Bells Are Ringing

The great comedienne Judy Holliday reprised her Broadway role in Vincente Minnelli's adaptation of Bells Are Ringing, sadly, her last film. She mixes poignancy with hilarity as Ella (think Cinderella), switchboard operator for a down-at-heels (but woman-owned!) small business called Susanswerphone. Cloaked in anonymity, Ella brings her vast feeling for humankind into her work, advising, cajoling, and consoling telephone clients, including dashing playwright-playboy not-prince Dean Martin, “Plaza O Double Four Double Three,” who knows her only as a disembodied “Mom.” Minnelli takes the plight of his would-be lovers caught in an evasive romance entirely seriously in his graceful approach to the musical that brought us “Just in Time” and “The Party's Over.” Holliday has some stiff starring competition from Minnelli's color-calculated mise-en-scène that plays to the very edges of the screen-Martin's long aqua couch alone requires CinemaScope!-and from Manhattan itself in this enchanting urban fairy tale.

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