For my next contribution for January’s Star Of The Month, we have Doris Day’s classic 1953 musical Calamity Jane, also starring Howard Keel! As usual, we have our requisite theatrical shorts to get through, and then, we’ll be ready for the movie!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Pop-Pie A La Mode (1945)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)
Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.
(Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)
After being shipwrecked, Popeye makes it to an island that, as he later discovers, is inhabited by cannibals. This one is a bit harder to say much positive about. The cannibals are all rather blatantly racist stereotypes, with their blackface-type appearance, as well as their overall manner of behavior. That alone says it all about this cartoon. On the one hand, it should be preserved, as it has been, but at the same time, it certainly is a reminder of our past (and sadly, still present) issues, and should be avoided by parents with young and impressionable children. One of the weakest cartoons from this set for that reason.
Coming Up Shorts! with… So You Love Your Dog (1953)
(available as an extra on the Calamity Jane Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)
(Length: 10 minutes, 31 seconds)
Joe McDoake’s “faithful” dog Dusty continues to get him in trouble by turning on him, both during war and peace. The dog very strongly resembles Lassie, and their intelligence makes this one quite fun. Poor Joe. He thinks Dusty is quite trustworthy, while the dog is actually trying to do him harm. Overall, it’s a bit of fun, and one of the few of the Joe McDoakes series that I’ve seen so far that I enjoyed enough that I would watch it again.
Coming Up Shorts! with… Duck Dodgers In The 24 1/2 Century (1953)
(available as an extra on the Calamity Jane Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)
(Length: 7 minutes, 4 seconds)
Duck Dodgers (in the 24 1/2 Century!) tries to claim Planet X in the name of the earth, but Marvin the Martian has other plans. Yep, it’s that classic Daffy Duck (Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century!) cartoon! What more needs to be said? It’s always fun to laugh at Daffy’s antics here, especially with Porky Pig as the more adept “Eager Young Space Cadet” working in Daffy’s shadow. Seriously, it’s hard not to enjoy this one whenever I get the chance to see it! It may not have been restored for the 2015 Calamity Jane Blu-ray release, but the fun still shines through just the same!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Ah, “Calamity” Jane Canary (Doris Day). Trouble and her just seem to go together. Upon her return from riding shotgun on “The Deadwood Stage,” she learns from a pair of prospectors that Second Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin (Philip Carey), a soldier that she has a crush on, was killed by a Sioux war party. Or captured. The two prospectors didn’t really have a chance to find out, as they only narrowly escaped from the Sioux themselves. So, off Calamity rides, in hopes of finding the truth. She is able to find the Sioux war party, and, to her joy, she finds Danny alive. She quickly chases off the small band of Sioux, and rescues Danny.
Back in Deadwood, more trouble is brewing, as Calamity’s friend and proprietor of the Golden Garter saloon (and theatre), Henry “Milly” Miller (Paul Harvey), has hired Francis Fryer to headline his show. The problem? Milly was expecting an actress, not an actor! So he has Francis Fryer (Dick Wesson) dress in drag and pretend to be a woman, an act that doesn’t last long. With all Milly’s patron’s complaining and threatening to leave, Calamity tries to do what she can by promising them Milly has already sent for a big actress. When questioned about who he sent for, she mentions the only actress she can think of: Adelaid Adams (who was big around town because of her picture, which comes with some packs of cigarettes). Francis knows Adelaid, and he privately tells Milly that she would never come to Deadwood. Undaunted, Calamity goes off to Chicago (or maybe I should say “Chicagee,” like her). She catches a show, but is unable to see Adelaid Adams (Gale Robbins) up close. Going backstage, she meets Adelaid’s maid, Katie Brown (Allyn McLerie), in Adelaid’s dressing room, and assumes her to be Adelaid. In between the real Adelaid leaving and her own desires to be onstage, Katie decides to go with Calamity to Deadwood. Once there, she tries to perform like Adelaid, but fails. It comes out that she’s not Adelaid, and, after arguing with the audience, Calamity suggests they give her a shot anyways, since they all have their own dreams that they came to Deadwood hoping to see fulfilled. In doing it her own way, Katie makes a big hit with the men in town.
Calamity offers to take Katie out to live together in her cabin, and after the initial disappointment about the messy state of the place, the two of them work together to make it a home. While they are at it, Katie also gives Calamity a makeover to help her look more like a woman. Further trouble comes about when Danny and Calamity’s friend “Wild Bill” Hickok (Howard Keel) both come a-calling for Katie, with both hoping to bring her to an upcoming dance. Katie knows about Calamity’s feelings towards Danny, and tries to suggest they all go together. After drawing straws, Bill is stuck taking Calamity. At the dance, they and everybody are all awestruck to see how beautiful Calamity looks in a dress. However, Danny still only has eyes for Katie, and Calamity storms off after seeing them kiss. The next day, Calamity tells Katie to get out of town, before Bill takes her aside to tell her off. The question remains, will Katie go, or will all the relationship troubles get sorted out?
Calamity Jane was very much Warner’s answer to the MGM musical Annie Get Your Gun. Originally, Jack Warner had tried to get the rights to the stage musical of Annie Get Your Gun, intending it for Doris Day. However, MGM outbid him. When Judy Garland, who had originally been cast in Annie Get Your Gun, pulled out, Doris once again had hopes of doing the movie, but Jack Warner refused to loan her out, with the part going to Betty Hutton. Instead, Doris Day was given the part of Calamity Jane, with the role becoming one of her best-known, and one of her favorites (admittedly, it’s been said that Calamity Jane was a project already in the works for her even before the possibility of being in Annie Get Your Gun).
I will say that Calamity Jane was, if I’m remembering correctly, my introduction to Doris Day. At the time, I was more familiar with Howard Keel (mostly from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers). In all the time since, though, I’ve enjoyed watching this movie, as well as seeking out some of her other film musicals. I enjoy the overall film, from the cast, to the music, and the story as well. I know the movie version of Calamity Jane was far different from the real-life person, but I do enjoy this cleaned-up film (far more than the more recent HBO TV series Deadwood, which I barely could last through an entire episode of). The music in this movie, written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, is quite memorable. I enjoy the “Deadwood Stage,” get a kick out of “I Can Do Without You” (which seems strangely reminiscent of “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun), and enjoy her signature tune “Secret Love,” but the song that’s always stuck in my head after watching this movie is her duet with Howard Keel for “The Black Hills Of Dakota.” That one I always enjoy. Honestly, this movie is a lot of fun, and I would have no trouble whatsoever recommending this one!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of a four film Musicals collection.
Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
On Moonlight Bay (1951) – Doris Day – Young At Heart (1954)
Lovely To Look At (1952) – Howard Keel – Kiss Me Kate (1953)
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