High Society

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HIGH SOCIETY —-musical remake of The Philadelphia Story was the 9th biggest hit of 1956, grossing $8,258,000. The popularity of stars Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly brought in the crowds, and it was 26-year old Kelly’s last movie (she only made 11) before retiring to settle for being Princess of Monaco.

Apart from a few of the tunes (written by Cole Porter) this 111-minute froth leaves me shrugging. I always felt like it was some sort of duty to bow down before the 1940 original, which I feel is overrated, so another strained go at rich folk chichi ‘sophistication’ just doesn’t excite me enough to leave the yacht.  Crosby acts like it’s a chore to stand up and talk, Sinatra is marking time and Kelly, as ever, is pretty–and pretty bland.

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The color is bright, the sets are uninspired, the jokes are tepid, the direction (Charles Walters) is flat. Crosby sings “True Love”, a fine tune, but he and Frank are painful trying to be hip in the tipsy duet “Well, Did You Evah!, meant to reassure squares that the new rock n’ rollers are a fad. It’s such out-of-date whitebread goop to witness that one can picture any American non-Caucasian of the era watching it and wondering if there would really ever be a breakthrough with white people–and into what?

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That said, Louis Armstrong and his band provide brief relief with “Now You Has Jazz”, although they have to share the number with Bing, who makes your head ache trying to groove.

Two Oscar nominations, for Music Scoring and Song (“True Love”). A famous farcical screw-up occurred when the Story was nominated, until the Academy realized not only had the story already been written as a play, by someone else, back in 1939 and then used as basis for the 1940 movie, but the in the nomination the wrong contemporary writers were credited—Edward Ullman and Edward Bernds, and their script for High Society was for a Bowery Boys flick with that same title, a year earlier.  Egg-on-face and the nomination was pulled.*

With Celeste Holm, John Lund, Louis Calhern and Sidney Blackmer. It cost $2,762,000 to produce. Some people really like this sappy relic–have at it: I just don’t buy. There were two other hit musicals that year–stick with them: Carousel  and The King And I. 

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*Further sticking of foot into mouth had Best Story awarded to The Brave One, written by Robert Rich. Except ‘Robert Rich’ was actually the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo. Was there a Commie cell working at Price-Waterhouse that year?  Faith is shaken….

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