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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Living in a Big Way (1947) - Star of the month... Gene Kelly

"Nobody else gives me a thrill, with your faults I love you still... It had to be you." - Gene Kelly (as Leo Gogarty in 'Living in a Big Way')

'Living in a Big Way' is a 1947 musical comedy b-film starring Gene Kelly, Marie McDonald, Phyllis Thaxter, Charles Winninger, Spring Byington and Jean Adair.

Shortly after they first meet, Leo Gogarty (played by Kelly) and Margo Morgan marry in a secret ceremony just before Leo is sent off to war. Three years later Leo returns to discover Margo is from a wealthy society famiiy, her family dont know she's married, she's engaged to someone else and wants a divorce. The problem faced by Margo is Leo does not believe in divorce and is determined to make the marriage work.

Watch the trailer:

Musical program

With only 3 musical sequences, I would consider the film to be more romantic comedy than a musical comedy.  That said, the 3 musical sequences are all entertaining and 100% Gene Kelly.

Gene Kelly beam balances on a construction site in
'The Children's Dance'
The first sequence is a six minute song and dance routine to the classic song "It Had To Be You".

The second sequence "Fido & Me" is a very cute dance Gene performs with a dog and a statue.

The third and final musical sequence "The Children's Dance" features a medley of children songs, with Gene Kelly balancing, jumping around and doing acrobatics on a construction site. As entertaining as it is to watch, I'm not convinced jumping around and dancing on a construction site with young children around is setting a great example.

Clip - "The Children's Dance" - Gene Kelly

Song: "Fido & Me" - Gene Kelly

Song: "It Had To Be You" - Gene Kelly

Hisotrical context

Gene Kelly stars as Leo Gogarty
The film was made in an era where many rushed war-marriages were ending in divorce. The film was intended to deliver an anti-divorce message and inspire couples to reconcile.

The subplot around the war widows was intended to encourage those in America to lend a helping hand to war widows and their children, who may be in aid.

Did you know...

Marie McDonald stars as Margo Morgan
  • Shelley Winters appears uncredited as a Junior Leage Girl
  • Barbara Billingsley appears uncredited as GI Joe's wife
  • Charles Lane appears uncredited as Hawkins
  • This is the second and last time Gene Kelly appeared in a black and white musical - the first was 'For Me & My Gal' (1942)
  • This was director/writer/producer Gregory LaCava's final film
  • This was Gene Kelly's return to Hollywood after servicing several years in the U.S. Naval Air Service

Closing remarks

'Living in a Big Way' (1947) is a hard to find gem, which I recommend you keep your eyes open for. Spring Byington is bubbly and delightful as always as Margo's mother, and Jean Adair delivers a fine performance as Margo's wise grandmother.

Overall not a bad film, and rather entertaining, despite it being an epic fail when it was first released.

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