Take 3: Little Nellie Kelly Review

I know that it’s been two weeks since I last wrote a movie review. Because I was out of town around that time, I chose to reschedule several of my planned blog posts to later dates. But, when it comes to posts relating to blogathons, I always try my best to be a blogger of my word and publish my lists, reviews, or editorials within the blogathon time-frame. When I signed up for the 2nd Annual Broadway Bound Blogathon, I knew, right away, that I would be reviewing the film, Little Nellie Kelly. Before this review, I had never seen or heard of this movie. Plus, the synopsis on Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) website said that this film is about “the daughter of Irish immigrants patches up differences between her father and grandfather and rises to the top on Broadway”. Because I knew that Judy Garland was the star of this production, I figured that I would, at least, find some enjoyment in this movie. Was my prediction correct? Was there enjoyment to be found in Little Nellie Kelly? Please keep reading if you want to find the answer!

Little Nellie Kelly poster
Little Nellie Kelly poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Image found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Poster_-_Little_Nellie_Kelly_03.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

  • The acting: Something I’ve noticed about Judy’s films (specifically the ones that I’ve seen) is that she surrounds herself with a talented cast. This is no different for Little Nellie Kelly. Charles Winninger’s portrayal of Michael Noonan was such a pleasant surprise! He brought so much emotion to his performance that it ended up being effective. Judy’s performance was also great to watch! Her emotions and musicality helped her portrayal of Nellie Kelly be as strong as it was. I also liked George Murphy’s performance as Jerry Kelly! His acting talents helped carry this film alongside his co-stars.

 

  • The comedy: In Little Nellie Kelly, there were comedic moments that I truly found to be hilarious. One scene has Nellie telling her father that she’s going to get married to Jerry. As soon as her father hears this, he unexpectedly spits out his coffee and makes a big mess. This moment made me laugh out loud! As I watched the film, I noticed that the majority of these comedic moments were caused by Charles’ character, Michael. Because of this particular actor’s quality of talent, it made the film’s comedy stick the landing.

 

  • Some of the montages: There were two montages in Little Nellie Kelly that I really liked. The first one was when Jerry, Nellie, and Michael go through the process of becoming citizens of the United States. When it comes to cinematic stories about people immigrating to the United States, this aspect of the narrative is rarely explored. The second montage I liked showed the process of Jerry becoming a police officer. In film, when a character chooses to be a police officer, they are usually shown either before or after they accept the job. Like the first montage, this process is not always featured in cinematic narratives. Even though these montages didn’t last very long, I’m glad they were included in this story.
2nd Annual Broadway Bound Blogathon banner
The 2nd Annual Broadway Bound Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room. Image found at https://takinguproom.wordpress.com/2019/03/07/announcing-the-second-annual-broadway-bound-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

  • An inability to hold an accent: Because some of the characters are from Ireland, hearing accents from them is to be expected. While Charles Winninger did a good job when it came to carrying the accent, I felt that Judy and George’s ability to carry an Irish accent wasn’t as strong. When I watched Little Nellie Kelly, I never heard Jerry talk with an Irish accent. Meanwhile, the only time Nellie spoke with an Irish accent was when she sang “A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow”. Because of Judy and George’s inability to carry an accent, this prevented a sense of continuity to exist amongst the characters.

 

  • A limited amount of musical numbers and comedy: Even though I liked the comedy in this film, there were very few comedic moments to be found. Throughout this one hour and thirty-eight minute picture, there were more dramatic moments than comedic ones. In this movie, there were a total of about four to five musical numbers. That’s a lot less than I was expecting. The film’s opening credits said that Little Nellie Kelly was based on a “musical comedy”. But, if anything, this project felt more like a “dramedy” (a combination of comedy and drama), with an emphasis on drama.

 

  • Judy Garland portraying Nellie Kelly Sr. and Jr.: In the movie, Judy portrays two characters; Nellie Kelly and her daughter. While different hairstyles helped, a little bit, to differentiate between the two characters, this creative decision still baffled me. I understand that MGM wanted to utilize Judy’s talent as much as possible. However, I still think that Judy should have portrayed only one character. Because this movie is called Little Nellie Kelly, Judy could have portrayed the daughter, while another, slightly older actress could have portrayed Nellie Kelly Sr. That way, Judy could have still been the leading star of the movie, while the other actress could also receive a significant amount of recognition.
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St. Patrick’s Day image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/st-patrick-s-day-background_1640464.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

My overall impression:

I like Little Nellie Kelly for what it is. There are elements to the film that make it enjoyable, such as the musical numbers and the acting. However, I found this movie to be somewhat misleading. As I said in the introduction, this synopsis said that the protagonist “rises to the top on Broadway”. Not only was this location never mentioned in the film, but Nellie never aspired to be an entertainer. What makes this even more frustrating is how few musical numbers there were and how little comedy there was in the film despite it being called a “musical comedy” in the opening credits. From what I’ve heard, this movie is based on a pre-existing Broadway musical. Because I have never seen the stage version of this story, it’s difficult for me to say if the movie was anything like the play. This kind of reminds me of how I felt about Edward, My Son. Both of these films were based on plays and made me felt like I was misled. I can’t fault the creative teams behind these movies too much, since their job was to adapt their respective plays to the screen. However, a good amount of honesty should have been included into each film’s synopsis.

 

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

 

Have you seen any of Judy Garland’s movies? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Meet Me in St. Louis Review + 75 Follower Thank You

Last week, 18 Cinema Lane received 75 followers! Before I start this review, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of my followers for making this achievement possible. Without you, my blog would never have received this milestone (especially in this short amount of time). So, like I’ve done in the past, I will now review a film that was released 75 years ago (in 1944). Because I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Meet Me in St. Louis, I’ve chosen this movie to celebrate this accomplishment! When I picked this movie to review, I realized that the only films of Judy Garland’s that I had ever seen were The Wizard of Oz and A Child is Waiting. This gave me a good excuse to not only watch a movie that I had never seen in its entirety, but to also explore Judy’s filmography! Now, let’s finally start this review for Meet Me in St. Louis!

Meet Me in St. Louis poster
Meet Me in St. Louis poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s, Inc. Image found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Meet_Me_in_St._Louis_poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

  • The acting: The cast was very talented in Meet Me in St. Louis! To me, the two strongest performers in this film were Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien! Like in The Wizard of Oz and A Child is Waiting, Judy has both the musical and acting talents to carry a significant weight of the film. Judy also has good on-screen chemistry with Tom Drake, who portrays John Truett in the film. Margaret O’Brien’s portrayal of “Tootie” Smith was one of the strongest elements of this film! During the scene where “Tootie” is so upset about moving to New York that she destroys the snowpeople outside, Margaret’s performance was so emotionally powerful. In fact, her performance was so emotionally powerful, that it was an affective way to make the audience feel sorry for the character. Both Judy’s and Margaret’s performance complimented the performances of the other actors as well.

 

  • The music: I really liked the music in this film! The collection of songs was a good balance of light-hearted and emotional material. Judy’s musical performances were a treat to see, as they were all delightful and enjoyable! My favorite musical number in this movie was when Judy and Margaret performed “Under the Bamboo Tree”. This performance was so joyful and added to the light-hearted nature of the film. When it comes to more emotional performances, I really liked Judy’s rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Her version of the song was emotional enough to affectively reflect the mood of what’s going on in the film. It’s sad, as it addresses reflecting on times gone by, and it’s hopeful, as it talks about appreciating the things you have in your life. This assortment of songs made seeing this movie an enjoyable experience!

 

  • The sets: All of the sets in Meet Me in St. Louis were impressive! I’m not sure if the Smith family home is a real-life house or a house built on a studio lot. However, the facility itself was absolutely gorgeous! Everything in this house looked and felt like a home from the early 1900s. I also liked how the ballroom looked in the scene where Esther, Rose, Lon, and Grandpa attend the annual Christmas ball. The way the Christmas tree was placed in the greenroom was so pretty. The Christmas tree’s placement was also a good way to effectively pull off a surprise within the story!
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St. Louis, Missouri sticker image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/label”>Label vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

  • A weak first segment: From a story-telling perspective, I thought the story during the “Summer 1903” segment was the weakest element of the movie. Within the first twenty minutes, the primary story focused on whether Rose would become engaged via a long-distance telephone call. Because the first few minutes of a film is, usually, reserved for providing exposition, I don’t think Rose’s story was an effective way to start this movie. It is as if the screenwriters expected their audience to automatically care about a character whom they just met. For me, the overall narrative wasn’t interesting until the “Fall 1903” segment began.

 

  • Too many characters: Even though Meet Me in St. Louis had a talented cast, I feel there were too many characters associated with this story. In this movie, the overall narrative seemed to serve only a few of the characters. The individuals that benefited the most from this narrative were Esther, Rose, “Tootie”, John Truett, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The rest of the characters either feel like they’re there for the sake of being there or like they weren’t given enough screen-time.

 

  • The limited presence of the World’s Fair: Throughout this movie, the World’s Fair is referenced by several characters on several different occasions. It’s even mentioned in the opening song, “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis”. However, the World’s Fair itself was only featured within the last twenty minutes. Even in those few moments, the World’s Fair isn’t incorporated into the story enough to make me, as an audience member, feel satisfied. If anything, the World’s Fair in Meet Me in St. Louis was just a glorified extra.
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String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Meet Me in St. Louis is a good film! The music is entertaining and the story is interesting enough to keep the audience invested. As I mentioned in my review, the acting is what helped keep this movie going. While Judy and Margaret were the two strongest performers in this movie, the rest of the cast was also talented. Yes, this film did have its flaws. However, there was a good amount of content that made the experience of watching this movie enjoyable. I’m glad I chose this movie to review for my 75 follower dedication post because it allows me to explore the filmography of both Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien! It also gave me a good excuse to watch a film that I had never seen in its entirety.

 

Overall score: 7.5-7.6 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on my review? Are you looking forward to seeing which movies I review in future blog follower dedication posts? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen