Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bells Are Ringing

Bells Are Ringing
seen on TV @ TCM

I can't believe I'v gone over a year and a half on this blog without talking about a Judy Holliday movie. I've already expressed my undying love for her in this space, but that's not the same as talking about one of her films. Let's rectify that - but first, I must take a moment to reaffirm my love for this adorable woman.

My love for Judy is different than my love for, say, Barbara Stanwyck. Stany was a different kind of actress, and projected a different kind of demeanor: brassy and colorful, like Judy, but also tough as nails, with a sensuality that she could use to make men do anything. Stany had fire to her - she'd keep you warm, but she'd burn you if you weren't careful.

Judy seemed like the stereotypical dumb blonde that could be taken advantage of, at least on the surface, but her characters had a sincerity, a vulnerability, an earnestness that couldn't be hidden. Her characters never knew the meaning of duplicity; it wasn't in their natures, and something about the way she played them makes me believe they weren't far removed from the real her (though of course, I have no way of knowing for certain, but still).

Judy, like Stany to a degree, didn't resemble your typical movie star. She didn't look like Carole Lombard or Myrna Loy or Betty Grable, nor did she talk like Irene Dunne or Audrey Hepburn. And she was a little bit curvier by comparison, though in a very pleasing way, the way a woman should look (not that I'd kick Betty Grable out of my bed, mind you). But she had comic timing and skill like few actresses before or since. She was goofy and playful. When she had to be nervous and self-conscious, she elicited tenderness as well as laughs. Unlike Marilyn Monroe, who used coyness as a kind of seduction, Judy rarely came across as coy. She didn't need to.

You never felt like she was capital-A Acting. John Wayne always asserted that he never acted, he reacted, and I believe it was very much the same with Judy. I think she knew her strengths as an actress well (she was on Broadway before she came to Hollywood, after all) and played to them, and no matter how silly the situations she'd get into, when you watch her, you're willing to go along with it because of her openness. She became a star around the same time that Lucille Ball was dominating television, and one can't help but wonder if they influenced each other in any way.

Also, as we can see in Bells Are Ringing, she had a lovely singing voice. Watching this, I was reminded of another gifted comedienne who left us far, far too soon: Madeline Kahn. Judy gets to do accents and impressions in this, though one gets the sense that she's hamming more than anything else, whereas Madeline was really good at adopting funny accents.

Still, Judy gets to be glamorous as well as sassy, and in color (that red dress...), and I was smiling contentedly throughout the whole thing. Dean Martin was just the right singing partner for her, especially in the film's hit "Just In Time," a love song for the ages. I liked most of the songs in this as well.

If you've never seen any of Judy's films, this is a good place to start. She's one of those old-time stars that few people remember today, but there's no doubt in my mind that she still shines as brightly as she ever did.

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