Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Thoroughly Modern Millie


I saw this in Hollywood at the Cinerama Dome when it first came out. I was enchanted, and still am. I’ve always loved Julie Andrews, even in that sappy The Sound of Music. Films like The Americanization of Emily, Mary Poppins, and Victor/Victoria show her range, but she is best when she is singing and dancing as she does here. It was a great tragedy when surgeons botched an operation on her vocal cords in 1997, twenty years ago, and destroyed her four-octave soprano. She became an alto. She was able to quip about it: “I can sing the hell out of Old Man River.”

The songs are catchy, 1920s jazz, and the story is funny. Beatrice Lillie is hilarious as the owner of a boarding house for young ladies which is actually a front for a white slavery ring. Watching it this time, seeing Jack Soo and Pat Morita (both Japanese!) portraying evil chinks, I wondered what Chinese people think of the movie today? Probably not much. And some of it is a bit cringe worthy.

The co-stars are Carol Channing, James Fox, John Gavin, and Mary Tyler Moore. You can see why Channing was not in many movies. She’s way too broad. She was the ideal Broadway star, though. James Fox is good at comedy, and could not be more different from his older brother Edward, who was so terrific and chilling in The Day of the Jackal. John Gavin is perfectly cast as a knock-out handsome dude with not much going on upstairs. And MTM is very, very good as the shy, clueless rich girl who keeps trying to write checks for two-bit taxi rides. Singing and dancing are swell. The only real flaw is that it’s a bit too long and a few times the pacing is a little slow. It was one of those roadshow pictures that were so popular at the time, with an overture and an intermission. It could have been nipped and tucked here and there and have played better. But it’s a minor gripe.