Call Me Madam

  • aka “Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam
  • 20th Century-Fox, 1953, Color, 114 minutes, ***½
  • Premiere release March, 1953
  • General release April, 1953

Brassy, belt-it-out Broadway legend Ethel Merman (There’s No Business Like Show Business) delivers a singularly show-stopping performance in this beloved big-screen version of Irving Berlin’s last big musical comedy success. It’s the story of a Washington D.C. socialite who becomes a U.S. Ambassador, and finds romance along the way. Filled with colorfully tuneful Berlin favorites like “The Hostess with the Mostest” and “You’re Just in Love,” and unforgettable dance sequences by Donald O’Connor (Singin’ in the Rain) and lovely Vera-Ellen (White Christmas), Call Me Madam is Hollywood musical magic. [from back of DVD case]

Loosely based on the life of socialite / ambassador Perle Mesta, this lively film version of the Lindsay / Crouse musical features Ethel Merman reprising her Broadway role as Washington hostess Sally Adams, who becomes the outspoken ambassador to the postage-stamp European country of Lichtenburg. Donald O’Connor, George Sanders and Vera-Ellen co-star; the Irving Berlin score includes “It’s a Lovely Day Today,” “You’re Just in Love,” and “The Ocarina.”

Great story, great cast. Dance numbers, of which there are many, are beautifully staged and executed. Sets are very colorful and rich. Simply a great musical by some of the best musical stars!

Details

  • Produced by: Sol C. Siegel
  • Directed by: Walter Lang
  • Assistant Director: Hal Klein
  • Screenplay: Arthur Sheekman
  • Based on the Musical Comedy “Call Me Madam,” book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, produced on the stage by Leland Hayward
  • Music and Lyrics by: Irving Berlin
  • Musical Direction: Alfred Newman
  • Orchestration: Herbert Spencer, Earle Hagen
  • Vocal Direction: Ken Darby
  • Dances and Musical Numbers Staged by: Robert Alton
  • Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler, John De Cuir
  • Set Decorations: Walter M. Scott
  • Costumes Designed by: Irene Sharaff
  • Makeup Artist: Ben Nye
  • Sound: Bernard Freericks, Roger Heman
  • Director of Photography: Leon Shamroy
  • Special Photographic Effects: Ray Kellogg
  • Color by Technicolor
  • Technicolor Color Consultant: Leonard Doss
  • Film Editor: Robert Simpson

Awards

  • Academy Award Won Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Alfred Newman)
  • nominated for Best Costume Design, Color (Irene Sharaff)

Cast

  • Ethel Merman [Sally Adams]
  • Donald O’Connor [Kenneth]
  • Vera-Ellen [Princess Maria]
  • George Sanders [Cosmo Constantine]
  • Billy De Wolfe [Pemberton Maxwell]
  • Helmut Dantine [Prince Hugo]
  • Walter Slezak [August Tantinnin]
  • Steven Geray [Sebastian]
  • Ludwig Stossel [Grand Duke]
  • Lilia Skala [Grand Duchess]
  • Charles Dingle [Senator Brockway]
  • Emory Parnell [Senator Charlie Gallagher]
  • Percy Helton [Senator Wilkins]
  • Additional Cast: Leon Belasco [Leader]
  • Oscar Beregi
  • Sr. [Chamberlain]
  • Johnny Downs [Cameraman]
  • Nestor Paiva [Miccoli]
  • Sid Marion [Beer Garden Proprietor]
  • Torben Meyer [Dignitary]
  • Richard Garrick [Supreme Court Justice]
  • Walter Woolf King [Secretary of State]
  • Olan Soule [Clerk]
  • John Wengraf [Ronchin]
  • Fritz Feld [Hat clerk]
  • Ernö Verebes [Music clerk]
  • Hannelore Axman [Telephone Switchboard Operator]
  • Lal Chand Mehra [Minister from Magrador]
  • Bess Flowers [Carnival Guest in Box]
  • Carole Richards [singing voice of Vera-Ellen]

Musical Program

  • [0:00] Overture (played by Orchestra behind titles)
  • [0:01] Washington Square Dance (excerpt sung by Chorus)
  • [0:04] The Hostess with the Mostes’ On the Ball (sung and danced by Ethel Merman)
  • [0:10] Lichtenburg (sung by Chorus offscreen)
  • [0:21] Can You Use Any Money Today (sung by Ethel Merman)
  • [0:26] Marrying for Love (sung by George Sanders)
  • [0:31] It’s a Lovely Day Today (sung by Donald O’Connor and Carole Richards dubbing for Vera-Ellen)
  • [0:35] It’s a Lovely Day Today (played by Orchestra, danced by party guests)
  • [0:46] That International Rag (sung by Ethel Merman, then danced by party guests)
  • [0:48] It’s a Lovely Day Today (danced by Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen)
  • [0:56] You’re Just in Love (sung by Donald O’Connor and Ethel Merman)
  • [0:59] (Dance to the Music of) The Ocarina (production number sung and danced by Vera-Ellen and Chorus, Carole Richards dubbing for Vera-Ellen
  • beautifully staged and executed!)
  • [1:11] What Chance Have I with Love? (sung and Danced by Donald O’Connor)
  • [1:12] Something to Dance About (sung and danced by Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen, Carole Richards dubbing for Vera-Ellen)
  • [1:30] The Best Thing for You (Would Be Me) (sung by Ethel Merman and George Sanders)
  • [1:45] You’re Just in Love (reprised by Ethel Merman and Donald O’Connor)
  • [1:48] Mrs. Sally Adams (sung by Telephone Operators)
  • [1:52] Finale: “You’re Just in Love” / “Something to Dance About” (sung by George Sanders, Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, Carole Richards dubbing for Vera-Ellen, and Chorus)