CALL ME MADAM (1953). Director: Walter Lang.
Entertaining if minor adaptation of Irving Berlin musical stars a vibrant Ethel Merman as Sally Adams, who becomes ambassador to the Duchy of “Lichtenbourg” (Adams thinks that “Duchy” means that the people are Dutch!) She falls hard for General Cosmo Constantine, who is very well played by George Sanders. The delightfully irritable Billy DeWolfe is annoyed by Adams' usurping of his power so he causes trouble any way he can, while her young press attaché (Donald O'Connor) finds himself falling for the princess (Vera-Ellen) who is betrothed to a handsome sourpuss (Helmut Dantine). It all works out okay in the end, of course. Merman and Sanders are a rather odd pairing, but they actually play very well together, and the other cast members are all fine. There are times, however, when some of the funny lines aren't given the best delivery. Songs include such standards as “It's a Lovely Day Today” and “I Wonder Why/You're Just in Love” (“I hear music and there's no one there”), and there are other nice tunes as well [“Old-Fashioned Idea;” “International Rag;” “The Best Thing for You”]. By the way, Sanders' singing is not dubbed. He reveals an excellent baritone voice in this. Sanders was signed to replace Ezio Pinza in the Broadway production of South Pacific – and would have been both dramatically and vocally marvelous in it – when he chickened out at the last minute.
Verdict: Not a masterpiece, but tuneful and entertaining. ***.