Saturday, October 31, 2009

Is there an exorcist on board? A singing nun?

Australian recording star & Grammy winner Helen Reddy made her film debut as a singing nun trying to cheer up sick little Linda Blair in Airport '75. She sang "Best Friend" and the sequence was later parodied in Airplane! (1980).



For her nun role, Reddy was nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Female Newcomer.

2 years later, Reddy's vocals were heard in a strange little film called "All This and World War II" (1976).

IMDB says: Beatles' "significance" pushed to the breaking point in this bizarre documentary that juxtaposes their songs (sung by a number of rock stars) with World War II newsreel footage. Helen Reddy sings "Fool On The Hill" while Hitler relaxes at Bertchtesgaden, and Rod Stewart husks "Get Back" while Nazi troops goose step.



In November 1977, 6 months after STAR WARS premiered, came a $10 million dollar Disney musical mixing animation with live action called Pete's Dragon. Compared to Darth Vader, Jawas and Light Sabres - a cartoon dragon didn't stand a chance.

The film was a box office flop - but became a favorite on VHS/ DVD decades later. Helen Reddy is likeable as Nora- the lightkeeper's daughter who is still hoping her lost-at-sea husband will return home.



The film co-stars Shelley Winters and Jeff Conaway as Maine woods folk seeking their runaway orphan houseboy Pete.

Crowbarred into the family film is the shticky comedy of Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons and the big cheese du jour of mid 70s Broadway: Jim Dale as the charlatan doctor and dragon hunter.

With competing villains (Dale and Winters), hammy comics (Rooney & Buttons), claustrophobic Disney ranch/backlot settings, and the watered down choreography of the accomodating Onna White - the film misfires quite often.

Helen carries many musical numbers - but the film is miles away from repeating Disney's Mary Poppins (1964) success - and is closer to Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971) but far more land-locked and less magical.

Still, Helen is charming with her Aussie accent peeking through her dialogue. Her lighthouse ballad "Candle on the Water" was nommed for Best Song at the Oscars that year. I think it's one of the prettiest songs.



Reddy went back to touring and contributed ballads for movies (Belushi's "Continental Divide" theme "I'll Never Say Goodbye to You"). She also performed in London and Broadway musicals of the 80s and 90s and wrote her memoir "The Woman I Am".

Reddy decided to retire from her singing career in 2002 after a lifetime on stage - and she is now happily working as a clinical hypnotherapist in Sydney.

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