Summer Under the Stars: Bells Are Ringing (1960)

TCM’s star of the day is Dean Martin, and my film pick for the actor is Bells Are Ringing, which airs today at 8:00 P.M. (EST).

Bells Are Ringing follows a Brooklyn telephone answering service operator named Ella Peterson (Judy Holliday), who tries to improve the lives of her clients. She begins falling in love with one of her clients, struggling playwright Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin), for whom she plays a comforting “Mom” character through the phone. When she finally meets him face-to-face, romantic sparks ensue, but she hides her real identity and some confusion between them begins.

The film was based on the successful 1956 Broadway production of the same name by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the writing team behind many musical staples like On the Town and Singin’ in the Rain. Judy Holliday reprised her Tony Award-winning role for the film adaptation, which ended up being the last movie she made before she died from breast cancer five years later. For her work in the film, Holliday received her fourth Golden Globe nomination, her third for Best Actress in the Comedy or Musical category (she won the award, along with an Oscar, for her performance in Born Yesterday 10 years before). As with any movie featuring Holliday, she’s a pure delight to watch in Bells Are Ringing, balancing the film’s comedy and romance with effortless charm.

Dean Martin took over the male leading role, being a perfect match for Holliday as he too had the comedy chops and romantic edge needed for his character. And of course, he had an extraordinary singing voice to bring the musical’s songs to greater heights. In 1960, Martin’s acting career was on the rise, and the films he made continuously did well at the box office. That same year Ocean’s 11 was released, one of his most famous films which he made alongside fellow Rat Pack members. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in the Comedy or Musical category for another 1960 film called Who Was That Lady? co-starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. And by the mid-1960s, Martin was a successful movie, recording, television, and nightclub star.

The film received one Oscar nomination for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture for André Previn, who was also up for two other nominations that year in two other music categories (he didn’t win any Academy Awards that night but he won four throughout his career). Along with the Best Actress nomination for Holliday, Bells Are Ringing also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture in the Musical category.

Directed by Vincente Minnelli, who helmed such vibrant musical classics as An American in Paris and Meet Me in St. Louis, this is one of his more underseen films from his vast filmography. Bells Are Ringing is an enjoyable romantic comedy filled with some solid musical moments, but it’s the on-screen pairing of Holliday and Martin that truly makes this film special and worth checking out.

I wrote this as a part of the 2016 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon, where bloggers are celebrating the channel’s honorees and movies playing throughout the month. Click the banner below to read more posts!


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  1. Pingback: The 2016 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon | Journeys in Classic Film

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