Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ATHENA (1954)

One of MGM's minor musicals from a fallow period for the Hollywood musical, between SINGIN' IN THE RAIN ('52) and WEST SIDE STORY ('60). Adam Shaw (Edmund Purdom) is a young, blandly handsome lawyer who is running for Congress (despite having not a shred of charisma); his handlers want him to get married to be more palatable to the voters and to seem less youthful (one says, "Nothing ages a man like marriage"). Shaw has a rich but blah fiancée, but when he meets the eccentric but wholesome and charming Athena Mulvain (Jane Powell), we know she'll be the one, because in the movies, 1) wholesome always beats rich, and 2) opposites attract. The Mulvains (Ulysses, his wife Salome, and their seven granddaughters) run a health food company and are fanatics about vegetarianism and exercise, and Ulysses, despite being in his 70's, still does gymnastics and is training men (including Steve Reeves) for the Mr. Universe contest. Along with the Adam/Athena romance, we get supporting cast love between Shaw's army buddy Johnny, a Sinatra-ish singer (Vic Damone) and Minerva Mulvain (Debbie Reynolds). All ends well, of course, though the obstacles in the way of true love seem particularly far-fetched and forced. The songs and production number stagings are unmemorable, but the look is glossy and the supporting performances carry the picture: Purdom is a big, handsome block of wood, and Powell seems to be trying too hard to be bubbly and kooky; Reynolds and Damone are far better--and probably should have had the leads. Louis Calhern does a nice job as the nutty patriarch. Another plus is the presence of lots of muscle boys, often shirtless. A cute movie with miscast leads. [TCM]

No comments: