unwilling to give it a chance at the time, because they missed out on a really sweet story. Judy Garland and Robert Walker had surprisingly good chemistry together and it’s easy to be charmed by them. Lack of singing aside, I can see how some people might be frustrated by this movie, though. A lot of people really like movies to have firmly defined endings and The Clock‘s ending is left quite open. I don’t mind open endings, but part of me wishes there was a sequel to The Clock just because I think a movie about Joe returning from the war and how he and Alice adjust to life as a married couple after their whirlwind courtship could have been just as interesting as The Clock was.

What’s on TCM: October 2013

Vincent PriceHappy October, everyone!  I hope you’re ready for plenty of classic horror movies because TCM is going all out for Halloween this year. Not only will Friday Night Spotlight be all about classic horror movies, we also get Vincent Price as October’s Star of the Month.  Even though not every Vincent Price night focuses on horror movies, there are a couple that do, including the most important night — Halloween.

TCM’s Story of Film series will continue this month on Monday and Tuesday nights.  I love having the chance to see so many of the movies discussed in the documentary so I’m really looking forward to see more from this series.


Father of the Bride (1950)

Father of the BrideUpon getting the news that their daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) is getting married to her boyfriend Buckley (Don Taylor), Stanley and Ellie Banks (Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett) are immediately thrown into the whirlwind of planning a wedding.  While Ellie is largely enthusiastic about Kay’s impending nuptials, Stanley isn’t as easygoing about the whole thing.

Of course, there wouldn’t be much of a movie if the wedding plans went smoothly.  First Stanley worries that Kay might be marrying a good-for-nothing lowlife, but when those fears are put to rest, every new event brings on a new source of anxiety for Stanley.  First Stanley and Ellie go to meet Buckley’s parents and Stanley accidentally drinks too much.  Then during the engagement party, few guests are interested in the large batch of martinis Stanley has made for the occasion so he spends the entire party in the kitchen playing bartender.

At first, Kay only wants a small, simple wedding.  But since Ellie has always regretted not having a large wedding of her own, she wants to give Kay the wedding she never had.  Stanley puts his foot down at a maximum of 150 guests, but that number quickly grows to 250.  The whole wedding planning process is enough to make Stanley consider paying Kay to just elope already.  And when the RSVP cards are rolling in, Kay wants to call the whole wedding off after getting into a fight with Buckley.  But they quickly work things out and the wedding goes on as planned.  When all is said and done, Stanley decides all the stress was worth is.

Father of the Bride is completely charming and an absolute delight.  This is a movie that just gets it exactly right in every way.  Spencer Tracy’s performance is nothing less than a joy to watch.  And when you take his performance and combine it with Joan Bennett, direction from Vincente Minnelli, and a wonderful screenplay, you have a real winner of a movie.  It’s very funny, warm, and sentimental without being sappy.  Plus, who could ever forget that shot when we first see Elizabeth Taylor, looking positively radiant, in her wedding gown?  Simply put, Father of the Bride is a real must-see movie.

Lovely to Look At (1952)

Broadway producers Tony Naylor (Howard Keel), Al Marsh (Red Skelton), and Jerry Ralby (Gower Champion) have an idea for a new show, but don’t even have enough start-up money for investors to be interested.  But then Al gets word that his aunt Roberta has died and left him her share of her high-end dress shop in Paris.  Thinking he can just sell off his share of the store and put the money into the show, the guys borrow some airfare money from Tony’s showgirl girlfriend Bubbles (Ann Miller) and head off to Paris.  But when they get there, they find out it won’t be as simple as that.  Roberta’s adopted nieces Stephanie (Kathryn Grayson) and Clarisse (Marge Champion) manage the store and they explain that the shop is deeply in debt so it can’t be sold right now.  Determined to turn the shop around so it can be sold, Tony comes up with the idea of bringing Stephanie’s designs up-to-date and putting on a big fashion show that’s worthy of being on Broadway.

Clarisse and Stephanie are a little reluctant about this idea at first, but change their mind when Tony steps in and helps get their creditors behind the idea, too.  Everyone gets to work putting the show together and sure enough some romances begin to grow.  Jerry and Clarisse fall in love, but Tony and Al both begin to fall for Stephanie (remember, Stephanie was adopted).  But then Tony gets a surprise visit from Bubbles, who has gotten word about the show and wants to be part of it.  Stephanie is heartbroken when she shows up, but Bubbles can sense that there’s something between Tony and Stephanie.  Al, on the other hand, is happy to see Bubbles since that means he gets a chance to have Stephanie to himself.  When Tony takes Bubbles out one night, Al brings Stephanie to the same place, and they’re soon joined by Jerry and Clarisse and model Zsa Zsa (Zsa Zsa Gabor) and her boyfriend Max.  They all spend the night drinking champagne and having a great time.  Well, everyone except for Bubbles, who doesn’t drink and spends the night being jealous of the attention Tony keeps giving to Stephanie.

When the party is over, Bubbles takes Al home in a taxi and when Al starts going on about how much he adores her, she’s flattered, but then realizes he thinks he’s talking to Stephanie instead.  Off in the park, Tony has taken Stephanie for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage and they kiss for the first time.  Stephanie doesn’t remember it when she wakes up the next day, but when Al comes to her to talk about what he said in the taxi, she takes the opportunity to let him down nicely.  However, when Tony talks to her about the night before, all their feelings are still there.  Later, Max throws a party during which Al and Bubbles have a chance to bond over being jilted lovers.  Al also has a chance to do an act for all the guests, which impresses Max, who turns out to be a Broadway producer.

Tony, Al, and Jerry start negotiations for Max to finance their new show and Tony accepts a deal against Al and Jerry’s wishes.  Tony has a hard time passing up the opportunity, but Al and Jerry think they need to stay in Paris and finish the fashion show.  Tony goes off to New York with Max, leaving Al and Jerry there to take care of the fashion show.  Not only has Tony alienated Al and Jerry, Stephanie is also devastated because she thinks that he only cares about himself.  But Tony, Al, and Jerry all realize that they’re only successful as a team and Max lets Tony go back to Paris.  He makes it back just in time for the show and apologizes for betraying his friends.  They get their act together and put on the best fashion show to ever hit Paris.

I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Lovely to Look at since every source I checked gave it a pretty mediocre rating, but I was pleasantly surprised by it.  It’s certainly not one of the greatest musicals to come out of MGM, but it is bright, colorful, splashy fun.  It’s got some really lovely songs and beautiful dance scenes, particularly the ones with Marge and Gower Champion.  Kathryn Grayson’s rendition of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is very much worth hearing.  I liked the whole cast; Ann Miller was totally on top of her game.  This was Zsa Zsa Gabor’s film debut.  She doesn’t have a very big part, but she does just fine in bringing the daffy, over-the-top quality her character needed.  I definitely can’t neglect to mention the big fashion show scene, which Vincente Minnelli was brought in to direct.  It’s like the fashion show scene from The Women, only bigger, with more singing, and it actually has something to do with the movie.  Lovely to Look At was the last film that Adrian designed costumes for, so I thought it was fitting that he went out with such a big showcase of his work.  Overall, I’d say it’s worth at least giving this movie a chance.  A lot of places gave it two out of four stars, but I would have given it three.

The Pirate (1948)

Manuela (Judy Garland) only has eyes for one man: Macoco, the infamous pirate.  She absolutely loves everything about the myth of Macoco, but the only problem is that she’s never met him.  People aren’t even sure if he’s even still alive!  Even when her aunt arranges for her to be married to Don Pedro, the town’s mayor, she can’t let go of the fantasy of being taken away by the great Macoco.  But just before she’s supposed to marry Don Pedro, Manuela convinces her aunt to travel with her to Port Sebastian.  They arrive in town along with a troupe of actors led by Serafin (Gene Kelly).  Serafin is a real womanizer, but that all changes the second he sees Manuela.  She turns him down, but later that night, she sneaks out to go see him perform.

When Serafin spots Manuela in the crowd, he hypnotizes her in front of the crowd hoping that she’ll declare her love for him.  Oh, he gets a declaration all right.  A declaration of love for Macoco the pirate.  But he also realizes that Manuela is a spectacular singer.  So Serafin and his troupe follow her back to her hometown and Serafin begs her to join the troupe.  She refuses, but when Don Pedro finds out about Serafin showing up in Manuela’s room, he’s ready to get rid of Serafin for once and for all.  But when Serafin gets a look at Don Pedro, he recognizes him as none other than the great pirate Macoco!  Serafin uses this bit of information to force Don Pedro into allowing his troupe to perform in town.  He also decides to pretend to be Macoco in a rouse to get Manuela to like him.

Sure enough, his plan works and Manuela starts to fall for Serafin.  But when she finds out what Serafin’s scheme is, she’s absolutely livid.  In a fit of rage, she trashes the room, but when she accidentally knocks Serafin unconscious, she realizes that she really does love him.  While this is going on, Don Pedro is hard at work trying to frame Serafin as being the real Macoco and has him arrested and is set to be hanged.  When Manuela looks at the evidence a little more closely, she figures out that Don Pedro is really Macoco.  Before he is to be executed, Serafin is offered a last request and he asks to put on a final show with his troupe.  Serafin and Manuela work together to use the performance as a way to get Don Pedro to confess his true identity to the entire town.  With Don Pedro safely out of the picture, Manuela is finally free to join Serafin and his troupe!

The Pirate can be summed up in the same way I can describe a lot of musicals: Is the story far-fetched and hokey?  Yes.  But is it great escapist fun?  Absolutely!  Judy Garland and Gene Kelly always made a great duo and The Pirate is really a great vehicle for each of them.  Judy got some memorable songs like “Mack the Black” to perform and Gene gets the chance to do some great dancing as well as plenty of opportunities to generally ham it up.  MGM had some pretty high hopes for this movie, but when it was first released, it really didn’t even come close to their expectations.  First of all, Judy missed 99 days of filming out of 135.  Then when it actually was released, critics weren’t very kind to it and it went on to become the only movie Judy Garland made for MGM that lost money.  But I’m glad that it seems more people have given it a chance over time because as far as I can tell, it does exactly what a classic MGM musical should do.

What’s on TCM: December 2010

December can only mean one thing: Christmas movies galore!  Up this month are plenty of traditional Christmas classics along with a few off-beat ones that will certainly please fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  In addition to that, every Thursday in December, TCM will be saluting living legend Mickey Rooney by playing 24 hours of his movies, including every Andy Hardy movie and all his pairings with Judy Garland.  Speaking of living legends, a new episode of Private Screenings will be premiering this month featuring Liza Minnelli.  To celebrate, TCM will be taking two nights to showcase some of the best movies by Liza, Judy, and Vincente.  This month’s guest programmer is Eli Wallach, who has made some very stellar choices.  Fans of John Wayne will be glad to hear that on December 22, there will be 24 hours of nothing but John Wayne.  When New Year’s Eve rolls around, why not bid 2010 adieu with Cary Grant movies all day and Marx Brothers movies all night?  And to top it all off, the final two installments of the Moguls and Movie Stars series air this month on the first two Mondays and Wednesdays.