Play It Again – Brigadoon

Play It Again – Brigadoon. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up … or has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

One of the great mysteries of this world is how so many things you love can combine to create one of the strangest films you’ve ever seen.

Vincente Minnelli + Gene Kelly + Van Johnson + Cyd Charisse + singing + dancing = Brigadoon, a 1954 MGM musical set in a fictional Scottish town that doesn’t appear on the map. The town of Brigadoon holds a secret; each Brigadoon year is one hundred years to everyone else on Earth, and when Tommy (Kelly) and Jeff (Johnson) discover the town while on a hunting trip it will force one of them to question what they’re willing to do for love.

Based on a stage play of the same name, the production was doomed from the start, you could say. MGM paid a small fortune to secure the film rights in 1951, and Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson were signed on before a script had even been written. Charisse would go on to replace Grayson, and due to Kelly’s busy schedule the film’s production was delayed until 1953. Kelly had wanted to shoot on location in Scotland but budget restraints saw Brigadoon built on an MGM sound stage, filmed in single-strip Metrocolor as opposed to three-strip Technicolor, to save further costs.

While Brigadoon has a small legion of devoted fans, it didn’t receive the greatest reviews upon its release, despite going on to earn three Oscar nominations (for Sound Recording, Costume Design and Art Direction – Colour). It could be argued the film is weak, uneven and just a little too flat for a whimsical musical. On the other hand, Brigadoon is not without its charms, a delightful collection of songs – including Almost Like Being in Love, sung and danced by Gene Kelly – and many a dance involving men in kilts, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

Brigadoon is definitely a film for true lovers of classic musicals, and I’m not talking about those who consider Dreamgirls or Hairspray to be “the best musical ever!” While not the finest achievement of any of the involved, Brigadoon is certainly unique.

Discuss: Brigadoon!

5 Responses to “Play It Again – Brigadoon”

  1. When gene Kelly was required to do a dance number with Highland cattle he was very uncomfortable with the animal chosen to be his”partner”. The director solved this by mounting a false head and horns on the hind quarters of the beast and he sang and danced to what was in fact its rump.

  2. I am a big fan of the classic musicals, having been introduced to them at a young age & Brigadoon is definately up there with them. Fancy my surprise when I moved to Scotland to discover what heather really looked like!

  3. I love Brigadoon. Pure escapism. pure romance, pure fantasy – they just don’t do these kind of movies anymore (worse luck)

  4. Brigadoon is a great film. Well, I just adore Gene Kelly, so I love his movies generally, but this one is just lovely. 🙂

  5. I’m not talking about those who consider Dreamgirls or Hairspray to be “the best musical ever!”

    Haha! Well SAID! *high five*

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