Not one of MGM's classic musicals, the lightweight Bells Are Ringing is nonetheless highly enjoyable and professionally produced entertainment. The film is most noteworthy for capturing Judy Holliday's powerhouse stage performance and transferring it quite effectively to the screen. Holliday is a charm and a delight; more importantly, she makes you believe that the sometimes silly situations her character gets herself in are perfectly natural and plausible. An expert singer despite her unconventional voice, Holliday wrings every wistful moment out of the big ballad, "The Party's Over," and pulls out all the stops to make "I'm Going Back" a real showstopper. Dean Martin's laid-back approach to his role contrasts effectively with Holliday's bravura performance, and there's just enough chemistry between the two stars to pull off the love story. Director Vincente Minnelli keeps things moving at a sprightly pace and his work behind the camera is solid if unexceptional. Like Holliday, he treats the Betty Comden and Adolph Green screenplay with respect, knowing that a light comedy of this sort can be destroyed with just a few false moves. And Andre Previn's lush arrangements of Jule Styne's music helps enormously in adding an extra texture to the film. The genial Bells was one of the last "midsize" Hollywood musicals; within a few years, the genre would be too expensive to support modest musicals such as this.
by Craig Butler review