Friday, November 25, 2011

Tonight's Movie: I Love Melvin (1953)

The MGM musical I LOVE MELVIN is a breezy trifle which provides 77 minutes of enjoyable entertainment.

The paper-thin plot is merely an excuse to string together a series of musical numbers featuring the film's stars, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor. Debbie plays Judy, a dancer in a Broadway show who falls in love with Melvin (O'Connor), a photographer's assistant at Look magazine.

Melvin leads Judy to believe he can do a spread of photos on her in the magazine, and then he goes to greater lengths to persuade Judy and her family that she'll be on the cover. Judy hopes this will make her a star and save her from her father pressuring her to marry boring Harry (Richard Anderson) for financial security. Of course, telling tall tales comes back to bite Melvin and complications ensue.

It does give one pause that the plot hangs on the thread of the leading man being a liar who doesn't know when to quit, but O'Connor is wistfully charming and persuades the viewer that he's really a nice guy led astray by love. One can understand how smitten Melvin is with Judy, as Reynolds was at her very loveliest in this film. She's delightful.

The Mack Gordon-Josef Myrow musical score isn't especially memorable, but it's kind of catchy; as a teenager I enjoyed listening to it on LP for years before I ever had the opportunity to see the movie. My favorite number is "Where Did You Learn to Dance?" which Judy and Melvin perform in the living room of her family's apartment. I also like the tune they sing in the park before meeting, "We Have Never Met, As Yet."

O'Connor has a couple of solos, including a good number in a park on roller skates. (Fun to note that this preceded Gene Kelly's roller skating dance in IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER by a couple of years.) Watch carefully as O'Connor skates around a gazebo in perfect circles -- he's attached to what's apparently meant to be an invisible wire which is anchored at the center of the gazebo.

The movie has a nice sense of humor, including a dream sequence featuring Robert Taylor (!). I also especially liked Debbie's wardrobe of pretty dresses, designed by Helen Rose, and the set design of Judy's family's lower middle class apartment, which is a bit cramped and worn, but also homey and comfortable.

I especially like Una Merkel in this, playing Judy's mother. Her appearance in this film reminds me a bit of my late maternal grandmother.

Allyn Joslyn plays Judy's perpetually bellicose father. He's always been one of my favorite character actors, but he doesn't have much to do in this short film other than be disagreeable.

Noreen Corcoran is cute as Judy's little sister, Clarabelle. Noreen was from a large family of child actors which included Donna (ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD), Kevin (OLD YELLER), and several other siblings.

Jim Backus plays the photographer Melvin works with at the magazine, and Les Tremayne is the editor. If you don't blink, you can spot Barbara Ruick as a studio tour guide in Judy's dream sequence; this was one of a number of small roles she appeared in at MGM in the early '50s.

The movie was directed by Don Weis and photographed in Technicolor by Harold Rosson. The film includes some attractive location shooting in New York City.

I LOVE MELVIN has been released in a nice remastered print by the Warner Archive. The disc includes the trailer and an outtake reprise of the song "A Lady Loves" which appears to have been an alternate ending to the movie. A shot from that outtake also appears at the end of the trailer.

This film has also been released on VHS.

I LOVE MELVIN can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.


Blogger barrylane said...

Don Weis was a friend of mine and a director of craft and great good humor. He handled many projects with a light, subtle touch, and I believe, that while successful, he is under-appreciated by afficionados. I Love Melvin is a wonderful example of his deft handling of something that could have fallen flat.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks very much for your comment - how wonderful that you knew Mr. Weis. I'll be looking for his name in the future.

Best wishes,

10:44 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I once asked Don who the best actor he ever worked with was. "Alan Alda, but Raymond Burr the best reader."

11:47 AM  

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