Article #1442 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-24-2005
Posting Date: 7-24-2005
Directed by Henry King
Featuring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Cameron Mitchell
A man returns from the afterlife to help his daughter through a crisis situation in her life.
Rodgers and Hammerstein made an important contribution to the American musical; they took the musical out of the comedy / revue format within which it had been entrenched, and incorporated stories with darkness and tragedy into the form. Though I can appreciate this on an intellectual level, I’m afraid that I just don’t warm up to their musicals, largely because I don’t think they quite went far or dug deep enough; when push comes to shove, they fell back on feel-good inspirational platitudes, and I emerge somewhat unsatisfied.
This is one that I was pretty leery about. It’s based on the story of LILIOM, and I disliked and distrusted the early movie version I’d seen of that story because it seemed to be romanticizing domestic abuse; the “he hit me and it felt like a kiss” sequence disturbs me. Still, this movie version of the musical really does something right; it refuses to let that be the last scene in the movie, and makes it clear that the hit in question is indeed the wrong action. This goes a long way towards making this version of the story somewhat more palatable than the 1930 version.
Outside of my problems with this theme, I find the movie a mixed bag. A great musical wins me over even though I’m not particularly fond of the form, but this one does it only sporadically. The quieter, more intimate songs fail to hold my attention, but I really like some of the big production numbers, in particular the one that tells the story of the daughter’s humiliation and the “June is Busting Out All Over” number. It also has a likable cast, including Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Cameron Mitchell and Gene Lockhart. John Dehner plays a rich man who is the target of a robbery, but you never get a clear look at him. Tor Johnson and Angelo Rossitto are reportedly on hand here, but I didn’t see them; this is probably due, however, to the fact that I saw a pan and scan version of the movie, and the possibility that they only appeared for a short time on missing ends of the frame may account for that.