Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vintage 1950s film: Calamity Jane

"She ain't very good lookin." "That ain't all she ain't."

Calamity defends Katie to the crowd

Adelaid Adams and the girls

Glamorous Calamity And Bill

I had fun watching the musical Calamity Jane, starring Doris Day and Howard Keel and released in 1953. True, brave and resourceful Calamity "pretties up" to catch the attention and affections of her friend Wild Bill Hickok, which is annoying. There is also very negative portrayal of Native Americans, which is troubling. When I watch these old films, I just have to grit my teeth and remind myself that they are product of their times. Barring those considerations,the music in Calamity Jane is catchy, Ms. Day is charming, the showgirl costumes are great and there's queer subtext, which made it a pleasant viewing for me.

Calamity can shoot, drink (sarsaparilla), tell tale tales and apparently sing with any man in Deadwood City and beyond. When the locals go crazy for cigarette card girl and actress Adelaid Adams (Gale Robbins), the town tavern owner promises an appearance by another talented beauty. Unfortunately, the promised performer Francis(Dick Wesson)is not all that is expected (see above). To make amends, Calamity heads to Chicago to convince the aforementioned Adelaid to perform in the Wild West. Confusion ensues and when she does bring home a glamour girl, she finds that she has also created competition for the man that she believes she loves. But, this is a happy musical, so trouble doesn't last for long. New resident Katie Brown (Allyn Ann McLerie)and Calamity become best friends, and each finds romance.

Might they also find love with each other? Intentional or not, there is gay and lesbian subtext in the movie, which I first heard about when watching The Celluloid Closet. Dick Wesson's cute drag performance aside (what would Hollywood be without drag?), Calamity and Katie seems a mite close ;). (See the video above or commentary at StinkyLulu's blog). All to the better if you ask me.

Finally, I jealously drooled over Adelaid's costumes. The little pink number with the bustle and the gold bust fringe was quite delightful, as was the black one with pink roses!

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