Saturday, April 04, 2009

A Date with Judy

A Date with Judy posterA voice-over begins A Date with Judy (1948) by commenting on the characteristic features of the ordinary town of Santa Barbara, California. The voice mainly focuses on two men: Mr. Pringle, a successful tycoon who has very little time for family life; and Mr. Foster, who may not have as nice a house as Mr. Pringle, but who always finds time for his family. The scene then shifts to a performance rehearsal where Judy Foster (Jane Powel) is practicing a song to sing at her parents’ wedding anniversary. Her boyfriend Ogden Pringle (Scotty Becket) is leading the orchestra and staring adoringly at Judy, until his sister Carol (a stunning, young Elizabeth Taylor), who is also Judy’s best friend, interrupts to say that Judy is singing the song a little too joyfully and should be more seductive. Judy agrees, as Carol is her idol, but Ogden thinks the song is good as is, innocence and all. Judy then heads home to get ready for the high school prom that night. Carol’s power over Judy is again illustrated when Judy changes from her new blue dress to an old pink one upon Carol’s insistence (seeing as Carol was already wearing a blue dress). Carol then privately tells Ogden (or ‘Oogie’ for short) that he should play hard-to-get with Judy by sending another friend to collect her for the dance. Judy is devastated when Oogie doesn’t show. She decides to phone him to give her a piece of her mind, but must do it from the local soda shop because her younger brother is occupying the phone at the house. After telling Oogie off, Judy sits dejectedly on a stool until the owner of the soda shop, Pop Scully, offers to have his handsome nephew, Stephen Andrews (Robert Stack) take her, as he is just starting his shift at the shop. Judy is elated and attempts to act as mature as possible (but to no avail) because Andrew is considerably older than herself. At the dance, Stephen is embarrassed to be among high school kids until he spies Carol in the corner while Judy is on stage singing a song. The two are then introduced by Judy, who is immediately ushered away by Carol to go greet the guest performer Xavier Cugat (played by himself). Xavier hits it off with Judy’s parents, who are also at the dance, and takes her mother on the dance floor to rumba when her father good-naturedly refuses. Carol and Stephen also begin to dance as Judy and Oogie have a spat over why Oogie did not pick Judy up himself. Judy is determined to stick with Stephen through the night, even if he’s not interested in her, if only to spite Oogie. When Stephen walks her to her door after the dance, she unabashedly kisses him; much to Oogie’s disappointment, who was watching from the bushes. Oogie tells this news to Carol, who promises to take care of everything for Oogie, if only to get Stephen for herself. The brother and sister then sadly remember their deceased mother and pine for a father like Judy’s who is there for the family, instead of their own Mr. Pringle.

The next morning, both girls are swooning over Stephen and go to the soda shop to see him. Carol tells Judy that she has landed her a radio program at her father’s station and asks her to go see her father about sponsorship. When Judy leaves hurriedly, Carol invites Stephen to dinner at her house; which he accepts. Stephen thinks that Carol is beautiful, but also sees that she is spoiled and egotistical. Meanwhile, at Mr. Foster’s work, he has enlisted the help of Rosita Cochellas (Carmen Miranda) to teach him the rumba so he can surprise his wife at their wedding anniversary; however, when Judy arrives to speak to him, he must hide Rosita in a closet to keep the dance lessons secret. The dancing is rather sensual for Mr. Foster, but he perseveres. That night, at the dinner Carol has planned, Stephen shows up with Judy, in hopes to get her back together with Ogden. When Ogden shows up, Stephen requests that they do a performance together, to which Judy reluctantly complies. Oogie and Judy prove sensational as a duo and they plan to do the radio show together, but only as business partners, as Judy stresses. Oogie then reveals to Judy that he would like to marry her one day, to which she replies that she is far too mature to consider marrying him; while Stephen tells Carol that she tries too hard to impress him which makes her furious. Carol later tells Judy to never trust men because, like her father, they will one day forget about you. Judy is still swooning over Stephen later that evening and tells her father that she wants to marry him, to which Mr. Foster quickly replies that he will sponsor her radio program, if only to keep her from eloping (even though he doesn’t realize that Stephen isn’t interested in marriage).

Carol wakes up early the next day to tell her father about Stephen, but he barely listens between phone calls. The butler later tells him about the love situation his daughter is in, and Mr. Pringle immediately enlists the butler to investigate Stephen. Meanwhile, Judy and Oogie go to get Mr. Foster to sign a contract for the radio program, and happen to arrive during the dance lesson. Rosita quickly hides, but Judy spies her dress in the closet door, leading her to suspect that her father is having an affair. At the radio rehearsal, Judy is despondent and then reveals to Carol the ‘tragedy’ that she had ‘witnessed’. Carol accidentally reveals that she’s in love with Stephen, to which Judy replies that she’d be very angry if she wasn’t already through with men. Judy decides to make her home as pleasing as possible for her father, but when Mr. Foster hints to his family that he has a surprise for them at the anniversary party the next night, Judy fears the worst.

Carol’s butler attempts to covertly interview Stephen but is immediately exposed as an investigator, causing Stephen to storm into Mr. Pringle’s office and berate him for being a terrible father. Mr. Pringle takes this to heart and immediately attempts to reconcile a history of neglect between him and his children. Oogie then goes to serenade a miserable Judy, but is rejected. And so Oogie turns the tables by declaring that he is too old for her games and promptly leaving. The next day, Rosita gives Mr. Foster his last lesson before the two of them go to the hotel in preparation for the night; unknowingly being watched by Carol and Judy who agree that they can’t say anything of the affair until after the celebration. But when Rosita sings a song that night with Cugat’s band and focuses her attention on Mr. Foster, Judy is outraged. She confronts Rosita afterwards and demands to know why she is fooling around with a married man who has children. Rosita herself becomes furious as she confuses the allegations with her fiancé, Xavier Cugat, whom she pulls from the stage to answer questions as to why Judy is claiming he is married with children. The dance lessons are finally revealed and apologies are made once Mr. Foster takes the dance floor with Mrs. Foster to show off his rumba moves. After much arguing, Judy finally forgives Oogie and Stephen arrives with Mr. Pringle to tell Carol that he wants to be with her. A happy ending is finally achieved as the guests at the party all join in a sing-along to celebrate Mr. and Mrs. Foster’s happy marriage.

A Date with Judy
is another one of the many Hollywood films which showcase America’s fascination with Carmen Miranda. Her ticket into these pictures has always been her passionate way of song and dance, but the comparison between her Brazilian rhythm and the plain, childlike ways of Judy in this film present a stark contrast between American and Latin styles of performance. Mr. Foster comments that the rumba appears to be a vulgar dance; that is, until he learns it and begins dancing around the house and wearing colorful new ties, demonstrating exactly how Americans want to be caught up in the Latin craze, but are at most times too conservative to try.

In the film, Rosita is engaged to Cuban Xavier Cugat, but the interesting aspect of this couple is that Carmen Miranda plays the unknown singer while Xavier is celebrated in the film as a celebrity band leader. Rather than this being seen as a machismo view of Latino male performers, it should be noted that at the time of the film’s release, the casting of Carmen Miranda as an unheard of entertainer would only be considered an act of irony, as the Brazilian star could be recognized in any role due to her swaying hips, flashy attire, and brilliant smile. During one song, she sings “I’m the zootiest chick this side of Brazil”, a line which strangely emphasizes her immigrant status during the time of the notorious Zoot Suit Riots. It must be suggested that perhaps such a statement was meant to bring a sense of class and prestige back to a term which had recently taken on a somewhat threatening connotation in the United States.

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