Gene and Cyd miraculously meet in... Brigadoon (1954)
If you asked me to name my top twenty list of the most romantic films I've seen, I could say a few of them right off the bat: Notorious, An Affair to Remember, The Thin Man (seriously!), Love Letters, Casablanca... and Brigadoon. I have a feeling most of you would disagree with me on that last one. Poor Brigadoon is used to it -- the film has been battered around ever since it was first released in 1954. Actually, Brigadoon's troubles began from the very start of production.
Anyway, with the cast finalized in 1953 and Kelly's schedule clear, the battles began. First of all, by this time, musicals were slowly falling out of favor. To make matters worse, MGM was in a bit of turmoil when long-time studio head L.B. Mayer got pushed out and was replaced by Dore Schary, a man who favored cutting costs over artistic vision. Director Vincente Minnelli and Kelly were all for shooting the film in Scotland, but Schary was completely against it. As a compromise, Minnelli and Kelly settled for some highlands in Big Sur in California, but the studio nixed that idea as well. Everything had to be filmed on the lot, which a lot of people count as one of the movie's hindrances.
"Waitin' for My Dearie." Charisse never did use
This number reminds me of "June Bride" from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, except they aren't doing ballet in bloomers and corsets. Instead, one of the sisters dresses up as a man and "flirts"
As they enter the hub of the town, they once again meet stony silence and wide-eyed stares. When Tommy tries to buy some milk, the shilling he offers confuses the vendor and he is refused service. Luckily, Charlie comes by and offers to buy the strangers breakfast since it's his wedding day and he's feeling generous,
"I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean." This song is a total earworm for me. The Scotsmen do a little traditional Scottish jig, but when Jeff and Tommy break into some good ol' American tap dancing, the group is dumbfounded and eagerly watch.
I love the pairing of Gene Kelly and Van Johnson so much, and their dance here is simple but fun. Kelly and Johnson had known each for years, actually. When Kelly had his breakout role in 1940 as the titular Pal Joey on Broadway, Johnson was in the chorus (along with Stanley Donen). I think people often forget that
"The Heather on the Hill." The dancing is just sublime, with the film's choreography done by Gene Kelly. There are leg extensions, twirls, and sweeping movements that carry the viewer into the romance of the moment. Kelly often holds Charisse's body to his, creating a tension between the
Back on the hill, Fiona and Tommy are happily running around and collecting heather. However, when Tommy says he sees more heather beyond the bridge, Fiona becomes frightened. Tommy finally starts to ask her questions about Brigadoon, such as what
"Almost Like Being in Love" is Gene Kelly’s only solo in the film, and while it doesn’t rank as one of his best, it’s still freaking Gene Kelly.
The guys walk to the Campbell cottage as Tommy tries to convince Jeff that they should stick around a while. He then finds the family bible open on the table outside where Charlie had left it after signing it earlier as part of the family’s tradition before a marriage. Reading the dates and names, Tommy notices that Charlie dated
At the square, Jeff is sitting and drinking all by himself. Tommy comes across him and breaks the news that he is staying: "I feel more a part of her and all this than I ever felt about Jane [his fiancée] or anybody or anything back home. ... I belong here, I know it!" Jeff has had enough of this town and reveals in a
It wouldn't be right to finish this review without mentioning the music penned by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe. (Lerner also did the screenplay.) You may know the duo from My Fair Lady, Camelot, or another one of Minnelli's great musicals, Gigi. Many songs were cut from the original musical, mainly because of time limits. Part of the reason why Meg Brockie's role was downsized so much was because her two songs were deemed too risqué by the Breen office. Gene Kelly had two additional songs, "There But for You Go I" (say that five times fast) and "From This Day On," but supposedly the filmmakers thought Kelly's voice didn't sound the best so they tabled them.
I agree that Brigadoon's songs stretch the limits of Kelly's singing, but that's kind of why I like them so much -- it shows you a different facet of what he could do. You can listen to Kelly's audio recordings of the cut material here and here. Another great number that got the ax was "Come to Me, Bend to Me," a song that Charlie sings to Jeannie to try and see her before their wedding. (Jimmy Thompson, the actor who played Charlie, was dubbed by John Gustafson.) My DVD version includes the filmed number as part of its bonus features, but you can hear the audio version of it here. For an added treat, you can also listen to Adam Lambert's rendition here.
Brigadoon is a lovely and sweetly romantic film that I wish received more appreciation. It was created by people at the height of their talent, adorning the movie with gorgeous dancing, sincere acting, beautiful sets and costumes, superb music, and strong direction.
This post is part of my first blogathon, a celebration of the extremely talented Vincente Minnelli. You can read the full roster here.