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Posts Tagged ‘peter lawford’

This film is notable for being Jack Lemmon’s big-screen debut, and also for being way ahead of its time in terms of celebrity culture. In this romantic comedy, he plays film-maker Pete Sheppard, who, while filming in Central Park, NYC, meets Gladys Glover (Judy Holliday), a model who has just lost her job, and is considering leaving New York and going back to her home town. After their brief chat, Gladys decides to rent a billboard and put her name on it. Just her name, nothing else. Before long, she becomes a celebrity, although nobody is sure exactly what it is that she does, but she is invited on to tv chat shows, and even has the Air Force name a plane after her! Trouble is, that all of the stardom that she so craved and now has, causes friction between her and Pete, who have become friends, and harbour a deep affection for each other. Pete recognises the shallowness of her fame for what it is, but Gladys has trouble seeing past the fact that everybody finally knows who she is. She also has to cope with the unwanted attentions of Evan Adams III (Peter Lawford), a businessman who wants to get together with Gladys for his own nefarious ends.

The film is very enjoyable, and both Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon are great in their roles. There is real chemistry between them, and although they are divided by their opinions on Gladys’ fame, they are both very endearing. I kept rooting for them to get their act together, and for Gladys to realise what was important to her.

The storyline seems more relevant today than ever, highlighting as it does the nature of celebrity; people become famous for being famous, or they become stars because the public are told that they should like these people. What does Gladys actually do to get invited to give her opinions on a tv programme? Why does she deserve to have an Air Force plane named after her? In this day and age, it seems that people are always getting famous, despite not having any job, or indeed the talent and intelligence required for such a job.

However, this film is not a serious study – it’s a comedy and a very sweet and charming one. Jack Lemmon definitely had the likeability factor, and this film demonstrates that it was there for him right from the beginning. Judy Holliday is perfect also, and Peter Lawford is just fine as the horrible Evan.

Overall, definitely a film I would recommend!

Year of release: 1954

Director: George Cukor

Producer: Fred Kohlmar

Writer: Garson Kanin

Main cast: Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon, Peter Lawford

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This charming musical features Frank Sinatra as Danny Miller, a young Soldier fresh out of the army, who can’t wait to get back home to Brooklyn, where he hopes to become a successful singer.  Danny moves in with school janitor Nick, and meets Anne Fielding (Kathryn Grayson), a music teacher who dreams of becoming an opera singer; and when  Jamie, a shy songwriter from England arrives, Danny offers to help him develop his talent and show him the Brooklyn experience.  The four of them also find time to help a young pianist gain a scholarship to an exclusive musical school.

This is neither Sinatra’s nor Grayson’s best known or most popular musical for MGM, but it is really a lovely film.  Sinatra, who so often plays a heel or a playboy, is really very sweet here (more like Clarence in Anchors Aweigh than Francois in Can-Can), and really makes the viewer warm to him.  He is impossibly good natured throughout, and naturally, sings beautifully.  Kathryn Grayson is great in her role as the feisty Anne, although most opera music leaves me cold, and I didn’t enjoy her songs particularly (although she did a nice duet with Sinatra).  Jimmy Durante as janitor Nick, almost steals the show however, providing a fine comic turn.  Indeed, all of the characters in the film are very likeable.

There’s also an actual story as well, rather than the film being merely a vehicle to showcase the songs – the subplot about the four friends helping pianist Leo win a scholarship is sweet.

Probably an overlooked musical from MGM (who produced all the best musicals), but definitely one with plenty of charm, and it’s well worth seeing.

Year of release: 1947

Director: Richard Whorf

Writers: Isobel Lennart, Jack McGowan

Main cast: Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, Jimmy Durante, Peter Lawford

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This book is a gossipy, lurid, but always readable account of the rise and fall of the Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.  It charts how they came together in the first place (the name Rat Pack was given to them by Lauren Bacall, the wife of Humphrey Bogart, who Sinatra regarded as a hero), talks about their glory years when they seemed to rule the entertainment world from Las Vegas, and then the inevitable fall into, variously, drug abuse, alcoholism, bankruptcy and depression, leaving behind them a trail of broken marriages, broken hearts and more.

The book is not a biography of any of the Rat Pack members – their childhoods and very early careers are barely touched upon – and shouldn’t be read as such.  Instead, it covers the most successful and most volatile parts of their various careers, including such things as Sinatra’s involvement with the Mob, and the Kennedys (and both together at some stages).  Sinatra is the main focus of the book, with the others seeming to orbit around him – with the exception of Dean Martin, who, it seems fairly apparent, would kowtow to nobody.

Actually, despite the author’s obvious and understandable love for Sinatra’s singing, Frank does not come out of this account very well.  He is shown to be domineering and paranoid, unpredicatable – apt to change his mood in a moment – and a womaniser, who had little respect for anybody other than those he feared.  Dean Martin came out of it a little better – at least he was his own man.  Sammy Davis Jr was probably the most interesting of all of the Rat Pack members, for me anyhow.  The racism and abuse he had to deal with was shocking – while hotel and casino managers were happy to have him perform and entertain a crowd, they certainly were not about to let him mingle with that same crowd.  The section about the eventual desegregation in Vegas was illuminating and very interesting.  Sammy also seemed to be out of his depth in the Rat Pack – detested by white people because of the colour of his skin, and detested by black people for being friends with white men like Sinatra and Martin, he was caught between a rock and a hard place.  Peter Lawford came across as a sad character – born to looks, charm and charisma, Frank spat him out after he believed that Peter had double crossed him, and it’s sad to see how such a beautiful man as Lawford ended up sinking into a haze of drugs and alcohol, which cost him his life.  Joey Bishop was possibly the most enigmatic of the group – seemingly able to rib Frank without fear of reprisals, and remaining his own man as far as possible within the confines of such a group.

The Kennedys feature in the book – Frank was an ardent admirer of the family, and an overt campaigner for JFK when Kennedy was running for the democratic presidential nomination, and then the president.  The family as a whole do not come over well(!)  Also covered extensively was Frank’s connection with various gangsters – who were happy to use him, but clearly had little respect for him.

It was nice to read about a time when Las Vegas was a genuinely cool, sexy and glamorous place to be, unlike the commercial money making machine which it is these days; what a place it would have been to visit at the time!

The slang used in the book emulates the period covered, with mention of broads, dames and swells routinely peppered throughout the book.  This may annoy some viewers, but I actually enjoyed it a lot.  Overall I very much enjoyed the book, and it has whetted my apetite to find out more about the various Rat Pack members.

(Autor’s website can be found here.)

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Another great MGM musical, this one made in 1948.  MGM described it as “the happiest musical ever made.”  (This may have been a valid claim at the time, but then Singin’ In The Rain came along, and I don’t know a happier movie than Singin’.)

Fred Astaire plays Don Hewes (originally Gene Kelly was supposed to star as Don, but injured his ankle and personally requested that Astaire play the part).  Don is part of a song and dance couple, but when his partner Nadine Hale (Ann Miller) leaves him, he hires Hannah Brown (Judy Garland) as his new partner.  In a story vaguely reminiscent of Garland’s role in For Me and My Gal, in which she starred with Gene Kelly, Hannah falls in love with Don, but still feels threatened by his previous partnership with Nadine.

The storyline of course is really a way to string together some lovely songs and dances. Of particular note are Don’s ‘Drum Crazy’ dance, his ‘Steppin’ Out With My Baby’ dance, and the ‘A Couple of Swells’ number performed by Astaire and Garland.

Hannah sings some lovely songs, and looks gorgeous as well.  Ann Miller plays a rather unlikeable character, but there’s no denying that her tap dance in the number ‘Shakin’ The Blues Away’ is anything less than terrific.

This certainly is a happy movie, and there’s plenty of numbers which will get your toes tapping.  The score by Irving Berlin is lovely, with some instantly recognisable numbers.  Well worth watching.

Year of release: 1948

Director: Charles Walters

Writers: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Sidney Sheldon, Guy Bolton

Main cast: Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Ann Miller, Peter Lawford

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