Once a song and dance man, always a song and dance man. After making his Broadway debut in New Faces of 1936, Van Johnson was a featured dancer in Rodgers and Hart's Too Many Girls in 1940. The play starred the new sensation Desi Arnaz and Johnson was one of the Broadway imports to the RKO film where Desi met leading lady Lucille Ball.
Back on Broadway, Van appeared in another Rodgers and Hart sensation Pal Joey starring Gene Kelly. Signed by MGM, Van became a matinee idol and, surprisingly, not that his musicality was ignored, but the studio known for its musicals didn't take full advantage of Van's talents in that area. After all, they did have Gene Kelly for that sort of thing.
Lerner and Loewe's Brigadoon opened on Broadway in 1947 and ran for 581 performances. The popularity of the musical fantasy has never wanned. MGM's movie of the property was not produced until 1954. The studio balked at director Vincente Minnelli's planned Scottish location shoot for Brigadoon, as well as Stanley Donen's plan to shoot Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in Oregon. Subsequently, budgets for both films were cut, and, apparently, Minnelli's enthusiasm for the project dropped considerably.
Tommy Albright (Gene Kelly) and his pal Jeff Douglas (Van Johnson) are ad men from NYC taking a hunting trip in Scotland. They stumble across a mystery in a quaint village that seems quite out of time with their contemporary world. It is in the village of Brigadoon that Tommy, who has been searching for meaning in his life beyond his fine career and his fine fiancee, discovers love with Fiona Campbell (Cyd Charisse).
Jeff, who discovered the bottle years ago instead of bothering with any deep search for meaning in life cannot come to grips with the story of a little town that only comes to life for one day every hundred years as a means of protecting it from evil outside influence. Jeff will find only more things to bury deep in his subconscious in the place Tommy finds magical.
Songs from the play were cut from the film as the Breen office found the lyrics offensive to two of lusty Meg Brockie's songs My Mother's Wedding Day and The Love of My Life performed by Pamela Britton (My Favorite Martian) on Broadway. Unfortunately, this cut much of the comic byplay between Van Johnson's Jeff and Meg, played by Dody Heath in the movie.
Brigadoon does retain the lovely melodies, the moving romance, some impressive sets to replace the location shooting, and sincere performances. I find Cyd Charisse quite moving. Van Johnson delightfully steals the show with his sardonic personality as well as proving he hadn't lost a step considering his last big musical number on-screen was I Won't Dance in Till the Clouds Roll By in 1946.
Van only participates in one number in Brigadoon, and I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean has always been a highlight of the movie for me. The song itself is memorable fun, but it is Van's involvement that makes it stand out.