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Call Me Madam (25-Mar-1953)

Director: Walter Lang

Writer: Arthur Sheekman

From a play by: Russel Crouse; Howard Lindsay

Keywords: Musical Comedy

Washington socialite Sally Adams becomes U.S. Ambassador to the Duchy of Lichtenberg. Modeled after Pearl Mesta, who was Ambassador to Luxembourg during the Truman Administration. Delightful entertainment. Regretfully, the film industry offered Ethel Merman few chances to display her gifted talents. Won Oscar for Best Score of a Musical; received an additional nomination for Best Costume Design.

NameOccupationBirthDeathKnown for
Helmut Dantine
7-Oct-1917 2-May-1982 Edge of Darkness
Billy De Wolfe
18-Feb-1907 5-Mar-1974 The Doris Day Show
Charles Dingle
28-Dec-1887 19-Jan-1956 The Little Foxes
Percy Helton
31-Jan-1894 11-Sep-1971 Character actor
Ethel Merman
16-Jan-1908 15-Feb-1984 There's No Business Like Show Business
Donald O'Connor
28-Aug-1925 27-Sep-2003 Singin' in the Rain
George Sanders
3-Jul-1906 25-Apr-1972 The Saint Strikes Back
Lilia Skala
28-Nov-1896 18-Dec-1994 Lilies of the Field
Walter Slezak
3-May-1902 21-Apr-1983 Hitchcock's Lifeboat
16-Feb-1921 30-Aug-1981 On the Town


Review by Michael Sullivan (posted on 18-Apr-2007)

Noted for her brash vocal quality, Ethel Merman manages to wax romantic as she sings "The best thing for you (would be me.) As Sally Adams, Merman is totally captivating in the role of a a rich widowed woman holding the post of U.S. Ambassador to the fictional country of Lichtenberg. She sets sail for the country after signing Donald O'Connor as her press attache. Unschooled in the ways of diplomacy, Merman, with the help of sneaky Billy DeWolf, the charge-d-fair, barely manages to get through the formalities of European introductions and in one scene, falls on her rump while attempting a curtsy before the beleagured head of the country. The underlying plot involves Lichtenberg's attempt to get an infamous U.S. loan, through Merman's influence, to tide the country over. Vera Ellen, a princess, dances with and falls for O'Connor, which creates problems for the monarchy because Vera-Ellen was to marry a handsome but obnoxious prince to seal a deal to bring money into Lichtenberg's dwindling treasury. Merman runs afoul of George Sanders, her love interest, when he learns she has been pushing for the U.S. loan. Sanders, head of foreign affairs of the country, wanted Lichtenberg to get out of its fiscal problems via reforms -- not loans. It all works out, as Vera-Ellen gives up the throne to marry O'Connor, and Sanders hooks up with Merman in the finale. There are some exceptional dance numbers with O'Connor and Vera-Ellen, some great "shtick" involving Merman and a great Irving Berlin tune, "I hear singing" (but there's no one there." Vera Ellen never again would look as alluring as she did in this film. Merman was feisty but loveable, and O'Connor did some dazzling dances including a solo, "What Chance Have I (an ordinary guy)with love." The film is especially memorable for Merman's supposed phone calls to "Harry," filling in President Truman on the happenings as ambassador. The calls are staged, of course, and we never get to see Truman. No matter. It was and is a great flick.

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