Bells are Ringing
is a 1956 musical written by Comden And Green
, with music by Jule Styne.
The town is New York, and the time is the 1950s, when the cha-cha is the hottest dance and many New Yorkers subscribe to answering services such as Susanswerphone. Among the people whose telephones connect to Susanswerphone's switchboard are:
- Blake Barton, an actor who obviously aspires to being the next Marlon Brando;
- Mme. Rosine Grimaldi, a coloratura soprano performing in La Traviata;
- Mr. Humboldt and Miss Stevens, who married and merged their accounts after a certain answering girl suggested to her that he had a male Siamese cat to mate with her female;
- Dr. Joe Kitchell, a dentist and amateur songwriter;
- Mrs. Mallet, mother of a boy who refuses to eat his vegetables;
- Jeffrey Moss (Plaza 0-4433), a playwright trying to work on the forthcoming Larry Hastings production of The Midas Touch without his longtime writing partner;
- La Petite Bergère Restaurant Français, which is closed for all August.
One might expect that, to serve such a wide variety of clients, Susanswerphone would need a "vast personnel of well-trained girls," as an advertisement for them says. In fact, three girls, including the owner, Sue Summers, handle all the calls, but Ella Peterson is skilled at finding a different voice to answer each of their subscribers. Sue complains that Ella's a bit too friendly with the subscribers, especially after a couple of misguided policemen open an investigation. But the threat of being sent to the Women's Detention Home does nothing to deter Ella from starting an affair with Mr. Moss, her Sleeping Prince, under the pseudonym Melisande Scott.
The musical was conceived as a star vehicle for Judy Holliday, who also appeared in a film version released in 1960, with Dean Martin
as Jeffrey Moss. This film version, directed by Vincente Minelli, was the last of the many movie musicals produced for MGM
by Arthur Freed.
Tropes appearing in this musical:
- The Eleven O'Clock Number: Ella's "I'm Going Back."
- Helping Granny Cross the Street: Ella, trying to con Inspector Barnes out of trying to arrest her, compares her job to saving downed baby birds and this:
If it's a crime to help old ladies cross the street,
Then put men in jail!
Bread and water from an old tin pail,
If that, if that's a crime.
- List Song: "It's A Simple Little System" (composers and racetracks) and "Drop That Name" (celebrities).
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Ella Peterson steps into and improves the lives of three clients of the telephone answering service she works for. She helps a dentist realize his ambitions to become a songwriter, makes a washed-up Brando wannabe actor stop mumbling, buy a suit and get a part, and a struggling playwright overcome his Writer's Block and, incidentally, fall in love with her.
- Mumbling Brando: Blake Barton and everyone else who hangs out in the same Malt Shop.
- Trouble Entendre: The management of Titanic Records is shocked to find that its orders for Beethoven's Tenth Symphony have been switched to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. They don't care that Beethoven only wrote nine symphonies, as the coded "orders" placed with Titanic Records have less to do with classical music than with horse-racing. So the Corvello gang sends a pair of goons to approach Sandor, president of the operation, in a café. He explains them to Sue as "musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra," but is horrified to learn that Titanic Records might want him to attend a "recording session" over the East River of "Siegfried's Rhine Journey and Funeral March."
- Writer's Block: Jeff suffers from a bad case of this, and almost kills himself struggling to write The Midas Touch.