It's always a gift when you find out that two beloved actors that you know from separate productions have worked together in the past--and there's a soundtrack. I know Sherie Rene Scott from Aida (and P.S. I Love You, strangely enough) and Norbert Leo Butz--fabulous name, no?--from Wicked and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (and Dan in Real Life, strangely enough). Both gave memorable and powerful performances. So you can imagine I was pretty excited when I discovered the off-Broadway one act musical, The Last Five Years.
Jamie is over and where can I turn?
Then the show jumps in time to five years earlier, on the couple's first date. We find out that Jamie is Jewish and Cathy isn't but he still is smitten ("Shiksa Goddess"). The scene then changes to the couple sitting on a dock in Ohio. Jamie is visiting Cathy while she does Summer Stock theater ("See I'm Smiling"). It's been hard on their marriage while she's gone. He has to return to New York though as he's a writer and needs to work on his book. They argue and Cathy accuses Jamie of only thinking of himself.
Jamie and Cathy celebrate their first Christmas together. He tells her a story he wrote about an old tailor named whose encounter with a magical clock gives him an endless amount of time to create the dress of his dreams. Jamie explains the parallel between the tailor and Cathy: she needs to take the time to "unlock" her dreams. He then gives Cathy present: a watch ("The Schmuel Song").
Later Cathy sits in Ohio writing a letter to Jamie, talking about how frustrated she is to be in away from him and with her crazy fellow cast members ("A Summer in Ohio"). Flashback to when Jamie proposed to Cathy in a rowboat in Central Park. For the song "The Next Ten Minutes" the couple sings their song together in the production. I love, love, love this song. My favorite part isn't my favorite lyric, but it's this skin-tingling moment where Sherie Rene Scott could have totally belted, but she didn't, she sings it like it's the most amazing revelation of her life (and it just might be), especially the first two lines:
But I think my favorite lyric of the song is:
Will you share your life with me
Jamie is having trouble as a newlywed, feeling tempted by every woman he sees now that he is no longer available ("A Miracle Would Happen"). Cathy is struggling with her series of auditions ("When You Come Home to Me") that continue to make her feel inadequate ("Climbing Uphill"). On the phone the couple continue to work on their marriage. Jamie tried to convince a doubtful Cathy that is not cheating on her with his editor Elise. He's excited about a review of his book and wants to celebrate, but Cathy is tired of tagging along behind the "genius's heels."
Episode #: 11
Episode Title: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Bucks
Reference: Peter sings about Meg to the tune and theme of "Everything's Coming Up Roses" with different lyrics. The song is from the musical Gypsy, originally starring Ethel Merman.
It's almost 4am, and I can't put down my book. It's called Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, written (or compiled, rather) by Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller. I'm currently reading about the seasons in the late eighties, and it's so strange that there are these whole years of the show that I don't think I've seen any sketches from in re-runs or specials. Why??? (I've read that Lorne is the one in charge of syndication, so that might be a hint...)
What does it say about me that I know all the words to "All By Myself", "Another Saturday Night (And I Ain't Got Nobody)", and "On My Own"?
All the Words.
- - - -
Songs My Boyfriend
Knows All the Words To
That Cause Me to Question His Attitude
"Gimme Three Steps"
"Take the Money and Run"
"Ramblin' Gamblin' Man"
"We've Got Tonight"
"On the Road Again"
"Born to Run"
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
"Free Bird" in Spanish
Songs I Know
All the Words To
That Suggest This Could Be
a Problem for Me
"Stay (I Missed You)"
"Come Back From San Francisco"
"Let's Stay Together"
"9 to 5"
"Baby, I Need Your Loving"
"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?"
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"
It was a dark and stormy night.
If I had my way, none of us would have to read this review at all. Instead, we'd join hands, hear a great dark thunderclap, and be whisked off to a rambling house in the country, where we'd view odd things bubbling in a lab with a stone floor, then eat limburger-and-cream-cheese sandwiches while swinging our legs at the kitchen table. We'd sidestep for a moment onto a planet inhabited by gentle gray creatures with dents for eyes, then be inserted into some mitochondria. We battle for the soul of Madoc /Maddox, and eat small crayfish with our lesbian kind-of aunt who insisted on calling us our full name (Polyhymnia). We'd hop on a freighter and solve a mystery, then go to boarding school in Switzerland. We would make a brief detour on the Upper West Side by way of Portugal, and be concerned with cell regeneration in starfish. We'd be smacked on the ass by a dolphin. Most important, whatever happened, we'd know we could get through it—because we are creatures that can love.Oh Madeleine, we miss you.
The 1957 film Les Girls was originally going to star Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse, Carol Haney, and Jean Simmons. Are you freaking kidding me??? Stab me in the heart, why don't you!
(Seen here with co-star and choreographer, Gene Kelly).
Star of An American in Paris (1951), Lili (1953), Gigi (1958), Daddy Long Legs (1955), and more! Lovely is the only word to describe Leslie's partnership with Gene Kelly.
(Seen here with co-star and choreographer, Gene Kelly).
Star of Singin' in the Rain (1952), The Band Wagon (1953), Brigadoon (1954), Silk Stockings (1957), and more! Cyd was a dynamic partner for Gene Kelly.
(Seen here (and there and there) dancing with choreographer and boss, Gene Kelly).
Featured dancer in Kiss Me Kate (1953), On the Town (1949), Summer Stock (1950), and star of The Pajama Game (1957)! Uber talented Carol Haney for many years worked as a choreography assistant to Gene Kelly.
(Seen here with Marlond Brando as Sky Masterson. A role--you wish I was kidding--that was ORIGINALLY INTENDED FOR GENE KELLY.)
Who, granted, never worked with Gene, but she proved her acting/singing/dancing chops in Guys and Dolls (1955)! And she starred in wonderful movies like The Big Country (1958) and what we can definitely assume is the amazing Until They Sail (1957).
So what's the (practically) common thread between these four actresses besides the fact that they are the Cream of the Crop, the Best There Is, the Quartet to Usher in Musicals Nirvana?
A certain person they all (or almost) worked with. The leading man in Les Girls is--you guessed it--played by Gene. Effing. Kelly. A film where he could choreograph three of his greatest muses. Together. For his last film at MGM.
So, if you were anything like me (and at this point let's be honest--you're sincerely glad and/or hoping you're not), you would wonder, perhaps aloud, what stopped this film from being one of the greatest musicals ever set to film? A revelation and icon of dance and music? A film to be revered for the ages? A tour de force addition to Gene's, Leslie's, Carol's, Cyd's, and Jean's canon of classic films?
The answer: none of these incredibly talented women made it into the film. Not a one. Are you crying yet? Because I sure the hell am.
They cut the roles down from four to three. And who replaced these irreplaceable, once in a lifetime women?
Who? you say. Who indeed. Star of: nothing I've ever heard of.
*SNORK* Wha? Wha? Oh I'm sorry, I must have FALLEN ASLEEP ON MY KEYBOARD! She went on to be in The 39 Steps (1959) and Barbra cast her as a 'female professor' (aka, you are not important enough to be assigned a name) in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996). Gripping.
I'm only familiar with Mitzi from the color-tasphrophe that is South Pacific (1958) (I'm pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say that it was a great idea to give Mary Martin's broadway role in The Sound of Music over to the very, very capable Ms. Julie Andrews. Her originating role in South Pacific being given to Mitzi Gaynor? A complete tragedy? You decide.).
Apparently she's also in There's No Business Like Show Business (1954) and Anything Goes (1956). I've seen neither, but at least she co-starred with some greats: Donald O'Connor, Bing Crosby, and Ethel Merman. I'm convinced I would have enjoyed any of three of those people in Les Girls more than her.
The final dis-cast-er:
Now don't get me wrong. This musical is likeable enough. I can't say that I don't enjoy watching "Why Am I So Gone About That Gal", "You're Just Too Too", or even "Ça c'est l'amour". The reason for this is probably due to the fact that Kelly is at least breathing, if not dancing, singing, or talking on screen. And the women aren't terrible. I'm sure they are (or were) all very nice people with some considerable talent.
But when watching the film I will now have to mentally constrain myself from imagining Gene being serenaded in a boat floating down a river by Leslie, or ripping up the dance floor with Cyd, or breaking choreography barriers with Carol, or making love (old movie style, people. You know, they hold each other fully clothed and nuzzle into one another's necks) to Jean. Or...dare I type it? A ballet with Gene, Leslie, Cyd, and Carol. It's too much. It's just too FREAKING MUCH!
The movie could have been 10 times what it was. It was directed by the wonderful George Cukor, but was largely ignored by the public and did not usher in the hoped for renaissance of MGM musicals. I wonder why...
Now we must all be tortured by What Could Have Been...
Good grief, I need a drink.
"Forget it, Louis. No Civil War picture ever made a nickel."
- Irving Thalberg to Louis B. Mayer, May 1936
"Have gone over and carefully thought about Gone With the Wind...its background is very strongly against it...most sorry to have to say no in face of your enthusiasm for this story."
- David O. Selznick to literary agent Katherine Brown, May 1936
"I don't want the part for money, chalk, or marbles."
- Clark Gable to David O. Selznick, 1938
"This woman is a terrible bitch!"
- Vivien Leigh on Scarlett O'Hara, 1939
"I haven't the slightest intention of playing another weak, watery character such as Ashley Wilkes. I've played enough ineffectual characters already."
- Leslie Howard to David O. Selznick, 1938
"Oh, you don't want to be in Gone With the Wind; it's going to be the biggest bust of all time."
- Jack L. Warner to Olivia de Havilland, 1938
"Don't be a damn fool, David. This picture is going to be one of the biggest white elephants of all time."
- Victor Fleming to David O. Selznick, 1939
Gone with the Wind (1939) was directed by Victor Fleming, produced by David O. Selznick, and starred Clark Gable (Rhett Butler), Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O'Hara), Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes) and Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Hamilton).
It domestically grossed $76,700,000 and later drew the largest television audience (130 million) by a television film. In 1977 it was dubbed by the voting members of the American Film Institute, "The Greatest Film Ever Made."
- The Best of MGM: The Golden Years (1928-59) by James Robert Parish.
Quite a gamble, eh?
The Nerd Alert Rating for this post is: High. And orange.
Thanks to my co-worker Jackie, I've discovered one of our library's greatest books: The Best of MGM: The Golden Years (1928-59) by James Robert Parish and Gregory W. Mank.
I'm currently reading about Easter Parade (1948). Now I've known for quite some time that Gene Kelly was originally supposed to be in it but broke his ankle playing beach volleyball/touch football (I've heard both) right before shooting. But here I come to find out in this book that initially announced line-up was Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, and Red Skelton! It would have been another Kelly- Sinatra picture, and with Kathryn Grayson!
Sigh. I love Fred Astaire and Ann Miller, I even love Peter Lawford. But ah, what could have been....
Episode #: 6
Episode Title: Believe It Or Not Joe's Walking On Air
Musical reference: With Cleveland on piano, Joe, Quagmire and Peter (and later Stewie) sing and dance "Good Morning" from Singin' in the Rain (1952).
She went on to star in more films and television shows over the years, but never another major musical. She may not have been the most dynamic actress, but who knows if the dance sequences she performed on film would have been half as good without her.