BRIGADOON(director: Vincente Minnelli; screenwriters: Alan J. Lerner/based on the musical play by Lerner & Frederick Loewe; cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg; editor: Albert Akst; music: Alan J. Lerner & Frederick Loewe; cast: Gene Kelly (Tommy Albright), Van Johnson (Jeff Douglas), Cyd Charisse (Fiona Campbell), Elaine Stewart (Jane Ashton), Barry Jones (Mr. Lundie), Hugh Laing (Harry Beaton), Virginia Bosler (Jean Campbell), Jimmy Thompson (Charlie Chisholm Dalrymple); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM; 1954)
“There’s an agreeable charm to this hokum that overrides much of the staginess and the unconvincing fairy-tale story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The film is based on Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s musical that was a Broadway smash during the 1946-47 season. It was made for a modest $2.3 million, and found moderate success at the box office despite mixed reviews. Here it’s directed with zeal but not enough bounciness by Vincente Minnelli (“An American in Paris”/”Meet Me In St. Louis”/”The Clock”). The escapist musical, even though pure hokum, raises serious questions if the fantasy world of art has more to offer than the real world. Love is likened to a miracle worth sacrificing everything for, including one’s life.
Two pushy New Yorkers, dressed in sports coats and carrying rifles, the cocky Tommy Albright (Gene Kelly) and the pouting Jeff Douglas (Van Johnson), are lost in the mist on a hunting trip in the woods of the Scottish Highlands and stumble upon a quaint village, not on the map, called Brigadoon, which turns out to be a ghost town which awakens by virtue of a special pray only once every hundred years (ever since 1754). Tommy, falls in love with one of the pretty townswomen, Fiona (Cyd Charisse), but learns the truth about Brigadoon—and further learns that if she leaves, she breaks the spell of this utopia and it would no longer exist. When two potential escapees are killed by the townies before they can cross the magical boundary line, the disillusioned hunters return to New York where Tommy realizes that he’s not happy with his American fiancée Jane Ashton (Elaine Stewart) and the dashing and loaded lad returns with his pal to the Scottish Highlands to see if he can once again find his true love Fiona. In the mist he conjures up Brigadoon and settles there, accepting that he must give up the real world for his happiness.
There are many wooden moments, especially as it’s filmed exactly as the play and on the studio sound-stages instead of on location. Yet the animated magical performance by Cyd Charisse and the lively but forgettable music nicely rides us through the bumps on the road and the rather stiff Kelly choreographed performance (who seems lost among so many kilts, and who I’m led to believe can’t match the choreography done on the stage by Agnes De Mille). But there’s an agreeable charm to this hokum that overrides much of the staginess and the unconvincing fairy-tale story. Tunes such as “Waitin’ for My Dearie,” “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean,” “The Heather on the Hill,” “Almost Like Being in Love” leave a pleasant enough fragrance and soothe over a lot of the rough spots.
REVIEWED ON 2/3/2008 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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