A delightful little musical that’s become somewhat forgotten in the past 20 years due to copyrights and such, but still remains as beautiful and fresh as the day it premiered.
Call Me Madam stars Ethel Merman (re-playing her role here from the stage version), Donald O’Connor, Vera-Ellen and George Sanders. The basic plot line is that Sally Adams (Ethel Merman), a rich lady who throws parties in Washington for the upper-class society has been put as the Ambassador for America to a small country in Europe called Litchenburg. She’s supposed to secure a loan to them from America, and ends up bringing her new Press Attache Kenneth (Donald O’Connor) along for the ride. While in Litchenburg, Sally falls for the Forgein Minister, Cosmo (George Sanders) and Kenneth ends up in love with the Princess of Litchenburg, Maria (Vera-Ellen) who is already engaged in a pre-arranged marriage. Cahoots follow as Sally suspects Cosmo’s intentions towards her are purely business and Kenneth and Maria try to dodge her Husbund-to-be while falling in love.
It’s no wonder Call Me Madam won the 1954 Oscar for Best scoring of a Musical – Call Me Madam features some of the most delightful and fun numbers you’ll ever see, and the background music used during some scenes does just the right trick. You’ll love Ethel’s “1913” number at the Litchenburg Ball as she tries to liven up the party, but the stand-out number (I think) in the film is Vera-Ellen’s solo number, “Dance to the Orcerena”, a cute little folk dance done at the Country Fair. Although the costumes are a little gaudy in this number, it’s scored so beautifully and lively that you’ll want to get up and dance right along to it! Vera is simply wonderful and her dancing could never have been better.
The other musical numbers in the film are 2 versions of “it’s a lovely day today”, one sung by Vera and Donald, and the other is them doing a very Fred and Ginger dance to it out in a beautiful, broken-down castle at the Litchenburg ball. Donald also gets a great solo number called “What chance have I? (with love)” in which he drunkenly dances and sings about being in love with Princess Maria, and directly after he and Vera dance and sing to “Something to dance about”, a fast paced tap-number. There’s also a wide selection of songs sung by Ethel and George, but most of the them are pretty forgettable.
Over all, Call Me Madam is a cute and fun musical, but it does have it’s down points (namely Ethel and George’s loooong scenes). You’ll love it for the great numbers and lovely story line, and really, it’s a Musical that deserves more attention from the public.