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HOWARD ROSENBERG

'Sadie' Rains On Debbie's Parade

October 23, 1987|HOWARD ROSENBERG

You know movie buffs. A bunch of us were sitting around arguing whether Debbie Reynolds was better in "Singin' in the Rain" or "Sadie and Son."

Close call.

The two Debbies were opposite each other Wednesday night--"Singin' in the Rain" on KTLA Channel 5, "Sadie and Son" a CBS movie that looked very much like a pilot for a series.

In the 1952 movie "Singin' in the Rain," Debbie played an aspiring actress whose boyfriend was a silent movie star. In "Sadie and Son," Debbie played a tough street cop whose boyfriend owned a deli.

Debbie's footwork was critical for both movies.

While Debbie was singing and dancing "Good Mornin' " with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor on Channel 5 as cute Kathy Selden, Debbie was chasing a suspect over rooftops on Channel 2 as sharpshooting Sgt. Sadie Rothman.

Both movies also had show biz themes.

"Singin' in the Rain" was set in Hollywood just as talkies were beginning. In "Sadie and Son," Debbie was a widow whose son was an aspiring comic.

"All I wanna do is make people laugh," he pleaded.

I found that far more compelling than O'Connor's "Make 'Em Laugh" number in "Singin' in the Rain."

Meanwhile, Sadie made Son promise to enroll in the police academy if things didn't pan out in show biz. "I want you to give the real world a shot," she told him.

This was the real world?

Next, Sadie got called in by the new captain, a snarling young snot who told her that her 18 years of experience counted for nothing and she was being transfered to a desk job. "I don't think you can hack it on the street anymore," he said.

Just because she runs like she has wet cement in her pants? Nahhhhhh!

Anyway, Sadie was virtually forced into taking early retirement. And by the by, her son flopped as a comic and joined the academy.

Meanwhile on Channel 5, Debbie was singing to Gene Kelly while Donald O'Connor conducted a symphony orchestra in that celebrated scene where Debbie's voice is dubbed for Jean Hagen's tinny-voiced film star, Lina Lamont.

That was all right. But I preferred the dramatic intensity of tiny Debbie talking tough and beating up thugs.

You'd understand if you saw Sadie the civilian flipping a mugger on his tail or foiling an armed robber in her boyfriend's deli. She pulled her gun and growled: "Drop that piece before I drop you."

She did drop him, plugging the drug-crazed gunman in the arm. That easily topped Debbie hitting Jean Hagen with a cake in "Singin' in the Rain."

Sadie was so successful in nabbing criminals as a civilian that she was soon back on the force--with her son as her partner.

The real world.

Meanwhile on Channel 5, Debbie was in a pink formal singing "Singin' in the Rain" in that famous scene that exposes Lina Lamont as an airheaded fraud.

It was nice, but nothing to match Debbie as a bag lady, going undercover with Son to catch more muggers.

Until "Sadie and Son," you never realized how miscast Debbie was in "Singin' in the Rain." You know, great as a tough New York cop, but a little weak as a hoofer.

Meanwhile, Sadie had to blow away a gunman when Son froze. More than merely a good shot, though, she was also a good mom, worrying about Son getting a good meal and finding the right girl.

What was a policewoman mother to do?

Still, there were other matters to think about. The guy whom Sadie shot in the deli was acquitted (you know those liberal courts), and he vowed revenge on Sadie.

Meanwhile, Sadie's boyfriend, the deli owner, worried about her safety. "I can't run away from trouble," she told him. "It comes with the badge."

Nothing in "Singin' in the Rain" could touch that.

Even greater peril awaited, though, for it was inevitable that Sadie and Son would join the police task force trying to nab a serial killer who was strangling old women on the subway. Said the captain: "We're talking about a genuine crackpot here, people." To say nothing about the people who wrote this story.

Next, the vengeful deli robber found the perfect disguise for going unnoticed in New York. Wearing a clown suit and mask, he trapped Sadie and Son, who were in their own bag lady disguises.

After subduing him, Sadie and Son went back to being bag ladies on the subway, where the strangler almost got her. But she hit him on the head with her gun and, well, you know Sadie.

It was clear that Debbie was far more believable in "Sadie and Son" than in "Singin' in the Rain." There were times, however, when the CBS movie could have used a nice musical number, maybe Debbie dancing euphorically in a downpour and jumping around in puddles after booking the deli robber--a sort of "Sadie in the Rain."

Meanwhile, Son could feel happy, too. He had finally achieved his goal. He was a character in a movie that made people laugh.

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