Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Andrew Sisters


In the recent spy thriller Breach, Chris Cooper plays Robert Hanssen, a former Soviet expert who was selling secrets during the Cold War and Ryan Phillippe plays Eric O'Neill, the FBI agent assigned to spy on him. The Cooper character is a devout pre-Vatican II Catholic, a "sexual deviant" and big Andrews Sisters fan.

The Andrews Sisters, from youngest to oldest, were Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne -- three Norwegian-Greek singers from Mound, Minnesota (on Lake Minnetonka). Patty (b. 1918) is the only one still alive. They got their break at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis in 1931.

According to biographer John Sforza's quaint description,
They were three girl-next-door, real-life sisters who, if rumor and their mother be trusted, did not get along very well. They had the fastest, loudest harmony this side of the equator, all accentuated by wild yet almost perfectly syncopated choreography and a comedic flair that surfaced readily during their personal appearances.
In Breach, the 1940s trio's music is a hyper-patriotic and over-simplified symbol of the America that Hanssen has betrayed.

We can only guess that he listens to them when he's anxious about his treason, but we as viewers are treated to an odd montage in which women -- O'Neill's wife (Caroline Dhavernas) and his boss (Laura Linney) -- are seen sitting, waiting while the two men are on their way to a drop. It's odd because the wife is modern and inquisitive and the boss is, well, a woman -- both antitheses of the American women represented by the Andrews Sisters. It's an odd scene because neither character is the type to wait on a man. And yet there it is.

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