Take 3: Bathing Beauty Review

Since I participated in last year’s Esther Williams Blogathon, it made sense for me to join the 100 Years of Esther Williams Blogathon. Hosted again by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood, I wanted to review one of Esther’s films this time. I try to watch and write about as many movie recommendations as I can. Because Rebecca from Taking Up Room suggested I check out Bathing Beauty, that’s the film I chose to review! In 2020, for a different blogathon, I saw my first film of Esther’s; 1949’s Take Me Out to the Ball Game. That film gave Esther only one swimming scene, with the majority of her scenes taking place on land. With a movie titled Bathing Beauty, I was excited to see more of Esther’s swimming routines! Also, in 2020, I saw my first movie of Red Skelton’s; 1953’s The Clown. So, I was looking forward to talking about one of his earlier films! Now, let’s dive into this review of Bathing Beauty!

Bathing Beauty poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Things I liked about the film:

The costume designs: One thing I noticed while watching Bathing Beauty was the use of vibrant colors. This can definitely be seen within the film’s costume designs! At the very beginning of the film, Esther wore a hot pink swimsuit with a matching bow. The show-stopping piece, however, was her over-the-shoulder cape! This cream-colored piece was adorned in colorful flower appliques, adding touches of bright green, yellow, and pink. Besides pink, red was a common color found among the costumes. The students at Victoria College wore a uniform that consisted of a khaki dress. Red berets and neck ties provided a pop of color, not only pairing nicely with the khaki material, but also complimenting light and dark hair colors. During the performance of “I Cried for You”, Helen Forrest wore a rusty red colored dress. While the shape and style of the dress itself was simple, there was a sparkly belt and neckline. This small detail helped Helen’s dress appear elegant and appealing to the eye.

Red Skelton’s comedy: As I mentioned in my review of The Clown, I am familiar with Red Skelton as an entertainer. This knowledge caused me to be disappointed by the limited use of comedy in that film. Because Bathing Beauty is a romantic comedy, the material gave Red Skelton more opportunities to showcase his comedic talents. The ballet lesson from The Clown also appeared in Bathing Beauty. This time, Red’s character, Steve, took the lesson because it was a part of the college curriculum. Even after a year of first seeing it, this scene is still hilarious! The slapstick nature of Red’s comedy and the graceful reputation of ballet creates a funny oxymoron. Sometimes, Red’s comedy could be heard within the script. While at a local bar, Steve and a fellow patron explain their problems using nearby fruit. When Steve chooses to represent himself through a pineapple, he makes a comment about how he needs a haircut. Little comments like that one help include comedy into conversations among the characters!

The cinematography: An element within Bathing Beauty that stood out was the cinematography! It surprised me how good it was, especially for a film released in 1944! Anytime Esther swam underwater, those scenes were captured very well, presenting a clear view of what was happening under the surface. This added to the appeal of the swimming/water related scenes within the movie. In one scene, Esther’s character, Caroline, kisses Steve by the poolside. As she slowly dips under the water, Steve’s face follows her, with a close-up shot of his face shown under the water as well. Keeping in mind the limited technology of the ‘40s, these scenes were, to an extent, ahead of their time. A few scenes featured Harry James and His Music Makers. During these scenes, Harry was captured in close-up and medium shots. The camera also moved with him, presenting the illusion that Harry was floating among the orchestra. Because he was the star of those performances, this was a interesting way of highlighting Harry’s importance in those scenes!

100 Years of Esther Williams blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A somewhat misleading title: This movie is not only called Bathing Beauty, but it also stars Esther Williams. Therefore, certain expectations are placed on the film for those reasons. While we do see Esther in the pool, this was shown for two scenes: toward the beginning and end of the movie. The rest of the film shows Esther spending more time on land. Even when Basil Rathbone’s character, George, mentions a water pageant on several occasions, this was not the main focus of the overall story. After having Take Me Out to the Ball Game as my introduction to Esther’s filmography, I was left a little disappointed.

Red and Esther’s on-screen chemistry: While I have seen at least one film of Esther’s and Red’s, this was my first time seeing a movie starring both of them. Throughout the movie, they had nice on-chemistry. However, I thought Red had stronger on-screen chemistry with Jean Porter. Portraying one of the students at Victoria College, Jean displayed an on-screen personality that was similar to Red’s, coming across as easy-going and spunky. During the musical number, “I’ll Take the High Note”, Red and Jean performed so well together. I wanted Steve and Caroline to work out their relationship issues. But because of “I’ll Take the High Note”, I wish Jean and Red had led a film together.

A weak connection between the story and musical numbers: Musicals can be an enjoyable experience. Songs and instrumentals can progress a story forward, as well as help the audience get to know the story’s characters. With Bathing Beauty, there were several musical numbers sprinkled throughout the film. But anytime a musical number took place, it caused the story to pause. Even though these musical numbers were entertaining, the only one that directly connected to the film’s narrative was “I’ll Take the High Note”. This is because the number was a part of an assignment Steve had to complete in order to pass his music class. As I mentioned earlier, a water pageant is brought up on multiple occasions. However, this was the only water related spectacle in the movie. Because Esther was one of the stars of the film and because the story takes place in two states surrounding water (California and New Jersey), this feels, to an extent, like a missed opportunity for more water related numbers.

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:

The end of any Olympics is an exciting time. A closing ceremony filled with spectacle and awe give athletes, fans, and people from that host country something to look forward to. As this year’s Tokyo Olympics come to a close, I can’t help but think of blogathons being similar to the Olympics. Think of it like this: the athletes that represent a particular country share one common goal. That goal is to bring home as many medals as realistically possible. The Olympics themselves have a start and end date, taking place in a different location. While there are typically no prizes involved in blogathons, participants share a common goal: talk about and celebrate the chosen subject. In this case, that subject is Esther Williams. Like the Olympics, Michaela’s event is an annual one that has a clear start and end date. Yes, it is known that Esther never went to the Olympics as planned. But I’d like to think she became a champion in her own right. An Olympic podium turned into an aqua-musical stage. Gold medals became a thirty-three project filmography. Instead of hearing the National Anthem after an Olympic win, show tunes are the chosen sound within Esther’s performances. I’d also like to think Esther paved the way for swimmers that came after her. Maybe aquamusicals haven’t made a comeback, but swimmers have been able to find own their success, almost like Esther did.

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

Have you seen any of Esther Williams’ films? If so, which one would you want me to review next? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Clown Review

I would like to reminder everyone that the winners of the 2nd Annual Gold Sally Awards have been announced! You can discover who won at this link:

 

The results of the 2nd Annual Gold Sally Awards are finally here!

 

Before I signed up for The Great Ziegfeld Blogathon, I had no idea who Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld Jr. was. But during my two years of blogging, I’ve learned that the most important aspect of blogathon participation is having something interesting to say. For me, my contribution is talking about the 1953 film, The Clown. This was the first film I saw when I looked through Zoe’s list of film recommendations. What caused me to choose this movie was discovering Red Skelton was the lead actor. I am familiar with who Red is as an entertainer. However, this is the first film of his I’ve ever seen. So, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to finally watch one of Red’s comedic performances!

The Clown poster
The Clown poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Clown_poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Over the years, I’ve noticed how comedic actors have had a successful experience transitioning to dramatic acting. This is certainly the case for Red Skelton. Even though this is the first movie of Red Skelton’s I’ve seen, I know he is known for his comedic work. But I think Red did a good job with the dramatic material he was given! His portrayal of Dodo was so effective, there were times where I felt like I could empathize with him. One example was when Dodo was upset by the idea of his son leaving his custody. Speaking of Dodo’s son, I really liked Tim Considine’s portrayal of Dink, as he did such a good job for an actor so young! Because of the quality of Tim’s performance, the audience was able to see how Dodo’s choices affected Dink without completely breaking his spirit. In the scene where Dodo promises another fishing trip, you can see that Dink is disappointed. However, he never stopped loving his father and wanting the best for him. Despite having a limited on-screen presence, Jane Greer’s performance was memorable! She effectively portrayed the mannerisms and behaviors you’d expect from a mother. A great example is whenever Jane’s character, Paula, tried to give Dink a hug. Even though she barely knew Dink, she still put his best interests before her own.

 

The messages and themes: An overarching theme in The Clown is how everyone is prone to experience troubles in their life. While some people’s issues are greater than others, an individual’s personal situation has the ability to affect the people around them. In this movie, Dodo struggles with alcoholism and a gambling addiction. These struggles not only affect Dodo’s ability to hold a job, but it also affects Dink’s life. No matter how hard he tried to turn his life around and despite all the chances he was given, Dodo had difficulty escaping his demons. Dodo’s story shows viewers how we still have to deal with the darkness in our lives, even when we finally find a light. His story also shows viewers how important it is to put family first. In one scene, Dink visits the office of Dodo’s agent, Goldie. Dink makes this choice because he cares about his father’s well-being and wants to see him succeed.

 

The ballet lesson: In a flashback, Dodo is shown attending a ballet lesson because he lost a bet. Out of all the comedic scenes, I found this one to be the funniest! It wonderfully showcases Red’s comedic talents, which fall in line with the slap-stick style. What’s also great about this scene is how the dancers at the studio contributed to the comedy. During the lesson, various dancers pass along a sticky candy wrapper in an attempt to get rid of it. As someone who appreciates dance, I liked how Red’s comedy was paired with something that I’m interested in.

12 size
Masks of comedy and tragedy images created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

An emphasis on drama: Prior to watching this film, I knew it would contain some dramatic elements. However, because this film is called The Clown and because Red Skelton is the film’s lead, I expected the picture to have more comedy than it did. The movie put more emphasis on drama, with some comedic elements added to the script. This means that moments with comedy were used sparingly. While this creative choice prevented the story from becoming too light-hearted, it did a disservice to Red’s comedic talents. He wasn’t given as much creative freedom to do the kind of performances he is known for.

 

The “tell, don’t show” approach: Throughout the movie, various characters praised Dodo for being a Ziegfeld performer. Goldie, Dodo’s agent, recalls what caused Dodo’s down-fall. A local store-owner treats Dodo’s watch, that he received from Ziegfeld, better than any military medal. But we, the audience, never get to see Dodo during his hey-day. No flashbacks are dedicated to this time period and we never truly get to witness the start of Dodo’s downward spiral. Everything that was said about Dodo’s time in Ziegfeld’s performing company feels like hear-say.

 

A misleading title: As I’ve said before, this film is called The Clown. The film’s poster also features Red Skelton wearing clown makeup. While Red’s character, Dodo, performs comedy sketches, he doesn’t really adopt a clown persona or dress up as a clown. Yes, Dodo portrayed a clownish character in the movie’s first scene. But that was the only scene where this was the case. It causes the title to seem kind of misleading.

The Great Ziegfeld Blogathon banner
The Great Ziegfeld Blogathon banner created by Zoe from Hollywood Genes. Image found at https://zestyz.wordpress.com/2020/03/08/announcing-the-great-ziegfeld-blogathon-2020/.

My overall impression:

During this film, Dodo says that fame can go up and down faster than an elevator. There is truth to what he said, especially in an age where social media exists. Movie reviewing can also go up or down. Sometimes, you find a winner. Other times, the film just misses the mark. When it comes to The Clown, I thought it was fine. There were elements within the film that I liked. However, the overall project was more dramatic and sadder than I expected it to be. Because of Red Skelton’s involvement, I thought there would be more comedy in the story. I feel the limited use of comedy held Red back from pulling off the types of performances that made him well-known in the first place. He did a good job with the film’s dramatic material, but Red is not a dramatic actor. If you are a fan of Red Skelton’s comedy, don’t go into this movie expecting Red’s comedic work to be heavily emphasized.

 

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

 

Have you seen any of Red Skelton’s acting work? If so, which piece is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen