And so we come to the end of the Minnelli File, all the pictures of his that I saw 1952-1970, and made comments on for my movie card-file of every film I saw in that formative 19-year period. One of my favorites is here: The Clock with Judy Garland and Robert Walker, both at their most innocent and charming, a fragile love story handled with great sensitivity by Minnelli at his best. Vincente’s most memorable work was made in the 40s & 50s; some of the 60s projects were ill-advised though almost always at least interesting. But a career that embraces Meet Me in St. Louis, The Bad and the Beautiful, Father of the Bride, The Band Wagon, An American in Paris, Some Came Running, The Clock, and others, can most assuredly be called both extremely versatile and extremely valuable.
YOLANDA AND THE THIEF (1945; d: Vincente Minnelli).
1964: Fair* (An overly whimsical plot about a pretty heiress in a mythical Bemelmans’ country and the American crook, who convinces her he is her guardian angel in order to fleece her, is enlivened by Minnelli’s superb styling and sense of grace and color. Fred
Astaire is all right in a part much more suited to Gene Kelly, and Lucille
Bremmer is totally wrong in a Judy Garland part if there ever was
one. The picture has its moments and Frank Morgan and Mildred Natwick are delightful; one of Minnelli’s silliest assignments, it nevertheless bears his urbane point of view and striking use of the camera.)
THE CLOCK (1945; d: Vincente Minnelli).
1964: Excellent (Robert Walker and Judy Garland are both simply magnificent in this beautifully directed and written story about a soldier’s 48-hour leave in New York, the girl he meets by accident, falls in love with, loses in a crowd, and then marries. Done with exquisite taste and extreme sensitivity, never maudlin and always honest and believable, this is among Minnelli’s finest pictures: a stylistic masterpiece of mood, feelings, atmosphere, subtlety. Altogether a touching and deeply moving, hilarious and lovely experience.)
CABIN IN THE SKY (1943; d: Vincente Minnelli).
1964: Very good (Minnelli’s first film, and immediately recognizable of his personality and style: a charming musical fantasy with an all-Negro cast, about the struggle between Heaven and Hell for the soul of a gambling no-account who has the love of a good woman. Beautifully acted and sung by Ethel Waters, with fine support from Eddie Anderson, John Bubbles, Rex Ingram, Lena Horne; strikingly photographed, set and costumes — filled with evocative Minnelli touches.)
GOODBYE CHARLIE (1964; d: Vincente Minnelli).
1964: Excellent- (Thoroughly delightful, strikingly directed, very will played comedy-fantasy about a Don Juan who is murdered by the husband of one of his conquests, only to return as a woman. Debbie Reynolds, Tony Curtis, Pat Boone and Walter Matthau are all particularly good, and Minnelli’s interior and exterior decoration, his camera movement, pacing and sense of the absurd seems to get sharper with every film. This is one of his funniest and most sophisticated, a musical without music.)
Added 1966: (Disappointing this time: the material pretty thin, and Reynolds inadequate. But it’s still beautiful to look at, and Matthau is magnificent.)
FATHER’S LITTLE DIVIDEND (1951; d: Vincente Minnelli).
1965: Very good (Entertaining, delightful and excellently directed, written and played sequel to Minnelli’s Father of the Bride — the same characters, only this time the daughter is having a baby. Spencer Tracy is superb again, and Minnelli’s amused, tasteful handling keeps the material from becoming maudlin or mawkish or sickeningly wholesome — like Rodgers and Hammerstein. On the contrary, it has an urbane, witty viewpoint, and a particularly keen observation of Americana, its sound and qualities. A truly charming movie.)
THE SANDPIPER (1965; d: Vincente Minnelli).
1965: Fair- (A ludicrous script, ineptly, uninterestingly acted by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and only infrequently redeemed by the stylish color and decor of Minnelli’s touch. One or two scenes are effectively done, especially a fight in a car between Burton and wife Eva Marie Saint, but for the most part Minnelli’s attempts fail because of the hopelessness of this producer-inspired vehicle, obviously doomed from its inception. The story is simply a cleaned-up, up-dated version of Rain, and all the characters are patently uninteresting or unsympathetic; altogether a dismal and disappointing failure.)
THE LONG, LONG TRAILER (1954; d: Vincente Minnelli).
1965: Very good (Uproariously funny situation comedy about a couple’s disastrous honeymoon in a king-size trailer: delightfully played by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez, cleverly written, and honestly, inventively directed. Minnelli’s pacing is bright and fast, but he never sacrifices his characters for the sake of a gag — everything is painfully real and therefore painfully funny — though some scenes are so close to the truth that they are only devastating. A thoroughly enjoyable movie, perhaps not as personal as some others, but among Minnelli’s most accurate and amusing looks at the American scene.)
MADAME BOVARY (1949; d: Vincente Minnelli).
1965: Fair* (Flaubert’s novel is better: the plot has been softened and so have the characters, and there is an annoying trace of condescension in the script. But Minnelli’s atmosphere, decor, sense of style saves the film in many ways, and the actors are generally quite good. Not one of Minnelli’s best projects, far better suited really to Cukor, but respectably done, and compelling for the most part.)
THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1962; d: Vincente Minnelli).
1966: Very good (Staggeringly designed, truly magnificent in its visual conception and execution, this Minnelli is all in how it looks rather than in its speeches or its players, almost all of whom leave quite a bit to be desired — and Glenn Ford leaves everything. But the tale of a man who tries to be neutral in a world that is breaking into pieces for the Second World War is quite eloquently told in Minnelli’s decor, his colors and costumes, in all its externals, that it little matters the weakness of the internal qualities; it remains a fascinating achievement.)
KISMET (1955; d: Vincente Minnelli).
1967: Fair- (Not one of Minnelli’s best projects, with an especially poor cast, but his decoration does not falter despite the script and the actors; still diverting, though it is among the weakest of musicals.)