Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Miller and MULHOLLAND DRIVE

 I was checking film news reports on Twitter this morning and noticed that a few sites were acknowledging the 20th anniversary of David Lynch's film, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, being released. I smiled when I saw that anniversary news because it brought back the memory of a sweet experience in a New York City video store I frequented.

One outlet that tweets about films is Little White Lies. A current article by Adam Nayman caught my eye. The head of it read "Mulholland Drive: The Musical." "The opening sentence of the article asks "Is David Lynch the greatest contemporary director of musical sequences?"

He cites Isabella Rossellini singing the title tune in BLUE VELVET and Dean Stockwell lip-synching to Roy Orbinson's "In Dreams" as examples of Lynch's style with musical sequences. The columnist included Nicolas Cage's Elvis Presley imitations in WILD AT HEART. He then goes on to write how "MULHOLLAND DRIVE is not only adorned by a series of indelible musical numbers but also built solidly around them..."

The film stars Naomi Watts as a young woman new to Los Angeles with dreams of acting in Hollywood movies.

Why did I smile reading about the MULHOLLAND DRIVE release date anniversary? I always enjoyed my times in the New York City video store whether as a clerk, which I once was, or as a customer. I loved hearing people comment on the movies. I loved hearing folks who didn't know each other have energetic conversations about movies. I loved seeing the looks of wonder on faces when folks discovered movies that were old but new to them.

On about three different occasions, I'd heard 20somethings chat about MULHOLLAND DRIVE. A common element of those three chats was someone saying "I loved Coco the landlady."

One time, a young guy I knew from the neighborhood came into the store while I was there chatting with the clerk behind the counter. The young guy asked if we'd seen MULHOLLAND DRIVE. We hadn't. He had. He liked it. He didn't love it. But he loved Coco the landlady. I asked, "Who plays the landlady?"

He said, "An actress named Ann Miller."

Like a scene in a Preston Sturges comedy, the clerk and I replied in union, "Ann Miller!"

We asked him to describe what she looked like. The clerk and I realized it was thee Ann Miller and the young guy was totally unaware of her previous film history. The clerk pulled a VHS tape off the behind-the-counter racks, cued it up and played it on the in-store monitor.  He said "THIS is Ann Miller" and he hit the play button. The monitor came alive with the "Prehistoric Man" number from the MGM musical, ON THE TOWN (1949).


We three watched the screen. We two longtime Ann Miller fans glanced at the wide-eye young guy whose jaw had pretty much dropped down to his arches. "Wow!," he said. We informed him that Ann Miller was a top talent at MGM, the top Hollywood studio for movie musicals.

He rented that video of ON THE TOWN.

There is only one mention of Ann Miller in the Little White Lies article about the musical numbers in David Lynch's MULHOLLAND DRIVE.  Here it comes:

"Michael Montgomery as a menacing cowboy; Billy Ray Cyrus as a pool boy, and one-time screen siren Ann Miller as a kindly landlady"

One-time screen siren? I wish that columnist had been a customer in my video store. I also wish I'd been his editor. Here's some more Miller on tap. From SMALL TOWN GIRL (1953)


 

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