Thursday, October 30, 2014

I would tot, tell you anything you want to know

So, I feel like I say "long time, no see!" more than I say anything else on this blog. Let's just skip the formalities this time, shall we? After all, we all know how terrible I've been in recent years at keeping this blog going. I haven't deleted it, however, because I still have this little wish that I'll be able to get the thing up and running again like it was a while back. It occurred to me that when I first started my blog, I ran it very informally. There were little to no scheduled posts, just random blurbs about movies. I'm going to try that again and see if I can get back into the swing of it again.

In the past month or so, I've been a lot better about exploring different movies and trying out new things. I'm not terribly good at that, as a rule, but I'm striving to be better. So, this month, I'll be doing little blurbs about the movies I'm watching, both ones I'm watching for the first time, and old favorites.

Now, on Sunday I returned home from a glorious time on the TCM Classic Cruise. It's the fourth time TCM has hosted a classic movie cruise and my third time embarking on it. I absolutely love those cruises. They're so much fun. I get to see wonderful movie stars in person, I get to watch classic movies on the big screen and with a full audience, I get to talk to fellow classic movie buffs, I get to dance to live jazz music, and I get to wear my favorite fancy clothes! Oh, we stop at a couple of ports too but I hardly notice that. I watched a good bundle of excellent movies on this recent cruise but the one I looked forward to the most was The Music Man (1962). As soon as I heard Shirley Jones was going to be a guest star, I immediately began to use all of my powers of wishing and happy thoughts toward them playing that movie on board. (I was also pulling for Kismet (1955) in honor of Ann Blyth, who was also on board, but that didn't happen. Still, one success is pretty good, right?)

Naturally, I've seen The Music Man before. It's one of my favorite movies. It's one of those musicals that even people who don't like musicals enjoy. It transcends genre. The story and the characters are so rich and wonderful. I love the morally grey Harold Hill and how you root for him from the beginning, despite (and possibly because of) all the flaws we've recently been told in "Rock Island."

The movie also has some great history to it, as most movies do. Shirley Jones was pregnant when she made this movie. I shudder to imagine her being rigged up in corsets. Yipes! It's nice to know that she and the baby were healthy despite it. On the cruise, Shirley Jones talked about Robert Preston and I was pleased to hear that she enjoyed working with him. Apparently, when Broadway stars are pulled to perform their stage character on screen, they often direct their new costars in how everything was done on stage. I can see the reasoning behind that but that must be obnoxious to work with. Well, apparently Robert Preston was not that kind of leading man and he let Shirley Jones play her character her own way and didn't try to interfere at all. Phew! It's so nice when the stars you like turn out to be likable people too. I believe this was the movie that Shirley Jones said Frank Sinatra was slated to star in as well. Apparently, it was this one and Carousel. Frank Sinatra was all set to sign the contract to play Harold Hill when Meredith Wilson stepped in and put a stop to it. I love Robert Preston so I can't imagine anyone else playing Harold Hill to the perfection he attains. Frank Sinatra would have been an interesting choice. I must admit that I'm kind of glad it didn't go through. In his roles in Can-Can, Pal Joey, and High Society, he plays conniving or manipulative men. Well, High Society it's more like a sardonic man. In any case, he plays worldly and world-weary characters and he always turns out kind of... I don't know... hard in that role. I tend to not like him that much. Now, Harold Hill is a character who seems hard but has actually buried a softness that comes out when he finds someone who loves him despite knowing what sort of a person he is. I don't know if Sinatra would have brought out that softness as easily as Preston did. I suppose we'll never know.

I don know that I'm not crazy about the remake. That probably goes without saying though. The old adage "they just don't make 'em like they used to" was bandied about quite a bit on this cruise, unsurprisingly. I'll discuss this topic more in my next post I think but I think it's interesting how speedily people dismiss all movies made after a certain point. Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm not crazy about most contemporary movies. The majority of my DVD collection dates prior to 1970. But that's not to say that I'd dismiss all movies made after that point simply out of prejudice to their release date. I would argue that the remake of The Music Man lacks the charm and the subtlety of the original. It tries too hard to be cute and exciting. The colors are clean and crisp but the town doesn't feel like a small town; it feels like a movie set. The dancing doesn't seem spontaneous. The leading man isn't half as charismatic. I don't empathize with the leading lady nearly as much as I do with the original. I feel like the remake was conscious that it wouldn't live up to the standards fans would hold the original up to and so it just tried to make up for it by exploding all over the screen. I don't know. Back to rambling, I suppose.

The last time I watched the movie was with my best friend, Katie. It's funny how you can watch a movie for years and years but you watch with someone different and they open up a whole new aspect to the movie you've never discovered. I watched it with Katie and she pointed out partway through the film that she loves how Harold really does want to be a conductor. Now, I have to admit that I was always a bit of an absent-minded kid so it's not entirely surprising that I missed this major part of his character. But, there you go, I did.

Watching the movie on the cruise, I watched it with new eyes, and I have to tell you that I kind of lost it. I was balling my heart out as I watched Harold accomplish what he was sure he never could. I also got pretty emotional over the Winthrop plot thread. Maybe it's because I watched the movie with my nieces and nephews in mind? Having developed close friendships with them I can now see how difficult it would be for a family dealing with loss and how much of a difference Harold made in Winthrop's life by giving him something to talk about. I don't know. Maybe I'm rambling at this point.

I will add, however, that it was awfully fun to see my favorite background dancer, Mr. Bert May, on the big screen! If any of you missed it, Bert May commented on the post I wrote about him (in truth, I kind of gushed), and it's something I'm ridiculously proud of. I may or may not have mentioned it a few times to a few people on the cruise... "You see that dancer there? He commented on my blog. No big deal..." I'd absolutely love to interview him. I'd love to know what it was like to work in Hollywood as a contract dancer. What were the stars like? Did he want to be the next Gene Kelly? Did he enjoy his time there? Oh, I could think of a bundle of questions to ask him. But, for now, I'll just share this scene and ask my dear readers if they'd like to play a game of "Where's Waldo?" I tried finding "76 Trombones" and "Marian the Libarian" but I can't find the dance portions on YouTube, so we'll make do with "Shipoopi" because he's in that one too!

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