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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Brigadoon (1954) - Star of the month... Gene Kelly

Brigadoon is a 1954 musical fantasy directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Gene Kelly, Van Johnson and Cyd Charisse. It is based on the successful musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

Two New Yorkers, Tommy Albright (played by Kelly) & Jeff Douglas (played by Johnson) travelling in Scotland stumble across Brigadoon, a hidden village while hunting. Brigadoon is a magical village in the Scottish countryside, which comes to life once every one hundred years, for only one day. Whilst in Brigadoon, Tommy falls in love with local lass Fiona Campbell (played by Charisse). Tommy must decide before sundown whether he should stay in Brigadoon with Fiona, or return to New York.

Watch the trailer:

Musical program

Gene Kelly & Van Johnson put their 
best foot forward in 'I'll Go Home With
Bonnie Jean'
  • "Once in the Highlands/Brigadoon/Down on MacConnachy Square" - Eddie Quillan, Villagers & MGM Chorus
  • "Waiting for My Dearie" - Cyd Charisse & Dee Turnell
  • "I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean" - Jimmy Thompson, Gene Kelly, Van Johnson & Villagers
  • "The Heather on the Hill" - Gene Kelly (with Cyd Charisse)
  • "Almost like Being in Love" - Gene Kelly
  • "The Wedding Dance" - Jimmy Thompson & Virginia Bosler
  • "The Chase" - The Village Men
  • "The Heather on the Hill" (Dance Interlude) - Gene Kelly & Cyd Charisse
  • "I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean" - Jimmy Thompson, Cyd Charisse & Villagers
  • "The Heather on the Hill" (Reprise) - Jimmy Thompson, Cyd Charisse & Villagers
  • "Finale: Brigadoon" - MGM Chorus

Song: "The Heather on the Hill" - Gene Kelly with Cyd Charisse

Song: "Almost Like Being In Love" - Gene Kelly

Song: "I'll Go Home With Bonnie Jean" - Gene Kelly, Van Johnson & 

Deleted songs

The following four songs were filmed, but cut from the final film. Only footage from the first three still survives today, with only a recording of Gene Kelly singing "There But For You Go I":

  • "Come to Me, Bend to Me"
  • "From This Day On"
  • "The Sword Dance"
  • "There But For You Go I"

Did you know...

  • Howard Keel and Jane Powell were initially considered to play Tommy & Fiona
  • Kathryn Grayson was originally planned to star as Fiona Campbell
  • Gene Kelly had originally wanted Moira Shearer to play the role of Fiona
  • Donald O'Connor, Steve Allen and Bill Hayes were all considered for the role of Jeff
  • Alex Guinness and David Wayne were considered for roles in 'Brigadoon' 
  • Cyd Charisse once said "Brigadoon" was her favourite of the films she made with Gene Kelly, and the pas de deux in "The Heather on the Hill" was her favourite dance with Gene Kelly
  • MGM had originally wanted to film 'Brigadoon' on location in Scotland, however the film was filmed at MGM studios due to the unpredictable Scotland weather
  • The Scottish highland backdrops were over 600 feet long, 60 feet high, and cost $382,280 to construct
  • The Breen office wouldn't allow MGM to include two songs from the original stage play, "The Love of My Life" and "My Mother's Wedding Day", as the lyrics were considered to be too risqué - both songs were sung by the character Meg Brockie, and as a result Meg is a much smaller role in the film
  • To get the effect of Brigadoon emerging from the mist, Vincent Minnelli filmed the sets with the fog being brought in, and then reversed the footage to make it appear as if the fog is moving away
  • Cyd Charisse's singing is dubbed by Carol Richards

Awards and nominations

  • Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction in a Color film
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design in a Color film
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Art Sound Recording
  • Golden Globe winner for Best Cinematography in a Color film

Closing remarks

After 18 months on Broadway, MGM felt it appropriate to take the world of film on a trip to Brigadoon - a place you won't find in an atlas. 

'Brigadoon' starts very slow, although it does start to pick up after thirty minutes. All I can day is thank God for Van Johnson, who brings much needed comic relief throughout the film with a series of funny one liners.

With the exception of "Heather on the Hill" and "Almost Like Being In Love", the songs are boring and forgettable. It's difficult to comprehend the songwriters of such an awful Broadway musical would later bring the world the brilliant "My Fair Lady". 

Despite my criticism of the music and story, the film is an exquisite feast for the eyes with beautiful art direction by the great Cedric Gibbons and lovely costume design by Irene Sharaff.

Many people love 'Brigadoon', although I consider it to be highly overrated. I am very big fan of Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse and Van Johnson, however 'Brigadoon' is not a film I enjoy watching over and over. 

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