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Thursday, March 21, 2013

TWO SISTERS FROM BOSTON (1946)

Joe Pasternak’s specialty @ M-G-M was producing family friendly musicals about friendly musical families; and they could be wearisomely wholesome. But this period piece (early 1900s) isn’t half bad. Kathryn Grayson, of the heart-shaped face and wiry coloratura, lets her Boston relatives believe she doing Grand Opera when she secretly sings for her supper at a Bowery joint. June Allyson is the demure kid sister who’s shocked, at first, but then helps keep the charade going after she meets (and falls for) handsome Peter Lawford, son of the Opera Chairman. Cue tiresome complications. Grayson gets to sing ‘Low’ with club proprietor Jimmy Durante (less overbearing then usual) and ‘High’ with legendary Heldentenor Lauritz Melchior in a couple of fake opera bits.* (Melchior is pretty funny in a lightly burlesqued acoustic recording session, singing The Prize Song from Meistersinger, and getting a clever response from his dog.) The production looks quite lux under Robert Surtees b&w lensing, and if all the running gags don’t work, helmer Henry Koster manages some neat slapstick for a drunk Ben Blue and stages Allyson’s comic fainting spells, especially her last one, to maximum effect.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Typically, they avoid using a real opera excerpt, but work up an adaptation of a symphonic chestnut. Here, the one whipped up from Liszt’s LES PRELUDES, has legit possibilities. On the other hand, what must Melchior, used to the plush tones of Kirsten Flagstad & Helen Traubel, have thought of Grayson’s shrill top and wandering intonation?

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