“Calamity Jane” Review

11 January, 2017

Year of Release: 1953
Director: David Butler
Screenwriter: James O’Hanlon
Director of Photography: Wilfred M. Cline
Cast: Doris Day, Howard Keel

Synopsis: A boisterous woman living in a male-populated region of the Wild West sets out on a mission to prove herself after agreeing to locate a beautiful singer whom the townsfolk swoon over.

Calamity Jane Review:

Despite the fact that “Calamity Jane” has, for the past sixty years, flown under the radar as yet another pre-packaged musical made to appease the 1950s market, it is, and has always been, one of the most blatantly suggestive movies in film history. Outside of the appeal of its balmy tunes, rendered memorable by songs as delightful as ‘Secret Love’ and ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’, Doris Day shines as both comedienne and singer, breaking free from the restraints of her overly-feminised image in a stomping fashion.

An expert lesson in how to get around the Hollywood Production Code, “Calamity Jane” preserves its brazen subtext as it tiptoes around topics as divisive as cross-dressing and lesbianism in a manner that diverts viewers’ eyes towards its conveniently heterosexual love story. Directed in accordance with the practice of the day, the film is made to avoid controversy as David Butler tames his female star, squeezing her into a dress and marrying her off as soon as possible, and yet, no matter what comes her way, Doris Day’s iconic performance ensures that the movie always feels hilariously disingenuous as her makeover becomes sheer frivolity in a film that’s all about reading between the lines.

Day’s charisma is enough to make even the most hardened audience member smile as everything from her animated body language to her exaggerated accent comes together to create a truly unique character. “Calamity Jane” is a delightful snapshot of one of the most charming yet underrated actresses to come out of the Hollywood Golden Age and it’s a movie that transcends the restrictions of its cardboard sets with a playful and rather inviting take on history. A far from perfect but utterly wonderful piece of nostalgic bliss.

 

   

Summary
Review Date
Movie
Calamity Jane
Rating
51star1star1star1star1star
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