This adorable musical features a young Bob Fosse, the underrated Bobby Van, and a luminous Debbie. This film is a gem, an earnest flick that has one of my very favorite movie moments: Debbie and Bobby Van cuddling in a canoe as they tenderly sing "All I Do is Dream of You." This scene is simply perfect to me. Really, the whole film is worth a look -- with Fosse and Van, you know it's got some stellar dancing, plus the irresistible energy of Debbie. You can watch a number with the three of them here.
Let's just ignore the polarizing plot for a second because this film is an incredible showcase for Debbie. Playing one sassy and independent 17-year-old, her character slowly matures over the course of the narrative into a lovely young woman. Susan is just plain fun, whether she's fanning herself while listening to a crooner on the radio or doing a hilarious pantomime as she watches old footage of her new husband with his ex-girlfriend or stuffing her face with strawberries and pickles. Susan Slept Here even gives Reynolds a fantasy sequence that proves what a superb mime she could be.
If you haven't read my sickeningly effusive review of this movie, spoiler alert: I love it more than, well, a lot of things and that's mainly because of Debbie and her character, Melba. Basically I am Melba and Melba is me. Also, Debbie's partnership with Carleton Carpenter is one of the cutest things this world will ever see. I dare you to disagree after watching this number and this one. Honestly, these are the kind of moments that I absolutely live for -- they are the whole reason why I'm obsessed with classic Hollywood. Two Weeks with Love is pure joy from start to finish.
Speaking of charming musicals... Hit the Deck is somewhat like On the Town with its three girls and three sailors on the loose in the city. The cast is top-notch: Debbie, Ann Miller, Jane Powell, Vic Damone, Russ Tamblyn, and Tony Martin are the aforementioned leads, while Gene Raymond and Walter Pidgeon lend invaluable support. Debbie's musical prowess is on full display, thanks to "A Kiss or Two," "Loo Loo," and "Why Oh Why." Those first two demonstrate the cheeky, subtly sexy side of Debbie, a facet of her personality that sometimes gets lost when she is described as America's Sweetheart. She also does a routine with Russ Tamblyn that is a knockout and inexplicably not on YouTube. You can read Tamblyn's heartfelt statement about the passing of his friend here.
Also known as "the movie where Debbie completely holds her own against Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine." This film demonstrates the hard work Debbie was willing to put into her career. In 1949, she was an extra in June Bride, a romantic comedy starring Davis and Robert Montgomery. In her autobiography, Reynolds would recount how she sneaked onto the set to watch the leading man and lady do a love scene, only to rouse Davis's wrath when she made a noise and broke up the scene. (She got away before she was found out to be the cause of the disruption.) Just six years later, Debbie was able to co-star with the formidable Bette and it's a wonderful dramatic turn from her.
Debbie, your talent could never be replicated and your spot in this world could never be taken. You absolutely lit up the screen, but you also lit up my life.
With all of my love and so much more,