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If you've any inkling to watch "Singin' in the Rain," rent it on Amazon Prime - clearly, this film has not only been "digitized," but also significantly enhanced from its original self - the color and clarity looks like it was filmed with a digital camera this year - it's remarkable. I had never before seen this most glorified of Hollywood musicals, so I really had no idea what to expect. I am not a huge fan of musicals (thank you, "Doctor Dolittle" for helping to eliminate the genre), but went in with an open mind. The song and dance numbers were, surprisingly, all from about 25-years before (except for two), as the film (from 1952) takes place around 1927, in the transition period between silent and talking films, with nods toward "The Jazz Singer." I hate to keep bringing this up in film reviews, and should probably just accept it as a sad part of recent American history, but I honestly did not see one, single person in this entire movie who wasn't white. I watched this in part to honor Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds - Debbie Reynolds was just wonderful in this film, Donald O'Connor was a fine dancer (who looks a lot like the remarkably talented Danny Kaye), and both Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse were perhaps the two best dancers not named Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers ever to grace the Hollywood stage (of the four, the only two who never danced together were Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers). Charisse, a Texan named Tula Finklea (!), had some of the longest and strongest legs I've seen on a classically trained dancer. The eponymous dance number is wonderful, of course, but surpassed in grandeur by the extended "Broadway Melody" sequence which was probably the most involved dance scene I've ever watched. "Singin' in the Rain" is a lot like Venice, Italy - it's something you should see, once - but I know of some older folks who think it is the high point in Hollywood history, and in a sense, they're right - it's magical without needing any computerized special effects, and that era is now gone - forever, I'm afraid, although I'm sure there will be individual films in the future that make do without electronic wizardry. And for the record, I think I prefer both "West Side Story" and perhaps even "The Sound of Music," but both of those had "Singin' in the Rain" to draw on, and 10+ years to think about it. Actually, in terms of "story," "Sweeney Todd" was far superior even though there was nary a dance to be found. If anyone knows where to find the "Broadway Melody of 1929," would you please write me? I've been looking for it, and cannot find it anywhere on the internet. A genuinely funny scene, where Gene Kelly is recalling his "sophisticated" past, and how the audiences were thrilled by his work:
The opening of "Divorce American Style" is *very* witty - I had no idea what that man was doing conducting on the hilltop; then, it dawned on me: This is one of the most amusing first-four minutes of a movie I've seen in quite awhile (not surprisingly, it was produced by Norman Lear), and even if you don't watch the entire movie, it's worth just watching the first four minutes (assuming you can find a free copy - I paid $3.99 on Amazon Prime (has anyone else noticed that these movie services all performed a simultaneous bait-and-switch, offering "free" movies with a membership fee, then deciding to charge the membership fee *and* $2.99-3.99 per movie?)) Anyway, if someone knows of a better option, I'd be interested in knowing - I've been watching quite a few movies on my Walking Dead Diet, and they're becoming sneaky-expensive. In resuming my quest to watch all the Academy Award nominees from 1967, this is - I believe - the thirteenth nominee I've seen from that year. It stars Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds as Richard and Barbara Harmon (just remember "There's no harm in saying that barb was rich!"), a stereotypical couple who - after seventeen years of marriage - seems to have it all, but of course they don't. (I'm assuming this is the case - as with all my other recent write-ups, I'm writing this one as I go, and only reading the plot synopses up until the point that I've watched.) Speaking of Debbie Reynolds, I woke up last Friday morning only to find this on my cell phone - a top-o'-the-morning birthday present. It's kind of hard not to have a good birthday when it starts out like this: And as of this writing, I'm happy to say that Dick Van Dyke (brother of Jerry Van Dyke), Debbie Reynolds (mother of Carrie Fisher, wife of Eddie Fisher (who left Debbie to marry her "best friend," Elizabeth Taylor (something tells me Debbie did that very same dance on Eddie's grave (although Debbie later took an incredibly gracious first step in reconciling her friendship with Taylor)))), and Norman Lear (producer of "All in the Family") are all very much still with us, 49 years after Divorce American Style was released. The title is a riff on and homage to the 1961 Italian film, "Divorce Italian Style" starring Marcello Mastroianni which I thought might have been a parody of mafia killings, but isn't (wouldn't it be funny if it was?) I remember on one episode of "All in the Family," Archie Bunker is doing a crossword puzzle out loud, and says to himself, "A four-letter Italian word meaning 'Goodbye.'" After thinking about it for a second, he says, "Bang. B-A-N-G." A second, very funny scene happened when Richard and Barbara were having a shouting match just before a dinner party - the doorbell rang, and they opened the door, full of smiles - the acting was executed to a tee, and who was one of the dinner guests? "Old Leadbottom" himself: Captain Binghamton! One second: The next second: When I was a child (and I was a latchkey child, so I watched a *lot* of TV), my two favorite shows were, in order, 1) "The Dick Van Dyke Show" 2) "I Love Lucy" (I know that I Love Lucy has become more popular, but I always liked The Dick Van Dyke Show more, for whatever reason). Anyway, it's almost disturbing seeing Dick Van Dyke fighting with his wife, because he was *such* a nice man in his series - no, I take that back: It *is* disturbing to see Dick Van Dyke fighting with his wife. I also just found out, for the first time in my life, that there was no overlap between when these two shows ran: I Love Lucy (1951-1960), The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966). Wow, I Love Lucy was *really* ahead of its time: To think that television - and I mean the entire concept of TV sets - just went into mass production only *three years* before that series started ... I Love Lucy is historically important, no doubt about it. Quick! Think of another show from the 1950s that's more popular - I suspect you can't, and I can't either. People make fun of "Leave It To Beaver" as being Artificial America, but the ones who do forget that I Love Lucy came long before that. How did I get so far off-topic? Ha! Ha! Ha! When the argument was going through the vents, and the camera cut to the children, I was prepared for some little kid to be sobbing listening to mommy and daddy screaming at each other; instead, we get the highly amused teenager with a scorecard! Yes, it really *is* Champagne, Mumm (from Reims): If Fern looks familiar (you'll meet her about 35 minutes into the picture), it's because you used to watch "I Dream of Jeannie" (and what guy between the ages of 50 and 70 didn't?) - she's none other than Amanda Bellows (Emmaline Henry). It's pretty funny: The primary antagonist in I Dream of Jeannie was Dr. "Bellows," and the divorce attorney in Divorce American Style is Mr. "Grieff." The scene at the bank was a wonderful comedic moment - a miniature story in itself: Both the music and the freeze-frame, accusatory pointing were perfect. And *oh my goodness*! That teenager who was so entertained by writing down that argument scorecard? It's Otter from "Animal House!" Tim Matheson! He was twenty years old, and looks like he's about fifteen. This was his first-ever film ... and who knew that he was also the voice of Jonny Quest?! Remember that cartoon with Hadji and Bandit the dog? This is a seriously star-studded film: Lee Grant (Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress in "Shampoo") plays Dede, a prostitute; and although they haven't made appearances yet, Jason Robards (eight Tony Award nominations - more than any other male actor) plays Nelson Downs, and Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham on "Happy Days") plays Farley. There are other, more esoteric performers that I recognize, but most people probably wouldn't; still - there's a surprising amount of famous people in this movie: Does anyone remember "When Things Were Rotten?" You'll laugh at the "uranium mine" line. A new divorce litigation partnership: Scrotusky, Cockburn, Uberdung, and Muffton (SCUM). Their motto: "Why do we charge twenty grand for a divorce? Because you'll pay it." Double cheeseburger, french fries, and a Coke: 67 cents! And product placements for both Coca-Cola and McDonald's: And then the people driving up after him also mention Coke, and the guy says to the girl, "... and you want your hamburger rare, right?" Really? Did McDonald's cook to-order in the 1967? Boy, I'm now about twenty minutes from the end, and this movie has lost a *lot* of its luster - ever since the part (at the bowling alley) where Jason Robards entered the picture, it has turned from being genuinely funny, to mostly just plain dumb - it started out with such enormous promise, but it's like the writer ran out of gags halfway through the movie, and in order to make it 1:40 in length, had to think of *something* to fill in the time - the plot has gotten really stupid, slow, and drawn out, and I haven't even cracked a smile in the last thirty minutes. Essentially, as soon as Richard and Barbara split up and started dating other people, the film has no longer been funny. And unfortunately, that lack of comedic value extended all the way until the end of the movie. The first half: funny! The second half: not funny.