Singin’ in the Rain 1952 Directed and choreographed by Gene Kelly. Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. If you haven’t seen it, you can’t legitimately call yourself a movie fan. Silent film star, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) has been successively paired on the screen with Lena Lamont (Jean Hagen). Fans think they’re an item. Actually, she makes his skin crawl. (Wait until you hear that voice!) One evening, escaping a crowd, Don meets Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) who pretends not to know who he is. They serendipitously face one another again when she jumps out of a cake at a party he’s attending. Much to Lena’s fury, Don pursues Kathy.
The studio is transitioning to talkies. Don and his Sancho Panza, Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor), already sing and dance. (To say the least.) An elocution number with their “coach” is grand. The Dueling Cavalier, a period drama, has terrible issues with microphones, but it’s Lena’s screeching that dooms it from the get-go. Meanwhile Don is making time with Kathy. Don, Cosmo, and Kathy come up with the idea to make the dud into a musical. Kathy will secretly speak and sing for Lena. They pull it off, but puffed up Lena takes credit until… Terrific. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Tender Trap 1955 Based on the play by Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith. Directed by Charles Walters. Thirty-five year-old theatrical agent (and confirmed bachelor) Charlie Reader (Frank Sinatra) has women coming and going – cooking, cleaning and walking his dog. These include, in part, Poppy (Lola Albright) and Helen (Carolyn Jones). Boyhood friend Joe McCall (David Wayne) visits from Minneapolis declaring his marriage has lost its luster. Though himself a good guy, he’s wildly envious of Charlie.
Charlie starts taking out seasoned classical musician Sylvia Crewes (Celeste Holm) about the same time he meets her polar opposite, the very young Julie Gillis (Debbie Reynolds) at an audition. He pursues both, ignoring the fact that the women are looking for a husband. Julie backs away then decides to fit Charlie into her carefully planned life. He must first give up other women. Best laid plans, however…Has some cliché charm. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Gazebo 1959 Based on the play by Alex Coppel. Directed by George Marshall. When she was 18 years old, nude photos were taken of now Broadway star Nell Nash (Debbie Reynolds). Her husband Elliot (Glenn Ford) is secretly being blackmailed to keep them private. He decides the only way out is murder, shoots the blackmailer, and hides the body in a concrete foundation being poured for the antique gazebo the couple is installing in the yard. It’s paramount that he keep the contractor (John McGiver) from suspicion.
When Elliot learns the blackmailer is dead in a hotel room, he wonders who he killed. It turns out there were several in the gang. Two others come in pursuit of money and disinter the body which is still in the house when the police show up. A comic subplot involves Alfred Hitchcock inadvertently assisting Elliott in a murder plan via telephone, while checking on a script Nash is writing for him. The play’s author Alec Coppel had written such a script for Hitchcock’s film Vertigo. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown 1964 A fictionalized account of the life of Margaret Brown, who survived the 1912 sinking of the Titanic. Based on the stage musical. Score by Meredith Wilson. Directed by Charles Walters. Raised by mountain man, Seamus Tobin, tomboy Molly (Debbie Reynolds) dreams of marrying a rich man to secure a red dress, brass bed, and indoor plumbing. After brief resistance, she weds besotted miner, Johnny Brown (Harve Presnell). When he strikes gold, the friendly, rough-cut Browns move to Denver but are ostracized for being nouveau riche and ostentatious.
Molly decides she and Johnny should travel to acquire some culture. While she’s a hit all over Europe for enthusiasm and lack of boundaries, Johnny is homesick and bored. They return home and give a huge party attended by titled, fashionable guests as well as those of Denver society who had previously ignored her. All goes well until Johnny’s boisterous friends take over. Molly goes back to Europe, until… Tammy Grimes played Molly on Broadway. MGM wanted Shirley MacLaine. It’s said Debbie Reynolds agreed to lower her fee to secure the role. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Mother 1996 Directed by Albert Brooks, written by Brooks and Monica Johnson. When author John Henderson (Albert Brooks) finalizes his second divorce, he remarks “She came with a lotta nice furniture.” Why, he wonders, does he always connect with women who demean him? The worst and first was/is his mother Beatrice (Debbie Reynolds) who set the pattern. Still, she and his brother, Jeff (Rob Morrow in a ridiculous haircut), get along well. Much to her consternation, at 40, he decides to move back in with mom to find out the root of the problem. She is, in fact, insidiously negative.
John rebuilds his high school bedroom (most of which is in the garage) and tries to make friends with her. You’ll wince. Brooks writes deadpan sarcasm really well. Reynolds is terrific with delivery. He learns that Jeff is a whiny mama’s boy, that his mother has a lover, and that she hides a secret in the closet of his old room. Things awkwardly turn around. Surprisingly well crafted considering the subject matter.
Brooks wanted a famous actress from the 1950s to play the role of Mother. He asked Doris Day and Nancy Reagan. The latter considered it, but her husband was ill. Through her daughter Carrie Fisher, Reynolds was approached. She hadn’t had a starring role since the late1960s and jumped at the opportunity. Roger Ebert wrote: “The audience laughter wasn’t a reaction to obvious punchlines, but the laughter of recognition, of insight, even sometimes of squirmy discomfort, as the truths hit close to home. ” Rent on Amazon Prime.
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