I Love Melvin (1953) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

I Love Melvin (1953)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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Danny LIKEAs someone who has read a lot about the legendary film musical Singin' in the Rain (and, yes, there are whole books on the subject), I feel confident and more-than-a-little sure when I say that it is a wholly perfect film. Combining a great cast, some great numbers, and a lot of talent and energy, Singin' is a masterpiece that is an exemplary display of talent.

A few of those elements make a reappearance I Love Melvin, most notably costars Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds. And while the movie has more than its share of flaws, seeing those two together again makes it almost worth it.

This film has a pretty broad plot: Reynolds is an aspiring starlet, and O'Connor is an aspiring photographer. She's got a protective family and a rich fiance, he's got a crummy job and a crazy mentor. He promises to put her on the cover of his magazine in order to give her the publicity she wants, but the problem is how.

There's also an extended interpretive dance of a football game, but that's not important right now.

Both actors have a tendency to ham it up, but put together they have a nice chemistry. Reynolds is cute, and O'Connor pulls in a few gags. Jim Backus, as O'Connor's mad mentor, is probably the funniest thing the film has because he's the only character unhinged from the rather predictable plot-- that, and he really looks insane. I can't believe the poor got "Gilligan's Island" after this... though he'll always have Rebel Without a Cause, I suppose.

The plot isn't important insomuch as the dancing and the feelings that emanate from the screen. O'Connor is a great dancer-- light on his feet. Some of said he's as good as Kelly and Astaire, and this movie certainly makes the case. He's more willing to let go with his entire body, as his lighter comedian instincts give him less of the rigidity than one normally expects from a romantic lead.

Reynolds is much more polished than she was in Singin', and gets one fun number playing a football in a Broadway interpretation of a football game. Yeah, it's kind of weird, but definitely shows off her skills. Trust me, once you've seen a woman overhand thrown through a field goal of men, you've lived.

O'Connor also gets a showstopping number in the form of "Life Has It's Little Ups and Downs." He's on a pair of roller skates and serenaded by Reynold's character's younger sister, and every bit of the physical comedian that O'Connor is is used here to great effect. I tried tracking down a copy of this sequence on YouTube to no avail, but it's worth seeing if you're a fan of O'Connor's dancing at all.

So is there anything I'd warn someone about before watching I Love Melvin? I mean the songs are good, and there's even a travelogue sequence involving O'Connor acting his way around the world and... Wait. This is 1950's Hollywood.

Ugh. Okay, so he does some clicks and clacks and pretends to be a Chinese guy. In the realm of 1950's comedies, that's surprisingly tame-- oh, wait.

Oh! Well, oh. Now I can kind of imagine why I Love Melvin never got a mainstream DVD release.

Depending on how well you're willing to tolerate some rather jarring racism and a fairly bland plot, I Love Melvin has its charms. I like O'Connor and Reynolds too much to be very impartial here, and if you love MGM Musicals from this era, you will probably feel the same.

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Posted by Danny

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