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Call Me Madam

4.3 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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(Apr 20, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Ethel Merman, Donald O'Connor, Vera-Ellen, George Sanders. Merman revisits her Broadway role as a woman who suddenly becomes the American ambassador to a tiny European nation. Featuring musical numbers by Irving Berlin. Directed by Fran+§oise Romand. 1953/color/114 min/NR/fullscreen.

A great star and a great composer can make a Broadway musical into a smash, as Ethel Merman and Irving Berlin proved with Call Me Madam. Not a bad place to start with a movie, either, and the 1953 film of the show has both Merman and Berlin represented in brassy fashion. Granted, Merman's platinum-throated talents were best suited to the stage, and the production overall has that dutiful, stodgy tone of so many Fox musicals. Extra points for the suavity of George Sanders (he's Merman's love interest in tiny Lichtenburg, where the lady has been appointed U.S. ambassador), and for the dancing of Vera-Ellen and Donald O'Connor. A year after crashing through the wall in Singin' in the Rain, O'Connor has a similar solo athletic workout to "What Chance Have I with Love." High point: Merman and O'Connor trading verses on "You're Just in Love," the best tune in a bouncy score. --Robert Horton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Ethel Merman, Donald O'Connor, Vera-Ellen, George Sanders, Billy De Wolfe
  • Directors: Walter Lang
  • Writers: Arthur Sheekman, Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse
  • Producers: Sol C. Siegel
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: April 20, 2004
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001FR55C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,871 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Call Me Madam" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Andrew Lawrence on February 8, 2004
Format: DVD
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.
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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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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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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!
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