Susan Luckey Movies
Dancer/actress/singer Susan Luckey has spent most of her career working on the stage, but her screen appearances, though few, have included some extraordinarily memorable work. Born in Hollywood, she made her first stage appearance at the age of six, in a Christmas play staged by the Plummer Park Players. She studied at the American School of Dance and at 14 was earning a living as a performer. She was a member of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Light Opera companies, and her Broadway credits as a teenager included the Peter Pan production starring Mary Martin. Luckey was signed by MGM in the mid-'50s and played a small role in that studio's musical biography of Sigmund Romberg, Deep in My Heart.
It was 20th Century Fox's production of Carousel, however, that marked a major break for Luckey as a performer. She was cast in the role of Louise, which presented her in a dance sequence so moving (under Agnes De Mille's choreography) that it was one of the highpoints of the otherwise troubled movie. A small acting role followed in the dramatic, topical Ginger Rogers vehicle Teenage Rebel (in which she was billed as Suzanne Luckey), after which she joined the national touring company of Meredith Willson's The Music Man. She had help in all of these career moves from her drama coach, the actress Kay Hammond, best remembered for her work in the movie Blithe Spirit. The Music Man was choreographed by Onna White, who had been engaged to direct the dancing in the David Merrick-produced stage musical Take Me Along. Making note of Luckey's portrayal of Zeneeta, the mayor's daughter, in The Music Man, White recommended Luckey as the ingenue in Take Me Along. Two years later, when Warner Bros. began work on the film version of The Music Man, the studio miraculously chose to use a major contingent of the creative and performing team from the theatrical production, including original director Morton Da Costa, and Luckey was one of the theater company members tagged by him for the film, in which she once again essayed the role of Zeneeta.
Apart from those major featured parts in Carousel and The Music Man, most of Luckey's work was confined to the stage and television. She re-emerged in the spotlight in 1998 to participate on camera, along with Shirley Jones, Onna White, and Buddy Hackett
, in the 30-minute documentary Right Here in River City, telling of the making of The Music Man. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
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Meredith Wilson's hit 1957 Broadway musical was transferred to the screen in larger-than-life fashion in 1962. Robert Preston repeats his legendary stage performance as fast-talking con man Harold Hill, who goes from town to town selling citizens on starting a "boy's band," then extracts money from them by ordering instruments and uniforms, with the promise that he'll teach the kids how to be musicians. Once he's collected his bankroll, Hill skips town, leaving the kids in the lurch. Looking for new suckers in Iowa, Hill arrives in River City, where he declares that the only way to save the youth of River City from the lure of the poolroom is to organize a boy's band. He charms the mayor's wife Eulalie (Hermione Gingold) into forming a "ladies' dance committee" and sets his sights on winning over local music teacher Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones). Marian rightly considers Hill a fraud, especially when he espouses the "Think System" of learning music: if you think a tune, he claims, you can play it. But Marian becomes Hill's staunchest ally when her young brother Winthrop (Ronny Howard), sullen and withdrawn since the death of his father, exuberantly comes out of his shell at the prospect of joining Hill's band; and Marian's budding romance with the charming but unreliable Hill ultimately brings her out of her own shell as well. Marion Hargrove's script uses most of the original play, with a handful of amusing expansions, especially in the roles played by Gingold and by Buddy Hackett as Hill's comic sidekick. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, (more)
Eleven years after scoring one of the biggest hits on the Broadway stage, Irving Berlin's musical comedy Annie Get Your Gun was brought to television in a lavish, live two-hour color presentation. Mary Martin, who ironically had been offered the role before Ethel Merman made it her own back in 1946, stars as sharpshooter Annie Oakley, the rag-tag backwoods gal who became the toast of two continents as the main attraction of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show. The libretto, by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, naturally takes many liberties with the facts, focusing on the tempestuous romance between the level-headed Annie and the arrogant, bombastic marksman Frank Butler (John Raitt). Most of the laughs are provided by the wheeling and dealing of Annie's PR man, Charlie Davenport (Donald Burr), and by another of Buffalo Bill's star performers, Indian medicine man Sitting Bull (Zachary Charles), who has become so "assimilated" by the trappings of showbiz that he can't even remember how to perform a simple scalping (needless to say, much of the humor involving Sitting Bull would considered politically incorrect today). The songs include such Berlin standards as "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly," "The Girl That I Marry," "They Say It's Wonderful," "Sun in the Morning," "Anything You Can Do," and, of course, "There's No Business Like Show Business." This production of Annie Get Your Gun currently exists in black-and-white kinescope form, but though pictorial quality is rough, the entertainment value is unquestionable. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Mary Martin, John Raitt, (more)
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Carousel was adapted from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical of the same name--which, in turn, was based on Liliom, a play by Ferenc Molnar. Gordon MacRae stars as carnival barker Billy Bigelow, who much against his will falls in love with Maine factory girl Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones). Billy proves an improvident and unreliable husband, but Julie stands by him. Upon discovering that Julie is pregnant, the unemployed Billy sees an opportunity for some quick money by joining his unsavory pal Jigger (Cameron Mitchell). The scheme goes awry, and Billy dies. Standing before the Pearly Gates, Billy is given a chance to redeem himself by the kindly Starkeeper (Gene Lockhart). He is allowed to return to Earth to try to brighten the life of his unhappy 15-year-old daughter Louise (Susan Luckey). Billy offers Louise a star that he has stolen from the sky; when Louise backs off in fear, Billy slaps her. He feels like a failure until he and his Heavenly Friend (William LeManessa) attend Louise's school graduation ceremony. There the invisible Billy watches as the principal (Gene Lockhart again) inspires Louise (and, by extension, Julie) by assuring her that so long as she has hope in her heart, she'll never walk alone. Frank Sinatra, the film's original Billy Bigelow, dropped out of the production due to laryngitis. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, (more)