Musical Monday: The Barkleys of Broadway
Yes, it’s The Barkleys of Broadway! Fred and Ginger! Together again for the first time (on this blog, anyway)!
We weren’t planning for our first Fred and Ginger movie to be their last one, but the day we announced we were doing F&G next, lo and behold, Netflix finally found our new address and this is what showed up in our mail. We took it as a sign. Onward!
Fred and Ginger play Josh and Dinah Barkley, a highly successful Broadway song and dance team who seemingly have it all: money, fame, money, success, money, love and money.
Despite that horrific thing she’s wearing in the opening number, Ginger’s wardrobe is divine throughout the movie.
Having just completed the opening night of their new Broadway show, they head to their opening night party and – what’s this? Bitch at each other the whole way there! Ho ho! Apparently, things aren’t as rosy with these two as the public thinks!
At the party, Ginger decides to indulge in a little bulimia to deal with her troubled marriage. Trying to hide her 3rd and 4th helpings behind her back, she meets Jacques Pierre Barredout, who might as well have been named Frenchy McFrencherson.
Frenchy captivates her by telling her everything she wants to hear about herself, the things that Fred never says to her: she’s magnifique, she’s talented, she’s beautiful, etc., etc.
After the party, she and Fred have a fight about her shameless flirting.
The days before conditioner were sad ones, weren’t they?
Fred makes a point to mention her flyaway hair and split ends and she throws a shoe at him.
Instead of having hate sex, they sing and dance in their bedroom.
The next day, at rehearsals, they meet Shirleen, who the producers have decided to bring
in as an understudy for Ginger since they think the marriage might be in trouble. Despite
the fact she’s younger than her and has a penchant for walking around without a skirt on, Ginger readily agrees to have her hired.
Then, they dance:
Unfortunately, this film doesn’t really have any dance numbers with the iconic quality of their films of a decade early, but it is a cute number and it’s kind of jarring to see Ginger dancing in pants. Especially since her outfit is more masculine than his.
Later, they attend an art gallery, where one of those snooty, ridiculous “modern” artists unveils a new portrait of them. She’s a pancake and he’s a frying pan. Unsurprisingly, she’s offended by this.
Later she forces Fred to wear a skirt, since she had to wear pants.
Still later, they head out for a weekend in the country with their idle rich friends. Among them, Frenchy, who stares longingly at Ginger while she plays tennis naked.
HaHa! Not naked! We just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.
Frenchy’s girlfriend shows off her breasts. She will be playing the lead in his new play about Sarah Bernhardt. He hates her.
He corners Ginger on a really ugly sofa and makes her read his script. He wants her to play the young Sarah, but she’s not sure she’s got the acting chops for it.
Later, at their fabulous Manhattan apartment with its painted backdrop, Fred discovers her reading the script and flies into a rage. Fred’s kind of an asshole.
Wisely, they decide to openly argue about it in front of the paparazzi that live in their apartment with them.
You know what that means:
Fred continues on without her:
There’s a lot of reasons we don’t like this number. First, Fred was always much better with a partner; second, it was of a piece with a trend in musicals that he and Gene Kelly started where they would try to one-up each other by doing these gimmicky dances (like dancing with a cartoon character or a mop or a sheet of newspaper or on a ceiling) and after a while it just gets old. Finally, there’s the whole “WTF?” thing. No one knows better than us that you have to really suspend your disbelief when you’re watching a musical, but when they do these fantasy sequences where shoes come alive and present it like it’s something he’s performing on a stage in front of an audience, well…WTF?
At rehearsals for her new play, Ginger is depressed because every single one of her co-stars hate her and think she’s a no-talent whore. Plus, she’s prettier than them.
Fred has drinks with musical director pal Oscar Levant and some blonde in a vagina hat. Oscar tells him that Ginger’s having a shitty time in rehearsals because Frenchy doesn’t know how to direct her.
Fred decides to impersonate Frenchy and calls Ginger to give her the kind of direction he knows she needs.
He calls her while she’s catching up on her beekeeping, but she’s grateful for the wonderful advice he gives her.
The next day, her co-stars love her! “I don’t care if she’s thinner than me and fucking the director, she’s MARVELOUS!”
Oscar Levant tricks the two of them into performing one of their standards at a hospital benefit:
It’s lovely, certainly. And they look just like how Fred and Ginger should look when they’re together, but this number was akin to a Rolling Stones concert today. They’re just sort of going through the motions and waiting for the applause. They don’t have to give it their all because they’re FRED AND GINGER, bitches.
Anyway, after the dance, Fred’s all “Hey, maybe we should -” and Ginger’s all “Not a chance in hell, asshole.”
On Ginger’s opening night, Fred toasts to her success with Oscar and some other blonde in a vagina hat. Unfortunately…
…she sucks. Like, really, really sucks.
But, everyone in the film acts like they’ve just witnessed the finest actress of her generation, so if we can accept the shoes dancing by themselves, we guess we have to accept this.
Fred is saddened by her standing ovation because he knows he’s lost her for good. Also, because he’s kind of an asshole.
Frenchy declares his love for her backstage, but she’s still waiting for Fred to show up.
Meanwhile, some blonde without a vagina hat is saying things that annoy the fuck out of him.
He decides to call her one more time as Frenchy and ask her who she really loves, him or…him?
Which is kind of stupid of him because she’s in her dressing room after the show that the real Frenchy wrote and directed. It didn’t occur to him that he might still be there?
Ginger figures it all out and strings Fred along for awhile. She shows up at their apartment that night in a dress clearly made for ballroom dancing, but Fred doesn’t get the hint.
At least not right away.
That couch looks like a skinned muppet, but we’ll take those chairs in the background.
Anyway, all’s well that….you know. Could there be any other ending, kittens? And for some reason, Ginger decides to end the show wearing one of Ann Miller’s old castoff dresses. Or is that one of Miss Piggy’s?