Bells are Ringing

Bells are Ringing starts with the sweet and quirky Ella who is played by Judy Holliday. She works for an answering service creating different personas for each of the subscribers. Not intending to cause problems or create difficulty in her personal life, she falls in love with the voice of one subscriber named Jeffrey, played by Dean Martin.

Each subscriber to the answering service is feeling the oppression of day jobs, requirements of society or the demands of others close to them. Ella helps each person she comes in contact with and shows them how to reach outward to fulfill their own dreams. Look past the fact that messages via cellphones remove the plot. Thousands of people, every moment, are creating altered personifications of themselves for the benefit of their pretentious online communities. The message, really, has not changed.

Police detectives pretend to be from Vogue magazine. A bookmaker pretends to run a record company. A man, forced to be a dentist by his father, wants to compose songs. Blake Barton belongs to a subculture that rebukes society. But what he really wants is to become a serious actor. Certainly, I don’t need to outline the psychological implications of pleasing other people or pretending to be something you are not.

Each character lives among the fantastically detailed sets that the designers, Keogh Gleason and Henry Grace, have curated. Nothing is overlooked. The sets add to the delight of getting acquainted with the groups that Ella is forming a relationship with. Assorted books, artwork and sport equipment define the bachelor pad that Jeffrey lives in. Ella’s basement workplace has peeling paint and water stains. Yet is full of hope with a pretty vase containing a single flower stem, yellow song birds and a granny square quilt for warmth. Mike’s Lunch Room serves coffee to beatnik actors and boasts a large chalkboard with casting tips. Including a tryout for the Midas Touch. The coffee shop regulars, restaurant patrons and even the people walking the street are perfectly placed throughout the film by Vincente Minnelli, the director.

The costuming by Walter Plunket takes advantage of the set locations and run the gamut of sloppy sweatshirts with the sleeves torn off to elegant suits with matching neckties and homburgs. Ella received a “gown made for La Traviata” from an opera singing subscriber who needed a mustard plaster cure for a cold. Ella altered the gown, slightly, for a date of dancing on the town with Jeffrey. He surprised her by taking her to a society party being thrown in his honor at a penthouse instead. Ella discovers that her full gown with crinoline petticoat seems slightly out of place at the event. The tightfitting dresses on showcase at the party get the quick-thinking Ella to essentially remove the fluff layers of her own dress. The party scene resonates with me. Even a child recognizes the need for Ella to fit in. The women at the party literally turning their backs on Ella. After altering her appearance, she continues in her attempts to make small talk. The other guests talk of Hollywood stars that they refer to on a first name basis. The party-goers act aloof and don’t make any attempt to make her feel comfortable. Ella smiles for the benefit of Jeffrey but is clearly hurt by the disapproving cliques as they roll their eyes. Ella is persistent and attempts to play their game. I can feel the sting as they continue to form an invisible barrier to Ella. She leaves the event in a very Cinderella’s midnight moment and sings “The Party’s Over”.

After changing everyone’s lives for the better, including Jeffreys, Ella realizes that her entanglement of lies is going to destroy her one chance at love. Even her rule-following Aunt Sue, played by Jean Stapleton, has narrowly escaped being snuffed out by the mob with assistance from Ella. The debonair bookmaker tried to romance Aunt Sue, who was known as “the other one” by the subscribers. Ella grabs her suitcase and decides it’s officially time to get back to being herself. Her real self. Ella gets honest and finally frees herself from the pretend life she leads and finishes by belting out, “I’m Going Back”.

I have been smitten with the movie ever since I was a kid seeing it for the first time. Often referring to the title as “Susanswerphone”, I watched it repeatedly from a VHS recording growing up. My dad, who even owned the Broadway recording featuring Judy Holliday, threatened to tape over it just to tease me. If you are waiting for me to say something bad about this movie, you’ll only hear that any imperfections add to the charm of the film.

A great musical comes together when you have a fantastic song and writing team and actors that are meant for their parts. For me, the details in set design and costuming pull everything into a complete package. Bells are Ringing originated as a Broadway play, based on Mary Printz who started the Belles answering service. Adolph Green, half of the writing duo for this film, was one of her clients. The idea that Printz beguiled Green and had him spinning her work of taking phone calls into a complete stage play gives the movie charm. Green had a six decades long writing partnership with Betty Comden and collaborated on screenplays and lyrics for famous musicals including Singin’ in the Rain, On the Town and Good News. It is easy to see that their successful partnership, along with music from Jule Styne, created songs that we still remember today.When Jeffrey places the song “Just in Time” gently into the New York city backdrop, I am sold every time. The truth is that if someone cares for you, really cares for you, they accept you just the way you are. With every imperfection and all of your quirks. The truth will set you free. True love belongs between true friendships. So don’t forget to take the time to say hello to people on the street. They’re just waiting for someone to make the first move.

Watch the video to see what the Kids thought of it.

Fun Facts:

Most of the uncredited actors played roles later on in their careers in TV series.

The girl reading a book in the Mike’s Lunch Room scene is played by Elizabeth Montgomery, later famous as the star of Bewitched.

Bernie West, who played Dr. Kitchell the dentist, went on to produce All in the Family.

Jean Stapleton, Aunt Sue, starred in All in the Family.

Frank Gorshin, played Blake Barton, was famous for his role as “The Riddler” in the 60’s Batman.

Donna Douglas in the penthouse scene. She went on to star in The Beverly Hillbillies.

Surprise! Belles is still in service today and has added to their services that are offered. The perfect relationship has 24/7 live, friendly professionals with personalized interactions. Even Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen had accounts through the Belles Service at one time.

2017 Kids On Classics Movie Schedule

Jan    The Curse of the Cat People 1944


Feb   My Favorite Wife         1940

Mar   Road to Utopia             1945

Apr   Top Hat                         1935

May  It Started with Eve       1941

June The Big Store                1941

July Stage Door Canteen     1943

Aug   The Parent Trap           1961


Sept  Good News                   1947

Oct    Tales of Manhattan     1942

Nov   The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938

Dec   It’s a Wonderful Life          1946

“Tell the crew they can sleep in the next world.” -The Pilot

Air force 1943


Air Force was based on the events of Pearl Harbor but because the movie was made in 1943, the war not being over, there is some level of propaganda to keep the U.S. remembering the reasons we were fighting.

This movie features the B-17 bomber, Mary Ann, flying to Hawaii on December 7th when the radio is jumbled with the sounds of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Unable to land at first, the plane and its crew find the immediate aftermath of the island, reconfigure the plane, quickly refuel and bravely continue missions on several other islands.  The crew needs complete accuracy for a bombing run. Tension is high when the bombardier has got to be exact and a mix of weather and plane complications have the crew wondering if they will be able to hit the target.

According to IMDB the plane in this movie was a B-17B.  There were supposedly 19 of these aircraft that had the gunners’ bubbles replaced by the gun positions of the B-17C and B-17D respectively.

Christmas is coming!


All month long, TCM is showing Christmas classics.  I will let you know each day which family friendly Christmas classic you need to see with your kids.  Bonus: they’re commercial free!

December 1st

The Man Who Came To Dinner

It happened on 5th avenue

O. Henry’s Full House

Meet John Doe

11 Veterans Day Classic Movies

This is the perfect day to share the reasons we are so grateful for all the people who serve and protect our beautiful country. Here is a list of 11 classic movies, made between 1941 and 1959, include a few dramas and many comedies. Thank a Veteran, watch a movie and open up a brand new conversation with your kids about our freedoms.

Since You Went Away 1944

The storyline:

The new normal many people faced when members of their families went away to serve in the war. The father leaves and his wife (Claudette Colbert) and two daughters (Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple) and the family takes in a boarder (Monty Woolley).

Kids discussion topics:

Drafting during the war, refugees, propaganda, rations and victory gardens.

Watch for:

Agnes Moorehead, of “Bewitched” fame plays the awful Mrs. Emily Hawkins who gossips, horded food and plays at being patriotic only when it gives her credit. Shirley Temple, by the way, became U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and chief of protocol of the United States later in her life.


Air force 1943

The storyline:

The B-17 bomber, the Mary Ann, is flying to Hawaii on December 7th when the radio is jumbled with the sounds of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Unable to land at first, the plane and its crew find the immediate aftermath of the island, reconfigure the plane, quickly refuel and bravely continue missions on several other islands.

Kids discussion topics:

This is certainly a little more of a heavy hitter for war pics. There are some deaths but the crew perseveres. This is when war becomes more real. You can also talk about American ingenuity when Joe Winocki (John Garfield) makes an alteration to the airplane for the tail gunner.

Watch for:

The opening credits begin with this message, “It is for us the living …. to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced ….. It is ……for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ….. that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln

The crew needs complete accuracy for a bombing run. Tension is high when the bombardier has got to be exact and a mix of weather and plane complications have the crew wondering if they will be able to hit the target.


Mister Roberts 1955

The storyline:

Mister Roberts (Henry Fonda) butt heads with his commanding officer (James Cagney) when he tries to get transferred from the cargo ship he is currently on onto a war ship.

Kids discussion topics:

There are always important roles to play and many ways to help our country. The captain preventing Mister Roberts from writing letters for transfer comes close to extortion.

Watch for:

The men have not had shore leave in some time. There is some drunken revelry. Also, the Doc (William Powell) makes a concoction out of hair tonic to taste like alcohol for Ensign Pulver (Jack Lemmon) to serve it to a Lieutenant. Great time to get some popcorn. Don’t pass this movie up on account of these small incidentals. These are great performances by these star players.


Once Upon a Honeymoon 1942

The storyline:

A social climber, Katherine (Ginger Rogers) marries a baron (Walter Slezak) and is followed by a newspaper man, Pat (Cary Grant) who thinks the baron has Nazi ties. They travel the country on their honeymoon and happen to stop at countries with occupied forces and the woman realizes the danger she is in.

Kids discussion topics:

Spies, newspapers (media), and there is a point where the girl and newspaper man are temporarily sidelined with a group of Jewish captives.

Watch for:

This film starts with humor but there is another layer of drama. At one point in the film, Katherine meets a maid at her hotel who is afraid because she and her children are Jewish. Katherine doctors her passport so they can gain their freedom. Watch this film to see the touching repayment of this deed.


The Glen Miller Story 1954

The storyline:

The story about Glen Miller (Jimmy Stewart) and how he continually needed to hock his trombone to do what he loved is backed by a fantastic musical score, of course. But there is also Millers real need to get involved during the war which mimics slightly how Jimmy Stewart was originally turned away from serving in real life because he did not meet the weight requirements. Stewart persevered and became a highly decorated colonel.

Kids discussion topics:

“America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.” Glenn Miller

Watch for:

Glenn Miller was flying to Paris on December 15th 1944 when his plane disappeared. The passengers and the plane have never been recovered.


Operation Petticoat 1959

The storyline:

We lovingly refer to this movie as the “pink submarine”. Why? Because when a spoiled Lieutenant con-man (Tony Curtis) is commandeering parts to fix their damaged submarine the crew has to mix grey and red paint together to cover the ship. The ship reluctantly accepts a group of stranded nurses and this gets everyone in trouble.

Kids discussion topics:

This one is just for fun. This movie has some of the best lines, though may promote some slightly bad behavior.

Watch for:

There is some tension with the girls aboard the ship. You will easily identify places during the movie to get popcorn refills.


The Best Years of Our Lives 1946

The storyline:

When three random soldiers return to the same home town after the war ends, each one finds that their families have changed but the veterans have changed as well.

Kids discussion topics:

This is a big movie to handle some realities facing the men and women coming home from war. A soda jerk (Dana Andrews) has to put up with a wife, job, coworkers and customers that don’t seem to take account for all that he did during the war. A banker (Fredric March) has a daughter who gets involved with the aforementioned soda jerk and has problems of his own when the bank he works for starts to commercialize loan processes and won’t do the right thing when lending money to vets. Homer (Harold Russell), a man who had both hands amputated after a fire in the war comes back to his sweat heart with doubts that she will still love him. There will be plenty to talk about.

Watch for:

Favorite scene when Homer, holding his sweet hearts hands, is getting ready to put a ring on her finger. Get tissues.


Hollywood Canteen 1944

The storyline:

Two service men are on sick leave and head to the Hollywood Canteen, based on a real night club for service men and women only. The character Slim (Robert Hutton) meets Joan Leslie and falls in love. The story is farfetched but it is irrelevant. It is the Hollywood stars that play themselves in fantastic skits, music revues and cameos that you are after here.

Kids discussion topics:

The real Hollywood Canteen apparently, after closing when the war ended, had nearly $500,000 remaining in the bank. A foundation was formed and still provides contributions to projects for the armed forces. This movie pays special tribute, curtesy of Joe E. Brown when he sings “You Can Always Tell a Yank”, to all the different countries, races and cultural backgrounds of the allies that were helping to win the war.

Watch for:

Roy Rogers, along with his beloved horse trigger, sing “Don’t Fence Me In”. Jack Benny does his thing with the violin up against concert violinist, Joseph Szigeti.


To Be or Not to Be 1942

The storyline:

An acting company in Poland takes matters into their own hands during the Nazi occupation.

Kids discussion topics:

“Wait a minute. I’ll decide with whom my wife is going to have dinner and whom she’s going to kill.” Josef Tura (Jack Benny). This is a comedy but done correctly on the seriousness of war. It brings again to light that everyone has a chance to do good things and help in ways when we don’t know how brave we really are until we are faced with a dire circumstance.

Watch for:

Greenberg (Felix Bressart) gets to finally recite his lines in the end when he thinks all is doomed.


Four Jills in a Jeep 1944

The storyline:

Four Hollywood stars head out to entertain troops on the USO circuit and showcase their adventures with mud, little warmth and not many of the creatures of comfort from home make you wonder how they always seemed to look so pretty in site of these things.

Kids discussion topics:

Let’s be obvious. Many things have changed since the 1940s. Many women served our country at home, in the factories, hospitals, as WACs, WASPs and WAVES during the war. We all try and help when and where we are able to serve. In this film, the truth is, the real actors were doing what was needed and that was to help to create a positive moral among the soldiers. Many of these Hollywood stars did risk their lives to go to places around the world to entertain. This is a lighthearted look at how these women took on some inconveniences so that they could help where they were needed.

Watch for:

Betty Grable, Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda all have song cameos. And the dance sequence by Mitzi Mayfair makes you think she has legs made out of rubber.


Never Wave at a WAC 1953

The storyline:

A socialite, Jo McBain (Rosalind Russell) decides to join the army. Nothing could go wrong here.

Kids discussion topics:

The discussion about women in the war during this time period will come up frequently. This is a playful fish out of water romp. The main character tries to use her social ties to gain leverage which also brings the subject up about going through the proper channels and doing what you said you would do. When McBain thinks she can just get away with easy work she realizes that she needs to actually work in the army to gain the real achievement that she is after. There is no substitute for hard work.

Watch for:

McBain does her fair share of stunts in this picture. The army put her through a series of tests including; freezing temperatures, crawling in mud and some type of gas exposure. Pretty sure the army still does this. Just with newer technology. Hail the heroes in the wool coats.



Watch the movie “Pinup Girl” 1944 with Betty Grable. Or at least watch the last 5 minutes. Betty Grable goes through, with an entire squad of women, a sequence of army marching commands.

Yes, it’s on youtube.


These girls had a great time watching “Bells are Ringing”.  A movie about a switchboard operator, played by Judy Holliday, who falls in love with a playwrite, played by Dean Martin.  Things get complicated when a *bookie sets up a phone line where the switchboard operator works.


*slang for book maker, a person who places bets on horses for people who gamble


Kids on Classics

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We are glad you found us.

We are just getting started so grab your favorite snack and check back to see videos.  Kids will be telling you about some classic movies that you will enjoy with your entire family!

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