I watched Bells Are Ringing (the 1960 film) last night with a few friends. I had seen it on Broadway in a revival with Faith Prince a few years back but didn't remember a lot about it other than that Faith Prince was great fun in the lead role. I remember reading in an interview that Judy Holliday was a favorite of hers. Now, at the time I had seen Judy Holliday's Oscar winning role in Born Yesterday but otherwise I knew nothing about her. I didn't really become a fan until this year with viewings of It Should Happen to You and this film last night. Now, I'm hooked ~I'm crazy with fan love. I want more! She's just such an original. So funny. So versatile. So "Judy Holliday!". Modern Broadway stars like Faith Prince and Donna Murphy are obviously borrowing from her in recent well received musical-comedy roles. And, as my best friend remarked last night, it seems like Doris Day owes her a lot, too. (Now, as a reader reminds Day was famous concurrently with Holliday. But the latter wasn't around to compete with for plentiful 60s comedy roles...and it's easy to imagine Judy Holliday having gone a similar career route. Or maybe she would have stuck with purer musicals. There were lots of those to star in the 60s as well)
As for Bells are Ringing, It's so dated --"answering service? -what's that?"--that it's almost an essential time capsule piece...in the same way thatPillow Talk's "party line" business is head-scratching but important to know about for communication history! The musical score is uneven but there are a few super songs like "The Party's Over" and the very famous "Just in Time". And Judy Holliday! Again...*Swoon* Awesome. The best thing I can say as a musical theater lover about her performance in this semi-forgotten Vincent Minelli picture is that I kept imagining while watching it that had I seen her onstage it might have been one of those theatrical experiences that was impossible for me to shake. (If you're wondering what those are it's stuff like seeingAngels in America -the whole thing. Elaine Stritch At Liberty. The final moments of Metamorphosis Tonya Pinkins's "Lot's Wife" number from Caroline or Change etc...) It has a sort of stage grandeur. Her showstopping finale "I'm Going Back" doesn't really work as a classic galvanizing film moment but I can certainly imagine that onstage it was classic and would have deservedly brought down the house.
Now that I've been a New Yorker for some years older films like this that are set in Manhattan are more and more fascinating to me. So many films are set in NYC that, even if they're filmed on a soundstage, they still make up a really great history of NYC as it is imagined or actually was throughout the 20th century. Plus it's always great to see NY theatrical talent who made it in Hollywood as well (like Judy herself) immortalized. I recommend giving the film a whirl. In fact, see Judy Holliday in everything she did. It's so sad that she didn't live to enliven more movies. She died at 44 of throat cancer, just 5 years after her committing this Tony-winningBells role to celluloid. This was, unfortunately, her last film. Apparently she was already sick while making it. It doesn't show. Onscreen she's got life force to spare.