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Angela Lansbury (Star of the Month)
Remind Me
,Remains to Be Seen

Remains to Be Seen

MGM reunited one of its most popular screen teams of the time for Remains to Be Seen (1953), a comedy-mystery about a Park Avenue apartment building manager (and sometime drummer) with a mysteriously dead tenant on his hands, and the jazz band singer niece of the deceased he becomes involved with. The storyline involves disputed inheritances, and the usual sort of machinations that go with that plot device, but in the end, America's Sweethearts June Allyson and Van Johnson end up in each other's arms as expected.

This was the last of five movies in which Johnson and Allyson starred together between 1944 and 1953. (They also both appeared in Till the Clouds Roll By, 1946, but in separate musical numbers.) The bloom was more or less off the rose in this last teaming, evidenced by the fact that this was the only one of their pictures together that didn't even receive a review in the New York Times.

Allyson left the studio after this project, tired of the girl-next-door roles Metro kept giving her, which were becoming less believable for a woman of 36. Her next few projects at other studios were playing the wholesome wife of James Stewart (The Glenn Miller Story, 1954; Strategic Air Command, 1955), William Holden (Executive Suite, 1954), and Cornell Wilde (Woman's World, 1954). She finally got the breakout role she wanted, as José Ferrer's wife from hell in The Shrike (1955), but shortly after that she was back standing nobly by Stewart's side in The McConnell Story (1955).

The screenplay for Remains to Be Seen was based on the play of the same name by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay. A decade after their hit Arsenic and Old Lace, the duo returned to the genre of macabre comedy with this story, which opened on Broadway in October 1951 and ran for 199 performances. Allyson and Johnson took on the roles created on stage by Janis Paige and former child star (and future producer-director) Jackie Cooper.

The script was adapted for the screen by Sidney Sheldon, a prolific writer known today for stage musicals (Redhead), movies (Best Screenplay Academy Award winner The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, 1947), and television shows (I Dream of Jeannie). Sheldon is also well known for the melodramatic novels he turned out in his later years, among them The Other Side of Midnight and Rage of Angels.

In her tenth year in movies, Remains to Be Seen also turned out to be the last role for Angela Lansbury under her MGM contract. "Dreadful movie," she later described it. "I don't think I ever saw it." Once again, as she had done in her movie debut in Gaslight (1944) and in an earlier MGM adaptation of a Crouse and Lindsey play, State of the Union (1948), Angela was called on to play a villainess, but this time with decidedly heavier dragon lady overtones. The part was a real come-down for her, having played the lead in a summer stock production a year earlier. Reduced to a supporting role, she got little screen time before her character was quickly dispatched. After this, Lansbury appeared on the small screen for the first time, and over the next 60 years she would be in demand in both film and television, racking up three Supporting Actress Oscar® nominations and 15 Emmy nominations, largely for her leading role in the long-running series Murder, She Wrote.

Director Don Weis was not one of Metro's first-stringers. Remains to Be Seen was only his fifth picture, not counting a 1951 short sponsored by B'Nai B'rith and an episode of the multi-director anthology movie It's a Big Country (1951). Nevertheless, after moving into television in 1954, Weis had a long and very successful career on the small screen helming episodes of a number of popular shows, among them Wagon Train, Perry Mason, The Love Boat, and Hill Street Blues.

To suit the talents of its stars and the expectations audiences had for their movies, the producers slipped in a couple of musical numbers for them to perform, the old standards "Toot Toot Tootsie" and "Too Marvelous for Words." There was also a small role for Dorothy Dandridge, who got to do one number in her brief appearance, "Taking a Chance on Love," a song introduced in the 1940 stage musical and subsequent film Cabin in the Sky (1943), which featured Dorothy's mother Ruby Dandridge and her older sister Vivian.

Remains to Be Seen was cut by Irvine "Cotton" Warburton, an All-American college quarterback turned film editor. Warburton won honors in both fields, winning an Academy Award for his work on Mary Poppins (1964), one of many films he edited for the Walt Disney studio, and being elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975.

Director: Don Weis
Producer: Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
Screenplay: Sidney Sheldon, based on the play by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay
Cinematography: Robert Planck
Editing: Cotton Warburton
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Hans Peters
Original Music: Jeff Alexander (uncredited)
Cast: June Allyson (Jody Revere), Van Johnson (Waldo Williams), Louis Calhern (Benjamin Goodman), Angela Lansbury (Valeska Chauvel), John Beal (Dr. Glenson).

by Rob Nixon



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