Behind Brigadoon

Brigadoon reunited Gene Kelly and director Vincente Minnelli, who previously worked together on The Pirate and An American in Paris. The 1954 film adapted the successful Broadway musical, which featured the talents of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, known for My Fair Lady.

Thankfully, this musical, unlike the magical town it depicts, doesn’t disappear…

1. The female star changed.

Originally, the film was to star Kathryn Grayson. However, by the time Gene Kelly was available to work on the project, her contract was up. Moria Shearer was the next actress cast. But she too dropped out when the schedule for the film was uncertain, and she had a commitment as a member of the Sadlers Wells Ballet. Eventually, Cyd Charisse got the part. Charisse had worked with Director Vincente Minnelli in Bandwagon.

2. They wanted to shoot in Scotland.

However, it keep the costs down, the studio nixed the idea. Additionally, there were concerns about the weather, which Gene Kelly confirmed when he traveled there. Kelly envisioned the musical as an “outdoor picture the way John Ford would do a Western”. So instead of lush green land, they got two large sound stages for director Vincente Minnelli to use. Cyd Charisse remembered, “Vincente himself would be planting the flowers and the trees in the morning because he wouldn’t shoot unless it was perfect with his eye. Well, it would take hours.”

3. Donald O’Conner was almost paired with Kelly again.

For the role of Gene Kelly’s best friend, Alec Guinness was originally announced. However, in the delay other actors were mentioned including Donald O’Connor and Steve Allen. Van Johnson eventually took the lead, and he was no stranger to musicals, having starred in In the Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland and Easy to Wed with Esther Williams. Minnelli said, “His portrayal of Gene’s sidekick was magnified, if not magnetic.”

4. Johnson had a “walking clause”.

Van Johnson, like stars Clark Gable or Greta Garbo, often had a clause put in his contract so he could leave for the day at a specific time. However, due to Gene Kelly’s involvement in the production process – such as checking the lighting and shots – filming was sometimes delayed. Johnson caused quite a stir when he stuck to his “walking clause” and left at 6pm. “It was very frigid around the set for the rest. Cyd was the only one speaking to me,” Johnson remembered. Later, he found out that his representatives hadn’t negotiated a “walking clause” for this particular film. Opps!