Bells Are Ringing (1960): 4/5
Bells Are Ringing starts off with what could be a fabulous parody of advertising. However, I’m not sure whether it would have been received that way in 1960 or whether that was the film’s intention.
What follows is a delightful but somewhat typical romantic musical.
Judy Holliday stars as a switchboard operator Ella. Ella works for a service that takes messages for people when they’re not home, reaches them wherever they are, and relays those messages. Pretty simple, right?
Not when Judy Holliday is at the helm. Here’s where the one partially unusual element of the film comes in. Ella has formed bonds with many of her clients beyond just relaying messages for them. She knows their schedules by heart, she keeps them on track for appointments, and she genuinely cares about them.
Ella especially cares about a certain playwright (Dean Martin) who sleeps through most of his appointments. But she can’t meet him because she’s convinced him that she’s a 60-something woman, and because an investigator is on her trail, suspecting her company of doing more than just taking messages.
This premise makes for a very funny film, as Ella attempts to hide her true switchboard-operator identity from the playwright and continues to mingle in the lives of her down-on-their-luck clients. For instance, she helps a singing dentist (who, by the way, is a completely awesome character) write his first big-selling song.
The movie is not only funny but also very pretty, with a beautiful color scheme of vibrant blues and pinks that seem to follow Ella around. Some of the settings and lesser characters are literally dim in comparison to her charisma and bright wardrobe.
Overall, Bells Are Ringing is a super cute musical with great lead performances and decent songs, one of which name drops just about every lovely old Hollywood star you can imagine. It’s not a stand-out, phenomenal musical, but it’s a very fun watch and definitely worth the viewer’s time.