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on February 8, 2004
After too many years locked away in the vaults, the movie version of CALL ME MADAM is finally getting released on DVD.
This is the only time Ethel Merman did a faithful screen re-creation of one of her famous Broadway roles. Sadly she was passed over for the film of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN when the role was assigned to first to Judy Garland, then to Betty Hutton. And her greatest stage role, Madame Rose, went To Rosalind Russell in the movie of GYPSY. In an interview with Miss Merman she explained "the studios, in those days, they wanted picture names..but when they got to CALL ME MADAM I guess they figured they'd take a chance on me." Some chance. MADAM had played 644 performances on Broadway and had been acclaimed a big hit.
The story, a lightly satirical look at international politics was inspired by Harry Truman's appointment of Pearl Mesta as Ambassador to Luxembourg. It was rumoured that Pearl got the assignment by being a great party-giver. So, Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse created Mrs. Sally Adams, a wealthy Oklahoma widow who gravitates to Washington and thanks to her parties is appointed ambassador to Lichtenburg. The movie retains much of what worked on stage but embellishes it with some additional funny scenes.
Best of all most of the Broadway score is retained: "The Hostess With the Mostes'"; "Can You Use Any Money Today"; "Marrying for Love"; "It's a Lovely Day Today"; "Something to Dance About"; "The Best Thing for You" and the showstopping "You're Just in Love." Added to the movie are two old Berlin standards, "The International Rag" and "What Chance Have I with Love" which becomes a hilarious dance routine for Donald O'Connor.
O'Connor also gets to dance to "Something to Dance About" with Vera Ellen. Since the two secondary leads were played by dancers, the movie allows them to develop their romance through dance and its an effective change. It also takes some of the emphasis off Merman.
Ethel is still very much the star of the picture. Belting out the songs and delivering the comic zingers with panache. It is still a very theatrical performance....you still have the sense she is playing to the back row of the balcony. But that is was Merman was all about, and that is why the film is an important document.
Some of her best lines:
Congressman: When will you arrive at your post?
Sally: I'm not sure. Where the heck is Lichtenburg??
Congressman: Sally, you wouldn't like me to make a little farewell speech tonight?
Sally: That's right. I WOULDN'T!
Grand Duke: Tell me - How does this reception differ from your famous Washington parties?
Sally: Well WE have good time!
And in the best musical comdy tradition, everything works out in time for a happy ending. Now that CALL ME MADAM is finally getting back into circulation we have a happy ending too!
(Now..if only Decca would reissue the movie soundtrack album!)
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on March 8, 2004
A huge hit on the Broadway stage, "Call Me Madam" was brought to the screen with Ethel Merman allowed to recreate her role of Sally Adams, legendary Washington hostess, named as American Ambassador to a fictional European duchy. The Irving Berlin score is endlessly melodic and listenable and performed with panache by the leads (Vera-Ellen's songs are dubbed by a well-matched voice double), including George Sanders revealing a surprisingly lyrical bass-baritone. Donald O'Connor and Vera-Ellen deliver with some of the best dance duets since Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire's halcyon days at RKO, and both get a chance to shine in solo dance numbers, including a spectacular "Orcarina" production extravaganza with Vera and a fantastically well-rehearsed chorus of colorfully costumed dancers.
Twentieth lavished class "A" production values on this delight and Alfred Newman's Oscar for Best Adapted Musical Score was eminently well-deserved. What a pleasure to welcome this back from its long exile in the vaults of favorite movie musical memories!
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on August 12, 2006
I originally saw this movie when I was 10 years old and over the years remembered the wonderful dancing and songs. I was disappointed that it never seemed to turn up on TV and was delighted to be able to buy my own copy. When I saw it again recently it was even better than I had remembered it. Donald O'Connor's partnership with Vera-Ellen is enchanting - I've watched their dances over and over. And Ethel Merman lights up the screen every time she is on - her interpretation of the memorable Berlin songs, whether belted out or sweetly romantic - is, I believe, unbeatable. I now want to get all the other Merman movies. And what a shame that George Sanders' deep, rich baritone wasn't more widely heard.
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HALL OF FAMEon August 12, 2004
We just finished watching this DVD last night, after holding it back for some months. Glad I waited.

Ethel Merman is filled with joyous energy and vivacity. She isn't overbearing as she was in that later picture she did with Buddy Hackett where all the characters are chasing after money. Probably that picture did more to cement people's minds of one image of Ethel Merman as loud and obnxious. Here she's loud, but only sometimes, she seems like a human being instead of a monster. I love her arm and hand movements when she sings, especially dancing with the two men at the end at her Washington DC party, it's like a penguin dancing.

George Sanders was also very good. Number one, I never heard him act before with that accent (Mitteleuropean Eurotrash) which we heard preserved right into the singing, or whoever dubbed his singing voice for him, though it sounded just like his own voice. Number two, I remember him from REBECCA and ALL ABOUT EVE and dozens of other movies but don't ever remember him playing the leading man or at any rate the "good guy." Here he plays General Cosmo Constantine, charming and erudite and kind of sexy, you can see why Sally Adams falls in love with him as soon as he opens his mouth.

This was Donald O'Connor's followup to the famous SINGING IN THE RAIN and his numbers are better than those in SITR, sorry Donen fans but it's true. The one number that he dances to with Vera-Ellen (their first dance, not that underground one) at the reception for Sally Adams, and they sing "It's a Lovely Day Today," is out of this world. And his drunk scene where he dances on a zillion colored balloons is a masterpiece of masculine power and grace. He's also sexy in this! It's a movie where the director took two unlikely actors (Merman and O'Connor) and kind of sexed them up, it's a miracle.

Finally, there's Vera-Ellen in what I believe was her last role. She is lovely and acts the part beautifully. The people I was watching it had never seen her before and found it hard to believe she wasn't herself from Lichtenberg. She wore a bunch of ugly clothes beautifully, and comported herself like a princess, even when wearing that hat in the department store scene that made her hair fall out the back of it. But too thin, and seeing her so emaciated reminded me of her tragic end and made me feel blue.

Can't get the big number out of my head, "I hear music, and there's no one there," mixed with "You're not sick, you're just in love." When Donald O'Connor and Ethel Merman sing this, I challenge you to remain in your seats, otherwise you can't help dancing along.

One of the best musicals ever--except for the plot which is hard to understand with the loans and who wants what.
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on May 13, 2004
After waiting so long for this title to get a DVD or Video release, I was amazed to see that the original 3 strip technicolor has not been re-mastered for the DVD release. There seems to be a lack of yellow and all the cast have pink faces instead of flesh tones. As the film has recently played on cable television here in a near perfect color corrected version, I cannot understand why Fox have not taken more care in their DVD transfer. All the extras including trailers have this sub-standard look. Apart from this point, it is still a great film and a must for devotees of top Hollywood musicals if you haven't seen it.
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I am SO happy that it is on DVD! I can't wait to get it! This is one of my personal favourite musicals of all time.
There is SO many GREAT songs in this musical! I loved the performances of everyone in it! It's quite rare to have SUCH a perfect cast.. I'm sure you'd all agree when I say that I wouldn't change ANY one cast member.
Although Ethel (God Bless good old Ethel); is the 'main character', Donald O'Conner has probably got the best songs! So he has probably got the best role, although billed second.
One of my favourite scenes is the dance that Vera-Ellen and Donald O'conner do (she wears the most BEAUTIFUL dress!!!) It is a stunning number. Vera-Ellen is just gorgeous.
Another memorable moment is when Ethel's character (Mrs Sally Adams) is presented to 'his highness' at a ball. She walks perfectly to his throne and goes to bow.. then she falls over. It's the most hilarious thing I've ever seen.
If you are thinking of getting this DVD but arent quite sure, just GET IT! It's a beautiful musical. Don't want to ruin the movie for anyone who hasnt seen it but, I assuse you, you won't be dissapointed! A great family film with lots of comedy, romance and som of the greatest songs of our time!
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on November 7, 2004
I've been trying to get this film for a long time and I'm so glad it's out on DVD now. Merman plays the same part of the ambassador that she played in the broadway stage version. She's sent to some small operarettic european county. Merman was never the greatest of actresses so her performance is stagey and should be because that's where all of her experience was. She meets George Sanders who stands tall and handsome and together they're attracted to each other and sing a few songs. Sanders used his own voice and it was quite good. Vera Ellen, who I was never that crazy about, plays a very prim princess betrothed to a prince who'd rather marry someone else. So the princess meets Merman's press agent, Donald O'Connor, and romance blossoms. Ellen never used her own voice as she couldn't sing, but O'Connor could dance circles around some of the best and he could sing too. There's one scene where Ellen and O'Connor dance through an underground wine cellar and it's just as good if not better than you've ever seen with Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly? (How come all the best dancers were always Irish?:)) Merman knocks out a few songs and belts them across the Atlantic. Altogether, a fun film with great music and terrific dancing.
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on July 4, 2006
Call Me Madame is a wonderful spoof on diplomatic practice. I intend to show part of it to my undergrad course in diplomacy at Georgetown University to demonstrate to the students how ambassadors should not conduct themselves.
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on April 25, 2006
Brassy , belt-it-out Broadway Legend Ethel Mermann (1908-1984) , delivers a singularly show-stopping version performance in this beloved big-screen version of Irving Berlin (1888-1989) last big Musical comedy Success . It?s the story of a Washington D.C. socialite who becomes a U.S. Ambassador and finds Romance along the Way . Filled with Colorfully tuneful Berlin favorite like "The Hostess With The Mostes" and "You?re just in Love " And unforgettable dance sequences by Donald O?Connor (1925-2003) and lovely Vera-Ellen (1921-1981) CALL ME MADAM is Hollywood musical magic ! . High Quality digital transfer . Reccomended
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on August 22, 2004
Sure, this is not the best musical ever, but it deserves to be a classic. Ethel Merman gave a loud and stagey performance that works oddly well in this film, perhaps due to Walter Lang's direction. Her Golden Globe win for this film is more than deserving. "The King and I" may be Lang's most acclaimed film, but I think "Call Me Madam" is his best work.

This may not be Irvin Berlin's best work, but the score is constantly listenable and the songs are delightful. The witty script alone is enough reason to recommend this film. Adding to the film is the great dancing duets by Vera-Ellen and Donald O'Connor.

Many people rates "You are just in Love" as the highlight of the film, but my favourite musical number is "The Ocarina", featuring Vera-Ellen in her only dance solo here and an energetic ensemble. Though it is a small-scale performance, the choreography is lovely and the cinematography makes it spectacular to watch.

Another musical number to take note is Donald O'Connor's solo "What chance Have I". Though best known for his show-stopping solo "Make Them Laugh" in "Singin' in the Rain", this number is equally(If not, more) impressive. Wrecking havoc in wine cellar in such an elegant manner, and not to mention his wonderful dancing. I also felt that his best performance was in "There's No Business Like Show Business". With that, O'Connor(along with Ethel Merman) is probably one of the most under-rated actors ever to work in Hollywood.

This film also give George Sanders a rare opportunity to play a Mr. Nice Guy, and he is surprisingly just as charming as the boyish O'Connor. I am not too sure if he did is own singing, but either way, it is still good. I highly recommend this musical to any musical lover.
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