Monday, October 20, 2008

An Interrupted American Medley in My Heart

Last night, I was catching up on some random Oscar nominees I had my mother tape for me (what a saint!) and one of the numerous DVD's was Interrupted Melody, the 1955 biopic that netted Eleanor Parker a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Over the past year or so, I've grown quite fond of this lovely, under appreciated actress. She's probably best known as the Baroness in The Sound of Music (I've blocked most things associated with that pile of dreck so I sadly can't remember her performance) but she also earned well-deserved Oscar nominations for the women-in-prison drama Caged and the underseen Detective Story and she also impressed me as the crippled girlfriend of Frank Sinatra's heroin addict in The Man With the Golden Arm. Unfortunately for Parker and for us, there's nothing much in Interrupted Melody to do. Parker plays "beloved" (I use that word in quotes because I sure as hell don't know who she is) opera star Marjorie Lawrence who, after a bought with polio that crippled her, made a grand comeback to the Metropolitan Opera House (but not until she overcame a crippling stage fright, of course). The film is one of the ridiculous star biopics of the 50's in which only one interesting thing happens to the person, so the writers spent the rest of the time making up crap and adding scenes to give the film some kind of flimsy dramatic structure. The first half of the film has one of the worst structures I've ever seen. Basically, the story go from Eleanor Parker being humble to Eleanor Parker singing in some random opera to Eleanor Parker crying on the phone while talking to her family in Australia to Eleanor Parker singing in another random opera to Eleanor Parker making out with Glenn Ford to Eleanor Parker singing in yet another random opera...I think you get the idea. The second half of the film, after she comes down with polio, is a tad bit better, but it's still as trite as any material of this nature can be. Poor Eleanor. She really tries her hardest and technically she's quite proficient. That scene where she's forced to crawl on the ground to turn on the record player was excruciating and Parker never oversold it or explicitly cried out for us to sympathize with her. Plus, like Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose, her lip syncing was incredible. It may not seem like anything these days, but back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, when pretty actresses were forced to lip sync because their voices weren't up to par, most didn't give a shit and just mouthed the words. Not Parker. She obviously studied breath control and timing and, if you didn't know any better, you would think that that was her voice coming out of her mouth. But, unfortunately, Interrupted Melody doesn't give Parker any acting to do and she's just forced to go along with the cheap theatrics and ungodly amount of opera pieces.

During the second half of the film, however, I was constantly reminded of another Oscar nominated performance from the 1950's in a ridiculous star biopic about a "popular" singer who overcomes being a cripple (this time from a plane crash) and makes a grand comeback, performed by a largely forgotten, but still utterly amazing actress from the same era: Susan Hayward in With a Song in My Heart. The film is an utter piece of garbage, much like Interrupted Melody, and really plays into Hayward's worst tendencies as an actress (overly-stylized and hammy). The film does, however, have one A-MA-ZING moment right at the end that Interrupted Melody reminded me of. In the course of her comeback, Hayward performs for the troops during WWII and delivers this rousing patriotic medley that is absolutely shameless and Hayward is about as subtle as George Bush at a gay pride parade, but it gets me everytime I watch it. In fact, the first time I saw With a Song in My Heart (yes, I have unfortunately seen it more than once) I rewound this scene about 10-15 and watched it over and over again. It's so good that I almost don't mind Hayward's Best Actress nomination over Debbie Reynolds in Singin' in the Rain or Judy Holliday in The Marrying Kind. Almost. Here, have a look for yourself:

My Favorite Parts
1. Susan Hayward's very dramatic fist during the line "It's a great ole wonderful home sweet home."
2. The way Susan Hayward poses at the very end of the song about Chicago. So dramatic.
3. That really dramatic guy singing in the audience during "California, Here We Come"
4. "HOW ABOUT TEXAS?" "Well, how about it?" *cheeky smile* Oh Susan, you're such a ham, but I still love you.
5. That really weird guy clapping away in the audience and his stupid grin during the song about Virginia.
6. "For you...anything." I wish I had the chance to say that more often, with that same inflection, and people would know what the hell I was talking about.
7. The way How About Texas Guy interrupts the tender moment of Susan Hayward singing to that guy in the front row and her classic response: "Texas? Never heard of it!"
8. The Amazing Thelma Ritter joining in on "Deep In the Heart of Texas." What a lady.
9. The way everyone goes batshit crazy over "Dixie." It's a good song, I must admit, but unless you're from the South, I can't imagine going that insane over it (and I know all of them can't be from the South).


r.o.a.d. fan said...

OMG! YOU DON'T LOVE, LOVE LLLOOOVVVVEEE The Sound of Music???? OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ...(pant, pant...gimmie a sec, just got a case of the vapors...lemme just fan my face for a sec.....OMG.....pant pant.....ooookkkkaaaayyy...). Whew, that was a close one, I almost thought you called ...(let me just bow my head in prayer for the raindrops on roses...yes....) okay, I'm back, I dreamed you called one of the most fabulous movies EVER MADE ...(geesh, I can't say it...uggg....) "dreck." Whew, that was close. So, I'm awake now. Lets talk about how many ways we LOVE The Sound of Music.... Lets start at the very beginning...

J.D. said...

^ needs some dosage.

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