Bells Are Ringing Reviews
Judy Holliday was fantastic, but I found the film real uneven. I bet on stage it would work a lot better. The police story line was especially cringe inducing. However there was great physical comedy shtick
Holliday portrays Ella, a down-on-her luck, near-spinsterhood woman who's looking for love but is having a hard time finding it. Day and night, Ella works tirelessly for Susanswerphone, a revolutionary independent phone company that serves as a sort-of personalized answering machine. Ella, who takes the messages and gives them out, can't help but get emotionally involved with her customers.
One man that especially sticks out to her is handsome playwright Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin), who has lost his writing partner and is close to becoming an alcoholic. It doesn't take long for Ella to fall for him, and before long, they meet face to face. The trouble is, is that Ella gets butterflies when she first sees him, and assumes a fake name to cover her true identity.
Though Holliday is magnificent as always, "Bells Are Ringing" doesn't leave you with that sticky, sugar-sweet feeling you get when you watch musical comedies. It's either because a) there is no beautiful Technicolor, which always gives musicals the essence of "why can't the real world be like a musical?", or b) there aren't enough show-stopping numbers to pull us into a fit of awe.
There is a plethora of pretty (but instantly forgettable) songs, all performed flawlessly by Holliday, Martin, or both, and there are plenty of charming jokes to give us an easy laugh, but there isn't that satisfying "oomph" you might feel as you're watching "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" or "The Band Wagon." Half the fun of a musical is achieving the feeling of escapism and happiness, but "Bells Are Ringing" spends more time with plot than true fun.
But none of the issues seem to fall onto the two leads, both of whom leave the project unscathed. Holliday, as usual, is wonderful, going far past her usual "dumb-blonde" routine and making us truly care about her character. She is certainly fresh in this kind of genre, as she isn't jaw-droppingly gorgeous (cough cough, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Cyd Charisse, etc.) and doesn't have a singing-voice a la Judy Garland. She has a special kind of quality in which we love her almost instantaneously. Holliday truly gives "Bells Are Ringing" the boost it needs.
The same goes for Martin, whose voice and charm makes him perfect for the role. Though he often times was more famous for his many film collaborations with Rat-Pack buddy Frank Sinatra, this film shows him at his finest. He sings a couple of tunes that most likely made the female crowd swoon in 1960, and whenever he's down on his luck in the film, it isn't hard to feel sorry for him. Martin and Holliday don't always make sense as a couple, but they're both individually excellent.
"Bells Are Ringing" is far from being the best example of a musical comedy, but there are a few enjoyable moments that make it worth a look.