Howard Keel

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Annie Get Your Gun Review


OK
Betty Hutton is irrepressible in Annie Get Your Gun, starting off as a scrappy, brash, in-your-face gunslinger and ending the film as cleaned-up, brash, in-your-face gunslinger in a dress. She belts her lungs out here -- "There's No Business (Like Show Business)" is a classic -- though "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" has been, um, done better in other venues. As for the story, it's got Annie Oakley shooting her way to traveling sideshow celebrity and into the heart of Frank Butler (a wooden Howard Keel). And into a dress, natch.

Kiss Me Kate Review


OK
Broadway stars perform Taming of the Shrew onstage -- and live it for real offstage. The theatrical antics are a bit forced and the musical numbers aren't the best in the history of musical cinema, but this still stands as an "important" film of its era, albeit a minor and relatively forgettable one.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Review


Essential
There are a few things I don't understand: physics, women, and how Seven Brides for Seven Brothers gets excluded from the American Film Institute's 100 greatest movies of all time. Quite frankly, I'm bound to figure out the other two topics sooner.

Watching Stanley Donen's exuberant, musical masterpiece again gives me more reason to picket the next AFI event. This movie has aged better than Susan Sarandon. The songs are still great, the dancing still dazzles, and the whole family can enjoy it. Parents, forget whatever kid-friendly fare disguised as a toy commercial is playing at the multiplex this week, and go back to a simpler time.

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Calamity Jane Review


Grim
If you were a woman in the Old West, you didn't have to have a musical made about your life (Belle Starr), but it certainly didn't hurt if you did (Annie Oakley). Calamity Jane was one of the big trinity of Wild West Women, and though she was arguably the roughest of the bunch, the musical -- starring Doris Day, for chrissake -- about her is undoubtedly the cheeriest.

Here we have Day -- blonde and with perfect teeth and a spotless "rustic" outfit -- galavanting through showtunes as she tells her patented tall tales of fighting off the "Injuns" and drinkin' with the boys. A silly bit of happenstance leads her to head off to "Chicagee" in search of an actress which the residents of Deadwood are itchin' to see. Romance (with Wild Bill Hickok) and further singing ensues.

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Show Boat Review


OK
Widely regarded as a classic, the 1951 Technicolor bonanza that is Show Boat (based on the Broadway musical) has not aged well. The film starts as two riverboat performers (including the lovely show-stealing Ava Gardner) are forced to quit their jobs when it's discovered they have black ancestry somewhere down the line. Such "mixed blood" doesn't sit well with the locals, so replacements are hired, including the daughter of the "cap'n." Later they go broke. That's the gist: The film doesn't offer much more story, as its musical numbers (including the famous "Old Man River") take center stage. Too bad the racial politics just don't play the same as they did when Edna Ferber wrote the novel in 1926.

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Howard Keel

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