Thursday, 26 March 2009

And practically no blood

Just lately both large and small screens seem to have been offering me a diet very heavy on gritty realism, horror and steamy sex. But not everyone wants to be depressed, frightened or titillated all the time, with only turgid slabs of overdressed historic royalty or bonnet-wearers for relief. The other evening I found a corrective in a splendid bit of good-natured tosh from more than half a century ago: Call Me Madam.

The topical jokes mean nothing now (who remembers that Harry S Truman's daughter Margaret had a singing career?), but this was the second most successful of Irving Berlin's Broadway musical scores and the film is still a treasure: it's got Ethel Merman belting it out with much more style than Streisand, and, above all, it's got Donald O'Connor. Never mind about his cheeky, wholesome image, when he was not fooling about he had Astaire's kind of ineffable grace as a dancer: like Mozart and Gielgud, he was the type of artist which Nietsche called the Appollonian*: "the classic whose deepest and saddest utterances can never take a form that is not shapely and rounded".

*As opposed to the Dionysiac, "the blows of whose gigantic hammer and chisel are still visible on the marble of his noblest masterpieces" (Beethoven, Olivier).


hickcrazy1 said...

Hey, Tony, great post. I remember Margaret T., she sang badly... well, not well and her father, then president of the USA, threatened to punch out a critic who reviewed her in less than glowing terms. I also recall Mr. O'Connor, who was never given his due for his great talent. he was a favorite of mine because he was a true Vaudevillian, born in a trunk and on stage from infancy on, a dancer from childhood. What can that upbringing be like..It must have been very exciting. A lifetime spent honing one's craft.I watch Singing in the Rain about once a year...he is so very very good in that film...I recommend it to you.

Tony said...

Hi Hickcrazy1!
It was nice to find someone who agrees that D.O. is under-rated. I must look at Singin' in the Rain again; it's ages since I last saw it—it's the clip of Gene Kelly that gets shown all the time.
And thank you very much indeed for your personal message: it quite made my day.
Every good wish to you. Please keep me posted.