Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
USA, 1960. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, based on their musical play. Cinematography by Milton R. Krasner. Produced by Arthur Freed. Music by Jule Styne. Production Design by E. Preston Ames, George W. Davis. Costume Design by Walter Plunkett. Film Editing by Adrienne Fazan.
Judy Holliday appears in her final film, recreating the stage role for which she won a Tony Award, as a telephone operator whose job running an answering service is an excuse to be involved in all her subscriber’s lives. She pretends to be Santa Claus for one customer’s child, councils a dentist on his aspirations to become a songwriter and, most important to her, tries to help a struggling playwright with writer’s block (Dean Martin) from missing his appointments. When she notices that Martin’s in danger of losing a very important gig, she goes one step further and makes her way over to his apartment, during which she meets and falls in love with him, but can’t tell him who she really is. Meanwhile, the service is being observed by the police, who believe that it’s a front for an escort service, and Holliday’s boss Jean Stapleton doesn’t realize that her boyfriend is using her office to illegally run numbers on her phones.
Filmed in bright candy colours on gorgeous, giant sets, the film is an uncomfortable mix of many jarring elements, trying to cash in on the success of the hip and modern romantic comedy Pillow Talk while also incorporating the traditions of the musicals that director Vincente Minnelli and producer Arthur Freed (both of whom are working for MGM for the last time here) had collaborated on with much better results in the past.
The script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green isn’t up to par with their best, the stakes underlying the deception between the main couple are flimsy and illogical and the B plot is ridiculous; the songs are mostly unmemorable well, a great deal of the play’s score has been excised and it’s to the film’s detriment, if there were more emphasis on production numbers it would be far more enjoyable considering the dialogue is so bland and Holliday and Martin don’t enjoy effortless chemistry. Their performance of “Just In Time” is the film’s highlight, but hardly one to make watching the film worthwhile.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Judy Holliday)