About Site


Brigadoon Reappears
Written June 25, 2018


Gene Kelly was my mother's age.  He was born in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood, and when he was eight years old, his mother enrolled him in a dance class.  The other kids teased him, so he quit and dreamt of playing shortstop for the Pirates.

However, by the time he graduated from Peabody High School, he was dancing again.  He attended Penn State until the Depression hit, then eventually graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and entered law school.

But he found his true calling at his family's dance studio in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  He became a choreographer.  And, starting in 1938, he performed on Broadway and then in Hollywood.

Pittsburgh is proud of the local boy who made it big.  There's been talk of erecting a statue Downtown depicting Mr. Kelly in his most famous pose, from the 1952 motion picture Singin' in the Rain.

Two years later he starred in another movie, an adaptation of the Broadway show Brigadoon.  The mixed chorus at my small-town high school would later perform that very musical, as I mentioned in this article.  Although I had no part in it, I watched my friends rehearse, thus becoming familiar with the tale of an ephemeral Scottish town that appears for only one day per century.

However, I had never seen Gene Kelly's 1954 film until Turner Classic Movies showed it in 2018.  Here are some miscellaneous reactions.

The Brigadoon movie omits more than half of the songs that Lerner & Loewe wrote for the Broadway production, including:

       The Love of My Life
       Jeannie's Packin' Up
       There But for You Go I
       My Mother's Wedding Day
       From This Day On
and this tune that's among my favorites.  

That title, “Come to Me, Bend to Me,” seems to describe Gene Kelly's default posture in every dance with a romantic partner, such as here with Cyd Charisse.

These two characters dance well together, which seems to be the only reason for them to instantly fall completely in love despite the difference in their cultures and their ages.  (She's 221, having been born in the same year as George Washington.  ’Tis a miracle.)

He approaches her in an attitude of hesitant supplication, gazing intensely, open palms upraised.  One knee is bent, with the other leg extended behind him.

As shown by these stills from the movie, that's Gene's opening move — even when his partner is the landscape.

When I saw a compilation of MGM musicals in a theater in 1974, I got a little tired of seeing this pose.  Eleven Gene Kelly clips were featured — at one point, eight of them in a row.  I felt that was about two too many.

And as far as watching Brigadoon is concerned, I got a little tired of Gene's singing voice.  Too light, too thin for a leading man.  He was no Robert Goulet.

Three other thoughts:

ß  At one point, Van Johnson's world-weary character remarks to Dodie Heath's man-hungry character, “You know, if love were a hobby, you'd be a collector's item.”

Not long after our high school production, I overheard one of our handsome senior boys jokingly say this to one of our pretty senior girls.  I thought the “collector's item” line sounded familiar, but I didn't connect it to the musical until I saw this movie 53 years later.

ß  Another actress is actually seen breast-feeding, on camera.  Four minutes into the movie, this collie is lying on her side nursing her pups.   But then the sun rises.  “Hold on, guys!” says her expression.  “Something's happening.”

She sits up and looks around.  “What was that?  There's a fair?  They're sellin' a bit o' milk an' cream?  Down on MacConnachy Square?!”

ß  And, while watching on TCM, for the first time I paid attention to the motivation of the villain of the piece, Harry Beaton.  According to the “miracle” whereby Brigadoon exists forever, none of its residents are ever allowed to leave.  When we were high school students, we were happy in our little corner of the world, so we may not have realized that some of our neighbors might be frustrated like Harry.

“I've got nothing!  Nothing than to be trapped in this peasant village all my life.  Look at it!  The boundaries of a town?  Not to me.  ’Tis more the dimensions of my jail.”

“I canna leave here.  I canna go to the University and make something of myself.  And I canna have Jean.  So there's nothing left to do but to hate everything and everybody in this cursed town!”

Mr. Campbell tries to calm him down.  “This is only a cursed town if you make it so.  To the rest of us, ’tis a blessed place.”



Back to Top
More RichwoodMore Richwood