A switchboard operator for an answering service delves into the lives of her company’s subscribers. Watch this comedy for 5 reasons.
1. It's a Betty Comden-Adolph Green story adapted from their Broadway hit, so you know it's going to be quirky. Lyrics and dialogue are clever enough to bear repeat viewings.
2. Judy Holliday as Ella the switchboard operator is so amiable that you automatically like anyone that she befriends. She helps each phone subscriber find the particular help s/he needs. One subscriber wants to mate her female Siamese cat and Ella tells her about another subscriber who has a male Siamese cat. The two subscribers end up married. She helps everyone in this way when she’s only supposed to give and take messages.Ella could get into trouble.
3. Director Vincente Minnelli works his artistic eye even on a fairly pedestrian story where you’d think there would be nothing beautiful to see. From the giant posters on the walls of an actor’s hangout to the perfectly-placed people at a party who seem like figurines on a wedding cake, Minnelli (director of Gigi, An American in Paris, etc.) finds beauty everywhere.
4. Dean Martin really gets to act in this one as the Broadway writer whose partner leaves him. He’s faced with creating stage hits alone and fears he’ll never make it. (This storyline echoes the real life Martin & Lewis split.) He’s also one of Ella’s answering service subscribers, so we see Holliday and Martin –two great comic actors- do their thing together.
5. The music. Comden and Green can get a little silly with their songs. In a subplot, an underground gambling operation uses a music company as its front. The Comden and Green team makes them sing their crazy coded messages in a sewer (“Who is Handel? Hialeah! Hialeah! ”). However, when these librettists design a lovely ballad, it drips with the best kind of sentiment. “The Party’s Over,” a very popular song covered by many great artists, including Nat Cole, was written for this story. My favorite song is “Better Than a Dream,” which our two stars sing in counterpart after one of the most eccentric meetcutes ever on film. It's also hilarious that one of the songs which was cut from the film -"Is It a Crime?"- can be heard in the score as Ella trespasses into a subscriber's apartment.
This is just a great movie, a true classic. Why do you enjoy Bells are Ringing?