Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 1, 2020


Barbara Cook
BLOOMER GIRL (Producer's Showcase/1956). Directed by Alex Segal. Presented Live

Bloomer Girl was a successful (if now essentially forgotten) Broadway musical that was adapted for television in an abbreviated version for the program Producer's Showcase. Celeste Holm, who had starred on Broadway, was replaced by Barbara Cook, a wise choice. The musical takes place just before the Civil War, and Evalina (Cook) is the only unmarried daughter of hoop (for skirts) manufacturer Horatio Applegate (Paul Ford). Her Aunt Dolly (Carmen Mathews) not only runs the newspaper but is an early feminist. Along comes Southern gentleman Jefferson Calhoun (Keith Andes), who is going to work for Horatio and begins courting an initially unimpressed Evalina. Unfortunately, Calhoun also brings along a slave, Pompey (Roy Spearman), who is hoping to stay North as a free man, something Evalina wants but which his owner may object to.  

Roy Spearman
Bloomer Girl
 dealt with women's rights and black rights in the 1950's, and frankly it's amazing that a live production was shown on television during the same period. Of course Pompey is a polite, somewhat subservient black character, yet he's also given the stirring song "The Eagle and Me," which is all about wanting and needing freedom. The performances in this TV version are all excellent, with Cook as delightful and in as good a voice as ever. Keith Andes adeptly plays the leading man, his charm working to overcome Calhoun's less likable traits, although he eventually triumphs over them. Carmen Mathews and Ford are typically on-target, and Spearman not only has a wonderful voice but imbues the role with a certain dignity.  

In this shortened version of the Broadway show, several of the lesser numbers have been cut. However, there's some gold in what remains: "When the Boys Come Home;" "Evalina;" "Sundays in Cicero Falls;" and the romantic duet "Right as the Rain" -- along with "The Eagle and Me" -- are the most memorable tunes. The lilting music is by Harold Arlen and the lyrics by E. Y. Harburg. Bloomer Girl isn't necessarily one of the all-time great musicals, but it is a worthwhile and interesting show which in some aspects was ahead of its time. 

Verdict: Tuneful, well-done, and sometimes moving. ***. 


angelman66 said...

Love Barbara Cook. Got to see her live once in concert in a very intimate theater back in the early 1990s. She was unbelievably spectacular, such a moving performer with an unforgettably plaintive voice.
- Chris

William said...

Cook has always been one of my favorite performers. Never got to see her live, except I think in "Music Man" on Broadway when I was a kid.