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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pocket-Size Musical at Metro

Among Melvin Merriment Is Location Shooting at The Brooklyn Bridge

Don Loves Debbie in I Love Melvin (1953)

What to do with such a sprightly pair as Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor after they've clicked so nicely in Singin' In The Rain? To team them was natural ... it had worked for Don, repeatedly so, at Universal, with live wires Peggy Ryan, Susanna Foster, Gloria Jean, and undoubted others I'd know better if only we were permitted to see teen musicals off U's high school campus. Debbie, then, was merely an update for purpose of Don dancing and flipping over sofas in puppy love. His talent was great to a point of movies not being able to contain, anytime he walked on being occasion for Gene Kelly, Deanna Durbin, Bing Crosby, to evaporate. Was it awareness of this that kept Don on support or B lead leash? Maybe the only co-player not intimidated by him was Francis The Mule. As to Reynolds, she was reliably Debbie Dimples when not Miss Hollywood, two indelicate labels put to her by Richard Brooks when he got stuck directing DR in The Catered Affair (then had to eat words when she emerged so good in it).

Debbie Reynolds Dream Sequence Capped By On-Set Visit From Robert Taylor

Disquieting Highlight: Debbie Dances With a Guy In A Gene Kelly Mask
I Love Melvin is a "small" musical by MGM reckoning, a very good thing for those exhausted by swirl of Minnelli cameras or Kelly/Astaire set-piecing, and thank you, Leo, it only runs 77 minutes. Pleasure is manifest, what with Don acrobating to super-human effect, Debbie doing perky if that's your taste. She dreams of Hollywood success, so there is spoofing of same, complete to cameo'ing from Bob Taylor. Melvin's gag is Don trying to get Deb on the cover of a slick magazine for which he slaves in assist to crazed layout artist Jim Backus, a great character spot that must have got plentiful comment in Jim's favor. Things like I Love Melvin absorbed overhead that plagued Metro whether lights were on or off, so why not make it, even if  $263K loss was result? There, then, was cruelty of little pics trying to sustain in face of a public withdrawn to TV's and big, lurching H'wood factories like MGM spilling red and redder ink. Trouble was, I Love Melvin was modest only by comparison with a Mogambo or The Bandwagon --- it still cost every bit of $1.3 million to finish, and by 1953, that was hard money to get back. I Love Melvin is on DVD from Warner Archive, and streams in HD at Warner Instant.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Just caught up with this one again a couple of months ago. Must say the young Ms. Reynolds did raise perkiness to a high art form. They are both pretty darn cute in this, but the number where Debbie portrays a football is one for the books! If there were one memorable song in the thing, some folks would have ranked the film as a minor classic!

7:07 PM  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

Amen to everything good you said about Donald O'Connor. He should have been at Metro all through the forties. So many of their top-notch shows would've been even better with him on board. It's sad he never got to work with Garland or Minnelli. Universal knew he was good but hadn't a clue how to properly exploit or honor his talent.
I realize most people who know the film don't seem to think much of it but I love the Alan Young-Dinah Shore musical "Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick"('52). And every time I watch it, at one point or another, I always picture O'Connor and Doris Day in the leads. Wow!

3:10 PM  

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