Recommended Viewing Situation:
In a chalet overlooking the Scottish Highlands, purple with heather, distant sounds of a local market in the background and the spicy aroma of a slowly baking Dundee cake wafting in from the homely kitchen.
Running Time: 108 minutes.
Director: Vincente Minnelli.
Format: 35mm CinemaScope.
Writer: Alan Jay Lerner.
Cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg.
Awards: Nominated for three Academy Awards in 1955. Best art direction, Best costume design and best sound recording. Winner of 1955 Golden Globe for best cinematography.
With romance, magic and those all-important rules surrounding the latter, Brigadoon is a fairytale. A Hollywood fairytale. Tommy (Gene Kelly) and Jeff (Van Johnson) are American tourists on a shooting holiday in Scotland. On losing their way one day, they are perplexed when they chance upon an idyllic village, unmarked on their map of the Highlands. Brigadoon appears untouched by the trammels of time, with its occupants wearing traditional Scottish dress, living in olde worlde dwellings and leading simplistic lives (although all are living proof that there is such a thing as a cut-glass Scottish accent). Tommy embraces its quaintness and ignores their puzzlement, as they are in need of sustenance and he is already spellbound by the graceful beauty of Fiona (Cyd Charisse).
Kelly is faultless as the charming, romantic Tommy and so Fiona’s reciprocal affection for him is more than believable. Their love for each other is instantaneous, with stylised pauses and gazes into each other’s eyes, giving rise to heart flutters that one would expect from a Hollywood fairytale. Johnson gives us the right amount of cynicism as Jeff, offsetting Tommy’s cheery optimism.
‘I’d like to get one little bird before the day is over,’ he remarks to Tommy, referring to the purpose of their trip, but foreshadowing the possibility of finding a love interest.
Director Vincente Minnelli rightly allows Gaelic charm to dominate this musical, so prepare for an array of talent presented by a chorus accomplished in Scottish dancing. ‘I’ll Go Home To Bonnie Jean’, an ensemble number shortly after the lads’ arrival in the village, is the perfect vehicle for such expertise. Arguably the best scene, Tommy and Jeff are welcomed and learn that there is to be a wedding that day.
Kelly’s seamless tap dancing, joined by Johnson, also an excellent dancer, leads the dance routine, so we are treated to a joyous mix of soft shoe shuffle and tap. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe are a credit to the movie with their fitting lyrics and music (respectively), leaving us with enduring classics such as ‘Almost Like Being In Love’.
Later, Kelly switches to a more elegant style of dancing, joined by the equally elegant Charisse, with a backdrop of the stunning Highlands (albeit one created in a Hollywood studio).
In time, the plot takes a sinister turn and it transpires that Tommy’s and Fiona’s love for each other is forbidden. Back home in The Big Apple, life is one continual cacophony of noise for Tommy and Jeff, in sharp contrast with the gentle hush of the Highlands.
One of the first colour films to be made using CinemaScope, the colours are surprisingly clear for its time. Cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg makes full use of this, allowing a night-time purple and a daybreak yellow to dominate.
Brigadoon is for those with a penchant for early Hollywood musicals or for hopeless romantics who fully uphold such ideology as believed by Tommy:
‘Somewhere between the mist and the stars is someone I want so terribly.’