Bells Are Ringing
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green from their musical play
First viewing?/Amazon Instant
Back before cell phones, back before voice mail, and back before answering machines, there were human beings picking up our missed calls at something called an answering service. This musical about an operator at a such a service made me happy.
Ella (Judy Holliday) works as an operator at Susanswerphone. She brightens up her life and the lives of the customers by adopting different identities and helping them solve their many problems. She is in love with one of the customers, a playwright named Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin). She interacts with him using the character of an old lady named “Mom”.
Jeffrey’s writing partner just left him. It looks like writer’s block, drinking and women are about to put him on skid row. Ella must resort to intervening in person to save him. In the meantime, investigators suspect that Susanswerphone is a front for a “lonely hearts club” and spy on Ella’s every move. Finally, a bookie is actually using Sue’s as a front. With Jean Stapleton as Sue, Eddie Foy Jr. as the bookie, Frank Gorshin as a method actor, and Fred Clark as a producer.
Everything about the plot other than the romance is pretty stupid. Its roots in a stage play are evident. However, the romance is magical and the songs are great. I enjoyed every minute.
This was Judy Holliday’s final film. She spent most of her career on stage and died in 1965 at age 43 of breast cancer. It was also Minnelli and Freed’s last MGM musical.