This is a story of a different kind of blonde ambition. Indeed the path that Reese Witherspoon takes in Legally Blonde from baffled bimbette to legal eagle is not too dissimilar from the one taken by its Australian director Robert Luketic.Luketic was a local film school graduate who had gone against the grain by producing sunny light entertainment while his classmates made deep and meaningful art. His classmates must be kicking themselves these days as Luketic’s broad sensibilities led him to make Titsiana Booberini, a short film starring Tanya Lacey as a dowdy check-out chick with dreams beyond her station. When the film was exhibited at Sundance it was a sensation and the director was mobbed as he left the cinema. In true Hollywood style, he gained an agent and representation in less time that it took to screen the film.
Their faith seems well rewarded as Legally Blonde, his first feature film, went to number one in its first week out in America. It’s not hard to see why. The film sparkles with good-natured exuberance yet still manages to make a meaningful statement of its own: don’t judge a book by its cover and beauty should never be an impediment to brains.
Reese Witherspoon plays a valley girl type who follows her boyfriend to Harvard in the hope that transforming herself into a more serious young woman might win him back. Witherspoon is, as always, stunning. She recalls the best blondes that came before her like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Holliday who like Witherspoon had the intelligence and timing to play dumb brilliantly. You sense that Witherspoon has depths that we haven’t yet explored. Indeed she deserves to inherit the mantle worn by other aging America’s sweethearts like Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, except you sense her range might be even greater than anyone has imagined, just like her character in Legally Blonde.
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If you thought Doris Day was a prim and proper epitome of ’50s virginity, think again. Here Day plays a boisterous uber-tomboy, the fiery hellcat of the Old West in this musical comedy cum romantic western that lost none of its charm over the years (although it has gained some interesting new interpretations).
In Calamity Jane, Doris Day dons buckskins, boots and a scout cap to play the legendary forntierswoman who tries to save the local saloon from ruin by bringing back to her backwood town Adelaide Adams, a star from Chicago. Unfortunately she mistakes her maid Katie for the artist herself. After a disastrous debut, Katie settles in town and sets up home with Calam until it looks like she’s moving in on the man Calamity loves but will never have. After much soul seaching and stirring singing, the paths of true love converge and Calamity gets her man (although not the one she was initially hoping to lasoo).
Calamity Jane crackles with good humour and excellent songs, the most memeorable being ‘Secret Love’. The song went on to win the Academy Award as best song of the year and the recording sold over a million. As Wild Bill Hickock, Howard Keel was in a class of his own when it came to playing robust roles in musical comedies and here he shines most brightly especially during his rendition of “Higher Than a Hawk”. Other highlights include ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’, ‘I’ve Got a Heart Full of Honey’, ‘Keep It Under Your Hat’ and ‘I Can Do Without You!’, not to mention ‘A Woman’s Touch’, in which Katie and Calam set up house together, that has contemporary audiences howling for its camp undertones.
Calamity Jane is such a sunny and endearing entertainment one wonders why no-one has bothered to bring it to the stage in recent years. No calamity there, cause you can own a copy of it yourself of DVD.