Saturday Editor’s Pick: Bells Are Ringing (1960)

by on October 23, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sat Oct 29 at 6:50*, 9:30 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]
*Q&A with Minnelli scholar Joe McElhaney and former editor-in-chief of Cahiers du Cinema Emmanuel Burdeau


The Complete Vincente Minnelli” series sadly winds down this coming week at BAM, but not before a screening of one of his most delightful and underrated musicals.


The pairing of Dean Martin’s hunka-man antics with Judy Holliday’s utterly unique interpretation of the dippy blonde make for a chemistry and romance quite piquantly apart from most Hollywood fare. Comden & Green originally wrote the role for Holliday, but despite 964 successful performances on Broadway she struggled mightily on set to reinvision the part for the screen. Regardless it remains one of her best, as Stuart Galbraith eloquently puts it, “Holliday’s image was the antithesis of the MGM star – she was mortal – and thus the stakes are much more personal and the impact greater,” a comment made more poignant as Bells was Holliday’s last film appearance – she succumbed to breast cancer several years later.


Some critics thought it was Minnelli who struggled with the adaptation to film. But as Joe Baltake notes, “With his shrewdly-made Bells Are Ringing, Minnelli, seemingly cognizant of changing times, serious redefines the film musical into something lighter, less insistent and virtually dance-free. Note in particular the revolutionary way in which Minnelli staged Martin’s ‘I Met a Girl’ number and what’s left of ‘Mu-Cha-Cha.'”


Bells Are Ringing is an important end to another era, as it was the last MGM musical overseen by Arthur Freed.


The name-dropping sequence alone is worth the price of admission (with a meta-rific inclusion of “Vincente Minnelli”):

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Vincente Minnelli at BAMcinématek (Sep 23-Nov 2)

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