Tag Archives: Debbie Reynolds

The Gazebo

1959

directed by: George Marshall  … again

And we’re really back. Debbie film #23 of 37.   This film was based around the inescapable truth: MURDER can be LIGHTHEARTED & FUNNY. What a sad weird film. I think this was supposed to be a dark comedy. But wow, what a terrible premise to base the film on.  It seemed as everyone in this film never decided how to play their characters, such as scenes where emotions should be scared, confused, hurt, worried, etc.  And that damn pigeon, but I’ll get to that later.

The Gazebo stars Glenn Ford AGAIN (terrible actor – see It Started with a Kiss) and Debbie as husband and wife living their days as a TV producer and Broadway star.  His best friend is a District Attorney played by a young Carl Reiner.  Totally believable up to this point…  Anyways, Ford is a dolt with zero redeeming qualities, no discernible talent at his job or in life, and possibly only saved/likable for his … uh… loyalty to his wife? Maybe? Otherwise, he is manic, paranoid, and irrational. And his REAL best friend is an actual pigeon. Totally the type to be married to Debbie as a Broadway musical star.  She was stunning in the film (they even did a fake musical within the movie scene) but totally hamstrung by the weak characterization and Ford’s “acting”.

The basic rub over the movie is Debbie took some dirty pictures when she was 18 and now (9 years later for some reason – based on her actual age) someone (again for some reason) is trying to blackmail Ford into paying him to keep them out of the papers. …Not that any paper in America would run nude photos in the ’50s or 2017.  So maybe out of Playboy.  Sure let’s run with that.  Okay…  so Ford reacts by trying to sell the house (because he has no savings for some reason).  Here are some other alternatives Glenn:  Fire your housekeeper and start cleaning your own damn house, Take out a loan, Take out a 2nd mortgage, Ask family, Ask friends like your well-to-do DA pal, tell your DA pal about the blackmail, ask your wife if she cares about the pictures.   But no. Debbie loves the house and doesn’t want to move. Okay fine.  Next alternative… obviously kill that motherf’in blackmailer dead in your own home.

In the end, all the blackmailers are dead, the pigeon flies away and they sell the house anyway.  The End.

Oh yeah and that titular Gazebo.  Nothing to do with anything really.

Martin Landau was in this film for a hot second and kidnapped Debbie Reynolds. Probably the most bizarre scene.  But neat to see him working.

Underrated actors: Martin Landau as a goon/thug.

 

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Athena

1954

directed by: Richard Thorpe

Ah, back to familiar turf.  Debbie movie #12 of 37.  Well, Ladies and Gentleman, I think we’ve found Debbie’s peak.  Because The Tender Trap (see earlier review) was made a year later and the only movie between this and Athena was Hit the Deck, which was more of an ensemble musical movie, I think it’s safe to make the assumption we’ve found the apex.  So yes, it’s safe to assume that I enjoyed this movie.   Rather, I enjoyed Debbie’s performance in this, mainly because she doesn’t actually play the titular character Athena and isn’t the main focus of the film.  Which I kind of actually enjoyed.  Because plot wise, this movie was on thin ice the entire time; but more on that later.

Okay, so let’s run run run through it.  Athena is one of 6, err, 7 sisters who live with and are under the tutelage of their grandparents.  What happened to the parents? Never appeared nor mentioned.  Minor unnerving point about the movie, but still.  Okay, so the movie starts out, after a weird theater/TV stage musical number with Vic Damone, as a gardening movie! and I’m like this is going to be the best movie ever! but it was only a scene to get Athena (Jane Powell) and Adam (Edmund Purdom) to meet.  I’ve never yet met anyone at a nursery. But it’s nice to know it happens, well, at least it happens in the movies.  Probably should include that scene in the screenplay I’m never going to write.  Now Jane Powell was good in this, good singer, good emotions, but more a girl for a man who prefers blondes.  Debbie doesn’t arrive til about 20 minutes in.  But they set up her first scene perfectly, and from the start, it’s assumed she’s going to be the love interest for Vic.  I liked their pairing, it worked, (He was 26, and she was 22).  Hey, I’m 26 ! Alright, I’ll stop throwing myself into this movie.

So plot wise, it’s pretty bizarre, at least for the 50’s I’m sure.  Basically the grandparents are like Greek hippie/vegan/yoga/exercise nuts before there was really such a thing. So everyone they come into contact with thinks they’re absolutely bizarre.  When ironically, they would fit right into LA today.   I don’t want to make it sound like this was a bad thing, because they were honestly just a genuinely nice carefree “family”, and really tried to hammer out everyone else in the movie as snobs.  Speaking of which, the straight-laced Adam (who is basically a Cary Grant knock-off) is a lawyer with political aspirations.  He’s got the hot, dull fiance.  He’s got the overtly racist caricature Japanese butler.  And I don’t want to ruin the movie for you, but oh what the hell.  He throws it all away and lives happily ever after with Athena!  Didn’t see that coming, did we?   Debbie shines in the scenes she’s in, definitely taking them away from anyone else.  Great dresses; great outfits; great singing; great, great, great.

Oh and there’s a Mr. Universe pageant in it for some reason.

Underrated Actors:  Vic Damone as Johnny Nyle.   One last thing, there’s absolutely no reason for this guy to be in the movie.  None of his dialogue or plot points make sense or get resolved.  Just a blatant excuse for him to sing in a movie.  The man made gold records.


Mary, Mary

1963

directed by: Mervyn LeRoy

First off, sorry about the lack of updates lately.  Lot on my plate (got a job offer!).  Also, expect some better movie posts coming up.

Debbie film #29 of 37.  Had a hell of a time finding a picture.  Apparently if you google image search “Mary, Mary”, a lot of…non-Debbie Reynolds results come up.  Also, there isn’t even a dedicated Wikipedia page for the film.  Also, this film took me about 10-12+ sittings to get through.  Here’s why.

Mary, Mary is based on a play.  In fact, one could argue it is a play.  The entire movie (give or take a couple cutscenes) takes place inside the living room of an apartment. THE ENTIRE MOVIE.  The acting is play-acting.  The dialogue is play-dialogue. The plot is a play-plot.  It stunk.  Bad.  Might as well get my normal Debbie gripes out of the way as well.  Debbie plays Mary (She’s 31 at the time).  Barry Nelson (the ex-husband) is 46 (he was awful).  She has a brief (very brief) fling (very brief) with a 54 year old (the guy from The Day the Earth Stood Still…you know that guy).  Golly.  Couldn’t find a movie with someone in their mid 30’s to play alongside Debbie? … It’s starting to make me miss the days of I Love Melvin even…  Her hair is also getting poofier and shorter, very 60’s, it’s not the greatest.

So the plot is pretty bland.  Divorced couple.  Guy is about to remarry.  She has brief jealousy-inducing moment with new man. He realizes he still loves the ex-wife.

Sooo, what else? … Oh he makes a Ginger Rogers / Kitty Foyle reference, and I almost lept out of my seat.  So excited for an arcane movie reference within an even more arcane movie!! I can tell NO one I know.

Underrated Actors: Diane McBain as the ‘about to remarry’ new fiance.  Hiram Sherman as the lawyer.


It Started With A Kiss

1959

directed by: George Marshall

Debbie movie #22 of 37.  Woof, this one was hard to watch.

So in the first 10 minutes or so of the movie, it’s established that Debbie is a single dancer, so again, no new careers to mention.  She gets a gig selling raffle tickets for a car at a fancy ball with millionaire types, just the type she’s got her heart set on.  But enter Glenn Ford as an Air Force Sergeant. Ughhh, I don’t even want to write about this movie anymore.  Ford is awful, Ford with Debbie is awful, Ford is 43 at this point in his life and Debbie is 27. So it just …doesn’t work.  So after he woos her for a day, kisses her, she falls for him, Cut to clothes on the bedroom floor (If anything this movie was risque in its imagery/symbolism and Ford actually says “sex”) and she’s already got a ring on (Which was kind of a gag, because it almost showed the aftermath of premarital sex…If only they had, to save her from having to marry the guy in the movie).  Anyways, he gets shipped out to Spain, which apparently needed the US Air Force to have a heavy presence in 1959.  You know, because it’s close to …..  Africa.  Shifty Moroccans.  Note that no actual flying or anything at all related to battles, wars, guns, or planes happens in this movie.   Okay, so She follows him out, and then literally the rest of the movie is about a car.  A CAR.   It was basically the third star of the movie.  To be fair,  it just so happens it’s the car that would eventually become the Batmobile in the 60’s Batman TV Show, but still, no one gives two cents about an Air Force Sergeant with a car problem in Spain.  That would be like if in Goldfinger as soon as the Aston Martin shows up, Bond and Pussy Galore spend the rest of the movie driving around and/or admiring it and courting offers for it in Mexico City.  Ridiculous.

There was also a matador dude and Eva Gabor (who almost got an Underrated Actor nod, but she was a pointless character).  The script was just awful.  Best part of the movie was Debbie’s last dress, which was a turquoise number.  She looked decent enough when I bothered to look up from reading a book about Albrecht Durer.  Yep, so bored with this one that I was perusing a book about a German Renaissance artist.

Underrated Actors: No one.   Not  a single one.


The Mating Game

1959

directed by: George Marshall

 

Debbie movie #20 of 37.   As the title suggests, this movie is entirely about a farmer owing back taxes to the IRS. The IRS agent, played by Tony Randall, eventually falls for the farmers daughter, Mariette, played by you guessed it, Debbie Reynolds.  The farmer, played by Paul Douglas, is a tradesman or a barterer or a haggler or Eric Idle in Life of Brian aside from the fact that he never deals with money or fills out tax returns, yet has 5 kids.   Ah to live on a farm in 1959 in Maryland. Anyways, actually….  that’s about the extent of the plot.  It’s decent for fans of Tony Randall, who by this time was a TV star.  He seems better suited to play a straight-man, busybody, fussbot on TV anyways.  Sooo let’s talk about Debbie.

Great costumes/dresses in this one for her.  She looked great and although she again played a Tammy-like character (see post on Tammy & the Bachelor), I thought she was a bit more of her quirky, Debbie Reynolds -self in this and less forced of a pretend farm/rural girl.  That being said, I hope she doesn’t do  any more of these films (I realize the anachronism of this sentiment).

Underrated Actors: Paul Douglas as the farmer, in his final role before he died of a heart attack at 52.


I Love Melvin

1953

directed by: Don Weis

 

Debbie movie #8 of 37 .  Sigh this film had so much potential.  Hrm. Not really actually.  You may be wondering why.  Well, I’ll get this out there, I’m not the biggest Donald O’Connor fan in the world.  Just flat out don’t care much for the man.  That and a lot of this movie just didn’t make sense. But we’ll get to that later.  Debbie plays Judy, a struggling musical theater actress on Broadway that lives at home.  Don O’Con plays the aforementioned titular Melvin.  So right away, it’s giving away the entire story, or at least the ending.  It’s like that Brian Regan standup where he does a bit on having the Title of the Book at the top of every page. “What the hell am I reading!? OH, it’s right there at the top, okay…” “knew I was reading something, didn’t know what”  So anyways, Melvin is a photographer at Look magazine (which is actually a real magazine).  Now, (and this is supposed to be romantic), Melvin skeezes on Judy and promises her he’ll put her on the cover, meanwhile taking a ton of photos of her and spending an inordinate amount of time with her.  Good life lessons.  Now at first, and at second, and at third, Melvin doesn’t come through with this, so he runs away to be a hobo, causes everyone to worry and this gets Judy on the cover.  Yep. That’s about the plot.

Redeeming qualities about it (besides it obviously having Debbie Reynolds in it): The football musical (where Debbie is actually playing a football) is pretty awesome; for something regarded as so masculine, seeing a bunch of dudes in pads prancing and singing is a damn good time.  And the Debbie dream sequence musical number at the beginning is really well done, although the reference/cameo of Robert Taylor went right over my head.  But she also had a dream sequence where she got to dance with 3 dudes wearing Fred Astaire masks/costumes and 3 dudes wearing Gene Kelly masks/costumes.  Which was real weird, not only because 3 dudes in Fred Astaire masks is creepy, but also she had just been in Singin in the Rain with Kelly.  But I realize it’s different characters…but still.   Also, any scene without Debbie..err. Judy was instantly dry.  Like they spent what seemed like 15 minutes on a Don O’Con / little girl rollerskating number.  Woof.  Added to that was Harry, a character that made no sense.  He was supposed to be the has-a-good-job, solid, dependable, alternative that loved Judy but was always being outclassed by the showy Melvin.  Well not outclassed, just taken away.  And that’s just it, we were never sure how to feel about Harry.  He was a nice guy and treated the family/parents well, and then he was just tossed to the side while Judy went on with Melvin.  It almost felt like Graham from An Education.  He was there and you could see he loved Carey Mulligan, but just got pushed aside for Peter Sarsgaard.  And look how that turned out.  Unlike Graham though, it never felt like Harry cared that much, enough to identify/sympathize with him.  He was kind of just … there.

Underrated Actors: Jim Backus , aka THE MILLIONAIRE from Gilligan’s Island/Mr. Magoo as Melvin’s boss


The Affairs of Dobie Gillis

1953

directed by: Don Weis

Debbie film #9 of 37.   Wow, where do I begin.  Debbie is 21. In Black & White. It’s a college comedy and musical.  Okay so Debbie plays Pansy (a name you’d never get away with having today), the main love interest of Dobie Gillis, a sort of free-spirit Van Wilder type, minus the arrogance and misogynism of Van.  Meanwhile, Pansy is a family oriented, prudish, bookworm, only going to college to ‘Learn, learn, learn, and work, work, work’ (the film’s tagline).  Barbara Ruick plays Lorna, a free-spirit girl after Dobie, but Dobie from the start has his heart set on Pansy.  Bob Fosse (yes, the Bob Fosse) plays Dobie’s best mate Charlie, who is all over Lorna, even though she only wants Dobie for a bit of the film.  Anyways, they go to classes, hijinks ensue, there are quite a few song and dance numbers, in which Reynolds & Fosse shine, naturally.  Pansy comes around and turns into a free-spirit, and they all live happily ever after.

A pretty simple comedy/musical with some extraordinary talent if a little thin on plot (at one point, Dobie and Pansy miss like a month of classes, and then have to finish a months worth of work in 1 day ….what?) .  However, one of the best parts of this movie is the English class all the kids take.  The English professor is played by Hans Conried.  Not exactly a household name, but oh yeah, the guy is THE VOICE OF CAPTAIN HOOK.  So everytime he speaks its like having Captain Hook teaching English.  Perfect.  And Bob Fosse went on to direct and choreograph Chicago, Damn Yankees, and Cabaret.  And Barbara Ruick married John Williams, the Star Wars composer dude. All around good ancillary info.

Underrated Actors: of course Hans Conried, the Captain Hook English professor with perfect diction.  Worth watching just for him.