Monday, April 4, 2022

Rosemary Clooney's Red Garters

Rosemary singing the title song.
For years, I assumed that Red Garters was Rosemary Clooney's follow-up to White Christmas. In reality, both films were released in 1954 and Red Garters hit theaters several months before Paramount's huge holiday hit. As Clooney once noted, Red Garters is the only movie in which she received top billing. That's ironic since it's basically an ensemble musical and her role is a supporting one.

The story focuses on Reb Randall (Guy Mitchell), an easygoing gunslinger who has come to Limbo County, California, in search of the man that killed his no-good brother. Reb barely hits town when he falls head over heels for the comely Susan Martinez De La Cruz. Her guardian, Jason Carberry (Jack Carson), runs the town while flirting with every female resident--often in front of his girlfriend Calaveras Kate (Clooney). There's also a Mexican gunslinger (Gene Barry), who strives to avoid any discussion on who might have killed Reb's brother.

Guy Mitchell and Rosemary Clooney.
It's a light plot, but provides enough structure to support the musical numbers given the film's 91-minute running time. What separates Red Garters from other musicals of the 1950s is its unique set design. It eschews realism in favor of minimalist structures and backdrops. The buildings are simply fronts and the backdrop a yellow canvas with some artificial trees. It's an unusual look that works well for awhile, but ultimately grows tiresome. Given that Red Garters was filmed in 3D, the end result is it's the most "stagey" of stagey musicals. Still, it earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Color).

Jay Livingston and Ray Evans composed the score, which is pleasant without being memorable. The best songs are "Man and Woman,"a lively duet featuring Evans' clever lyrics, and "Bad News," a big ballad for Rosemary Clooney. She and Guy Mitchell have most of the solo numbers. Like Clooney, Mitchell was already an established recording star who would have more success on television than on the big screen.

Gene Barry in a gunfight!
Red Garters was not a box office hit, but it's a unique movie that's definitely worth a look. In addition to Rosemary Clooney and the unusual sets, you get to see a very limber Buddy Ebsen and a surprising Gene Barry hoofing it up. Gene's scene is quick, but a great reminder that he was a musical star on stage, earning a Tony nomination for La Cage aux Folles.

Here's a clip of Rosemary Clooney singing "Bad News," courtesy of our YouTube Channel:


  1. Thanks for this write-up, Rick. I watched the film years ago and didn't like it because of the set design, but I think it deserves a second-chance now.

  2. Thanks for selecting this movie for your review Rick - its uniqueness deserves attention. It is so in the middle of 1950s musicals that I think one has to be prepared for watching it. It is almost avant-garde in its set design and bold costumes by Edith Head. And it could also border camp. Thanks again for highlighting it.

  3. I'm no musicals fan, heaven knows, but your write-up sure makes me want to check this one out -- especially for the sets, Rosemary Clooney, and Gene Barry!