Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Bells are Ringing": The Original Movie version of "Monkees On The Line" Episode #28

A classic movie musical Bells are Ringing (1960) had enough impact on the culture of the early 60's that by the late 1960's, it was crying out to be spoofed.  It came out the same year that answering machines started to be sold in the U.S.  The play had been a smash hit on Broadway for 3 years prior.

It's set inside a business called SusAnswerphone.  The movie is one of those marvelous examples of a whole career and job that doesn't exist anymore. Real people answering phones when other people aren't at home.  (And before anyone thought to invent an Answering Machine).  Note, they are still called Answer-Phones in England.  Note also the "phone numbers" she sings about: Plaza-04433, includes a word to identify the exchange.  Throughout the 1950's and early 60's, other TV shows sprinkled this jargon as if you could actually dial a neighborhood.  In fact, the first three numbers were punched in, using the word as a mnemonic shorthand. (Quite a disappointment, indeed)

The line that The Boys point to during the show ("Don't get Involved With The Clients") comes directly from the main plot of the movie. Judy Holliday saves Dean Martin, an alcoholic playwright, from depression and writer's block. Judy pulls a cup of coffee out of her purse (very Monkee-like) as well as a prune danish.  Near the end, Dean Martin does an impression of Al Jolson, of Jazz Singer (1927) fame.  You've heard of it as being famous as the first talkie, but did you also know it came from a story originally written by Rafelson's uncle: Samson Raphaelson ?

The storyline about Peter and the racetrack bets being placed in code also comes directly from the movie.  In the movie, there's a con man who goes around humming classical music and acting like a bad actor playing the role of a PR guy: "Titanic Records; The Highest Fi there is!"  The gambling con gets ruined because a clever delivery boy (who knows his music) overhears a popular bet for Beethoven's 10th Symphony.  (He only wrote 9!!)

They have a scene in an old fashioned subway entrance, a glass enclosure, and copper gilding.  If you look for one in NYC, there is still one in existence in Astor Place, in the East Village, across from The Cube.  The Village being famous for hosting Peter Tork during his developmental period as a performer.

Other Connections including actors & writers:
Dort Clark: (Inspector, Sergeant, Policeman) Monkees A La Carte (#11), Picture Frame (#34) and Monkees on the Wheel (#46).  As soon as he appears on screen, you might have a strong sense of dejavu!

Jean Stapleton before and after she was Edith Bunker, there was quite a stage career for her.  This movie is years before she met Archie, but her physicality is already recognizably in place.  Note also how Judy Holliday is not afraid to use the "screechy" part of her voice, which may or may not have influenced Jean's vocal work for Edith.

Frank Gorshin known as the Riddler on Batman, is the guy who does the Marlon Brando impression in a beatnik coffeehouse!

For extra credit read the lyrics of "Drop A Name" and see how many names you can recognize. Hint: Vincente Minnelli is the director of the movie!

"Bonjour Tristesse Brasserie Company": is a reference to a French novel published in 1958 about a young girl jaded in romance by seeing her father's many girlfriends . There is also a scene where she heads into a party and feels out of place because her dress has a bustle.  It's a running joke about the change of style from 1950's full skirt to a more sleek 1960's look.

Comden and Green!!  Betty Comden & Adolph Green, are some of the best Broadway songwriters from the Great American Songbook.  Apparently very funny in person too. Their pianist was Leonard Bernstein, btw.

The Broadway show was directed by Jerome Robbins, and choreographed by Robbins and Bob Fosse. Their names might sound a little familiar if you are familiar with Broadway.  If you are not familiar with Broadway, start with them.

The Broadway show also starred Sydney Chaplin, Charlie's son. He was also romantically involved with Judy.  In case you wonder if this guy had any talent or not, he won a Tony for his performance.  He was later nominated for another role, starring a girl who could sing a little. Funny Girl, starring Barbara Streisand.  He broke up with Judy before the movie was filmed, and was replaced by a singer in the movie version.  Dean Martin.  He is famous for having a daughter on the Monkees, and maybe for having a singing/movie career too.

And when Judy was out on vacation, who filled her shoes? Mrs. Edna Babish from Laverne and Shirley, Betty Garret!!

And then there is the setting, the Loneliest Brownstone in NYC, where Susansaphone is located. No direct Monkee connection, other than taking advantage of a wacky location.

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