Monday, October 23, 2006

Leadership Ideas from the Movies: You’ll Never Guess Which One (Number Three)

By John E. Carey
October 23, 2006

O.K., this film is not much about leadership at all. But it is about rich people, middle class people and all the rest. It is about men and women and it came out before “gay” meant homosexual. It is not really quite a musical but it has a lot of terrific musical numbers.

Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Celest Holm and others including Louis Armstrong make this movie fun and eminently “watchable.”

The 1956 classic “High Society” is about love and life.

“Spy Magazine” dispatches reporters Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) and Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm) to the Newport, Rhode Island, Jazz Festival to cover the impending wedding of socialite ice goddess Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly).

Grace has decided to marry for the second time. Her “intended” is the rich, safe and boring George Kittredge (John Lund). Grace’s first husband is now also her next door neighbor: C.K. Dexter-Haven aka “Dex” (Bing Crosby). This is awkward as Bing still loves Grace and is one of the prime movers behind the Jazz Festival. Add to that, Grace’s family generally loves Bing and Bing strolls through Grace’s mansion and grounds as if he owns the place.

Once Frank Sinatra enters the scene he too decides he loves Grace. Fueled by copious amounts of party Champaign and other booze libations from the mansion’s hidden in the wall bar, Sinatra, Crosby and Kelly go on a romp memorable in the annuls of Hollywood’s great movies.

Frank gets blasted and encounters a stone cold sober Bing. Sinatra launches into a song called “Did you ever?” It turns into a delightful duet with Bing doing his share of the crooning and drinking. One of the lines is “I’ve never seen such gayity.”

Frank comically insults Bing by singing: “Don’t dig that kind of croonin’ chum.”

Bing fires back, “You must be one of the newer fellas.”

When Bing starts matching Frank drink for drink, the fun and the movie, takes off.

Frank and Grace, both under the influence, decide to escape the night before the wedding bash like two POWs making a break for it. But they don’t get far: first they dance, then they end up in the estate’s pool and then (gasp) in Grace’s bedroom.

Frank and Grace dance the rumba (not a drink I am told) while singing “Mind if I make love to you?” The movie heavily relies upon innuendo, a lost Hollywood art form.

Frank is a gentleman and he winds up carrying the inebriated Grace to her bedroom. He drops her off and returns to the party where Bing tries to gain a confession. But Frank passes out.

On Wedding Day Morning, everyone, it seems, is hung over. Grace is comical as the bride that cannot bear the light of the sun.

And then all concerned begin to sort out who really loves whom and who should logically be wed.

Veteran actor Louis Calhern might have stolen the movie as the heavy drinking Uncle Willie but he can’t quite shoulder past Bing, Frank and Grace.

The movie lacks much of the fabric of current Hollywood blockbusters. There is no noise in this soundtrack, no machine gun fire and little violence. There isn’t a car chase and no steamy sex scene.

But this movie is definitely about life and love.

And innuendo.