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Three Little Words PDF Print E-mail
Directed by: Richard Thorpe


Fred Astaire

Bert Kalmar

Red Skelton

Harry Ruby


Jessie Brown-Kalmar

Arlene Dahl

Eileen Percy

Keenan Wynn

Charlie Kope

Also featuring: Phil Regan, Debbie Reynolds, Gloria DeHaven

Produced by: Jack Cummings

Written by: George Wells

Choreographed by: Fred Astaire and Hermes Pan

Cinematography: Harry Jackson

Words and Music by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, André Previn

Production Company: MGM

Premiere: New York, August 9, 1950

Synopsis (from VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2001): A musical biography of songwriting team Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar, filled with Kalmar-Ruby numbers. Helen Kane (famous for her boop-boop-de-boops) dubbed "I Wanna Be Loved by You" for Reynolds. A musical in the best MGM tradition. (2½ out of 4) 

P.J. Says:

I love this movie, I do. I really, really, do.

In fact, “Three Little Words” is my personal favourite of Fred’s films. I enjoy biographical studies. The strength and frailty of the human condition is something that fascinates me. Perhaps that is why I love “Three Little Words” so much. It’s probably the best biopic that came out of the MGM Freed unit. It’s small and intimate, with not a single big ensemble piece in sight. Just a simple story of two men and their lives. Best of all, it’s true to life.

The entire cast gives a great performance. Fred plays Kalmar like a normal insecure hard working human being. He and Red act with a chemistry comparable in its intensity and strength with Ginger. Vera-Ellen gives the best acting job I’ve ever seen her give. She’s a concerned girlfriend, a loyal partner, a loving wife, a grateful friend, and frequently a mother hen to two misbehaving/childish/petulant little boys. (As an aside, I do believe she is Fred’s best ever dancing partner. See my write-up for my full argument about her abilities).

“Nevertheless” is my favourite number in the movie. In front of a huge audience, Fred and Vera create a small intimate world of their own onstage. As they gently sing the song, it is clear that they are singing exclusively to each other as they turn and look into each other’s eyes with the words, “with you.” It’s such a tender, loving moment as they create a little happy world for themselves that we are privileged to share. Also, the ending is the most cinematic of all of Fred’s dances.

In this movie we are seeing Fred’s great progress as an actor. If “The Sky’s The Limit” is his peak, this runs close. Fred’s all round ability has improved greatly and we can see it in this movie and onward. Perhaps that is why we are seeing a greater range of emotion from Fred, such as anger. He’s able to do so with greater ability now and as such can take on roles of greater potential.

This is a movie with genuine warmth, charm and grace. It’s a story of “a couple of fellows”, as the title card says, “real people.” Nothing fancy or extravagant, just a simple story of friendship, love and life.

I love this movie. I really, really do.

The final word:

Dancing value: 8.5/10
Acting value: 9/10
Entertainment value:9 /10

Overall Ranking: 7/31

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Last Updated on Friday, 06 November 2009 10:24