Bells Are Ringing (1960)


(director: Vincente Minnelli; screenwriters: Betty Comden & Adolph Green/based on the play by Comden and Green and Jule Styne; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editor: Adrienns Fazan; music: Julie Styne; cast: Judy Holliday (Ella Peterson), Dean Martin (Jeffrey Moss), Fred Clark (Larry Hastings), Eddie Foy, Jr. (J. Otto Prantz), Jean Stapleton (Sue), Frank Gorshin (Blake Barton), Bernie West (Dr. Joe Kitchell), Gerry Mulligan (Ella’s blind date), Dort Clark (Inspector Barnes); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM; 1960)

“Has too much plot and not enough music or comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Vincente Minnelli (“Kismet”/Meet Me In St. Louis”/”The Clock”) directs this film inspired by the smash hit Broadway musical from the late 1950s and turns it into a sweet but dull film, that has too much plot and not enough music or comedy. It’s based on the play by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and Jule Styne. Comden and Green wrote the musical for their friend Judy Holliday, who reprises her stage role on film. This was her final film, as she came down with cancer and died in 1965 at the age of 43. “Bells” managed the following effective songs: ‘Just in Time,’ ‘The Party’s Over,’ ‘Do It Yourself’ and ‘I’m Goin’ Back’ (Where I Can Be Me, at the Bonjour Tristesse Brassiere Factory).

Ella Peterson (Judy Holliday) works as a switchboard operator for her cousin Susan’s (Jean Stapleton) firm in Brooklyn Heights. The dizzy blonde bimbo but good-natured operator can’t help involving herself in the lives of her clients. She falls in love with the voice of the lazy, boozing, laid-back playwright, Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin), a subscriber to the answering service, who only knows her through an old woman’s voice called “Mom.” How she meets the hapless playwright, leads to a happy ending.

Frank Gorshin plays an aspiring actor who is a beatnik; Bernie West plays a dentist who composes songs; Eddie Foy, Jr. plays a bookie posing as a record producer; and jazz saxophone great Gerry Mulligan, Holliday’s boyfriend at the time, has a small bit as Holliday’s clumsy blind date.

The film did well in its Radio City Musical Hall opening, but not so well at the box office when it was released across the country.