Sunday, February 13, 2011

magnificent minnelli

It's no secret that Vincente Minnelli is my second-favorite filmmaker (running a close second to Hitchcock, natch), so it should be no surprise that I am beside myself that Dave Kehr elected to devote his New York Times DVD column to Warner Archives' decision to release four Minnelli titles - "The Cobweb” (1955), “Tea and Sympathy” (1956), “The Reluctant Debutante” (1958) and “Two Weeks in Another Town” (1962) - on discs.

For the first time.

All of this gives me a legitimate excuse to weigh in on Minnelli's rich mid-to-late-career as a filmmaker.

His last two films were the 1970 movie version of "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," a film which begs to be restored (there are musical numbers by Jack Nicholson and Larry Blyden waiting to be reinstated) and the severely compromised "A Matter of Time," released in 1976 and also primed for a restoration (that's if the deleted footage even still exists).

But for all intents and purposes, Minnelli's final films were the dozen or so titles that he breathlessly made for MGM (plus one minor gem for Fox) during a quick ten-year period - from 1955 to 1965.

Few of them are considered classics, but all of them are good - very good - companionable films that share a master's sense of storytelling as Minnelli went from genre to genre to genre. Such variety!

I don't know about you but I find this list utterly fascinating:

1955 - "The Cobweb" and "Kismet"

1956 - "Lust for Life" and "Tea and Sympathy"

1957 - "Designing Woman"

1958 - "Gigi," "...Some Came Running" and "The Reluctant Debutante" (a banner year)

1960 - "Bells Are Ringing" and "Home from the Hill"

1962 - "Two Weeks in Another Town" and "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"

1963 - "The Courtship of Eddie's Father"

1964 - "Goodbye, Charlie" (the lone 20th Century-Fox title)

1965 - "The Sandpiper" (after which he would not make a film for another five years)

The films themselves are an amazing collection, but think about the wide array of on-screen talent that participated, and the generations spanned - from Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Widmark, Anthony Quinn, Lauren Bacall and Robert Mitchum, to Shirley MacLaine, Dean Martin, Richard Burton, Tony Curtis, Judy Holliday, Shirley Jones, Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds, to ... Ronny Howard.


jean said...

The sheer volumn, variety and breadth of Minnelli's work during that period is truly jaw-dropping. No classics maybe, just good solid work and storytelling.

Alex said...

Quite a decade indeed!

Marvin said...

Your BLOG is amazing. Loved, especially, this discussion of Vincente Minnelli.