Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson — Judy Holliday re-creates her Broadway role of flibbertigibbet telephone operator Ella Peterson in Bells are Ringing. Ella works for Susanswerphone, a hole-in-the-wall answering service run by... more » her cousin Sue (Jean Stapleton). Our girl Ella can't help but become involved in the lives of her customers, which brings her to the attention of a dimwitted police detective, Barnes (Dort Clark), who suspects that Susanswerphone is a front for a house of ill repute. The cop is so obtuse that he never notices the story's genuine criminal, a flamboyant German bookie (Eddie Foy Jr.) who poses as a record executive and uses the names of composers as code for the various racetracks around the country. To avoid Barnes' wiretapping, Ella goes around New York in person to minister to the needs of her clients--most notably playwright Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin), who is in danger of becoming an alcoholic if he can't come up with a good idea for a play. Assuming a false identity, Ella prattles on about some of her other clients, notably a dentist (Bernie West) who composes pop songs on his air hose. Moss is inspired by Ella, and eventually falls in love with her. Because she will not reveal who she really is to Jeffrey, Ella decides that her relationship is founded on lies, and walks out of his life. But Moss, together with the other Susanswerphone customers who have been "rescued" by Ella, show up at Ella's doorstep for a happy ending. Bells are Ringing is not an example of MGM's Arthur Freed unit at its best, but Judy Holliday is luminescent in this, her last screen role (incidentally, Holliday's "blind date" in one scene is played by her then boyfriend, jazz musician Gerry Mulligan). The film's songs, by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jule Styne, include the hit numbers "Just in Time" and "The Party's Over".« less
"Judy Holliday steals the show. In her role as Ella Peterson, a vunerable employee of "Suesanswerphone", (a telephone answering service in the days before answering machines) she reaches out to help three of her many subscribers with hilarious results. The triad include a dentist that wishes he were a composer, a beatnik actor that no one will hire, and a down-on-his-luck playright. All three of these characters have something in common, as the movie reveals. The music by Jule Styne is memorable and includes the hits "The Party's Over" and "Just In Time". Although not noted for her singing, Judy's renditions perfectly suit her wonderful acting. Her songs range from funny to dramatic, and are lovingly done. I can't think of anyone I would have rather had in her role. Dean Martin, as Jeff Moss, is a fine counterpart to Judy. I would love to see this musical released on DVD...is anybody listening??? Highly Recommended. UPDATE: Available now on DVD!!!! It's GREAT!!!"
What a perfect relationship! (recommended)
K. Williams | Los Angeles, CA USA | 12/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Throw away your mobile phones. Smash your answering machines. Turn back your clock to 1960 when Suesanswerphone makes a pitch to improve all aspects of your life by preventing you from missing a phone call. An office full of Ella Peterson (Judy Holliday) voices filters incoming calls and forwards subscriber messages. Ella offers a unique personality for each client, making the establishment sound much grander than it is. Despite instructions to the contrary from her boss, cousin Sue (Jean Stapleton), but to the delight of subscribers, Ella goes beyond phone answering; she becomes a confidant and advisor.
A typical disaster on blind dates, Ella falls in love with the "disembodied voice" and circumstance of "Plaza-0 Double-4 Double-3" -- playwrite subscriber Jeffery Moss (Dean Martin) with whom she speaks in the voice of an elderly mother. "What a perfect relationship; I can't see him and he can't see me!"
Sue is swooned into sharing her office with shady Titanic Records owner J. Otto Prantz (Eddie Foy, Jr.) while Suesanswerphone is being investigated under suspicion of providing lonely-hearts-club service. Inspector Barnes (Dort Clark) warns Susanswerphone personnel not to have personal conversations or arrange meetings with male callers. Aware of these restrictions, Ella's concern for clients soon transcends the switchboard as she goes undercover in a variety of voices and costumes to pass along helpful information affecting the careers of such characters as beatnik Blake Barton (Frank Gorshin).
Discover how many ways BELLS ARE RINGING in another successful Broadway play adapted to motion picture. Subplots of this Oscar nominated romantic comedy are intertwined with song, dance, and humor. What a wonderful tribute to Judy Holliday in this, her final role before succumbing to cancer in 1965. BORN YESTERDAY and IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU are two other wonderful performances of about a dozen in her all-too-short film career. Expect Broadway musical style over-exaggeration at times while BELLS ARE RINGING the sound of delightful entertainment -- deserving 4.5 stars.
Movie quote: "It's a simple little system when the law is listening in. We will take those record orders in a very cultured tone while we're really booking horses over at Suesanswerphone.""
RING-A-DING-DING: THESE BELLS HAVE PERFECT PITCH ON DVD
Nix Pix | Windsor, Ontario, Canada | 03/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Vincente Minnelli's "Bells Are Ringing" (1960) generally gets a bad wrap from reviewers and critics alike. While it is true that the film came at the tail end of MGM's reign of supremacy in musical motion picture entertainment - and it is equally true that the film falls short by direct comparison to, say, Minnelli's "Meet Me In St. Louis (an unfair but often used example), all the pistons are firing on this occasion with this delightful story of a phone operator who falls in love with one of her clients.
The story concerns lonely Ella Peterson (Judy Holliday in her final performance). Working out of a basement apartment for Susan's-a-phone (a personal message service), Ella longs for the good life and the right fella to fill her needs. However, that doesn't prevent her plucky personality from offering equal portions of good advice and smart talk to her roster of happy clients. Ella's fraternization doesn't particularly sit well with her employer, Sue (Jean Stapleton) who is all dollars and cents, or police detective, Barnes (Dort Clark) who advises Ella that it's illegal to provide unsolicited information in the capacity of a business acquaintance. But Ella is all set to throw caution to the wind when she falls in love with Plaza 0-double four, double nine. That extension belongs to Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin), a once successful playwright who fears that his days of popularity are numbered and has since turned to shallow women and hollow relationships for solace.
Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green transform their Broadway original into a sublime cinematic treat. Minnelli directs adroitly and - given the limited budget he had to work with - delivers a film that appears to be on a much grander scale than it actually is. Particularly in his execution of the "Drop that Name" sequence - in which Ella lampoons her association with the hoi polloi, Minnelli's brisk camera work and staging is flawless. The same is true during Eddy Foy Jr.'s charming romp in "Oh, What A System". Delivered with comedic panache and laconic savvy a la the darling Holliday and charming Martin, the rest of the score, including such standards as "Just in Time" and "Drop That Name" is brilliant and bouncy.
Thanks to Warner's stunning new transfer, "Bells are Ringing" arrives `just in time' on DVD. The anamorphically enhanced Cinemascope image is outstanding. Colors are nicely balanced. Image quality is a marked improvement over anything this film has looked like before on home video. Blacks are rich, deep and solid. Whites are crisp, but never blooming. There is a hint of film grain and the occasional shimmer of fine detail but nothing that will distract you from wallowing in the riotous splendor of this musical classic. The audio has been impeccably remastered in 5.1 and delivers an unexpectedly powerful kick during the songs. The one disappointment for admirers of this film is that the featurette on the film "Just in Time" is way too short to be considered a valid supplement. Others include two outtake musical sequences made available previously, and the film's theatrical trailer. Regardless of these shortcomings, "Bells Are Ringing" comes highly recommended as great good time fun. "
Just In Time...Bells Are Ringing is on DVD!
classicmoviefan | USA | 04/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Back at a time when there were no answering machines, all smart New Yorkers solved there problems by subscribing to Susanswerphone.
Ella Peterson (Judy Holliday) is the switchboard operator for Suanswerphone, along with her cousin and owner of the business, Sue (Jean Stapleton). Ella, also known as Melisande Scott, is very committed to her job and enjoys helping out each subscriber in a personal way - whether it be a muster plaster for an opera star with laryngitis, a suit for an aspiring actor, or a break for a dentist composing songs on an air hose. But the subscriber Ella spends most of her time on is Mr. "Plaza O Double 4 Double 3" a.k.a Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin), a struggling play writer who fondly refers to her as "Mom." They have "the perfect relationship. She can't see him and he can't see her." But that's about to change! And does Jeff get a surprise when he finds out that "Mom" isn't an old lady at all, but a very cute and charming blonde.
Judy Holliday's film career got started with the help of Katharine Hepburn, who Judy starred with in Adam's Rib (1949), along with Spencer Tracy. Bells are Ringing was Judy Holliday's final film after winning a Tony for her Broadway version. It was also the final musical that director Vincente Minnelli and screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green did together.
So, now that the party's over, I may as well say - This movie is a whole lot of fun for everyone!"
THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE SEEN
W. Budris | Rosedale, NY | 03/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The new DVD version of BELLS ARE RINGING is stupendous. Widescreen, 5.1 Surround, with two deleted numbers and an alternate version of The Midas Touch thrown in as bonus features. There is also a nice Making-Of featurette featuring Hal Linden of "Barney Miller" fame, who was the headliner in the Midas Touch number...his film debut.
Well worth it if you like classic musical comedy."