1954′s musical-comedy Brigadoon is a film adaptation of the Broadway musical hit. It stars legendary song and dance man Gene Kelly as Tommy Albright, a man with a belief in love that transcends where his life is. Brigadoon also features Van Johnson as Albright’s hunting partner, Jeff Douglas, and Cyd Charisse as the love interest, Fiona Campbell.
The film opens with two American hunters on a trip in Scotland. It doesn’t take long before they are lost in the woods and they come across a small village that isn’t on any map. The people in the village live as if they were still two hundred years in the past, causing great confusion on behalf of Douglas and Albright. Albright, nearly immediately, becomes smitten with Fiona despite having a significant relationship back home in New York. As the plot unfolds, the secret of the town becomes apparent and Albright has a choice to make.
The film is packed with song and dance numbers, some of which are very lively and colourful while others are more subtle and subdued. The songs are quite good, but several of them were cut from the original Broadway production due to a combination of time and a lack of confidence in Gene Kelly’s vocal performances. What resulted on screen was passable, but much of it was uninspired.
The colours and creative set design stand out in the film. The preference of the production staff on Brigadoon was to have much of it shot on location, but the budget for the film lacked and was poured into other areas on the MGM schedule, leaving Brigadoon with a minimal budget. With this, the set design appears to look quite luminous and almost epic in nature. This is especially notable when one considers the ease at which CGI takes the place of backdrops and other film elements in today’s films.
Much of the film is a convoluted mess, unfortunately. While the dance numbers and the music is pleasant, the plot is utterly confusing and perplexing, especially in the revelation of the big secret about Brigadoon. Of course, we likely have the Broadway production to blame for the flimsy plot, but the film does not better in trying to make heads or tails out of the conundrum. The audience is left to simply turn the brain off, despite a seeming desire of the picture to be a lot smarter than it actually is.
The performances are good enough, but many of the Scottish accents flip-flop from time to time and really feel elementally forced even for the most basic of acting talents. The whole film lacks any effort or heart, especially when compared to some of Gene Kelly’s other films. It is passable, however, and is a decent piece of entertainment if only to revel in the sing-songy nature of Brigadoon and the impressive set design created on a minimal budget.