I watched the movie High Society over the weekend (it’s on Netflix!). I grew up with this film, in some ways, because it is a favorite of my parents’. Oddly, it took years before I saw it all the way through and in correct sequence, because if you grew up with movies on teevee (usually late-night or on independent stations), you typically saw movies chopped up, with entire scenes missing and sometimes out of sequence. It wasn’t until home video that I saw High Society as it was made.
How is it? Well, it’s good. I like it, but it doesn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped. It’s a literal remake of The Philadelphia Story, but converted into a musical, featuring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong as the main musical attractions. (Grace Kelly sings briefly, and Celeste Holm joins Sinatra in a song, but that’s all for “outside” talent.) The songs are all great, and the acting is pretty well top-notch, even if I’m not sure that Crosby and Kelly are really cut out for the types of roles they have here. In fact, I generally tend to the belief that whatever charms Crosby had — and they were many — being a romantic lead wasn’t totally in his wheelhouse. Plus, the story suffers a bit as key scenes from the original Philadelphia Story script are omitted in favor of songs. And then there’s a general whiff of period-realistic sexism. I’m generally good at maintaining my sense of period, but some of this stuff really rankles me (and bugged me as a kid, in all honesty). When Seth Lord says: “What most wives fail to understand is that their husband’s philandering has nothing whatever to do with them!”, I just want to punch the guy in the kidneys.
But…oh, those songs! Here are a few. First is Bing Crosby with “Samantha”. In the movie, Crosby plays a songwriter, and this is apparently one of his tunes:
Then “Now You Has Jazz”, as Crosby explains the makings of jazz to the rich folk of Newport, RI:
Earlier in the movie, Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm have this wonderful comedic song, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”. They are reporters sent by a gossip magazine to cover Grace Kelly’s wedding, and they’re getting a big inside look at the lives of the rich.
And finally, my favorite song in the film. Crosby and Sinatra are at a party, both have had too much to drink, and this song happens. From what I read recently, this song actually got put into the film during production when someone pointed out that they had Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in the same movie and yet they hadn’t thought to include a duet for them. I love the last lines here: “Have you heard / it’s in the stars! / Next July, we collide with Mars!”