Okay, so I love Rodgers and Hart, and have hummed their tunes since I was in the cradle, so you'd think I would be up for Words and Music (1948), right? Well, I wasn't expecting a movie about Richard Rodgers' controlling side or his periodic depression, and certainly was not expecting MGM in the forties to make a movie that even hinted that Lorenz Hart was gay, (though he does seem to drop leaden hints of something mysterious that keeps him from marriage, and of course, Mr. Mayer probably loved that in this movie Hart is very close to Mama), but I hadn't tried to see this in years.
I guess I forgot that this may be the worst job of acting by Mickey Rooney, bar none.
The kid could act and he was amazing in everything from A Midsummer's Night Dream to The Black Stallion, held his own next to Judy Garland in musicals and carried the Hardy family on his back--but this must have been part of Mickey's dark years. All his characterization of Larry Hart consists of is chewing on a cigar and being short. Oh, yes, and staggering.
Of course, since Mick worked since infancy, and became the wee King of Hollywood breathing down Gable's neck for the crown, maybe the Mickster was just tired. I wouldn't blame him.
Do you think that's a sign of show biz greatness: surprisingly great work and spectacularly bad work?
In trying to take the approach of "aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" I tried to enjoy the songs, which included a good June Allyson version of "Thou Swell," "There's a Small Hotel" sung by Betty Garrett, and a knockout version of "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" with a very sinuous Gene Kelly and an okay--almost sexy--Vera-Ellen, though I kept wishing Cyd Charisse was dancing this role instead, (I never thought Vera had much personality, and looked a bit like a mosquito, or am I missing something?). I wish I'd caught the part of the movie that featured "Spring Is Here," though I thought I heard snatches of that haunting melody when Mick was feeling blue.
I guess the dance was the highlight for me, and I always liked Tom Drake, (I ♥ squares) even if he is playing a plaster saint instead of a gifted, competitive composer in this movie.
Wait. It gets worse. I've just seen Mickey for a few moments in Summer Holiday (1948)--which seems to be O'Neill's poignant "Ah, Wilderness" with crappy songs. He's supposed to be a teen, but looks about 42 as he harangued poor Marilyn Maxwell in a song that managed to be both sexist and soggily sentimental. Maybe he can be worse than he was in Words and Music.
On the up side, the print that TCM had of Words and Music was a beauty and much better than this clip of "Slaughter..." indicates.
I've never actually seen the whole movie, just the Slaughter on Tenth Avenue number. I've hardly seen Mickey Rooney in anything, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Breakfast at Tiffany's. The Andy Hardy series so far hasn't appealed to me, even the ones with Judy.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
charliechaplinfan wrote:I've never actually seen the whole movie, just the Slaughter on Tenth Avenue number. I've hardly seen Mickey Rooney in anything, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Breakfast at Tiffany's. The Andy Hardy series so far hasn't appealed to me, even the ones with Judy.
Oh, it probably helps if you see The Andy Hardy movies at a very early age--then they sort of grow on you. Oooh, wish you hadn't mentioned Breakfast at Tiffany's. I'm afraid I loathe it, and just remembering Mickey in it hurts.
moirafinnie wrote:Oh, it probably helps if you see The Andy Hardy movies at a very early age--then they sort of grow on you. Oooh, wish you hadn't mentioned Breakfast at Tiffany's. I'm afraid I loathe it, and just remembering Mickey in it hurts.
In the audio commentary interview with Blake Edwards on the DVD of Breakfast at Tiffany, he bemoans the presence of Mickey's character. It's his one regret with his movie. Mine too. Such an inclusion in this gem.
I'm afraid that Words and Music is misguided glitter. At least I presume that MGM assumed we would be so dazzled with the star power and gorgeous technicolor, that we wouldn't care that the plot doesn't work. I'll admit that I love the scene with Judy and Mickey (though it makes absolutely no sense to the story), as it's how I imagine a typical Hollywood was in those days when these two pals were guests.
In general, I am impressed with Mickey's range. His career arch is impressive, and I still can't get over his drummer boy scene in Strike Up the Band. When did he have the time to learn drums?