Bells Are Ringing

Director: Vincente Minnelli
Studio: Warner Home Video
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Running Time: 126 minutes
DVD Release: March 15th 2005

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DVD Review

Judy Holliday's final film, Bells Are Ringing, is, fittingly enough, a tailor-made vehicle for her brassy talent. She'd won a Tony for the Broadway version of the show, playing an overly sympathetic telephone receptionist who gets involved in her customers' lives. Betty Comden and Adolph Green adapted their stage musical, amusingly framing the film as a TV commercial for "Susanswerphone," the answering service Judy works for. Director Vincente Minnelli, in one of his less inspired outings, seems content to showcase Holliday's crack comic timing, which appears to have been transferred almost intact from the stage. Despite the somewhat muted tone, there are delightful bits: a typical Comden & Green showbiz party (with a number about name-dropping), Frank Gorshin's send-up of a Brando-inflected actor, and Dean Martin crooning while shouldering his way through a Manhattan crowd. "The Party's Over," that unforgettable end-of-the-evening lament, and "Just in Time" are the Jule Styne standards from the score. --Robert Horton

User Reviews

Bells Are Ringing 1960 - Rating: 4/5

The get-up in New York?s get-up-and-go comes from the switchboard operators of Susanswerphone . Need a wakeup call ! Your appointments ! Encouragement from "Mom" A racetrack bet ! it all comes from that dutiful nerve -or noive-center that keeps enterprises enterprising and , maybe wedding bells ring . Judy Holliday (1921-1965) reprises Broadway role of irrepressible switchboard girl Ella in a jubilant adaption that marked her final movie and tha fial teaming of movie-musical titans Arthur Freed (1894-1973) and Vincente Minnelli (1903-1986) . Dean Martin (1917-1995) co-stars as a struggling playwright in for a suprice when he learns "Mom?s identity the sparkling Jule Styne (1905-1994) Betty Comden (1919- ) Adolph Green (1914-2002) score includes Holliday?s heartfelt "The partys over & The Jolly Holiday " Martin duet Just in time and You?ve dialed the right number , Musical fans ! . Charmig story in High Quality transfer . Recommended

Not a great movie, but a great performance - Rating: 5/5

Bells are Ringing marked the end of Freed Unit that turned out so many great 50s musicals for MGM. It was also, sadly, Judy Holliday's last film (she died of cancer just a few years later). Adolph Green and Betty Comden, who'd written original screenplays for On the Town, Singin' in the Rain, The Bandwagon and It's Always Fair Weather, wrote the book and lyrics for the Broadway show and adapted it for the screen. Vincente Minelli added a directing credit (his last for a musical) to his earlier ones for Easter Parade and And American in Paris.
On their past form this should have made Bells are Ringing another great musical, but much of the humor seems labored and some of the songs pretty ordinary (though I except The Party's Over and Just in Time, which are deservedly standards, and Green and Comden's witty name drop song).
So why did I give it five stars? Because of a standout performance of Holliday as Ella Peterson, who works at a telephone answering service and can't resist the urge to give her clients a helping hand. Her star quality lights up the screen in a performance honed on Broadway to the same perfection as Rex Harrison's in My Fair Lady or Robert Preston's in The Music Man.
The DVD includes a featurette with some interesting background narrated by Hal Linden who played the Dean Martin role on Broadway (but made only a token appearance, in the Midas Touch number, on film). Otherwise there are just some outtakes, an alternative version of The Midas Touch and the theatrical trailer.

Judy and Dean what more can you say? - Rating: 5/5

If you've never seen a Judy Holliday film this is great place to start. But don't drink any liquids while you watch this movie. Because you will laughing so hard that you will end up spitting on all your friends. What? Think making this up? Okay. Buy the movie. Watch it. Drink up. It's going to be messy.

Judy Holiday is a gem - she sings, she dances with a smile that brightens the room - Rating: 5/5

The first time I saw Judy Holiday was on the "Born Yesterday" trailer on the "His Girl Friday" DVD. Soon I watched that film and found Judy a blonde with a heart of gold. On that film she was supposed to be dumb but had an unusual talent for poker cards. She impressed and earned her an Oscar for Best Actress against Bette Davis and Anne Baxter(All about Eve)and Gloria Swanson(Sunset Boulevard).

That is why I bought "Bells are ringing" DVD the moment I saw her face on the cover. And I would like to say while "Born Yesterday" is a film not easy to forget, it is "Bells are Ringing" which really shows the fullness of Judy Holiday.

The Broadyway musical was tailored made for Judy. She doesn't need to play dumb. She has the chance to sing solo and duet. Though not particularly slim nor particularly young, she danced everywhere (cha cha on the sidewalk, waltz with Dean Martin in a quiet garden, solo dance in her answering phone office)with an elegance and lightness unparalleled even with other great dancers. Perhaps her early ballet training gave her the edge. She was 5' 10" and yet she practically danced effortlessly in the air. She may be passionate in saying the lines (afterall, this is a comedy) and yet she was sincere and never overdid them. More importantly, it is when she did not have the lines nor the dances that she revealed her particular worth - she could still steal a scene with her fluid moves. Watch how she would dash off to find Dean Martin, only to stop right before the door, turn back, hestitate and dash right off again. Most important of all, her smile lightened up the scenes. It is already worth every bit of your time to watch Judy Holiday on this film.

Having said that, "Bells are ringing" is made perfect with the music, the songs, the lyrics and the arrangement. You don't often come across with duet pieces so nicely put together. The group singing - the "names" song by the party goers and the "bookies rehearsing the passwords" song are fun to hear. Watch the "Midas Touch" singer closely for he was the leading man Mr. Moss on the Broadyway musical. The cast gave a solid performance.

The whole film is simply a delight to watch, hear and enjoy!

Trivia mentioned that Judy Holiday had an IQ of 172. She had a good career start in the movie business thanks to Katharine Hepburn, who tipped the columnists how good Judy was at Adam's Rib so that she secured her role in the "Born Yesterday" movie. That Judy was kind enough to let her partner (despite an understudy) had the spotlight he deserved when he sang in Broadway and tipped him to sing the "Midas Touch" song in the movie since Dean Martin, not he, got the leading role in the movie version. That Judy did not have the major roles she, as an Oscar winner and as a talented actress, should have deserved. All the more reason to cherish the few movies she has made and this is definitely one of them.

"She's rarer than uranium and fairer than a pearl." - Rating: 4/5

I'm always happy to give the good word to BELLS ARE RINGING, a 1960 MGM musical comedy starring Judy Holliday and directed by Vincente Minnelli.

Unfortunately, BELLS ARE RINGING is something of an orphan among the canon of really great musicals. The original THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! covered the period from the institution of "talkies" to 1958 and GIGI. This is fair, because GIGI is a truly exceptional movie and demonstrates so well the lavish, big-budget type of musical that was to be no more.

But BELLS ARE RINGING has its charms, too. Surviving relatively unscathed from its long run on Broadway, the movie kept the incandescent Judy Holliday but dropped stage leading man Sydney Chaplin (Charlie's son) in favor of Dean Martin. This may have been a mistake, for Dino seems to have phoned in about half of his performance; and since movies are usually filmed out of sequence we don't know when we're going to get the confident, likable Dean Martin of 1960s OCEANS ELEVEN and the Matt Helm movies, or a relative "stiff."

But that's about the only major complaint people have about this movie, which details the trials and tribulations of a telephone-answering service switchboard attendant at "Susanswerphone" (Holliday) as she provides information linking one subscriber to another -- over and over, to the great consternation of the business's owner, Sue (Jean Stapleton, in a light but decidedly non-dingbat role). Complications ensue when the cops start listening in, while at the same time an entry-level gangster (played to the hilt by Eddie Foy, Jr.) starts using Susanswerphone as a place for bookies to make their bets--all in code, leading to Minnelli's wonderful *tableau vivant* song "It's a Simple Little System." Further Minnellian wit is evident in the movie's opening credits, which show the neighborly, small-scale old Upper East Side of Manhattan under the wrecking ball, lying largely in ruins and awaiting the inevitable appearance of the then-new Upper East Side, with its sterile high-rises and high rents.

A witty screenplay by Comden and Green refers to the "Bonjour Tristesse Brassiere Company" (a smart nod to a 1955 bestseller), and the "Crying Gypsy Cafe," among other bits of comic pleasure that separate an excellent script from a mediocre one. The immensely talented Jule Styne was at his lyrical best in numbers like "Just in Time" and "The Party's Over." The supporting cast is terrific, too, including Frank Gorshin as a Brandoesque beatnik turned Anglophilic gent so he could secure roles in posh plays; and taskmaster Fred Clark, who here gets to play the bon vivant Broadway producer, Larry Keating.

Unfortunately, the movie has no running commentary, but the disc does include a trailer and a 15-minute documentary about the making of the movie. Happily, this was made when Gorshin and Comden, among others, were all alive and kicking. Also included are two songs from the original score that were filmed, but did not survive editing. As always, we can't take our eyes off Holliday.

I know of no bad Judy Holliday movie; she is indelible and memorable in every single picture she made during the brief ten years of her screen career. At this price BELLS ARE RINGING is a great investment, which surely deserves its place in the great canon of Vincente Minnelli's, and MGM's, musicals.