I interrupt my Youth-Led Film Double Feature to bring you my review for The Wedding Bells Blogathon! One day, as I was searching Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) schedule, I came across a film called High Society. Through its description, I learned it was a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story. Since I have enjoyed that movie, I figured there was a good chance I might like this picture from 1956. In my review of Marriage on the Rocks, I mentioned I would be reviewing the movie later this month. I also said in that review that I did not like Marriage on the Rocks. High Society is now the second film of Frank Sinatra’s and Grace Kelly’s that I’ve seen! While I knew that Frank and Bing Crosby had musical talents, it would be interesting to see what Grace had to offer to a movie musical. Now, as you’re waiting for the wedding to start, please take a moment to read this review of High Society.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: It’s no secret that Grace Kelly is one of the most versatile actresses to ever exist! Her performance in High Society helps her maintain that reputation. Grace has the ability to adapt her emotions to any scene. When Grace’s character, Tracy, is talking with her father by the pool, she can go from angry to crying with sadness within a matter of minutes. Because of her experience working with various actors and actresses, Grace never had difficulty keeping up with her co-stars. Speaking of co-stars, I have seen Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby in at least one film prior to watching High Society (Frank in Marriage on the Rocks and Bing in scenes from White Christmas). Similar to what I said in my Marriage on the Rocks review, both Frank and Bing appeared at ease in their respective roles. This allowed them to bring a natural charm to their characters, C. K. Dexter-Haven and Mike Connor. What also helped was how their singing talents complimented their acting talents. Even though he portrayed himself in the film, Louis Armstrong did a good job with the material he was given. He had a delightful on-screen personality and great musicality. These things made me enjoy Louis’s presence in the movie!
The sets: In High Society, the sets were absolutely gorgeous! Not only did they fit the environment the film’s creative team wanted to create, but these sets also looked magnificent on film! The great part about them are the textures, colors, and materials that were used in each space. In one of the Lord family’s sitting rooms, the sea green walls worked really well with the white wood paneling and crown molding. Another great set was Tracy’s uncle’s library. While the dark wood walls and bookshelves were beautifully crafted, it’s the hidden bar within the bookshelves that steals the show. The sets in High Society certainly made the movie visually appealing!
The musical numbers: For the most part, I enjoyed the musical numbers in High Society. They sounded pleasant and were, more often than not, lively. My favorite musical number is “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”, as it was one of the funniest scenes in the movie. In this number, Frank and Celeste Holm, the actress who portrayed Liz Imbrie, had really good on-screen chemistry and comedic timing. Frank and Celeste’s singing voices also sounded great together. I was pleasantly surprised by Grace’s singing abilities in the duet, “True Love”. She sounded excellent alongside Bing Crosby and the song itself sounded nice. I’m not sure how much singing experience Grace had prior to being cast in this movie. But it’s nice to see her trying different things and going out of her comfort zone.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Unacknowledged commentary: In my Rich Kids review, I shared that one of the film’s messages was how wealth didn’t equal invincibility. This message can also be found in High Society, as Tracy shows Mike various houses in her neighborhood that are either boarded up or for sale due to homeowners no longer affording them. While this commentary added something interesting to the story, there was no room in the script for it to be explored or discussed. I understand there’s only so much you can do in an hour and fifty-one minutes. However, it was disappointing to see this commentary get ignored.
Few dance numbers: When I learned that High Society was a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story, I was excited for the song-and-dance fest that would take place. But, as I was watching the movie, I discovered it only contained two dance numbers. These numbers were a short solo performed by Frank and a short duet performed by Frank and Grace. Since White Christmas premiered two years prior, I’m surprised Bing wasn’t given at least a waltz with Grace, especially since that film featured both singing and dancing. Personally, I had expected more dance sequences in High Society. But I’m guessing there was no room in the budget to recruit a choreographer.
Dialogue-heavy scenes that felt a little drawn out: Within musicals, dialogue-heavy scenes are meant to give the audience a break from the high energy that can sometimes come from the musical numbers. However, in the case of High Society, these scenes felt a little drawn out. The scene where Mike and Liz meet the Lord family is one example. The pace of the scenes feel slower than I hoped. It also caused the film’s overall pace to seem uneven. Issues with pace and length of scenes are some reasons why I think this script was weaker than it could have been.
My overall impression:
High Society is a fine, enjoyable film! While it’s not one of my favorite musicals, I certainly liked it for what it was. It was also far more entertaining than Marriage on the Rocks! Because High Society is a remake of The Philadelphia Story, there are bound to be similarities between the two. However, there are also differences that give each movie their own identity. For the 1956 picture, this was the incorporation of the message that even wealthy people can experience hardship. Combined with the song, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”, the film tells its audience to count their blessings and to focus less on what they don’t have. This shows that the film’s creative team not only wanted to bring something new to the story, but also respect the source material that came before it. As I end this review, I’d like to quote Louis Armstrong by saying “end of story”.
Overall score: 7.2 out of 10
Which movie musical is your favorite? Are there any you’d like me to review? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!