Monday, October 29, 2007

“Whip crack away”

I've had this damn song running through my head ever since I watched this movie last week, so here it is so that you can too. It's the famous opening sequence from “Calamity Jane,” one of the last of the great old Hollywood musicals, a western no less.

Of course, it was really a rip-off of “Annie Get Your Gun,” down to much of the plot and even the tomboyish heroine, played by Doris Day, probably one of the most underrated of the old stars. Actually, she was huge at her peak, in the 1950s and 60s, but she's been sort of forgotten now, and leads a very quiet and private life. She's got a great voice though, and is a ball of energy in this song, especially at the end when they go into the saloon.

And that scene is shot in just one take. I don't mean they did it just once, in fact they probably ended up doing it 50 times to get it right, but there's no cutaway shot in the scene after she walks through the doors and into the saloon, it's one long continuous take.

Whenever I see a scene like that in a movie like this on TCM, I always love the thought of the old Hollywood studios and production crews. You are aware occasionally of the camera moving, following the action, and sometimes the performers will even look into the camera at the end of a song. You can just picture the crews on the old MGM or Warner Bros. lots filming these musicals in a huge soundstage.

Today, the acting is better and the stories are obviously more realistic in films, but these were real HOLLYWOOD movies.

Oh, and Doris Day is a great friend to animals, she works to save those in distress and to help homeless pets. For that alone, she's cool.


Anonymous said...

I love that movie too. That's the one where she sings Once I had A Secret Love in it.

Anonymous said...

When they shoot their guns off Doris Day jumps like she's really startled. I wonder if she didn't know that was going to happen??

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