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A Feminists Worst Nightmare
Calamity Jane (DVD)
Member Name: wigglylittleworm
Calamity Jane (DVD)
Date: 12/10/09, updated on 12/10/09 (65 review reads)
Advantages: catchy songs
Disadvantages: The moral of the story is all wrong
I know you are not meant to give away the endings of films but I can't say what I want to say about Calamity Jane without attaching spoilers. Feel free to click on the NU button and then close this window down if you don't want to read on.
Calamity Jane is a Western Musical made in 1953 and loosely based on the life of Martha-Jane Cannary-Burke, a frontier woman and occasional prostitute who by all means lived a remarkable life. Strangely the film leaves out the seedier parts of her life like the alcoholism and prostitution.
Calamity Jane was one of my favourite films when I was a kid. My favourite aunty was a huge fan of musicals, both singing in amateur dramatics and watching them and I used to love going to her house and settling down on the sofa with her to watch Calamity Jane. These repeated viewings as a nipper meant that I knew all the words to the songs off by heart when I saw the film again after a 20 year break, it's amazing what random nonsense your brain stores.
In the film version of Calamity Jane we are introduced to an amazing character played by Doris Day. Calamity is a gutsy and fearless woman who struts about in leathers and rides horses and shoots better than most of the men, in fact she even rescues at least one men from an Indian camp. If you ignore the fact that she shoots Indians in cold blood then she is full of life and character.
Calamity lives in the town of Deadwood and takes on the challenge to go to Chicago and find the actress Adelaide Adams who all the men in the Golden Garter saloon lust over. She manages to bring back a lady who all of the men love and the two women become friends. Unfortunately the friends have a row over the drippy Danny who they both fancy, which one will get their man?
This is where the film goes all wrong for me. Calamity Jane is such an endearing character precisely because she is a strong women who rebels against the gender roles set for women in 1800's America. However as soon as a girly girl arrives Calamity undergoes a remarkable transformation under her influence. Instead of being the tomboy that we loved in the first half of the film she starts dressing in frilly dresses, becomes domesticated and even sings songs about her new found womanly persona.
Is this meant to be a happy ending? Tomboy realises the error of her ways and dresses up pretty and suddenly all the men fancy her and she turns her back her old life to keep house and have babies? What kind of messages does that send out?
If I could have an alternative ending I would either have a male lead strong enough to accept Calamity as she is and marry her or have her live out her life free and single.
Apart from the fact that the film has a really pathetically soppy ending, it's actually pretty good. Doris Day plays Calamity perfectly, she has a brilliant singing voice and it's a really energetic performance. There are some brilliantly funny scenes in the film as Calamity battles with Wild Bill Hikock played by Howard Keel. It's one of those films that you can't help but smile and sing along to the music, well for the first half anyway. By the second half I was getting really annoyed at the way the story had gone. The film has dated fairly well and it is fairly easy to ignore all of the fake backdrops and the way that some of the scenes have been shot.
I know that the film was made in the good old days when attitudes to women were different but I still hate the way that this classic film ends.
Summary: Nice film, pity about the ending