Howard Lindsay

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Call Me Madam Review


Very Good
Broadway legend Ethel Merman is known more these days for badgering Milton Berle in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, that blunderbuss 1963 super-comedy that is replayed ad infinitum on cable TV. This is because her brilliant Broadway star turns -- Panama Hattie, DuBarry Was a Lady, Annie Get Your Gun, Gypsy -- are all lost to history, the film versions of her Broadway roles played by Ann Sothern, Lucille Ball, Betty Hutton, and Rosalind Russell, brilliant women all, but no Merman. The exception to the rule was Irving Berlin's Call Me Madam, the archetypal Merman star vehicle, for which Merman won a Tony Award. This was one performance where Merman was the whole show and, in 1953, a film version had to have Merman in the lead and Twentieth Century Fox did right by Merman in Walter Lang's breezy and brassy adaptation.

On the surface, Berlin's energetic Broadway show is extremely dated. The Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse book is a gentle satire of the Washington scene circa 1951, so there are a plethora of Harry Truman jokes that may have been hilarious in 1951 but in this post-history millennium may be greeted with obtuseness from viewers whose sense of history expired with Swing Vote. It is also an old-fashioned musical vehicle, the slim plot being a bald excuse to showcase Merman.

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The Sound Of Music Review


Excellent
The Sound of Music... well, what can I say? And why should I bother? If any movie were ever critic-proof, it's this one. In fact, famed critic Pauline Kael was fired for daring to write a bad review of it when it first came out. Julie Andrews sure worked her mojo on that one.

Funny thing is: The Sound of Music doesn't need protection from critics. Yes, it's schmaltzy, but it's not nearly as schmaltzy as, say, Titanic. Yes it has all those adorable kids and all those adorable songs and even a cute puppet show stuck right in the middle of it, but it also has grit, drama, and some harrowing moments. Hell, it's got Nazis racing around in big black cars! It is a total cinematic experience, and one that benefits greatly from technological advances that let you enjoy its lavish sights and sounds on a big TV screen with big surround speakers that make it feel like Julie Andrews is embracing your or the Nazis are sneaking up on you from behind.

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Swing Time Review


Very Good
Fred Astaire's "Lucky" really is anything but. In the opening scene he's tricked into missing his wedding due to an argument over the cuffs on his pants -- all part of a bet... you see, Lucky's got a bit of a gambling problem, and this doesn't really get any better over the course of the movie.

Maybe it's for the best, though. Missing the wedding winds him up with Penny (Ginger Rogers), who we're sure is going to be a better match for Lucky, because, you know, she can dance. (Here, in a bit of comic kitsch, she's a dance instructor and he's never danced before... though he proves to be an exceedingly fast learner.)

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Howard Lindsay Movies

The Sound of Music Movie Review

The Sound of Music Movie Review

The Sound of Music... well, what can I say? And why should I bother? If...

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