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.
Author of three books about classic film stars published under the name "Jenny Curtis," Jenny is equally well-known in the world of classic movie geekdom as "Nipper." If you've ever seen Bringing Up Baby or The Awful Truth, you may remember "Jerry the Nipper" on which the nom de blog is an obvious pun. If you haven't seen those movies quit reading this dang blog already and start watching some movies.
Deborah has graciously agreed to assist with copy editing at Cinema OCD. No longer will my readers have to suffer with incorrect use of the word "its." Deborah is a freelance writer and author of Other People's Children.