Friday, July 15, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Those Redheads From Seattle (1953)

THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE has a promising premise but suffers from poor execution and low production values. Although the film has its pleasant moments, it's mostly a 90-minute misfire.

A woman (Agnes Moorehead) arrives in a remote Alaska Gold Rush town with her four daughters, only to discover that her husband (Frank Wilcox), a newspaper publisher, has been murdered.

Kathie (Rhonda Fleming), the oldest daughter, goes to work as a "public typist" and later runs her late father's newspaper. She also attracts the attention of saloon owner Johnny Kisko (Gene Barry), as well as the town minister (William Pullen). Sister Pat (Teresa Brewer) scandalizes the family by going to work as a singer in Johnny's saloon. Younger sisters Connie and Nell (the Bell Sisters) comprise the rest of the family.

Most of the relationships and characters in the film are only superficially developed, and it's not a very compelling story. The film is sort of a hybrid musical-frontier Western, but it doesn't really work as either.

As a musical, it struggles as the first couple songs in the film are, frankly, really bad; one features Teresa Brewer and the second features the Bell Sisters entertaining passengers on a boat. Brewer's first appearance, in fact, was downright startling and could easily drive a less curious viewer away.

However, the score finally has a winner with the Mercer-Carmichael tune "I Guess It Was You All the Time," sung by Brewer and Guy Mitchell. Unfortunately Fleming, who had a lovely voice -- displayed in A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT (1949) with Bing Crosby -- never has a solo.

The movie is mostly a soundstage Alaska, complete with huge fake rocks which roll down a mountain during a climactic fight between Johnny and the killer. Although at times the film is colorful, thanks to the redheaded sisters and their costumes, on the whole it feels like it was done on the cheap.

None of the actors really has a chance to shine, unless it's Jean Parker in the scene where her character, a saloon girl, insists that scandalized seamstress Moorehead hike up the hem on her dress. It's quite odd seeing Parker, who two decades previously had portrayed sweet little Beth in LITTLE WOMEN (1933), as a rowdy saloon girl!

The movie was directed by Lewis R. Foster, who cowrote the original screenplay with Geoffrey Homes and George Worthing Yates.

The Technicolor cinematography was by Lionel Lindon. I was amused to discover, after the movie ended, that this film was one of a number of 1953 3-D releases. There's a dance hall number with chorus girls' legs sticking out from behind a curtain that must have looked interesting in 3-D.

THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE is a Paramount film which is available via Netflix Watch Instantly. It's not out on DVD or VHS.

2017 Update: This film is now available on DVD and 3-D Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.


Blogger GeorgeS said...

Well yes it's a B movie but a better one. We won't complain because it's Teresa's only showcase. I'll bet Rhonda's voice was dubbed in that other movie.
Is Netflix showing it in 4:3 shape? I'm not in US.

3:50 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi George,

My understanding is that Rhonda did her own singing in CONNECTICUT YANKEE. She had a lovely voice and did gospel singing with Jane Russell in the '50s, such as in this number.

Thanks for stopping by!

Best wishes,

4:06 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Rhonda Fleming, as so many of these people, is a trained singer, with considerable range. She did very little in film to showcase her gifts, but she played large venues, and toured with three other ladies, Jane Russell, Connie Haines and Beryl Davis. In 2008 Rhonda Fleming Sings Just For You was released by the Sepia Company on Compact Disc.

With regard to dubbing, a practice I personally dislike, in the 1951 MGM remake of Showboat, Ava Gardner performed her own songs, but in the final release print, she was indeed dubbed. When the album was released, and it is currently available, in their considerable wisdom, the producers included Ava's rendition. She is not as technically proficient, but she was indeed musical and sensitive. George should not be speculating cynically about these people and their perfomrances.

9:27 PM  

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