Tag Archives: vincente minnelli

Lomas On Minnelli

Lomas On Minnelli

It hadn’t really occurred to us how few Hollywood Golden Age directors we’d covered on the show. In fact, depending on your definition of the Golden Age (this isn’t a science, people), the only one until now has been Billy Wilder.

So when Jess told us she wanted to talk about Vincente Minnelli, it suddenly brought home how much we* had neglected one of the most significant and influential periods of cinema. And what better way to rectify this than with Minnelli, the director behind musicals like An American In Paris and dramas like The Bad and the Beautiful? No one filmmaker better represents the spectrum of Hollywood Golden Age films than he.

But before we get to Minnelli, we also cover some of this month’s new releases: non-Golden Age musical Into the Woods, bleak true-life character study Foxcatcher and postmodern fantasy/comedy/drama Birdman.

As Minnelli’s filmography is quite hefty – thirty-two credited films, plus segments of The Story of Three Loves and Ziegfeld Follies, and uncredited work on four other films – we’ve kept our tradition of ditching the middle segment to make room. Imagine the outcry if we didn’t mention the uncredited work he did on 1957’s The Seventh Sin! (Note: we don’t actually mention that one. Ready your complaint letters.)

If there’s a better way to kick off 2015 (one month after it begun), then we sure don’t know what it is. So hear us on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribe via iTunes or listen right here.

* By which we mean our guests, the ones who pick which filmmakers we talk about. Everything is their fault. But they’re great, we love them.

Hell Is For Hyphenates – January 2015

Author, editor and film critic Jess Lomas joins the show to talk the films of January 2015, and look back over the legendary and varied films of versatile Hollywood Golden Age director Vincente Minnelli.

The Vincente Minnelli Cheat Sheet

Vincente Minnelli

Want to be knowledgeable about our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: a suggested double that will make you an insta-expert in the director we’re about to discuss…

VM Films

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951) and THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952)

Vincente Minnelli was one of the great filmmakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and few could match him when it came to those glorious Technicolor (and sometimes Metrocolor, but that format is not as fondly remembered) musicals. One of the greatest of all time was An American In Paris, starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron (in her first ever role) in one of the most beautiful, creatively-ingenious musicals ever made. It’s stunning, but also tremendously funny: watch Oscar Levant’s face when he realises his two friends, sitting either side of him in a café, are both obliviously professing their love for the same woman. There aren’t many directors other than Minnelli who could balance all these elements so perfectly, manipulating the audience into enjoying these scene on many different levels simultaneously. And that’s probably why he was able to switch genres without missing a step, because the following year he came out with one of the best-regarded dramas of all time: The Bad and the Beautiful. He may be remembered primarily as a director of musicals, but Minnelli was equally adept at everything from thrillers to dramas to all-out comedies. With The Bad and the Beautiful, he told a ruthless tale of Hollywood’s seedy side: a director, a writer and a movie star recall the ways in which producer Jonathan Shields managed to totally screw them over, as money and power blinds all it touches to the loyalty and friendship they’d once professed. Few films better show what a master of the craft Minnelli was: the betrayals are handled with gentility and humanity, almost forcing you sympathise with the amoral Shields, and on a technical level, Minnelli was untouchable: the car crash sequence in this film is, without a doubt, decades ahead of its time. Spend an evening in watching these films back-to-back, and you’ll be well-versed as to why Vincente Minnelli was one of cinema’s greats.

Substitutions: If you can’t get An American In Paris, try the classic Judy Garland musical Meet Me In St Louis (1944). If you can’t get The Bad and the Beautiful, try Minnelli’s other Kirk Douglas film about betrayal and movie making, Two Weeks In Another Town (1962).

The Hidden Gem 1: If you’re keen to seek out one of Minnelli’s slightly-lesser-known works, get yourself a copy of Some Came Running (1958). Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine star in a drama about a soldier returning to his home town for the first time in years, desperate to avoid those who want to question him about his promising-but-abandoned career as an author. It’s a brilliant and dirty film, and despite Minnelli’s previously fraught relationship with Cinemascope, he uses the format here to incredible, memorable effect.

The Hidden Gem 2: So, we’re doing two Hidden Gems, partly because Minnelli made so many great films, partly because we couldn’t decide whether to include a drama or a musical, and partly because we make the damn rules. So if you’re not adverse to musicals, you need to seek out Judy Holliday and Dean Martin in Bells Are Ringing (1960). Written by the brilliant Betty Comden & Adolph Green (Singin’ in the Rain), it’s baffling how this has slipped from the collective memory. Maybe it’s because the songs – though very catchy and fun – are not really all-time classics. But it doesn’t matter. This is arguably the funniest film in Minnelli’s canon, with Judy Holliday giving the sort of hilarious performance you’d expect to see today, possibly as the star of her own network sitcom. If you want to irritate your friends with endless proclamations about why Judy Holliday was one of cinema’s all-time great comics, you need to see this film.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Jess Lomas talking Vincente MInnelli, will be released on the morning of January 31 (AEST).

Our Next Hyphenate: Jess Lomas

Film critic, author and January 2015 Hyphenate Jess Lomas

Jess Lomas was very nearly our guest a few episodes ago. Quite a few episodes ago. In fact, she was nearly one of our very first guests back in 2010 when we started the show. It was conflicting schedules on all sides that thwarted it from happening back then, and we’re not entirely sure why it took us four-and-a-half years to sort our diaries out, but we’re just delighted that we finally stuck a pin in the calendar. Such is the advantage of a never-ending show!

Jess is an author, editor and film critic, who is probably best known to film fans as a contributor to Quickflix, writing on both new and classic films. She also writes about pop culture, health, diet and lifestyle for various publications, and has penned many titles primarily covering topics such as music and food.

Which filmmaker has Jess opted to discuss on the show?

None other than Hollywood Golden Age director Vincente Minnelli!

Directed by Vincente Minnelli

Minnelli is mainly known for his deft hand with some of the greatest musicals of cinema history, directing the likes of Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse and Howard Keel in films such as Meet Me In St Louis, Ziegfeld Follies, The Pirate, The Band Wagon, Kismet, Brigadoon, and the all-time classic An American In Paris.

But he was also a consummate filmmaker when it came to dramas, thrillers and comedies, with films such as the Katharine Hepburn noir Undercurrent, the Gustave Flaubert melodrama Madame Bovary, the Spencer Tracy comedy Father of the Bride, the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz vehicle The Long, Long Trailer, the Vincent Van Gogh biopic Lust For Life, and many, many more.

What is it about Minnelli in particular that Jess so loves? And how did he become one of cinema’s most groundbreaking innovators? Check back in when the episode is released on January 31 to find out!

Vincente Minnelli
Our next filmmaker of the month, Vincente Minnelli