Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cinema Tuesdays {Bells Are Ringing}

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It never occurred to me until I was uploading these screencaps that the plot of Bells Are Ringing is very simple but extremely complicated to explain in a sentence or two to anyone who hasn't seen the movie. Incidentally, this is the last musical that the Arthur Freed Production Unit did at MGM.
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Yes folks, in a time before answering machines and voice mail, you could subscribe to an answering service where a switchboard operator will answer your calls for you if you're out and take a message or even transfer your call to the office or bar where you can be reached. The answering service will even act as your alarm clock, only better because the telephone doesn't have a snooze button.
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Yes, that's right girl in the pretty sun dress, your life will be magically transformed if you subscribe to an answering service like Susanswerphone.
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The messy clothes aside, isn't that a pretty apartment.
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Yes, that's right, subscribe to Susanswerphone which has a team of professional switchboard operators located in a sleek modern office building and not in the basement of that run down brownstone.
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I love Judy Holliday! She's reprising her role as Ella Peterson (actually her character is a bit like Cinderella) from the Broadway show that was written for her by Comden and Green. What's unusual for a film adaptation of a hit Broadway show is that nearly all of the songs made the transitions and in the same order too!
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Ella and her cousin Sue run Susanswerphone. Ella loves to help out all of their subscribers and to make their lives a little easier, like recommending cold remedies to the opera singer or pretending to be a sixty year old mother to the playwright suffering from writer's block and a drinking problem. Sue just wants Ella to take down the messages. Obviously Sue's never heard of customer service.
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Sue also keeps setting up Ella on disastrous blind dates which only turns Ella into a klutz and ends early when she sets her dress on fire.
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Check out the hat that Pretty Grey Dress is wearing. It reminds me of something out of the dandelion car episode of Pushing Daisies.
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Ella is in love with PLaza 0-4433, the playwright. He has such a wonderful voice and clearly needs someone to take care of him, even if he's ugly, she doesn't care, she even puts on lipstick before calling him, even though he calls her Mom.
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Meanwhile, two of the boys on the Vice Squad think that any answering service with a girl's name in it is clearly a front for a lonely hearts club and they are determined to get some proof.
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Then there's Sue new boyfriend, Otto, a record company head who imports the finest recordings from Europe. Sue lets him set up a phone to take orders and a direct line to the shipping department in the basement.
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I love that girl's menswear style! Otto is actually a bookie and Titanic Records is a front to place bets on the horses by using the record company's catalogue to correspond with the racetracks. It's actually a pretty good system, though illegal.
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Meanwhile, Jeff the playwright unplugged his phone so that his wake-up call wont come through and he wont make his last meeting with an important producer. So Ella goes to wake him up and bring him some coffee and she discovers that Jeff looks an awful lot like Dean Martin. Jeff things that "Melisande Scott" is crazy, but she she does get him to actually write something.
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What is interesting about these street scenes is that even though it's shot on a lot, the hundreds of extras are all wearing their own clothes and makeup and showing off what people were actually wearing in 1960, wrinkles and all.
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Anyway, Ella soon decides to sneak around Sue and visit some of the subscribers in person to suggest ways to improve their lives. She visits the dentist who wants to be a songwriter and tells him about a club that's auditioning new songs.
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She also visits a Beat cafe and tells Frank Gorshin, who's playing a Method actor that sounds like Brando as Stanley, that maybe he could actually win some roles if he would show up to the auditions wearing a suit. A lot of us my know Frank Gorshin as The Riddler in Batman, but he was actually a comedian and a brilliant impressionist, you can see some clips of him on YouTube.
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Meanwhile, the Delivery Kid happens to overhear some of the orders coming in for Titanic Records and mentions that Beethoven only wrote nine symphonies and so Ella calls shipping and has them change all of that day's orders from Beethoven's Tenth to Beethoven's Ninth.
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Jeff arrives back in town after going to the country for a week to finish his play, adding a new character of a dentist that wants to write songs, which is a suggestion he got from Ella. Ella has already decided not to see him, but then she overhears on the phone and one of his ex-girlfriends wearing a flower pot on her head and shown up to distract him from his work by wanting to go to the races and drink.
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Ella turns out her out and tries to leave but Jeff has fallen in love with her, so they go on a date.
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Unfortunately, Jeff has to make an appearance at his producer's party and Ella feels very over dressed there.
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So she takes off her crinoline without anyone noticing.
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I love the "Drop the Name" number, see if you can recognize all of the names. Now that Ella knows about name dropping and if only she could master faking a laugh, she'll be a hit at the party.
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But the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella must leave the ball because she has been lying to the Prince.
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Meanwhile, two musicians from Chicago and they would like to talk to Otto about the mistake in the orders before they take him across the river to record an funeral march.
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Depressed Jeff is spending some quality time in a bars when Frank Gorshin runs into him and tells him that he won the role of the dentist who writes songs in Jeff's play The Midas Touch.
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Just as they are talking, the floor show starts singing a new song called "The Midas Touch" and they buy a drink for the songwriter and they all talk about the blonde who changed their lives.
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Jeff decides he can't take it anymore and runs out to find Ella. And then the Vice Squad shows up to talk them to the station because they both know the same blonde.
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Eventually Jeff figures out where Ella lives and that he's in love with his mother. Just go with it.
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Ella however is packing up her suitcase to go back to her old job at the switchboard of the Bonjour Tristesse Lingerie Company, which is a depressing name for any company.
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But before she can leave the two guys from Chicago and the Vice Squad show up to either kill her or arrest her. And then Jeff arrives to visit Mom. Didn't Dean Martin always wear a tux as casually as if they were pyjamas.
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