Friday, February 06, 2009

Betty Hutton extravaganza

So, thanks to this really nice site, I've watched three Betty Hutton films I've never seen, each starring one of my favorite men:

The Fleet's In (1942) with William Holden
Somebody Loves Me (1952) with Ralph Meeker
Spring Reunion (1957) with Dana Andrews

Now, I have mixed feelings about Betty Hutton. Sometimes I really like her, and other times she's simply too loud and annoying for me. This goes for both her acting and her singing. My mileage definitely varies. For example, I don't particularly like Annie, Get Your Gun, but I do like The Stork Club. So, these three new films were an interesting mix.

My least favorite of the three... Spring Reunion. Sorry, Dana, but I did not like this film at all. This is like a chick flick from the 50's. I don't like current ones; I don't like old ones. Premise... the man and woman voted most likely to succeed in their senior year in high school meet again at their school's fifteen year reunion, find out they both have done nothing with their lives, and since neither's married, they fall in love in one day and run off immediately to get married because this will make their useless-to-date lives complete. *rolls eyes* Okay, now I'm not really arguing that a chick can't fall for and decide to marry Dana Andrews in one day, ahem, but really... it's just a completely nerve-grating movie where I want to slap all the characters at various points. Blech. But high points go to Jean Hagen -- always wonderful in whatever films she turns up in, and I loved Betty Hutton here. She's low key and very appealing, and she worked well with the material given. Dana... hm. His character was a very odd clash of opportunist and sincerity, with a bit of lonely desperation. Hard to get a fix on who he was really aiming to be here.

The middle-rated movie was The Fleet's In. Oh sigh. William Holden is absolutely adorable, Dorothy Lamour is sassy and snarky, and the premise simple, but cute. Navy sailor Holden gets photographed kissing a movie star (an accident of location) and his shipmates plug the naïve sailor as top wolf of the boat. A bet gets made that he can't get famous night club singer Dorothy Lamour to kiss him in public. That's it... simple and cute. I loved everything with Holden and Lamour. But unfortunately they're not the whole movie. And the movie was sideswiped way off track in the last half hour by a variety show put on for the sailors... the story ground to a halt, and every act in their show either creeped me out or was so far gone into slapstick I couldn't deal. Cut all that extra stuff out, and this would have easily been my favorite film of the three. And alas, this was also Betty Hutton quite loud and obnoxious (though she did have some very funny scenes), so I had a hard time getting through the parts minus Holden and Lamour. And oddly, this was another film with an overnight romance leading to marriage, but at least this one had the benefit of a WWII setting when men and women did need to act quickly sometimes. Spring Reunion had no such excuse.

And my favorite of the three films was Somebody Loves Me. I really loved Betty Hutton in this one. There's no brash hollering, no craziness; she's soft-spoken, emotional, pretty, and her singing is beautiful. This one's the story of the rise and fame of a real vaudeville singer and her husband, from 1906 to somewhere in the 1920s. It had a lot (a LOT) of songs, most as performances on stage, but I think with only one exception, I enjoyed them all. Ralph Meeker is at the beginning of his career and very young here. He's playing a character type he does very well... the scheming heel who ultimately redeems himself. Betty Hutton falls for him almost instantly, but his character simply uses her, her wealth, and her fame to get ahead in the show biz world -- until he realizes he's really in love with her. It's sounds a bit corny, but they play it straight and it never falls into yucky pretentiousness baloney sandwich material like Spring Reunion (no, I really didn't like that movie!). Only lousy part of this movie? Whoever they picked to dub Ralph Meeker's singing voice. I mean the voice itself is very lovely, it's just that Meeker has such a distinctive speaking voice (one of the things I love about him), the filmmakers couldn't find any baritone a little closer in quality than this? I mean, really?? Cuz it was such a bad match it yanked me out of the movie and just made me giggle every time he started "singing."

7 comments:

  1. Betty Hutton has never really been my cup of tea. I understand her appeal but, I agree, she can be a bit too loud and over the top. I have to go check that link out now.

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  2. Yeah, she just grates on me when she's being loud and brash and squawky. I know that's her schtick and what made her famous, but it's too bad, because she really has a very nice voice when she sings straight.

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  3. Anonymous9:30 PM

    You'll have to keep checking back on the site, because a new film will be added at the beginning of each month!

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  4. Thanks for commenting -- That's great news about the new films coming too! I will definitely be checking back, as well as watching other films already available. I've also enjoyed reading the biography and will be exploring the jukebox and magazine archives. It's a fun and comprehensive site!

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  5. I don't like Betty Hutton...and I've never even heard of SPRING REUNION! Does Dana sing in it? :)

    ...

    Happy Valentine's Day!! :)

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  6. Alas, no Dana singing. This isn't really a musical at all, though Betty Hutton does sing one song as part of the reunion evening activities. Don't rush out to watch it... it's not Dana at his best, though Betty Hutton is very low-key and natural here, not at all what I expected. She has many sides to her, I've begun to realize.

    Happy V-day to you too!

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  7. Ohhh I am so excited about this website! I recorded Spring Reunion off of TCM about two years ago, on a day when my VCR decided to break! I tried watching it through really bad static and awful tracking, but eventually gave up. Yay! I can see it now! THANK YOU!

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