We’re back for more fun with Gene Kelly, as we next celebrate our Star Of The Month through his 1954 musical Brigadoon, which also stars Van Johnson and Cyd Charisse! Of course, as always, we have a theatrical short to get through, and then it’s on with the show!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Punch (1966)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)
(Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)
The Pink Panther has come up with a health drink of his own, and tries to promote it. He is thwarted, however, by an asterisk from one of his signs that turned green and keeps turning everything green. There are a few good laughs here, as the Panther tries to deal with the small asterisk (and its much bigger “parent”). I’ll admit, it’s not one of the better Panther cartoons, as I generally prefer those where he is “winning,” as opposed to his opponents, but at least there is still some fun to be had here.
And Now For The Main Feature…
A pair of American hunters, Tommy Albright (Gene Kelly) and Jeff Douglas (Van Johnson), have come to Scotland to hunt grouse. However, they quickly find themselves lost. They come across a village that wasn’t on their map, and, since they are hungry, decide to stop by and see if they can find any food. On the outskirts of the village, they run across Fiona Campbell (Cyd Charisse), who directs them to the village square. Tommy is captivated by her, but Jeff tries to push him on towards the square for food. Everyone in town is frightened at the sight of these strangers, and one of the vendors rejects their money. However, Charlie Dalrymple (Jimmy Thompson) is in a good mood because he is getting married, and buys them breakfast. Fiona comes to town to run some errands in preparation for her sister’s wedding, and Tommy decides to join her. They start to gather some heather, but Fiona runs away when they get near a bridge at the edge of the town’s boundaries. Tommy runs into Jeff (who was trying to get away from an over-amorous shepherdess), and they stop outside the Campbell home. There, Tommy sees their family Bible, and is confused by the birthdates of Fiona and her sister being listed as nearly two hundred years earlier. In between that and some other comments he had heard from the villagers, Tommy confronts Fiona and asks her to explain what’s going on. Unable to give an explanation herself, Fiona agrees to take them to the schoolmaster Mr. Lundie (Barry Jones), who can explain everything.
According to Mr. Lundie, the town wasn’t on the map because of a miracle. Two hundred years earlier, the country was full of witches and sorcerers who were turning the people away from their faith in God. The town’s minister, Mr. Forsythe, was growing old, and worried that those witches would come to the town after he died and do the same there. So, he went outside the town’s boundaries, and prayed to God for a miracle. He asked that the town would disappear into the highland mists, only to appear for one day every one hundred years (so as not to be influenced by the outside world). Of course, there was a condition that required the townspeople not to cross the boundaries, or the entire village would disappear forever. There was a provision for outsiders wanting to stay, in that, if they loved someone in the village, they would be able to stay as well.
Unsure of how much he believed what he was told, Tommy still decided to stay and see Charlie’s wedding to Fiona’s sister, Jean (Virginia Boswell). At first, things go well, but then Charlie’s rival for her affections, Harry Beaton (Hugh Laing), starts a fight. When he loses, he expresses his hatred for the town, and tries to leave. Everybody, including Tommy, try to find Harry and stop him. He is only stopped when Jeff (who had left the wedding before the fight broke out) tries to do some hunting, and accidentally shoots and kills Harry while he was up in a tree. Everybody assumes that Harry fell and hit his head, and they decide to keep Harry’s death quiet for the remainder of the day. With that crisis over, Tommy decides to stay in Brigadoon with Fiona, and goes off to find Mr. Lundie. However, he runs across Jeff, who tells him about how he had shot Harry, which leaves Tommy confused. Can he convince himself to stay with Fiona after this, or will the two be separated forever?
The movie was based on the Broadway show of the same name, which opened in 1947 and went on to be a hit. MGM bought the film rights in 1951, intending the film for Gene Kelly (although, because of his schedule, it took a while to get started). Gene Kelly and director Vincente Minelli had hoped to film it on location in Scotland, but a combination of bad weather and high costs prevented that. After trying other locations, they were forced by studio heads to do it entirely on the sound stages at MGM to keep costs low. Even with that attitude, though, the MGM executives thought this movie was going to be a big hit, and decided to put a bit more money into it by using some of the money that had been allocated to a little movie called Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (of course, we all know how that turned out, with Seven Brides becoming the well-regarded classic).
Personally, I have no experience with the musical play at all, only the 1954 film. I admit, I didn’t take to it that much on my first try, and I really didn’t care for much of the music. In the time since that first viewing, I’ve come to appreciate the music of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe more (mostly through My Fair Lady), so when I tried again a few years back (almost a decade after my first time seeing it), I enjoyed Brigadoon a lot more. The music overall is a lot of fun, and there is some fantastic dancing to be enjoyed here (but more on that in a moment). While others take issue with this movie not being filmed on location, I actually like it better on the soundstages. For one thing, it’s more of a fantasy, and thus the not-as-realistic settings work much better for me (that, and I enjoy seeing just what all the various craftsman could actually put together back then without the aid of CGI). Now, is this movie perfect? Far from it. Dancer and actor James Mitchell had originally played the part of Harry Beaton in the original show, and was under contract to MGM at this time, but they instead opted to cast Hugh Laing (borrowed from the New York City Ballet) as Harry. While that in and of itself isn’t bad, it feels very much like Hugh Laing is underutilized. I would have expected him to do a lot more dancing, especially with his background, but he is instead relegated to doing a little at the wedding right before his character tries to kiss the bride against her will (I know that he did more in one of the still extant deleted scenes from the movie, but it still wasn’t that much). Van Johnson’s character isn’t exactly the most likeable guy, either (at least, not the way he portrayed him).
Still, Gene Kelly certainly made the film fun to watch. His dancing in this movie was always interesting. On my first viewing, the only song that actually stuck with me was the song “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean,” and I like how all the villagers had their own style of dancing (from their own time), and then Gene and Van Johnson started doing some more modern dancing, which they all wanted to see. Gene’s duet with Cyd Charisse to “Heather On The Hill” is absolutely beautiful to watch, both the dancing and the scenery (and, if you recall, it made my list of Top 10 Dance Routines). His dance solo to “Almost Like Being In Love” is also quite entertaining, as he goofs around while enjoying the feeling of being in love. Honestly, Gene Kelly makes this film worth seeing! It’s not a perfect movie, but I enjoy it enough to recommend it (especially if you can see it through its restoration on Blu-ray)!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection.
Film Length: 1 hour, 48 minutes
My Rating: 8/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Singin’ In The Rain (1952) – Gene Kelly – Deep In My Heart (1954)
The Caine Mutiny (1954) – Van Johnson
The Band Wagon (1953) – Cyd Charisse – Deep In My Heart (1954)
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