Classic Film Guide

Call Me Madam (1953)

Directed by Walter Lang (The King and I (1956)), with a screenplay by Arthur Sheekman, this above average Musical comedy features Ethel Merman's signature performance, reprising her Broadway role, with great Irving Berlin songs and the energetic dancing of Donald O'Connor! Not only that, but George Sanders sings too, and Vera-Ellen dances! The film's Score won the Academy Award; its Color Costume Design was nominated. Merman is clearly "the Hostess with the Mostes"; O'Connor sings, with Vera-Ellen (dubbed by Carole Richards), "It's a Lovely Day Today" and then "What Chance Have I With Love?" as he kicks balloons all over the "saloon".

Merman plays Sally Adams, a well connected society woman in Washington D.C. that gets rewarded the ambassadorship in (fictional) Lichtenburg for throwing great parties. O'Connor plays an ambitious reporter that's in "the right place at the right time" to become her press attache. Vera-Ellen plays Lichtenburg’s Princess Maria who's to marry a neighboring country's Prince Hugo (Helmut Dantine), as part of a treaty agreement, if her country can get a much needed ($100 million) loan from the United States. O'Connor's character falls for the Princess, an impossible love (?). Sanders is Lichtenburg’s handsome top military man Cosmo Constantine, who Sally falls in love with and later comes to assume she's been set-up, for the loan, by his charms. Billy De Wolfe plays prissy Pemberton Maxwell, the U.S. embassy's top man who disapproves of the way his new ambassador conducts her business. Walter Slezak & Steven Geray play Lichtenburg aides who try desperately to obtain the loan; Ludwig Stössel & Lilia Skala play the country's Grand Duke & Grand Duchess, respectively. When Sally proposes the loan (because of her affections for Cosmo), U.S. Senator friends of hers (played by Charles Dingle, Emory Parnell, and Percy Helton) are sent to assess whether to approve it by her other friend Harry (President Truman).

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