Guys and Dolls
I received this disc from Netflix the same day that I also got State Fair. I watched the State Fair in pieces, half an hour in the evenings while I puttered around the house or browsed the web or wrote in my journal. Once it was over, I put in Guys and Dolls with the intention of watching it the same way. Five minutes later, I turned it off, because I had already realized that this was a movie that I wanted to devote my full attention to.
I saw this movie a long time ago, because my ex-boyfriend, who also did not much care for musical theatre, said he liked it. I'm not sure why he liked this one (and also Damn Yankees) while he shunned so many others. Perhaps he saw it when he was little. Parents, make your kids watch musicals while they're too young to scoff at dancing and they'll be lifelong fans. Or maybe he just liked it because it's really, really good.
The movie revolves around a floating crap game and a group of gamblers, sinners, and all-around scoundrels. But they're loveable scoundrels. The leads are played by Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, back when he was thin and cool and handsome. All the characters are loveable in their way, and even though they are crooks, there is a sort of nobility in their behavior, like honor among thieves. They just happen to make their living doing illegal stuff. There are women who love them, and in the end, they are redeemed by that love. I could write a lot about this movie, about loving scoundrels, about redemption, about morality even, but you know what? You should just watch it. Brando's hot.
The script is excellent. All the gamblers talk in a sort of mobster fashion, without contractions, like Grover the Muppet if he played craps.
Songs and Dance: The opening scene shows five minutes of a New York City street, with various extras going about their New York City business, but while dancing. It is really obvious that this movie is made to look like a stage play, or at the very least, is true to its roots on the stage. Much of the regular action has a certain flair about it, even if it's not part of a musical number. And the songs are very good, too, with the lyrics being particularly strong. Of note were "Luck Be a Lady," "Adelaide's Lament," and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," which was covered by Don Henley back in the 90s. The movie left out several songs from the stage version, including "A Bushel and a Peck," which my mom used to sing to me before bed.
I'm going to post two clips for this movie. One, the opening scene that so caught my attention. Wouldn't it be a nice kind of world if everything was just a little bit more dance-y? The song is great, too. Don't you just want to watch the rest of a movie that begins like this?
I would have liked to post "Luck Be a Lady," but the only copy on YouTube did not do the scene justice. So here is "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." It's the testimony of Nicely-Nicely Johnson, a gambler and associate of Nathan Detroit, at a prayer meeting.
Will I Make Josh Watch It: Yup. I will probably buy my own copy.
I don't want to say that this movie is exactly like Annie, Get Your Gun, but the similarities are striking enough to make me think that Calamity Jane was made to capitalize on the success of the earlier western woman movie (Wikipedia says that I am right). Historical female figure, known for sharp-shootin' and other various macho activities, becomes a lady, wins a man, sings, dances. It even has Howard Keel playing Wild Bill Hickok. Rather than Betty Hutton, it has Doris Day. I've been kinda cool on Doris Day since seeing The Pajama Game, but I decided that I like her again. Her mannerisms were perfect. Maybe it's just really easy to play a woman who acts like a man. After all, I've been doing it for years. This movie is of little educational value - apparently the real Calamity Jane was a prostitute and alcoholic, rather than one of the boys who learns to wear a dress. Also, she probably couldn't sing worth crap.
This movie isn't bad. But since it is from the same mold as Annie, Get Your Gun, it's impossible not to compare them, and I'm afraid that that other frontier woman musical is just stronger. Anything Calamity Jane can do, Annie Oakley can do better, at least in musical theatre form. I do wonder if my daughter would hate me forever if I named her Calamity. I mean, it's kinda pretty, right?
Songs and Dance: None of the strongs really caught me, though of course they were well-sung. I guess when you write songs quickly so that you can make money before a fad disappears, it shows! There was very little dancing. I will share this number, which is so similar to "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" that the creators really ought to be embarrassed at such blatant copying. It's still kinda cute.
Will I Make Josh Watch It: Nah.
This one was sort of like if a jazz dance performance and a sad, nothing-really-happens-sort-of movie had a baby. There is a story, but it's more about following a dance hall hostess with low self-esteem around. She gets robbed by her boyfriend, then meets an Italian film star, then gets trapped in an elevator, then almost gets married. Things happen, but nothing lasting happens. The movie is really more about optimism and hope in the face of a completely depressing situation more than anything else. Which is not to say that it wasn't interesting to watch. Shirley Maclaine is very likeable as Charity, the main character. However, I'm not sure you could get through watching her sad life if not for the musical numbers. You could say it was art and that it makes a strong statement, but in the end, you'd feel really bummed out and want to watch "Calamity Jane," because at least it was happy.
I would feel remiss if I did not mention that there is a wonderful scene where Sammy Davis, Jr. is the leader of the Church of the Rhythm of Life, and he sings and dances with a bunch of flower children in an underground car garage. There is also Ricardo Montalban, who is fun to watch and has a fun name to say. Try it! Ri-car-do Mon-tal-ban!
Songs and Dance: The dancing was really what made the movie worth watching. It was directed by Bob Fosse, and I know that means something to people who know about dance, but I'm not one of them. I can read Wikipedia and find out that his choreography exudes "a stylized, cynical sexuality," but still, I feel like I don't know enough about dance to really understand what that means. I guess I'm not used to examining dance to figure out what makes one different from another or why I like one more than another. But I can still enjoy it, right? Of course, right.
I recognized a couple of the songs, so now I can feel smart when I hear the songs and remember that I know where they came from. You can do it, too. Next time you hear "If My Friends Could See Me Now" or "Big Spender" at a dinner party, be sure to remark airily how much you enjoyed Bob Fosse's stylized, cynical sexuality in "Sweet Charity." Just in case any of your friends are brave enough to call your bluff, here is "Big Spender." It's a really well-done scene where the dance hall girls are trying to attract a customer. See how cynical and sexual it is?
Actually, it kinda is. Maybe I get it?
Will I Make Josh Watch It: Probably not. He would enjoy parts of it, but it was two and a half hours long. Maybe I should start releasing Musical Cliff Notes so he can see the good scenes. Or maybe that's what I just did.