Brigadoon is the story of two men – Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas who get lost in the woods on a hunting trip in Scotland. Just as they were starting to feel helpless, lo and behold a village appears as if out of nowhere and they pop in to get a little help. It is there that Tommy meets a woman named Fiona and it is love at first sight. Romance blooms amongst the wedding celebrations for Fiona’s sister and the two men are treated to the revelation of the town’s history and just why it is that the village seems so out of sorts. Knowing what they know and despite the love that Tommy feels for Fiona, they leave the town realizing that they will never see it again which drives Tommy and Jeff into a bit of a depression – Tommy because of his lost love and Jeff for depriving him of it. Like every big Hollywood musical of the time, MGM wraps it all up in a happy ending where everyone gets what they want, namely Tommy and Fiona together.
Based on the stage play of the same name by Alan Jae Lerner and Frederick Lowe, the two men responsible for also gracing the world with Camelot, My Fair Lady and Paint Your Wagon among others, it would not be a completely faithful adaptation as it would omit several musical numbers, but the meat was there so to speak. Gene Kelly would star as Tommy with Van Johnson as Jeff and Cyd Charisse as Fiona, the lead roles played to perfection with Johnson the particular standout among them. Being the crustiest and most sour member of the group, anyone who played Jeff would have had the spotlight thrust upon them, but Johnson does a great job with the role and hams it up accordingly. As for the two leads, Kelly and Charisse are always magical together, the two having a great chemistry from previously working on Singin’ in the Rain two years previous and they sold the romance between them very well. One could say that Kelly is a little saccharine in his performances when mooning and crooning over a woman, but he comes off more earnest than anything else in this picture, the man having had more than enough experience at it over the years.
When it comes down to the dancing and the musical numbers, The Heather on the Hill stands out as the top number between Charisse and Kelly with the latter’s Almost Like Being in Love the more memorable track when one thinks of this film. I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean is the fun song, the one with the giant chorus and most of the cast participating and the one that will have the audience singing along with it, one of the most enjoyable scenes to be found in the movie. Numerous tracks that were in the stage play never made it into the film due to running time issues and the studio wanting a shorter picture and it is a bit of a shame as it might have made for a more well-rounded picture.
As for the movie itself, it was shot in CinemaScope and looked incredible with its wide, panoramic views and colourful costumes on display. Despite being shot on the MGM soundstage, much to the dismay of Kelly who would have preferred shooting in the actual Scotland or at least featuring some sort of actual nature, it all worked out and soundstage or not, the film ends up being a joy to watch. Though it is never mentioned as such, Brigadoon is one of Kelly’s best musicals, in no small part due to the song and dance featured within, right alongside the aforementioned Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris. While those two films had more of Kelly’s input and ideas realized on screen, Brigadoon is still a sweet, funny and romantic movie that will charm and delight the viewer.
4 out of 5