Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mad About Music (1938) versus What A Girl Wants (2003)





















I was watching this Herbert Marshall movie recently (I'm shocked, SHOCKED, you say) and it really reminded me of this Colin Firth movie, I may or may not have taped off the Disney channel. (I admit NOTHING.) If either Herbert Marshall or Colin Firth interest you, you may find it amusing to know that they made pretty much the same movie about 60 years apart: Mad about Music and What a Girl Wants.

Both films were vehicles for their teen idol female ingenues. Mad About Music showcases the singing and acting of young Deanna Durbin and What a Girl Wants showcases the talents of Nickolodeon-spawned singer/actress Amanda Bynes. Both movies feature a teenage girl getting to know her father, though in the case of Mad About Music, Marshall's character isn't really her father, but a composer at rest in the small Swiss town where Durbin is at boarding school. She randomly picks him up from the train hoping to prove to her friends that her made-up safari hunting daddy is real. The deceit causes confusion, some rather thin laughs and is an excuse at one point for Durbin to fake-yodel (Faux-dell?) In What a Girl Wants Colin Firth is a British politician whose newly discovered teenage daughter could cost him an election. Naturally the deceit causes confusion, some rather thin laughs and excuses for musical interludes. I may be tipping my hand toward the past a bit, but the music in What A Girl Wants made me positively pine for the fauxdelling.

OK so I admit 90% of writing this post was the needing an excuse to post this picture of Colin Firth barefoot. In very high resolution. Right-click save, my foot fetish friends. Right Click Save.

In many way Firth and Marshall have similar career trajectories. They both played leading men (and the occasional stock Brit villain) in romantic comedies. They always seem to be mid-thirties, somehow, in these films, though Marshall didn't become a movie star until he was forty. He played young, until one day, he started finally playing middle-age. At a certain point the leading man roles became thin on the ground so they switched to playing cuckolds, married playboys and dads. Both these movies are early entries in the "dads" ouevres for both actors. Firth still manages the occasional romantic comedy lead, but really his fans should get used to seeing him playing father to precocious teenage girls. Try not to vomit. It's Colin Firth. He's totally worth enduring the likes of What a Girl Wants. Oh hey speaking of Colin Firth, Mick LaSalle named Bridget Jones Diary the best romantic Comedy of the decade. So yay! And there's some talk that he might win an Oscar or something, in which case I may have to break my decade of indifference to the ceremony.

It's an encouraging thought that movie musicals tend to still be made for young people. I may not like the music, but then I'm not really supposed to. One fun thing about Mad about Music is the appearance of a harmonica band in the final scene. I just watched the movie a week or so ago, but already I've forgotten the preposterous plot excuse for a harmonica band turning up at a girl's school in Switzerland. I've always had a soft spot for harmonica bands ever since I found that Jerry and the Harmonicats record in a dumpster. (I mean really, how could you throw something like that away. The cover alone is priceless, but I digress...). If I gave stars to movies, I'd give an extra star to Mad about Music for Cappy Barra.

9 comments:

AbbyNormal said...

I have never seen Mad About Music. I have seen "What a Girl Wants" and I watched that movie for one thing and one thing only. Oh yes my friends, Colin Firth. Was there really music in that movie? I really didn't notice. :-)

I have been holding onto a Bridget Jones Diary movie post for quite a while now, maybe it is time to post it. I completely agree with Mr. LaSalle and will go on singing the praises of that movie even if it isn't technically a "great" movie. It is one of the few that I still laugh at and one of the few I still want to watch semi-over and over. The sequel was truly horrible though and I hear they are making a third now? Oy.

Great post! I will watch "Mad About Music" if I ever see it on TCM.

Jennythenipper said...

Oh do please post on Bridget Jones. Yes, the sequel was so bad, Graham literally curled himself into the fetal position in the theater so he didn't have to watch it. It hurt me. In comparison What a Girl wants is imminently watchable.

texasoperastar said...

MAD ABOUT MUSIC is the movie that made me an instant fan of Deanna Durbin. So much so that I now run the largest DD website on the Internet and love chatting to other fans who appreciate REAL talent when they see it!

AbbyNormal said...

Jenny, for you dear friend, I got off my rear and posted the Bridget Jones blog. Of course, I am not a writer like yourself, but as always, I can endlessly gush over movies I like.

Jennythenipper said...

Teasoperastar: I can see why. It is instantly apparent that Durbin is very talented in Mad about Music. Her singing is very mature and seemingly effortless. It's a shock to see it coming from such a youngster!

Sarah said...

Oh! I have seen "What a Girl Wants" because I love me some Colin Firth- which translates into- must see everything with him in it. Thanks for the post, had no idea about this film.

bmadron said...

Jenny,
Too bad the picture was not of him coming out of a lake! He is the english Tom Hanks. At least, I think so. I love your blog! I am reading a book on Vivien Leigh. After watching DELOVELY for the 50th time, I noticed that Sir Laurence and Kevin Kline favor each other. Now,I am working on a post about casting star bio pics. Please spread the word...http://midniteatsunsetandvine.blogspot.com

Jennythenipper said...

Does he fall in the lake in this one? I remember the girl does? He does seem to have contractual obligation to repeat certain Pride and Prejudicisms such as getting a wet shirt and proposing badly.

I've never thought of the Hanks' comparison before. I'll have to mull it a while. Interesting.

Oh, I love it. Kevin Kline and Olivier. I think you might be right as Kline ages. Do you have any pics as examples? I'm always on the hunt for classic stars and their dopplegangers.

I'll check out your blog.

Jennythenipper said...

OK, I've had a mull about it, and I must disagree. Colin can not be the British Tom Hanks because Tom Hanks was never a sex symbol and Colin was/is. Just listen to the shrieks of hysterical obsessive female fans that accomapny any appearance of his on a talk show. You'd think he was Jude law or something. And Hanks, not so much in that department, ever.