Review: Call Me Madam (1953)

November 12, 2008

“Call me Madam” is a drinking game of a 1950s musical.  Charming leading actors (Ethel Merman and Donald O’Connor)?  Drink.  Charming supporting actors (George Sanders and Vera Ellen)?  Drink.  Fun music?  Beautiful dance sequences?  Everyone falling in love?  Drink.  Drink.  Drink.  If “Call Me Madam” were any more cookie cutter, you’d be boozed to your ears.  If “Call Me Madam” were any less cookie cutter, it wouldn’t be charming at all.

In “Call Me Madam”, Ethel Merman and her brassy, air horn voice play a rich oil widow, Sally Adams, who becomes an ambassador to Lichtenburg.  Donald O’Connor and his glorious comedic talent, plays Kenneth, the press attaché to Miss Adams.  Sally falls in love with the handsome, baritone foreign minister (George Sanders), and Kenneth falls in love with a princess.  And everyone lives happily ever after.  There’s nothing new or experimental in “Call Me Madam”, and that’s precisely what makes it so great.

It works like this:  Every 1950s musical is meant to give you a world of sunshine and roses with just enough conflict to give reason for comic misunderstandings.  “Call Me Madam” is a film you watch because it stars Ethel Merman.  “Call Me Madam” is a film you watch because you want to see Donald O’Connor and Vera Ellen perform two beautiful dance sequences.  “Call Me Madam” is a film you watch because you want to spend two hours smiling, and spend the rest of the night smiling, too.

If you like the formula of the 1950s musical, if you appreciate the talent and the fun you can find in them, see “Call Me Madam”.  If you’ve no interest in the 1950s musical, skip straight out, but try to do it on the beat.

And a touch of bonus content:  Donald O’Connor’s big solo sequence in “Call Me Madam”.


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