Vincente Minnelli


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Figlio d'arte (di un impresario di circo italiano), Vincente Minnelli intraprese da bambino la carriera teatrale. Fu come scenografo e costumista di vaudeville che arrivò a Broadway. Le sue regie teatrali si distinsero subito per la finezza di gusto e la modernità quasi surreale del design. Nel 1940 venne assunto da Freed a Hollywood e esordì alla regia cinematografica con Cabin in the Sky (1943), in cui Dio e il Demonio si danno battaglia per l'anima di un giocatore d'azzardo.

The musical Cabin in the Sky (1943) is an allegorical fable set in a black rural community among simple, everyday folks. It's a minor movie, with a rather lame plot.

Joe is a gambler who just cannot resist the temptation. His good wife Petunia prays God to make him stronger and in fact Joe decides to abandon his sinful life and get a job as an elevator boy. He is on his way to church, where he is expected to repent publicly, when a bunch of cohorts talk him into gambling just one more time to pay his debts. Instead, he gets shot. As he is lying in his bed, a Demon and an Angel argue over his body. Petunia prays God to give her one more chance to redeem him, and eventually wins her case: Joe is returned to life, determined to change life. The demons led by Lucifer Jr have set their headquarter at the nearby hotel and have a new strategy to damn Joe: make him rich, and let him fall into the grips of notorious femme fatale Georgia. All it takes is one phone call to Lucifer Sr, and Joe the lottery. Georgia is the one who brings him the good news, and Petunia finds them hugging. Petunia, thinking he betrayed her, is hurt to the point of kicking him out.
Petunia basically throws Joe into the arms of Georgia. Joe spends the money at the saloon and on Georgia. One evening Petunia shows up at the saloon. A changed woman, now she wants half of the money and flirts with Joe's sworn enemy, Domino. The demon and the angel watch the development with anxiety: it is not clear yet who will win Joe's soul. Joe and Domino fight, while a storm destroys the saloon. Domino shoots Petunia and then Joe. They both die and show up at the gates of paradise. Petunia is admitted, but Joe is not. Lucifer is already celebrating when the news comes that Georgia has repented and given all her money to the church. Petunia implores God to give Joe another chance. And Joe wakes up: it was all a dream. The first thing he does is burn the lottery ticket, to make sure he won't get rich.

Il musical Afro-americano Halleluja è una favola che astrae il folclore della comunità di colore: gravemente ferito mentre giocava ai dadi, un uomo sogna di essere alla soglia dell'altro Mondo e che Bene e Male si contendono la sua anima e ovviamente, dopo diversi spaventi, se la cava. Il fatto saliente è il tono nuovo di Minnelli, un tono che sconfina nell'onirismo e nel nonsense, un'atmosfera rarefatta e ricercata, una fantasia sofisticata. Muore il concetto classico che voleva il musical come un'esile trama narrativa per tenere insieme numeri solisti o corali spettacolari per musica e colori.

Nasce il concetto di uno spettacolo nel suo insieme, del quale canzoni e balletti sono parte naturale e integrante. Nel suo insieme lo spettacolo di Minnelli attinge in egual misura a fantasia e realtà, collocandosi in tal modo in un limbo semireale, estremamente stilizzato, dove l'aspetto figurativo è il vero tema unificante di trama e numeri.

I Dood It (1943) is a very minor musical.

Meet Me in St Louis (1944) è un tour de force del talento elaborato da Minnelli. St Louis diventa un luogo astratto dove tutte le situazioni sono semplici ed esplicite, un piccolo concentrato di umanità sorridente e felice. È un'apologia della vita provinciale di famiglia. Minnelli rivela, oltre al gusto figurativo, una calda, umana sensibilità per il melodramma borghese e una capacità di far leva sulle nostalgie per i bei tempi andati. La nostalgia è proprio l'alibi di tutta la messinscena, di per sé storicamente falsa e comunque improbabile. La nostalgia è la protagonista del film, che nel suo insieme sembra un album di foto. La trama è in effetti evanescente, ma è infittita di episodi teneri e struggenti che creano l'immagine affettuosa della cittadina americana di provincia.

Nella cittadina fin-de siècle un manager viene promosso e deve trasferirsi a New York, ma le quattro ragazze, il ragazzo, la madre, il nonno, la cuoca finiscono per convincerlo a rinunciare. Nel frattempo assistiamo alle schermaglie di due sorelle con alcuni giovanotti locali.

Minnelli surpassed himself with Yolanda and the Thief (1945), a baroque and oneiric musical, a fairy tale set in an enchanted land, based on a story by Ludwig Bemelmens and with music composed by producer Arthur Freed.

The fictional South American country is introduced by an old teacher who lectures a group of children in a meadow. The camera shifts towards the town to show this sort of Utopia where everybody is nice and smiling, and settles on the convent in which the nuns and the other pupils are celebrating both the birtday and the graduation of Yolanda, the only daughter and heiress of the wealthiest family in the country. Yolands is so attached to the convent that she is not excited at all about leaving and entering the real world. One man who has a different view of the country is Johnny (Fred Astaire), a criminal who is not excited at all to settle in such a provincial and quiet place but has no other choice because it's the only country that will not extradite him. On the train he and his partner in crime Victor learn that the richest person in the country is actually the single girl who is traveling on the same train. Then they read in the newspaper about Yolanda's enormous wealth. And Johnny gets interested.
Yolanda arrives to her palace. Her aunt (who has been running the estate) welcomes her as the new boss, but Yolanda is scared by the new responsibility. She prays to the statue of the Madonna for help. Johnny has entered the garden and overhears her prayer. He later calls her and pretends to be her guardian angel who is responding to her prayer. Yolanda, innocent and gullable, does not doubt him. That night Johnny has a nightmare (a lengthy ballet in a surreal landscape) that shows him falling in love with Yolanda. He visits Yolanda at the palace and her aunt, who didn't even want to let him in, is totally fascinted by him. Johnny has no trouble convincing Yolanda to sign the papers that gift her entire forture to him. He puts them in a bag and throw it to Victor in the garden, but the bag his Victor in the head and knocks him out. A myserious man in a suit and tie steals the bag. But Johnny and Victor find him at the hotel and rescue the bag.., a bit too easily. Later they see the mysterious man talking to Yolanda's aunt and, fearing that he is turning them in, they elope on a taxi towards the train station. The mysterious man has in fact told the aunt that Yolanda is going to marry Johnny. The aunt is ecstatic and congratulates Yolanda, who is puzzled and... ashamed. She prays to the Madonna that she has no impure thoughts for the angel (but it is visible that she actually does). The taxi breaks down and Johnny is rescued by the police. Johnny and Victor are brought back to the town and they think they are going to be arrested. Instead, they are welcomed by a festive crowd. Johnny is pushed into the arms of a shameful Yolanda, who still believes him an angel. Johnny is moved by her love. He tells her that now he has to go back to paradise. She even kisses him. Then at the hotel he writes her a letter to explain everything and return all her money. On the train they are notified that they are going to be arrested as soon as they cross the border. The mysterious man shows up again and suggests that the only way to avoid jail is to get off the train and remain in the country with no extradition. Sure enough the train has to go back because of a fallen bridge. The mysterious man even knows that Johnny has returned the money. They suddenly realize that the mysterious man is... the real guardian angel of Yolanda. He orders Johnny to marry Yolanda.

The Clock (1945) is a realistic comedy, but it lacks any depth or purpose, merely indulging in the theme of the individual alone in the crowd.

A soldier, Joe, arrives at the train station in New York for the first time. He is on a two-day leave and doesn't quite know where to start. He accidentally meets Alice (Judy Garland), a working girl whose shoe has lost a heel. She takes him for a brief tour of the city. When she has to take the bus to go home, he starts running after it to ask her for a date. She tells him to meet her in the evening at the clock of a hotel. But then her housemate talks her out of it. Joe waits for hours and is about to leave when she finally shows up, feelings having prevailed over wisdom. Thus begins a long night. They dine, walk and chat and kiss. They eventually meet a milk man who gives them a ride. When he is hit by a drunk, they deliver the milk for him. Grateful, he invites him to his house where his wife cooks breakfast for them. Later they are trying to take the subway and are separated by the crowd. They desperately search for each other but in vain. Eventually they both have the same idea: they return to the hotel where they met for the date. They are so happy to be reunited that they decide to get married right away, before Joe has to report back. Bureaucracy requires a blood test and they only have a few hours left. They finally manage to reach the judge before he goes home and get married while a noisy train runs in the background. It is not the most romantic and afterwards they are disappointed. The following morning they have to part, and they are just one of the many young couples in that situation. And when she walks outside she is just one of the many people outside.

Between these films that made him famous, Minnelli also directed the thriller Undercurrent (1946), full of suspense but a bit overlong and with a wildly implausible ending.

Ann (Katharine Hepburn), the only daughter of a widowed scientist, is still unmarried, despite being romanced by her friend Joe, a fact that worries her affectionate housekeeper Lucy. When a charming and famous tycoon, Alan, comes to visit her father about a formula of his, she falls in love for the first time in her life. They get married and he introduces her to the life of the rich. One day she learns from an old friend of his mother that he has a brother, She soon learns to behave like a lady and her love for him only increases. Michael. He tells her that Michael stole money from him when they were partners in business and then disappeared after their mother died. Alan confesses that he hates Michael more than anyone else. One day a bookseller hands her a book that he had been asked to bind, thinking it is her husband's. She loves it but it was actually Michael's, and Alan is furious when she memorizes one of the poems. She is excited when he finally takes her to visit the family mansion where he grew up. One day she plays the piano and Alan gets upset again: he tells her that his mother was playing that piece when she died. But minutes later the faithful servant tells her that the woman died in her bed. She extorts from him the truth: it was Michael who used to play the piano. She realizes that Alan has been trying to completely erase any memory of Michael from his life. She tries to be nice to Sylvia, a childhood friend of Alan, if nothing else because they look so alike, but Sylvia is inquisitive and hostile, hinting that Michael might be dead and that Alan might be responsible. Alan's employees don't want to talk about Michael, obviously because they have been ordered so. Ann takes advantage of her husband going on a business trip and travels to the ranch that used to be Michael's ranch. She meets the caretaker (Robert Mitchum) and is fascinated by Michael's home. Suddenly her husband Alan shows up: he interrupted his business trip when he heard of her intentions. He is furious that she is trying to find out more about Michael, as if he were jealous of him. Ann begins to suspect that Alan was in love with Sylvia, but Sylvia betrayed him for Michael, and then Alan married Ann because she reminded him of Sylvia. Alan denies everything, but Ann decides to visit Sylvia and ask her. Sylvia gives her a completely different portrait of Michael: a gentleman, not a playboy, and the last person who would be interested in money. Sylvia tells Ann that Michael disappeared after one last meeting with Alan at the ranch. Michael never even wrote to his best friends, a fact that contradicts his nature. Thus Sylvia believes that Alan murdered him. Ann leaves outraged, but the suspicion has entered her mind. When Alan tells her that he is planning a trip for the two of them alone, Ann fears for her own life. Unbeknownst to her, Michael meets Alan at their house, for the first time in years: Michael is the man whom Ann mistook for the caretaker of the ranch. Michael tells Alan why he disappeared: he had found out that Alan killed the engineer (a poor German refugee) who had made a major discovery and had then taken credit for the invention, the very invention that had made him rich. Michael couldn't face the truth and enrolled in the army. Alan begs Michael: he truly loves Ann and doesn't want to lose her. Michael is willing to keep out of their life only if Alan tells Ann the truth, and Alan promises to do so. (If Michael never did anything wrong to Alan, it is not clear why Alan always hated him so much). Instead Alan accuses Ann of having fallen in love with Michael (even though she has never met him, or at least doesn't know of having met him). Ann is scared again and tries to run away. Alan stops her. The neighbor, riding a horse, arrives just in time to save her. The neighbor invites them to breakfast at her house and they accept to ride their horses along her. (It is not clear why Ann doesn't simply ask for help). Along the way Alan finds a way to be left alone with Ann and tries to push her down a cliff and then to crush her head with a boulder but his horse (that used to be Michael's horse) goes mad and kills him just one second before he kills her. (A rather implausible coincidence). Michael finally reveals himself to Ann and Ann learns the whole truth. They play the piano together. (Alan was right after all about Ann's falling in love with Michael).

Di ambiente esotico è anche il mediocre musical The Pirate (1948), intriso all'inverosimile di colori, il cui canovaccio brioso e allegro si lascia nuovamente andare alla nostalgia

At the time of the pirates in the Caribbeans a romantic girl, Manuela (Judy Garland), dreams adventure and romance, fascinated by the legendary pirate Macoco, but her aunt has found her a rich (albeit obese and boring) suitor, Don Pedro, the mayor of the town, who has the reputation of being a saint. Before leaving for Paris with him, she begs her aunt to take her to the Caribbean sea, so she can dream one last time of a life that she will never live. There she meets a comedian who has just arrived with his company, Serafin (Gene Kelly). Serafin falls in love with her, but she is just annoyed by his attentions. During a show he hypnotizes her and she reveals her secret love for Macoco. The day of the wedding he climbs to her room and tries to steal her away. Pedro finds them and is about to exact his revenge when Serafin recognizes him: Pedro is nothing but the legendary Macoco. Serafin was the only survivor of a ship that Pedro attacked. Macoco implores him to keep the secret: he is now a good citizen, aging, coward. Serafin realizes that he can take advantage of the once deadly Macoco. Knowing that Manuela admires Macoco, Serafin pretends to be Macoco and the one who knows that he is lying, Pedro, cannot speak up or he would lose his reputation, his job, his fiance. He announces to the entire population that the town is surrounded by his men and that they will raid it if he is not allowed to take Manuela with him. Manuela, who was never enthusiastic of becoming Pedro's wife, does not mind being the victim of Macoco and therefore becoming the protagonist in real life of the romantic adventure she always dreamed of. But she finds out that he is merely pretending of being Macoco to take advantage of her. During this distraction Pedro calls for reinforcements and the viceroy in person arrives with the troops. They arrest Serafin, who tries in vain to prove his innocence: Pedro has filled his luggage with the jewelry that Macoco stole over the years. Serafin is sentenced to death. The execution is delayed because Serafin has one last request: to perform for the viceroy. In the meantime Manuela has seen the Macoco's loot and realized that her wedding ring, received from Pedro, was part of a set that is in that loot. During his number Manuela, pretending to be hypnotized, confesses her love for the pirate Macoco. Pedro does not resist and betrays himself: he protests that he, not Serafin, is the real Macoco. Thus Serafin is safe and the two lovers sing the last song dressed like clowns. Nei Caraibi, al tempo dei pirati, vive una ragazza romantica (Judy Garland) che sogna l'amore ma è promessa a un ricco antipatico, obeso e vigliacco. La seduce un commediante vagabondo (Gene Kelly) che si fa credere un feroce pirata e minaccia di radere al suolo la città se non gli verrà consegnata la bella, la quale è ben lieta di essere la vittima. Il riccone è in realtà il vero pirata, ma non potendo smascherare l'impostore, lo accusa di furto. Condannato a morte, il saltimbanco viene salvato dalla ragazza che scopre la vera identità del riccone. I due innamorati eseguono l'ultimo numero vestiti da clown, un inno ai comici girovaghi che con due smorfie fanno ridere una platea.

Seconda prova della "commedia ad inganni", il film si affida alle acrobazie di Kelly, alle battute spiritose (e provocanti) della Garland e alla parodia: del mondo dei filibustieri, dell'operetta esotica, della recitazione melodrammatica. Con questo musical Minnelli spalanca le porte dell'immaginario: i personaggi sono gente umile piena di difetti (il guitto impostore e seduttore, il pirata vile e stupido, la bella un po' morbosetta) e l'ambiente è duecento anni indietro e mille miglia lontano. Alla fine è il trionfo dello spettacolo, del suo genere più umile: quello di strada.

Con Father of the Bride (1950) Minnelli si rivelò anche un commediografo popolare e sensibile, non solo stilista comico.

Stanley, a good hardworking father (Spencer Tracy) reminisces how he got to the wedding of his daughter. One day he went home to find his daughter Kay in love with a nice young man, Buckley, and determined to marry him. He is shocked and hurt because he feels that nothing will be the same again between him and his daughter. But he soon adapts to the idea and makes friend with the boy's parents. Now that the marriage is approved, Kay casually mentions that she wants a small wedding. Her mother, Ellie, protests that she wants a nice wedding for her daughter. Stanley is also in favor of a small wedding, but Ellie tells him how sorry she was that she couldn't have a nicer one when she married him. He goes along with his wife's plans, that get more and more ambitious... and expensive. They are a well-off family, but Stanley is a prudent man and doesn't like to spend the money he has saved. Ellie is the one determined to spend everything they own, if necessary, to give their daughter the wedding she didn't have. Stanley is now resigned. But one day Kay comes home to announce that the wedding is cancelled: she has dumped Buckley. Stanley is almost happy, but it turns out it is a silly argument. They kids are soon in love again and the wedding (a majestic one) takes place as planned. The crowd is so big that Stanley doesn't get a chance to say goodbye to his daughter before the newly married take off. He is now also resigned at having lost his daughter. But she calls from the railway station just to say hello to him, and he's happy again, dancing alone with his wife in their big empty home. The comedy predates Chayefsky's populist drama The Catered Affair (1956). The difference is not only the setting but also the mood: here Minnelli toys with nostalgy and good humor, and finds a happy ending in the neverending cycles of life.

La saga familiare sarà continuata con Father's Little Dividend (1951), in cui nonno Tracy detesta il nipotino finché questi non scompare.

Il secondo capolavoro "leggero" di Minnelli è An American in Paris (1951), in cui si esaltano il cromatismo dei costumi (derivato dai pittori francesi), la stilizzazione del paesaggio (una Parigi da favola), i virtuosismi dei ballerini. La trama è la quintessenza della banalità: un pittore americano è corteggiato dalla sua ricca mecenate ma si innamora di una ragazza monella che è amata da un musicista incompreso, amico del pittore. Lo spettacolo sta nei numeri di ballo, nei trucchi di montaggio e nelle complesse messe in scena.

The Story Of Three Loves (1953) was a romantic divertissment. The passengers on a cruise boat tell the stories of their fondest loves.

The Bad and the Beautiful (1953) was his first drama, an experiment in cinematography (with frequent nods to Orson Welles, thanks to cinematographer John Houseman) and storytelling (the plot is told through a number of flashbacks by several people). The protagonist is a bad man, a man with no scruples who takes advantage of his best friends to fulfil his egocentric desires; another titanic negative hero a` la Citizen Kane. It was one of the self-reflective films of the era that exposed the behind-the-scenes lifestyle of the world of cinema: Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950), George Cukor's A Star is Born (1954), Joseph Mankiewicz' The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Robert Aldrich's The Big Knife (1955), etc.

A Jonathan calls from Paris. He wants to talk to the director of a movie, Fred, who is shooting on a stage (the first two scenes are Orson Welles-ian in the way they show the man picking up the call and the director on his gyraffe descending on the actress), but the director pretends he's not there. He then calls a Georgia (Lana Turner) who is getting dressed (and we see the transition from the black maid who picked up the call to the mirror in another room to Georgia who is putting a veil on her head to another mirror that finally reflects her face) and she too pretends she's not home. The same Jonathan then calls a man who is typing frantically on a typewriter, Jim, but this one hangs up on him. Georgia, Jim and a Fred visit Harry Harry congratulates Jim on winning an important literary prize and then explains why Jonathan was trying to contact them: Jonathan is a producer and wants to make a new movie, written by Jim, directed by Fred and starring Georgia. Harry knows that they all hate him and sympathyzes with them.
Fred talks about him in a flashback, starting at a funeral eighteen years back. At the end of the funeral of his own father, Jonathan (Kirk Douglas) handed out money to the people attending the funeral: they had been hired to pretend they were mourning; but Fred was not mourning at all, since he knew what a bastard the dead man (an influential Hollywood figure) had been. Jonathan confesses that his father had left nothing. The two became friends. At a party they saw Harry playing poker. Jonathan convinced his friends (that now included Fred's girlfriend Kay) to raise money for him to play poker with Harry. And he lost a fortune. To pay for it he offered to work as a producer at Harry's studios (when most people would beg Harry for a job). The tactic worked and he got the job as producer. Fred and Jonathan were successful with their first movie. One night Jonathan drove to the abandoned mansion of the man who raised him, a famous theatrical actor in the old days. They found his daughter Georgia crying alone in the dark, drunk. She was mourning and cursing his father at the same time. She kicked them out. Fred had a great idea for their next film, and Jonathan stole it. When a famous Latin actor accepted the lead role, Jonathan dumped Fred for another director. The film was a success and launched Jonathan's career.
Now Georgia starts talking about Jonathan through another flashback. Five years after their first meeting, Georgia applied for a minor role in a movie. Jonathan liked her and followed her in her spartan apartment. She is an alcoholic and may have a past as a prostitute (given how prompty she sits on his lap). He is brutal but convincing. She is redeemed and, while a terrible actress, trusts Jonathan who sees something in her. She is a no show at the first shooting but Jonathan goes to pick her up, drunk, and throws them in his pool. She falls in love with him and he instills self-confidence into her. She is the protagonist of the new film and everybody loves her. She is disappointed that he doesn't show up at her party to celebrate with her. He accomplished his task of creating a new star, and has no real interest in her as a woman. In fact, he's already sleeping with another woman, aspiring actress Lila. He loses his temper, wanting to humiliate him while sounding afraid of her power over him. He sounds angry at himself for being himself. She leaves in tears, gets in the car and drives madly on the highway, risking her life (the camera virtuosistically floats over and around her).
The third flashback, by the writer, starts when his first novel has just been published and the rights have been purchased by a Hollywood studio. While he is more interested in writing his second novel, his frivolous wife Rosemary is excited about going to Hollywood. To get Jim's full attention without any distraction, Jonathan does not hesitate to ask the studio's Latin star to seduce his naive wife Rosemary. Tragedy strikes: the Latin man takes Rosemary for a flight on a private plane, and the plane crashes killing them both. Jim learns of the accident from the newspapers. And then he has to bear the humiliation of the reporters hoping to unveil an affair between the two. Jonathan makes him work day and night on the script for his most expensive film ever. Jonathan does not like the director and eventually fires him. Then he himself directs the remaining scenes, but he is the first one to admit that he butchered the script, and asks Harry not to release the film. This would mean bankruptcy for him. Jim is the only one to stand by the fallen producer. But the fallen producer is still the same ugly soul, who does not hesitate to tell him the truth about his wife's infidelity, how he (Jonathan) caused it, how she liked it and how he (Jim) deserved it. Jonathan even tells Jim that he should be happy his wife is dead because the dumb woman was a liability in his career.
The three flashbacks showed why each of them hates Jonathan. But they also showed how Jonathan made each of them a success. They would not exist without him. And, after all, Jonathan's cynicism and brutality simply exposed their weaknesses. Once they were removed (no matter how cruelly), their career was enhanced. So Harry begs them to work with Jonathan one more time. He calls Jonathan in Paris. Georgia walks out and the other two follow. However, outside they can hear Harry's comments to Jonathan's proposal (they never hear Jonathan himself) and all three can't resist the temptation to learn more about it. After all, they all remember when they met Jonathan as one of the most exciting time of their life.
Minnelli diresse anche una versione del classico "backstage musical" Band Wagon (1953): Astaire è un anziano ballerino ormai dimenticato a cui viene offerta un'occasione per risorgere, un musical al fianco di un attore presuntuoso e di una giovane e permalosa ballerina (Cyd Charisse); il primo trauma il copione in una tragedia e la seconda litiga con Astaire che appartiene a un'altra generazione; la prima è un fiasco, ma Astaire decide di prendere il timone e, con il testo originale, lo spettacolo ha successo e la ragazza si innamora del partner. I numeri storici non si contano: l'inno sarcastico al mondo dello show (That's entertainment), la farsa in costume da poppante (Triplets), la satira finale del romanzo poliziesco (Girl hunt). Il messaggio del film è palese: lo spettacolo non deve essere colto e forbito ma gaio e spensierato, come vuole la generazione dei '30.

Venne poi la volta di una versione cinematografica di un altro classico di Broadway, Brigadoon (1954), un musical del librettista Alan Jay Lerner e del musicista Frederick Loewe, favola musicale che torna a far leva sulla nostalgia. Due giovani americani scoprono per caso in Scozia un villaggio di campagna rimasto fermo nel tempo; si fermano per un giorno e Kelly si innamora di una bella ragazza; ma scopre allora che il paese vive un giorno al secolo e in poche ore tutto sarà finito; Kelly a malincuore deve tornare a New York; ma non riesce a dimenticare la vita semplice e serena del villaggio e la poesia di quella ragazza; infine decide di tornare e trova il modo di passare nell'altra dimensione. Tutto il film è immerso in un'atmosfera di sogno. Il dramma è raccontato con acuta sensibilità e il contrasto fra la vana stupidità degli amici di New York e l'Eden incontaminato non potrebbe generare nostalgia più struggente.

The Long Long Trailer (1954) is only a (very minor) vehicle for a series of comedy sketches between a husband and a wife about she convinces him to buy a trailer and the trailer turns out to be the cause of one disaster after the other.

A questo punto dopo il musical esotico Kismet (1955) Minnelli si convertì al cinema drammatico.

The Cobweb (1955), based on a novel by William Gibson, is, on the surface, a drama of people who are in conflict with each other (hence the "web"), with some intrigue and ambition adding to the main plot. Anger is the main emotion flowing throughout the story. However, the film is overflowing with subplots. There are complex scenes with people coming and going and listening without talking. The personalities of Karen and Meg are better analyzed than the one of Stewart, who comes through as a monodimensional character, a force of nature tightly associated with the clinic, basically just an offshoot of the clinic. This war of the drapes, that could be the subject of a tragicomedy, is used to highlight how everybody is a psychiatric case, to an extent. The best metaphor to summarize the film is Karen's assessment that the difference between doctors and patients is that patients get better (she only forgets to include herself in the category of the ones who don't get better).

A woman gives a shy introverted kid a ride. It turns out that the kid, Stevie, is a patient at a psychiatric clinic run by a doctor, Stewart (Richard Widmark). The stern administrator Vicky is checking new drapes when she is asked to help deal with a patient. The woman of the first scene turns out to be Karen, Stewart's wife, and the kid is a patient, full of hatred for the rich, who vents his anger by insulting her with her husband, when in fact he's just sexually attracted to her. When Stewart gets back home, Karen is on the phone chatting with a friend. She has a social life that Stewart totally ignores. She tries to tell him that she just had a great idea about the drapes, but instead Stewart starts an argument, accusing her of flirting with one of his patients, the boy. This way he never hears of the great idea, and doesn't show any interest in hearing it later. Karen gets dressed for the concert they are supposed to attend. She has been looking forward to it for a week, probably one of the few social occasions that she is offered. But Stewart has an important meeting at the clinic, and leaves Karen alone. The patients are demanding to decide the new drapes. At the concert and subsequent party Karen receives a call from her friend Regina. She is excited and immediately calls Vicky. Vicky has a bad opinion of Regina, who happens to be the chairman of the board. Regina wants to decide the drapes too, and Karen is on her side. Vicky is only concerned about saving money, and is angry at Karen's trying to influence the decision. Karen hangs up even angrier, while Vicky calls the drape salesman and buys the cheapest kind. Karen finds consolation in the clinic's director, Dev, who invites her to a date. At the end of his meeting Stewart reproaches a nurse who has spied on a patient and found where he hides his alcohol: Stewart thinks that even patients are entitled to privacy. His coworker Meg (Lauren Bacall) overhears but doesn't say anything. The following morning Stevie thanks Meg for helping the patients with their drapes project. They exchange stories of their past. Meg's husband and son were killed in a car accident. Stevie suspects that she sees him as a substitute for her dead son, and tells her that he broke down when his mother died (his father ran away when Stevie was a child), i.e. that she can be his new mother. Stevie is designing the new drapes, and Meg shows his designs to Stewart, who likes them. Stewart, finally concerned about his wife, calls her to make an appointment and chat, but this time it's Karen who doesn't have time: she is going out with Dev. Later, though, Meg realizes that Vicky has already ordered drapes.
Stevie likes a girl who is phobic. She would like him to heal her and is willing to be patient. Meg confronts Vicky about the drapes, and Vicky gets hysterical, thinking that Meg is siding with Karen and Regina. Meanwhile Dev consoles Karen, who talks about her loneliness and frustration. Meg tells Stewart about the incident with Vicky, and Stewart phones Vicky to clarify the issue. Vicky angrily tells him that Karen has something to do with the drapes, and it's the first time that Stewart hears about it. Then she hangs up. The only way to talk to Vicky is for Stewart to physically break into her house. Stewart is the only one who can talk sense into her, despite her hysterical attitude (she doesn't look much saner than the patients). For her the war of the drapes has become a matter of state, but Stewart flatly tells her that he sides with Meg's project to let the patients design them. She seems to sincerely have the interest of the clinic at heart, but at the same time it has something personal. She is the daughter of a pioneer who fought the "Indians" to settle the Far West. She seems to view both patients and staff as the "Indians" to be civilized. Stewart tells her that they can get along only if she accepts "unconditional surrender", an ironic reference to her father's battles.
Back home Stewart argues angrily with Karen when she tells him that she discussed the drapes with Dev. Stewart describes Dev as yet another psychiatric case: a womanizer. She is hurt to hear him belittle the only person who has been willing to listen to her (indirectly, it's another insult to her intelligence). She vents her frustration to him, and he promises to try harder.
Dev is formally the head of the clinic, but Stewart just told Vicky that he is. Vicky confronts Dev and demands to know the truth. Dev admits it, and admits that nobody else knows. She looks heartbroken. It almost sounds like Vicky the steely spinster herself may have been a victim of Dev' seductive powers at some point in the past. When she leaves, Dev is melancholy for a while, contemplating the decline of his career. Then he calls his young blonde secretary (with whom he's had an affair) and dictates a formal order in favor of Regina's idea and opposed to Meg's project. He then drives to Karen's and tries to kiss her, but she asks him to leave.
When Steward learns about Dev's order, he angrily revokes it. Dev is holed up in a motel room with his secretary, who tries in vain to talk sense into him. Even drunk as he is, Dev is plotting against Stewart. He asks Regina to fly down for an urgent meeting, and then asks Vicky to write a report against Stewart for the upcoming meeting of the board of trustees. Vicky coldly hangs up without replying. A meeting between Stewart and the patients about the drapes crisis is interrupted by Karen's phone call: she begs to talk to him about them, but he hangs up because the meeting is more important to him. Instead of rushing back home where his wife is waiting for him, Stewart spends some time in Meg's office chatting about life and work. In the meantime Stevie has finally convinced his girl to go to the movies, thus healing her form her phobia. Forgetting about his wife who is waiting for him at home, Stewart takes Meg home and they make love. (Meg has found a son in Stevie and now a husband in Stewart). Karen calls his office, gets the number where Stewart is, calls the number and hears a woman answer the phone. Then she finds out it's Meg. Hurt and furious, in the middle of the night Karen takes the drapes that she has designed, drives to the clinic and hangs them.
The following morning, upon finding the drapes, Stevie runs away. Stewart looks for him everywhere and calls the police. The patients run amok. Furious, Stewart tears down the drapes just when Dev escorts Regina in. Stewart and Dev fight it out in front of her. Dev's wife Edna begs Stewart to save Dev's reputation: Vicky wrote a damning report not against Stewart, as Dev asked her, but against Dev, detailing his extra-marital affairs and his misconduct at the hospital.
Both Stewart and Karen rush to the river, where the cops are searching for the body of Stevie, fearing that he committed suicide, but Karen leaves without making herself known. Meg arrives too, and Stewart finally breaks down: this time it's he who needs help from someone. Alas, Meg has realized that their affair is crazy, and has decided to break up.
Before the board meeting Stewart begs Vicky not to present her report against Dev. Dev resigns anyway. Stewart has finally time to discuss Karen's problems. Back home, they find Stevie, shaken but alive.
(About 30 minutes of the original director's cut were removed by the producer).
Lust for Life (1956) è la biografia disperata di van Gogh fino al suo suicidio. Tea and Sympathy (1956) was ad adaptation of Robert Anderson's play "Tea and Sympathy" (1953). During a class reunion at a college former classmates notice a lonely young man. The young man wanders into the dormitory and checks the room where he used to live. A flashback shows what happened. Tom is a shy boy in a boarding school who shuns the company of the others. The headmaster's wife, Laura, a frustrated housewife whose first husband died in the war and whose second husband neglects her, is the only one friendly to him. Tom is more interested in the hobbies of women than in the macho behavior of guys. The other boys make fun of him and call him "sister". Laura's husband also ridicules him. Tom's father is ashamed of him and tries to encourage a more manly behavior, but only succeeds at losing his confidence. Laura is upset hearing everybody talk of Tom as if he were a sick person, with the only result that Tom gets more and more humiliated. In order to stop the gossiping, his roommate advises him to sleep with the diner's waitress. Tom gets drunk. Laura knows what he is planning to do and tries to stop him. He is torn but then decides to go to the waitress' room. She understands he is still a virgin and tries to help him, but Tom panicks and has a hysterical crisis. He grabs a knife and tries to kill himself. The following day the school calls Tom's father. Laura is shocked to realize that Tom's father is actually proud of what happened, even if it means that he will be expelled, because Tom's father thinks that this finally proves his son's masculinity. Tom's father is badly disappointed when he is told the details and leaves without even talking to his son. Laura gets mad at her husband, because she sees that the boys humiliate him. She even confronts her husband for tolerating and encouraging this behavior. She protests that people need affection, and is obviously also talking about herself: he never loved her and never lets her love him. Her husband is only irritated by the discussion. She is as humiliated as Tom is. She finds Tom in the woods and tries to console him. Finally, she makes love to him. The flashback is over. Tom is visiting his old room. He looks for Laura, but she is no longer there. She left her husband after that day. And she did not find happiness. She went from one melancholy life to an even worse one. Tom got married and became "normal", but she is alone.

The sophisticated comedy Designing Woman (1957), reminiscent of the Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn comedies, is perhaps his best one.

Mike (Gregory Peck) is a sportswriter who gets drunk at a party in California where he has covered an important sport event. The following morning he doesn't remember anything but there's a cute girl waving at him. It turns out she is a woman he met at the party and she helped him write the sport story that he doesn't even remember wiring to the magazine. In real life, she is a fashion designer, Marilla, also from New York. The two fall in love and, after a brief holiday together, get married and fly back to real life in New York. Each is surprised and disappointed by the other's lifestyle: he is an intellectual who lives in a messy place, she is a classy lady who lives in a luxury flat. He has a turbulent encounter with the girl he was dating, a tv singer-dancer, Lori, who throws ravioli on his pants. Marilla finds him in that state, but does not inquire, and takes him to her flat for the surprise party that her distinguished and wealthy friends are throwing for her. Mike is jealous of a Zachary who wanted to marry her until he meets him and this Zachary turns out to be the most likeable of the entire crowd. Nonetheless, their crowds are incompatible: Mike plays poker with his buddies, that include the retarded but devoted Maxie, while she designs clothes for the high society, including the rich theatrical producer Zachary. She is disgusted when she watches a boxing game, he is bored to death when he watches a fashion parade. It turns out that Zachary has chosen Lori as the protagonist of the new play, and Marilla is to design her costumes, not knowing what Lori was to Mike.
Mike has become famous for his articles against corruption in boxing, that accuse a mobster, Martin, of fixing games. Martin sends his gangsters to beat and threaten Mike, a fact that Mike hides from his wife. When his wife finds out about Lori (recognizing her in a picture that was in Mike's apartment), he also denies that, pretending he has never seen Lori before. When Mike pretends to go out of town for a sport event (in reality, he's hiding in a hotel from the gangsters who want to stop his articles), Marilla gets suspicious. She asks her former beau Zachary, who is now Lori's boss, to find out if Lori knew Mike before their wedding. Zachary actually romances Lori and gets a kiss. Then tells Marilla that he is positive Mike never lied to her: Mike and Lori never met before.
But Marilla is not satisfied and finds an excuse to visit Lori. Alas, Mike has just gone to visit Lori for the same reason: ask her to hide their past. Mike is hiding in the bedroom while the two women chat, but Lori's dog, that knows Mike very well, steals his shoe and brings it to Marilla, who then finds him in the bedroom. He tries in vain to explain. She runs away furious.
Back at the hotel, Mike learns from a "friend" that Martin's gangsters are planning to kidnap his wife, since they cannot find him. It is the night of the premiere. Lori is telling Marilla the truth, and advising her to forgive Mike, who, after all, has been lying out of love. Just then the gangsters kidnap Marilla. Just then Mike and Maxie arrive to stop them. The fist fight is won by a dancer who helps Mike and Marilla. All ends well: Martin's reputation is ruined, Marilla forgives Mike, and Lori marries Zachary.

The Reluctant Debutante (1958) è invece una commedia satirica che ridicolizza gli snob, in particolare la matrigna che si oppone all'amore della figlia per un povero batterista, perlomeno finché questi non eredita una fortuna.

Jimmy is a busy divorced British lord who recently married the socially ambitious Sheila. Jimmy's daughter Jane, who lives with her mother in the USA, is coming to meet her step-mother. At the airport they meet Sheila's petulant cousin Mabel and her daughter Clarissa. Mabel is excited about introducing her daughter to the formal balls, and Sheila soon decides that Jane also has to make her debut. Mabel is scheming to get Clarissa engaged with a wealthy aristocratic David, but Sheila tries to steal him for her Jane, except that Jane gets terribly bored by the snobbish aristocrat. Jimmy is no less bored by the formality of the event, but luckily he meets an entertaining young man from the USA, who happens to play the drums in the orchestra of the balls. Jane is attracted to this young man, whose name also happens to be David. Jimmy lets them dance together, But Sheila is horrified when she learns that the guy is only a drummer, and Mabel adds some gossip about this David being a dangerous seducer of naive girls. Jane tells the drummer about her parents' opposition. David the drummer has to go to Italy because a relative is dying and Jane is subjected to the attentions of other, extremely boring, David. One night the scheming Sheila decides to invite the noble David to dinner and calls Mabel to get his number. Mabel intentionally gives her the number of David the drummer. Sheila calls that number and David happens to have just returned from Italy. Minutes later the noble David calls and gets re-invited. Jane is hardly thrilled at all at the idea. When David the drummer shows up, Jimmy and Sheila are embarrassed but Jane is delighted. After dinner, they all head for yet another ball, where both Davids compete for Jane. While David is drumming, the noble David tries to kiss Jane, but Jane slaps him in the face. Then Jane runs away with David the drummer. Her parents wait anxiously at home until David brings back Jane in the middle of the night. Her parents keep them from chatting until he finally leaves, but he finds a way to sneak back in, kiss Jane and tell her that he has inherited the title of duke from the relative who died. Sheila catches them kissing and very angrily demands that David leaves the house. Jimmy pretends to kick him out but in fact is in cahoots with his daughter. The following day Jimmy finds out from the newspaper that David the drummer is in fact a duke. The noble David comes to beg Jane's forgiveness and her hand. But he tries again to kiss her against her will. Sheila sees them and is ecstatic. But Jane rejects him again and Jimmy explains to Sheila that it was all a misunderstanding, that Mabel was wrong: it is David the noble, not David the drummer, who is a scoundrel. He then talks Sheila into inviting the young duke to the ball, which she does, without telling her who the duke is. Only at the ball does Sheila realizes that David the drummer is the perfect candidate for her step-daughter.

Gigi (1958), a remake of the French movie Gigi (1948) by Jacqueline Audry, un musical del librettista Alan Jay Lerner e del musicista Frederick Loewe, è invece un musical francese e nostalgico. Gigi è una giovane briosa e maliziosa che le zie vorrebbero avviare alla carriera mondana, e a tal fine le assegnano un esperto in materia (Maurice Chevalier), senonche i due si sposeranno rinunciando a tutte le trame.

Le musiche sono ormai limitate alle canzoni del protagonista, come anche in Bells Are Ringing (1960), trasposizione del musical di Jule Styne (piu` la storia di Betty Comden & Adolph Green che le musiche di Styne), con Judy Holliday e Dean Martin: lei è una telefonista un po' svampita che ficca il naso nella vita privata degli utenti, finendo nei guai con un delinquente ma trovando l'amore con un cantante.

Ella (Judy Holliday) is a lonely young woman who works for an answering service run by her cousin. She, her cousin Sue and their friend Gewn run take shifts at the switchboard, taking and leaving messages for their subscribers. Her cousin Sue keeps trying to set her up with young men, but Ella is so clumsy that all dates end up in disaster. On the other hand, she is falling in love with one of their customers, Jeffrey the young playwright, for whom she plays the role of the mother who has to remind him his appointments. An inspector, convinced that all answering services are only fronts for brothels, almost arrests the three girls before realizing the mistake. Just then a gentleman walks in, Arthur, who has seduced Ella's cousin Sue into letting him run his business from their office. His official business is musical records, but in reality he is running an illegal ring of bets on horse-races. Ella is still monitoring Jeffrey's life: Jeffrey is falling into a depression because he can't finish a play and is becoming an alcoholic. When he is about to miss another important appointment, Ella decides to walk to his apartment and wake him up in person. That saves him from disaster, and he is grateful and almost falls in love, but suddenly Ella has to leave, Cinderella-style, without revealing her identity. A good-hearted girl, Ella enters the lives of other customers, helping them achieve their dreams when she can, without revealing how she knows what their dreams are. The second time she helps Jeffrey he tells her that he has fallen in love with her, and she doesn't resit. It is thanks to her that Jeffrey manages to finish his play. And Jeffrey introduces her to the crowd of the theater, and even proposes to her, but Ella feels uncomfortable among those superficial and decadent people, and feels bad that she's been lying to him all the time. So she just says goodbye and disappears.
The inspector, in the meantime, has been following her and taking pictures of her in compromising situations.
Ella has done something else too: she has changed an order of records, without knowing that the titles represent bets (a friend who knows about classical music told her that Beethoven only made nine symphonies, therefore the order for the tenth must be wrong). But this change of "order" resulted in losses for the bookies, who are now mad at Arthur.
At a club Jeffrey meets two of Ella's customers who also benefited from her angelic intrusions. They finally realize it's the same girl, and Jeffrey is beginning to see the light: what they have in light is the answering service. But the police inspector has a different view of the whole business and proceeds to arrest them: Jeffrey avoids them by accident. The police continue the raid at the answering service's place, but finally Ella talks sense into them and explains that they missed the real criminal all the time: Arthur. Jeffrey, who has figured out everything, arrives at the office and conquers his beloved Ella, while one by one all the customers who benefited from Ella's intervention show up to thank her.

Dopo questa duplice parentesi comica Minnelli tornò al melodramma con Some Came Running (1958), il suo migliore, tratto dal romanzo di James Jones.

Un reduce, Dave (Sinatra), torna dopo sedici anni al paese. Scende dall'autobus accompagnato da una sgualdrinella (Mc Laine) che ricorda a malapena di aver raccattato in un locale. Si libera della donna e si installa in un hotel, proprio di fronte al negozio di suo fratello maggiore Frank. La voce si sparge in fretta nella piccola comunita`. Frank e` del tutto indifferente alla presenza del fratello in paese e anzi ne e` palesemente irritato. Dave non gli ha annunciato il suo arrivo, anche perche' e` arrivato per caso (era stato messo sull'autobus ubriaco). Frank lo va a trovare e lo invita a cena. Dave e` freddo e indisponente perche' il fratello lo tenne per anni in un collegio, e non dimostro` mai alcun interesse per lui. Frank, a sua volta, non gli scrisse mai. Scrisse in compenso alcuni romanzi, e in uno di questi insulto` indirettamente la moglie di Frank, Agnes, che gli serba pertanto rancore.
Frank ha fatto soldi e vive in una villa lussuosa. Ha fatto fortuna durante la guerra. Ha una figlia adolescente, vispa e avvenente. Dave e` freddo e laconico davanti al quadretto della famiglia modello. Intuisce l'imbarazzo del fratello e l'ipocrisia della cognata. A cena e` stata invitata anche Gwen, un'ex compagna di scuola di Dave, una maestrina pudica e colta che lo ammira come scrittore. Ma Dave non vuole piu` saperne di scrivere. E` piu` interessato a lei come donna. Quasi litigano perche' lei tenta di convincerlo del suo talento letterario.
Frank si mescola subito alla malavita: fa lega con la con un giocatore professionista (Martin), ritrova la prostituta e fa a cazzotti con il suo protettore che e` venuto a riprendersela, finisce in carcere ubriaco. Il fratello paga la cauzione per evitare uno scandalo, ma Dave non gli e` per nulla riconoscente.
L'unica attenuante è il manoscritto incompiuto di un romanzo, che attira le simpatie della maestrina vergine, la quale gli si concede, ma più allo scrittore che all'uomo. Poi si pente e lo evita.
Il fratello Frank si atteggia a marito e padre modello, ma in realta` e` deluso dal matrimonio (forse ha sposato la moglie soltanto per ereditare il negozio di suo padre) e ammira invece la sua giovane e diligente segretaria. Una sera la porta in una zona dove si ritirano le coppiette e la ragazza si lascia baciare; ma la figlia e` li` con il suo ragazzo e lo coglie in flagrante. Sconvolta, va a ubriacarsi in città, dove Sinatra la incontra e la rispedisce a casa.
Gwen ha trovato un editore per il manoscritto di Sinatra e ha scoperto in se` il vero amore. Ma Sinatra si e` immischiato con Martin in un pericoloso business di gioco d'azzardo e proprio quella sera Martin viene accoltellato. In ospedale i dottori scoprono che Martin e` anche afflitto da diabete. La prostituta completa l'opera andando a parlare con la maestrina, e questa, troppo bigotta per sopportare l'idea dei locali notturni, decide di abbandonare definitivamente Dave. Sinatra chiede allora alla devota Mc Laine di sposarlo.
Nel frattempo ha tenuto una filippica a Frank, lui fratello scavezzacollo a Frank il fratello saggio, riguardo la scappatella con la segretaria.
Sinatra e la ragazza si recano al luna park. L'ex ragazzo-protettore della ragazza e` pero` sulle loro tracce ed e` armato. Avvertito, Martin corre per fermare il gangster ma arriva troppo tardi. La prostituta fa da scudo al marito e muore al suo posto.
Al funerale si presenta anche Gwen.
Dave e` sempre pensieroso, come se avvertisse il destino nemico. Il film è un vasto quadro della vita di paese: brave ragazze e delinquenti, borghesi e falliti. Le miserie morali della provincia affiorano senza pietà e il mondo dei cittadini onesti non sembra più pulito dei bassifondi. È il film più duro di Minnelli, che per la prima volta rinuncia al lieto fine.

Al melodramma Minnelli si dedicò anche nei tre film seguenti.

The sprawling Southern melodrama Home From The Hill (1960) is a nostalgic look at declining family values but also an indictment of the old patriarchal prejudices.

During a hunting trip a wealthy man, captain Wade (Robert Mitchum), is almost killed by a young man who hates him for molesting his wife. He is saved by a young ambitious kid, his loyal employee Rafe. Wade's wife Hannah does not love him anymore and has become cynical about their marriage. She knows that some day some husband is going to kill Wade the womanizer. The rough men of the town, who are all tenants of Wade's, make fun of Wade's son Theron, a good and simple boy. They take him to a field in the middle of the night pretending that they are hunting, and then they leave him there. Hours later he is still there, waiting in the dark, when the men drive Wade to see what is going on. The boy feels ridiculous. Wade decides that it is time to educate the child to the rough life that expects the boy who some day will be the heir to a fortune. Wade had promised Hannah that he would not interfere with the upbringing of the son, but now he is ready to take over and make him his own son... just what Hannah wanted to avoid. Rafe trains Theron to shoot and Theron becomes an infallible sniper. He also decides to quit school, against his father's advice but comforted by his mother who is still fighting for his affection. When the tenants complain about a wild boar who is wreaking havoc in their farms, Wade decides to let Theron take care of it, but, again, assisted by Rafe. Theron wants his own glory, with no help from Rafe, and at night sneaks away. He faces the wild beast alone and kills it. His father is proud of him, and the men of the town now respect him. Rafe also introduces the shy Theron to girls. Theron can't find the courage to talk to the girl he likes, Libby, he sends Rafe to ask her out. Libby would go to the dance with Theron, but her father, upon hearing that the young man is the son of the notorious womanizer, forbids her to leave the house and slams the door in Theron's face. During the party Wade tries to make love to his wife, but she is stiff and icy: she has not forgiven him. She swears that he will never have her. Theron is sad that he cannot see Libby, with whom he is suddenly in love. Libby surprises him by showing up at his place. The girl is much bolder than him, and has to spell it out to him that she likes him. Hannah stumbles into Rafe as he is caring for his dead mother's tomb. Nearby Theron and Libby are making love. Libby just told Theron that her parents are sending her away to college, and Theron told her that he would like them to have a child instead. When he gets home with lipstick on his cheeks, his mother is jealous. Theron tells his mother that Libby's father hates him and his mother explains that Wade is feared as a womanizer. Theron is shocked to hear that his father is an adulterer, and tries to defend him. His mother tells him that she has not had sex with her father since before he (Theron) was born. She tells him why: one day, as she was pregnant, she came home and found Wade with a lover. The lover had a five-year boy, Wade's illegitimate son: Rafe. Theron is Rafe's half-brother. Now Theron understands why his father has always trusted Rafe so much. Theron, disturbed, confronts his father and demands that Rafe be treated as a son. Wade refuses to ruin the name of the family by elevating a bastard to family. Theron runs out disgusted. Wade turns and sees Hannah: Hannah finally got her revenge, now that Theron hates his father. First thing, Theron visits Rafe to tell him that he's leaving the mansion and tries to make up for the injustice that Rage has suffered all his life. Theron takes a regular job in a factory and leaves Libby. Six weeks later Libby confronts Theron. Theron tells her that he is traumatized by his parents' failed marriage and does not want to make the same mistake. Later Libby's father goes to visit Wade, suddenly eager to have Theron date Libby. Wade reads through his fake smile: Libby is pregnant and her father is just trying to find her a husband. Libby's father admits that he doesn't know who the father is: he was just hoping that the naive Theron would solve the problem by marrying Libby. The old man walks out crying, but someone is ready to fix his problem: Rafe proposes to Libby. He honestly loves her and wants to start a family. The baby is born and has a proper father. However, coming out of church after the baptism, Libby's father overhears the men of the town gossip that the baby is yet another of Wade's illegitimate children. Touched by Theron's crisis and eager to get his wife back, at the mansion Wade is ready to change life and asks Hannah to forgive him. Just then someone breaks into the house and shoots Wade dead. Theron runs after the killer and eventually catches him: he is shocked to see it's Libby's father. The old man tries to shoot him too and Theron has to kill him. Theron decides to leave town and start a new life. Rafe has lived in the shadow of the family this whole time, never fully admitted to it. Hannah, who is not even her mother, changes all that: she has Rafe acknowledged as Wade's son on the tombstone. Rafe is not only Wade's son, but the father of Theron's son: an illegitimate son who became the father of an illegitimate son, both "bastards" caused by the two men of her life.

The flawed The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962) transfers the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez to the battlefields of Word War II with some major changes to the plot. The acting is kind of clumsy, with Julio impersonated by a middle-aged man who speaks in a strong US accent and Marguerite who speaks in a classic English accent.

On the eve of World War II a wealthy Argentinian family gets together to welcome the return of a young man. The patriarchal grandfather is particularly excited to welcome his grandson Heinrich back from studying in Germany for six years. His daughters are married to a German and to a French. Heinrich is the son of the German, while the Latin lover Julio (Glenn Ford), his favorite grandson, is the son of the French. During the dinner the grandfather mocks Hitler. Julio tries to break the tension, but Heinrich confesses that he gave up his studies to serve Hitler's Nazist party. The grandfather slaps him in the face but Heinrich calmly proclaims the superiority of the German race. A storm rages outside while the old man inveighs against the evil of the German nation. Eventually he collapses dead in the rain. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse seem to appear amid the clouds.
Months later at a high-society party in Paris, while the guests discuss politics, Julio meets the young and beautiful Marguerite, married to the much older Etienne, a friend of Julio's father. Julio is indifferent to politics and much more interested in the arts, while Etienne, owner of a newspaper, is right in the middle of the momentous events of the day. Etienne is so busy with all that is happening at his office that he neglects Marguerite. At an auction she meets again Julio, who does not hesitate to flirt with her, even knowing that she is married, and married to a family friend. War erupts. His father finds out what is going on and uses the war as a pretext to ask Julio to move back to Argentina with him. Julio refuses. His father tells him that Etienne has been drafted to go to war, and Julio cynically takes advantage of it. Scared, during a bombardment Marguerite walks into Julio's apartment and gives herself to him. Julio feels that the Germans won and it's pointless to fight, but his sister Gigi, a college student, thinks otherwise and joins the Resistance. Their uncle is now an officer of the German army and pays a visit to Julio and his parents taking his fanatic son Heinrich with him. Heinrich is now an officer of the Nazi party. The general in charge of the region is fascinated by Marguerite and tries to steal her from Julio, a fact that greatly amuses Heinrich. Julio openly threatens the general if he dares interfere in his love affairs. The general is ready to punish him, but Heinrich intervenes to protect Julio. Julio would be happy to leave Paris now, but Marguerite has a new problem: Etienne has been taken prisoner of war. Meanwhile, Gigi gets arrested for participating in an anti-Nazi riot. Julio and his father have to ask their German uncle to gain her release. Heinrich witnesses the transaction and warns them that it's the last time Gigi can be saved by them. Far from thanking him, Gigi is ashamed of Julio's silent acceptance of humiliation. Etienne returns from the prison camp. He denies Marguerite a divorce. Marguerite is ashamed that she cheated on a war hero for a playboy. Julio finally snaps and decides to join the Resistance. Not even Marguerite knows. Tortured by the German police, Etienne is left cripple. Marguerite feels that she has to take care of him and leaves Julio. Julio demands to talk to the head of the Resistance. He is finally introduced to the boss: it's Etienne. Julio would like to leave Paris, but Etienne tells him that they need him in Paris because he is the only one who has access to the higher ranks of the German authorities. Gigi gets arrested again, and this time she is sent to prison camp. Her father pleas with his brother, Heinrich's father, but this time it's too late: she is dead. When his father tells him of Gigi's sacrifice, Julio keeps silent about his own activities, even if this makes him look like a coward. The Resistance asks him to visit his cousin Heinrich in order to track down where the headquarters of a German division have moved. It's a deadly mission because the bombardment will begin soon after he sends an electronic signal. Before leaving for this mission, he meets Marguerite, who informs him that Etienne has been killed by the German police. She is now a free woman. She recognizes Julio's driver and guesses that Julio is going away on a mission for the Resistance. She is scared to lose him too. Julio also bids farewell from his father and then starts driving towards his destiny. Unbeknownst to him, the German general, who has not forgotten the humiliation inflicted on him by Julio over Marguerite, has found out that he is a member of the Resistance: Etienne spoke under torture. When Julio arrives to Heinrich's headquarters, he finds a squadron of Germans waiting for him. While Heinrich is interrogating him, Julio hears the rumble of the bombers converging towards the building. The cousins die in the bombing and a cloud rises over the ruins. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse seem to appear amid the smoke.

Two Weeks in Another Town (1962) racconta le due settimane romane di un divo di Hollywood afflitto da una crisi profonda fino alla folle corsa in auto con cui ha fine la sua nevrosi.

A recovering alcoholic Hollywood film director in Rome Jack (Kirk Douglas) is a Hollywood actor who is released from a clinic for alcoholics after several years of cure, and accepts the invitation from his old director (Edward Robinson) to act in a major film that is being shot in Rome. The director is late, and the producer does not want to give him a single extra day. His wife is a jealous neurotic. The director and the actor made many movies together, but then something happened between them related to a woman named Carlotta. Now the actor has accepted what he thought was a golden opportunity to return to moviemaking, but the director tells him that his doctor has begged to give him a job, any job: he is not to be a star, but simply an assistant to the director. But then Jack realizes that the director really needs his help, so he accepts and asks for a lot of money. Basically, they are both trying to stage a comeback.
One night Jack gives a ride to a young Italian girl, the girlfriend of the protagonist. While they are stuck in a traffic jam, they are approached by a rich lady, Carlotta, married to a wealthy old man, who teases her old friend Jack before returning to her husband's limousine. Over dinner, Jack tells the Italian girl how his marriage with Carlotta ended: he almost died in a car accident, drunk, perhaps trying to commit suicide. Carlotta is now toying with him: she knows her power over him. The Italian girl understands his weakness and becomes his lover to sort of protect him from Carlotta, and maybe to run away from her boyfriend. He, in turn, tries to stab Jack and then begs him to leave the girl alone. The director has a heart-attack and, before being taken away by the ambulance, cries in front of Jack: he is finished and broke if he doesn't complete the film in time. Jack promises to finish the movie for him. The director also apologizes for having slept with Carlotta: she was sleeping with everybody and seduced him too. Jack forgives, and gets to work, always supported by the simple Italian girl.
Jack proves to be an excellent director, getting the best from the actors. He even gets offered a contract for a new film: the protagonist now wants Jack as the director for his next movie. But the director's hysterical wife convinces the dying man that Jack is trying to steal his film, to take revenge for what the director did to Carlotta, and the director acts to destroy his career. The first thing Jack does is fall again for his top addiction: Carlotta. Which leads to his second addiction: alcohol. He is reenacting the "movie" of his life. He gets in the car, drunk, with Carlotta on his side, and starts driving like a madman. But this time he doesn't crash: he leaves Carlotta, Rome and the film, and flies back to the USA. He kisses one last time the Italian girl in front of her boyfriend and then leaves them too.
Minnelli tries a philosophical meditation on art and life, on past and present, on aging and dying, but ends up with an overlong and convoluted plot that has no psychological depth, is poorly acted and has a terrible ending.

The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963) is another comedy, still drenched in a lot of melodrama. While the plot is rather bland, and the ending is predictable, Minnelli shows his usual class in balancing humour and tragedy: every scene that could potentially be too strong ends is derailed by a comic expedient. At the end, emotional order is restored, as if nothing bad really happened.

Tom (Glenn Ford) is a handsome and charming widower with a little child, Eddy. A successful producer, he has to deal with a popular radio show host, Norman, who is seducing all his young female listeners. Tom hires a maid to cook and clean. She warns him against all the women who will want to marry him, starting with the attractive young neighbor, Elizabeth, a divorced woman. Elizabeth understands Eddy's trauma better than Tom does, but Tom does not want to face his loss and resents her help. Tom meets a lively ex-pageant, a sophisticated fashion consultant. But the one who is there to help when Eddy falls sick is the neighbor, Elizabeth, who also happens to be a nurse. Unfortunately, Tom hurts her feelings by offering to pay for her help and then by being rude to her. Norm ends up falling in love with the ex-pageant and getting engaged with her. He helps the fashion consultant, Rita, date Tom. Eddy dislikes Rita, as much as he loves the company of the nurse. When Tom decides to propose to Rita, Rita basically asks him to get rid of the boy. He doesn't have to reply: they phone him that Eddy has disappeared from the summer camp. Then Tom realizes that the child is the most important thing in his life. It turns out the child has simply run to the neighbor, his best friend. Tom finally wakes up and realizes that the superficial and selfish Rita is not the woman of his life. Eddy helps him pick up the phone and call Elizabeth, who has been waiting for that call for a long time.

Goodbye Charlie (1964) affronta il tema della metempsicosi che impregna On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1968): uno psichiatra (Montand) scopre che una sua paziente paranormale (Streisand) è vissuta diverse volte e si innamora di quella del Settecento; rinnova pertanto le sedute per poter comunicare con l'altra Streisand, in un rapporto assurdo, tenero e patetico. La Streisand è una mediocrissima nevrotica che funge da ignara intermediaria, finché un giorno ascolta i nastri delle sue sedute, con la voce del suo fantasma e le frasi del dottore. Streisand, che si stava innamorando, si sente usata.

Nina/ A Matter of Time (1976) è una favola che a tratti parafrasa quella di Cenerentola.

Liza Minnelli è l'umile cameriera di Ingrid Bergman, un'anziana nobile eccentrica reduce da una vita avventurosa de ora dimenticata dai suoi amanti di un tempo, che trascorre i suoi ultimi anni in solitudine alloggiata in un grande hotel romano. Nina è affascinata dal mondo di principi e artisti che emerge dai suoi ricordi, e al tempo stesso ha compassione della sua vecchiaia: la serve fuori orario, finge di credere alle sue pazzie, pur di potersi estasiare all'ascolto delle storie (talvolta sogna di viverle lei). La grande occasione Nina ce l'ha grazie ad uno sceneggiatore alla ricerca di un finale per il suo film. Questi ha assistito a una sua scenata e vuol farne una scena di stupro. Il giorno del provino la vecchia, lasciata sola, esce fuori di senno, fa per correre da un amante che è morto da anni, e viene investita. Nello stesso momento Nina supera il provino parlando in tono accorato della vecchia. Quando viene avvisata dell'incidente, si rende conto di essere vissuta entro i ricordi della vecchia. Ora comincia la vita reale e la povera cameriera diventa una diva.
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