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MOVIE MOVIE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 15, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Stanley Donen, who will always be remembered as the director of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and the co-director (with Gene Kelly) of “Singin’ in the Rain,” died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 94. I only reviewed two of his movies for the Deseret News, ‘Movie Movie’ in 1979 and ‘Blame it On Rio’ in 1984. Loved the first, hated the second. But as both have been given new life on Blu-ray upgrades in the last year, courtesy of Kino Lorber, you’ll find my reviews on this page today. The ‘Movie Movie’ review was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 29, 1979.

“Movie Movie” is the kind of movie they don’t make anymore — in fact, it’s two of them.

If you’re one of those folks who stays up until midnight Sunday to catch any old Busby Berkeley film or an old Wallace Beery flick, you’ll love “Movie Movie.” And if you’re not, you’ll still love “Movie Movie.”

Stanley Donen, whose talent has given us such diverse movie entertainment as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Charade” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” has crafted here an old-fashioned double-feature, including coming attractions and complete with hokum.

Donen produced and directed “Movie Movie,” which is composed of a black-and-white boxing film, “Dynamite Hands,” and a splashy color musical, “Baxter’s Beauties of 1933.” Both take place in the 1930s and both begin with the exact same scene. The previews are sandwiched in between.

     

      Trish Van Devere, Harry Hamlin, 'Movie Movie'

Both are also composed largely of the same cast — and a fine acting crew it is, including George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere (Mrs. Scott), Red Buttons, Eli Wallach, Art Carney and Barry Bostwick. Supporting players, appearing in one or the other of the films, include Harry Hamlin, Barbara Harris, Rebecca  York, Kathleen Beller, Ann Reinking and Michael Kidd, who also choreographed “Baxter’s” dancing sequences.

Their deadpan delivery of the hilarious dialogue is excellent in all respect, and Scott, Van Devere, Buttons, Wallach and Bostwick get to show just what fine actors they all are with extremely different roles in each feature.

But kudos would be incomplete without mentioning writers Larry Gelbart (“M*A*S*H” on TV and “Oh, God!” in theaters) and Sheldon Keller. Their script (or scripts) is (are) both a tribute and a send-up. The situations are contrived, the romance is sappy and the dialogue is insipid and delivered straight — in other words, just as Hollywood really used to make them (and often still does). But that dialogue has enough bite, wit, twists and double meanings to keep the laughs coming. They are intentional here, of course, but were not always in the original genres.

     

It’s hard to say which of the two is better. “Baxter’s” is snappy, energetic and a lot of fun, but “Dynamite” is probably funnier, due largely to a hilarious courtroom scene at the end. Gelbart and Keller are particularly adept at taking everyday clichés with anatomical words and twisting their meanings into the ridiculous. (“When you speak with your heart, your mouth is 10 feet tall.”) They become slightly predictable but never stale.

And Donen has captured the sight and sound of ’30s movies; film buffs will notice the brash color of “Baxter’s” and the quivery background music of “Dynamite.”

My personal favorite is the preview in the middle for a black-and-white picture: “See ‘Zero Hour’ — war at its best!” Scott, Carney and Wallach are hysterical as the typical heroes and villains of old war movies.

“Movie Movie” is rated PG but could easily be G. There is nothing offensive, no profanity, but children may become bored, not understanding the humor. Get a sitter and go; you’ll love it. As Baxter tells his beauties: “Idle feet are the devil’s toenails!”