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SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
Back at MGM,
Debbie's star was rising, and she co-starred or played the second
female lead in many of the studio's second-string musicals. In ATHENA
(1954), Debbie and Jane Powell play
two of seven daughters in a family of health nuts who try to convert their
love interests (lawyer Edmund Purdom for
Powell and nightclub singer Vic
Damone for Debbie) to their healthy lifestyles, including proper diets
and lots of exercise. Originally developed as a vehicle for
Elizabeth Taylor, ATHENA came to feature
a host of top 1950s bodybuilders, including future HERCULES (1959) star
Steve Reeves. And though the plot leaves much to be desired, musical
highlights from the film include Powell's
"Love Can Change the Stars" and Debbie's duet with Damone, "Imagine."
In her final film with
Jane Powell, Debbie plays a musical
comedy star picked up by
Powell's brother, sailor Russ Tamblyn, in MGM's
Cinemascope adaptation of Vincent Youmans' 1927 stage musical HIT THE DECK
(1955), also starring Ann Miller,
Tony Martin and Vic Damone. Though the film catered to the various
talents of the entire cast, none of the six romantic leads appears onscreen
long enough to engage the audience in their story. This problem, coupled
with lackluster direction and very set-bound staging, results in a somewhat
disappointing comedy boosted by a few pleasant musical numbers, including
"Why Oh Why," "I Know that You Know" and Debbie's "A Kiss or Two."
Music Clips from HIT THE DECK (1955):
Kiss or Two" (clip) sung with the Boys Trio
(a .MP2 file courtesy Rhino
Oh Why (reprise)" (clip) sung with Jane
Powell and Ann
(a .MP3 file courtesy Rhino
Debbie finally broke out of her musical rut in 1955 when she was cast
alongside Frank Sinatra,
Celeste Holm and David Wayne in the straight
comedy THE TENDER TRAP based on the play by Max Shulman and Robert Paul
Smith. The best-written of any of Debbie's films since
SINGIN' IN THE
RAIN, THE TENDER TRAP gave her ample comic opportunities in her role as an
eccentric theatre starlet determined not to let her career stand in the way
of her marriage -- whenever it comes along. One of her most delightful
films, THE TENDER TRAP charmed both critics and audiences and paved the way
for other non-musical vehicles.
of the title song from the film, "Love
is the Tender Trap," which became a hit record for Ella Fitzgerald (a .RM file).
Video Clips from THE TENDER TRAP (1955):
"An Invitation to Dinner" with
Frank Sinatra (a .AVI file courtesy MGM).
"The Finale" with
Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm and David Wayne (a
.AVI file courtesy MGM).
(For help opening any of the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins
Julie Gillis (Debbie) lunching with David Wayne,
Celeste Holm and
Frank Sinatra in one of the
most endearing scenes from THE TENDER TRAP, the one in which Julie sets
forth her philosophies about life, love and marriage.
More Memorable Quotations:
- "And don't think it hasn't been fun, because it hasn't." --as Carol
Pace in HIT THE DECK.
- "I think I'd better sing. I talk too much." --as
Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
- "A career is just fine, but it's no substitute for
marriage." --as Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
- "Honestly, don't you think marriage is just the most
important thing in the world? I mean, a woman isn't really a woman
at all until she's been married and had children. And why?
Because she's fulfilled." --as Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
- "Well after all, a person just can't go on adlibbing
his way though life." --as Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
- "If you have a plan and you really believe in it,
it'll work." --as Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
- "I love you just the way you are, almost." --as Julie
Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
- "After a while, if thing's aren't said, they aren't
true any more." --as Jane Hurley in THE CATERED AFFAIR.
- "Ralph, I think we better go to the movies." --as
Jane Hurley in THE CATERED AFFAIR.
In 1956, against the wishes of director Richard Brooks,
Debbie was cast as Jane Hurley, the daughter of a New York cab driver whose
proposed marriage threatens to tear her family apart, in THE CATERED AFFAIR.
Her sincere, restrained performance in this domestic drama (co-starring
Ernest Borgnine, Bette Davis and
earned Debbie the National Board of Review's award as the year's Best
Supporting Actress, and though little known, it is perhaps the best
performance of her film career.
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