Calamity Jane Singalong Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Filmhouse /Warner Brothers
David Butler (director), James O’Hanlon (writer), Sammy Fain (music), Paul Francis Webster (lyrics), Ray Hendorf and Jack Donahue (musical direction), William Jacobs (producer) Jenny Leask (Programme Marketing Co-ordinator)Alan Crumm (Filmhouse projectionist)
Doris Day (Calamity Jane), Howard Keel (Bill Hickock), Allyn Ann McLerie (Katy Brown), Philip Carey (Ltnt. Danny Gilmartin), Dick Wesson (Francis Fryer)
Running time

Well, gosh amighty, the Filmhouse has done it again! Another full house for the utterly fantastic  Calamity Jane Singalong. The brain behind this phenomenal idea is Filmhouse Programme Marketing Co-ordinator, Jenny Leask, who has lovingly typed up the lyrics for projection on to the screen in perfect sync to the action.   It is the 21st century version of ‘follow the bouncing ball’.

Singing along to a movie is not a new idea, but it is for an art house cinema. The film was first shown in this style in May when it was a complete sell out so was screened again by popular demand. There are plans for more singalongs with West Side Story being the next one, but back to Calam!

The Oscar and Award winning film was made in 1953, just 5 years afters the Second World War, and it seems to have been a golden era, if not a specific golden year for utterly great and memorable movies. 

At that period, there was an institution called the ABC Minors, run by ABC cinemas when children went to the pictures (as they were called then) on Saturday mornings without their parents to watch the likes of Roy Rogers, Laurel and Hardy, Flash Gordon and Woody Woodpecker. Can you imagine? A cinema packed full of weans when the only adults were the cinema staff. We even had a badge and our own song, sung very loudly to the tune of Blaze Away. Happy mayhem!

That is just what came to mind on Saturday when the Cinema 1 at the Filmhouse filled up with cowboy hats, red neckerchiefs, lots of boots and fringes and, most important, plenty of joie de vivre.

Jenny Leask introduced the show to enormous excitement giving carte blanche to as much racket as anyone wanted. In the cinema, where a sweetie paper being rustled or somebody giving a running commentary during a film is verging on a hanging offence, this is happy anarchy!

The movie, Calamity Jane, is based on the real life 19th century woman, Martha Jane Cannary who had a tough life,  dressed as a man and really did live in Deadwood and really did know and may have married Wild Bill Hickok. The Warner Brothers movie, while all singing and all dancing, does actually touch on some of the essentials of the real woman who had the reputation for generosity as well as unconventionality.

The story is about Calam’s daringly bringing Adelaid Adams, a famous  actress, from Chicago to the female starved residents of Deadwood but being hoist by her own petard (literally in one scene!) when the man she loves, Ltnt. Danny Gilmartin, and Bill Hickok fall for the actress and Calam loses her man, her  respect and her status.

It turns out that the actress is Miss Adams’ maid, Katie Brown, and so the love confusion begins.The film is U Rated but there are clearly different readings now as was evident by the various hilarious and raucous shouts to the screen during the film.

The sexual electricity between Bill and Calam is actually evident from the word ‘go’ and the whole thing is pleasure on a plate. I have seen this film more times than it’s decent to admit, and I still see points of significance like Doris Day taking the reins on the way to the ball and offering her arm to Howard Keel as they go to dance. There’s liberation for you. Here’s to more dancing in aisle at future showings and more community singing – great tonics all round.

Event: 20 August, 15.30