‘Movies are a necessity to our lives’ – TCM Film Festival round-up

“What are you most excited about,” several people asked when I arrived in Hollywood at the Turner Classic Film Festival last Wednesday.

I fumbled for words like Ralphie trying to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas as I thought of the best answer.

My mind turned to seeing 93-year-old actress Maureen O’Hara introduce the film “How Green is My Valley” or to watching rare films like Alan Ladd in “The Great Gatsby” on the big screen.

Robert Osborne interview Maureen O'Hara before "How Green is My Valley." (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Robert Osborne interview Maureen O’Hara before “How Green is My Valley.” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Suddenly it hit me: I was happy to be around people who appreciated classic films as much as I do- if not more. People with whom you can discuss classic film topics such as character actor Donald Meek or Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones divorce.

This year’s festival was the second time I attended. I had the privilege to receive media credentials, covering the festival for my website Comet Over Hollywood and the Shelby Star newspaper.

The festival started with a question and answer portion with Turner Classic Movie’s primetime host Robert Osborne, host Ben Mankiewicz, and TCM programers Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy.

“Movies are a necessity to our lives,” Osborne said.

My second go at the festival was different than my first time. My first time at TCMFF, I devoured as many movies as possible. For example, last year, I watched 18 films, and this year I only saw roughly 12.

I think this year I had a richer adventure. I watched films but experienced unique events not found anywhere near me.

Where else can you see an actor like Jerry Lewis immortalized during a hand print ceremony outside of TCL (Graumann’s) Chinese Theater or wait in line for two hours to see a rare appearance made by Maureen O’Hara.

But my favorite event was “Ask Robert,” which started under the pretense of a question and answer portion for Robert Osborne.

After four questions from the audience, Osborne’s lavalier microphone supposedly stopped working. Jeopardy’s host Alex Trebek appeared to remedy the issue.

The event turned more into “This is Your Life” celebration for Osborne to celebrate 20 years of Turner Classic Movies. Celebrities such as Eva Marie Saint, Diane Baker, Alec Baldwin, Bill Cosby (on video), Cher (on video) Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, and pianist Michael Feinstein shared stories about Osborne.

The crowd and guests toasted to Robert Osborne and 20 years of TCM. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

The crowd and guests toasted to Robert Osborne and 20 years of TCM. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

What you see is what you get,” said Osborne’s cousin. “When he talks to you, he makes you feel like you are the only person in the world that he wants to talk to.”

I also had the privilege to hear musician Quincy Jones and actor Alan Arkin reflect on their careers, as well as former child actress Margaret O’Brien pay tribute to the late Mickey Rooney.

“He always had his ‘Mickey’ face,” O’Brien said.

Maureen O’Hara received a standing ovation and she weakly waved her hand to tell everyone to sit down.

“Don’t be fooled into thinking I do magic things,” said the 93-year-old Irish actress.

The Turner Classic Film Festival is four days filled with film watching and walking down the strangest place in America- Hollywood Boulevard. You may don’t eat much, you may sleep four hours a night and it’s wonderful.

Posing with Robert Osborne's star on the Walk of Fame in front of the Montalban Theater. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Posing with Robert Osborne’s star on the Walk of Fame in front of the Montalban Theater. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Watch Comet Over Hollywood during the next few days for more detailed posts on different festival events including Jerry Lewis’s hand print ceremony, Maureen O’Hara’s appearance and Margaret O’Brien’s tribute to Mickey Rooney.

Which movies did I watch?
*American Graffiti (1973)
*East of Eden (1955)
*Paper Moon (1973)
*The Italian Job (1968)
*Eraserhead (1977)
*How Green Was My Valley (1941)
*Her Sister’s Secret (1946)
*National Velvet (1944)
*Gone with the Wind (1939)
*The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968)
*The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Which special guests did I see? 
*Candy Clark- American Graffiti
*Paul Le Mat- American Graffiti
*Bo Hopkins- American Graffiti (who is also from Greenville, SC)
*Eva Marie Saint- Ask Robert
*Alex Trebek- Ask Robert
*Diane Baker- Ask Robert
*Alec Baldwin- Ask Robert
*Jill St. John- Ask Robert
*Robert Wagner- Ask Robert
*Michael Feinstein- Ask Robert
*Quincy Jones- Italian Job
*Maureen O’Hara- How Green is my Valley
*Here Sister’s Secret- Arianne Ulmer Cipes, daughter of Edgar Ulmer
*The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Alan Arkin
*Jerry Lewis during his hand print ceremony
*Quentin Tarantino during his hand print ceremony

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at@HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

 

About these ads

Musical Monday: “The Cuban Love Song” (1931)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

cubanThis week’s musical:
“The Cuban Love Song” –Musical #482

Studio:
MGM

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke

Starring:
Lupe Velez, Lawrence Tibbett, Karen Morley, Jimmy Durrante, Louise Fazenda

Plot:
Marine Terry (Tibbett) meets Nenita (Velez) when he upsets her peanut cart in Cuba with his car. The two have a romance, but he has to leave her to fight in the Cuban War. Though he loves Nenita, Terry has to return to his fiance Crystal (Morely). Many years later, we see now married Terry reunite with his military buddies and unhappy in his life in the upper social stratosphere. He returns Cuba in search of Nenita.

Trivia:
-The film was not a success, but two of the songs- “The Cuban Love Song” and “El Manisero” (The Peanut Vendor Song)- became hits, according to the book “Lupe Velez: The Life and Career of Hollywood’s “Mexican Spitfire”” by Michelle Vogel.
-At the end of the movie, the prop boys presented Velez with a hand-carved makeup box. She said, “Every man offer Lupe diamonds, which she no take, but no man ever made anything for her with both his hand,” Vogel cited a 1932 issue of “Photoplay” in her book.
-”The authors are doing their best to kill my movie career, I haven’t had a good story yet,” Tibbett is quoted in the book “The First Hollywood Musicals” by Edwin Bradley.
-Tibbett’s final musical for MGM.

Lupe Velez and Lawrence Tibbett in "Cuban Love Song"

Lupe Velez and Lawrence Tibbett in “Cuban Love Song”

Highlights:
-Lawrence Tibbett is the first noted opera singer to star in films, so it is interesting to see Tibbett on screen. The Metropolitan Opera singer was only in six films and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in “The Rogue Song” (1929).

Notable Songs:
-Cuban Love Song sung by Lawrence Tibbett
-El Manisero sung by Lupe Velez

My Review:
This isn’t the greatest film and did poorly in the box office. However, I enjoy most films that star Lupe Velez. In this movie you get to see her energy and hear her singing voice, which is pretty good.
It is also interesting to see Metropolitan Opera singer Lawrence Tibbett in films.
“Cuban Love Song” isn’t the best musical ever made and doesn’t have a unique plot. But it kept me fairly entertained.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

TCM Film Festival Day 1: Press Day

Robert Osborne had no idea he would touch so many lives through movies.

“People have said TCM has helped them get through divorce, unemployment or illness,” TCM’s primetime host said Friday. “I never thought I would be a nurse.”

Osborne, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz and TCM programers Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy opened the floor to questions during the film festival’s press day.

Robert Osborne at press day during #TCMFF

Robert Osborne at press day during #TCMFF

“Movies are a necessity to our lives,” Osborne said.

Osborne told about how he got his start in Hollywood with Lucille Ball and lived with character actress Jane Darwell when he first moved to California.

“When I asked Lucy who her favorite leading man was, she said she didn’t care about those. She was more interested in the character actors,” Osborne said. “

Osborne was originally interested in acting, but it was Ball who encouraged him to write a book with all of his film knowledge. Nostalgia wasn’t big at the time, and she felt he should utilize it.

He also said Ball wasn’t funny in real life like we see on the “I Love Lucy Show” or in her films.

“Lucy was a great lady. But she wasn’t funny,” he said. “She didn’t think funny or do funny things.”

When he met Ball, she was going through her divorce with Desi Arnaz.

“She loved him, but it just wasn’t working,” he said. “Desi was really the genius behind I Love Lucy but never got the recognition. I guess that’s why he would step out with other women.”

When Osborne was starting out as an actor, he got to be friends with Diane Baker and Robert Wagner who were also starting out at the time.

Young contract players were encouraged to watch big stars film their movies. He was able to watch Orson Welles in “Compulsion,” Gary Cooper in “Ten North Frederick” and Marlon Brando in “The Young Lions.”

‘Festival means something to people’

“This festival means something to people in their hearts and souls,” Mankewicz said. “TCM got them through, and I take that incredibly seriously.”

No other channel has a loyalty like TCM, Mankewicz said.

“I don’t feel like fans are as connected to HBO or ESPN,” he said. “Our fans care about TCM and feel like they are a part of the network.”

The festival is a way for channel and fans to connect and give back, Mankewicz said.

“I don’t even think we make much money on the festival,” he said. “It does raise the profile for TCM but it’s more to connect with our fans.”

TCM’s audience is much younger than most people think. Sixty-six percent of TCM’s viewers are 18 to 49, said Mankewicz.

“I thought this would be more of a nostalgia thing, but it’s very young people,” Osborne said. “You may see some older married couples in their 60′s, but it’s mainly younger people.”

As viewers get older though, the TCM won’t start showing newer movies.

“We aren’t going to start showing movies from 2004,” Mankewicz said. “We are never going to stop showing the movies that we watching right now.”

Ben Mankewicz at Press Day

Ben Mankewicz at Press Day

Questions from the media:

Q for Robert: Who have you wanted to come to the festival?

A: We really wanted Olivia de Havilland to be here. She is 97 and sharp as anything but the trip from Paris is too much for her. She visited her niece in Malibu and it took her a year to recover. She really wanted to be here this year. We have a Private Screenings set up with her in November in Paris and we were there, but she got pneumonia and we had to cancel. We rescheduled and were going to do it in New York but she had another flair up with pneumonia.

Q for Robert: What are your favorite movies?

A: “A Place in the Sun,” “Razor’s Edge,” “Sunset Blvd.” and “This is Spinal Tap.”

Q for Robert: Where do you get your style?

A: “Its confession time: I have no style, it’s all picked out for me.

Q for Robert: Will there ever be a character actor as the Star of the Month? 

A: We have been trying to do that more character actors, but they really need to have one or two films where they are one of the main characters.

Q to programers: What star would you like to see at the festival?

A: Doris Day is at the top of our list.

**More to come from Friday’s adventures! Don’t forget to follow me at @HollywoodComet, @StarJPickens or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cometoverhollywood

 

 

The Comet goes to the TCM Film Festival

image001

Today, the Comet really will be over Hollywood.

Today I’m flying out from North Carolina to Los Angeles, CA for the fifth annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.

After attending the festival for my first time last year, I knew I wasn’t going to miss it when it rolled around the next spring.

The main difference this year is I am going to the film festival with press credentials.

I’ll be flexing my reporting muscles I use on a daily basis as a reporter at the Shelby Star in Shelby, NC and covering the different events and films I attend.

It will be a perfect mix of the two things I love: reporting and classic films. Folks at work even call me Torchy Blane.

Classic films have been a large part of my life so it’s a pleasure to share film experiences with others equally as passionate.

How can you follow me? 
Twitter: @HollywoodComet or @StarJPickens
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cometoverhollywood
Instagram: @HollywoodComet
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfaDOeIsKQhOJcPXUaHg98g
Or here! CometOverHollywood.com

Are you heading to the festival? Comment below and let us know what you are most excited about at this year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.

Comet Over Hollywood owner Jessica Pickens with TCM host Robert Osborne at TCMFF 2013.

Comet Over Hollywood owner Jessica Pickens with TCM host Robert Osborne at TCMFF 2013.

Take a look at last year’s festival: http://cometoverhollywood.com/category/turner-classic-movie-film-festival-2/

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates or follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet.

Classics at the Carolinas: Lunch with Mickey Rooney

Barbecue patrons still talk about the day Mickey Rooney came to town.

Rooney, who passed away Sunday at age 93, visited Shelby, NC to eat at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in 1997.  He was told it was the best barbecue in North Carolina.

Read the full story I wrote for The Shelby Star here: 

http://www.shelbystar.com/news/local/lunch-with-mickey-rooney-1.302034?tc=cr

 

(The Star/Jessica Pickens) Natalie Ramsey, VP of Red Bridges Barbecue, remembers when Mickey Rooney visited the restaurant in 1997. She holds a Shelby Star article that hangs in the restaurant.

(The Star/Jessica Pickens) Natalie Ramsey, VP of Red Bridges Barbecue, remembers when Mickey Rooney visited the restaurant in 1997. She holds a Shelby Star article that hangs in the restaurant.

 

Starring in 10 films with Judy Garland and winner of a Juvenile Academy Award along with Deanna Durbin, Rooney was the top box office draw of 1939.

I can’t deny that Rooney occasionally gets on my nerves in his films, but he was an important aspect of film history-starting in vaudeville, acting in silent films as a youngster and making movies into his 90s, including the 2011 Muppets film.

He had energy and could definitely sell a song.

What are your memories of Mickey Rooney? Did you have a favorite film or ever see him in person? 

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in "Love Finds Andy Hardy."

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in “Love Finds Andy Hardy.”

 

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at@HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Musical Monday: “Campus Rhythm (1943)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Campus Rhythm” — Musical #483

full.campusrhythm-TC-8923__95376.1383175877.1280.1280

Studio:
Monogram Pictures Corporation

Director:
Arthur Dreifuss

Starring:
Gale Storm, Johnny Downs, Marie Blake, Robert Lowery, Claudia Drake, GeGe Pearson, Candy Candido

Plot:
Radio singer Joan Abbott (Storm) has been in show business all her life and wants to go to college. However, her uncle has the power to sign her to a radio contract when she is ready to leave for school. Joan runs away from the radio career and goes to college under the fake name Susie Smith. She meets school newspaper man Scoop (Downs) and frat boy wolf Buzz (Lowery) who vie for her attentions, much to the chagrin of Buzz’s girl Cynthia (Drake). Cynthia suspects Joan’s true identity and contacts the radio station.

Trivia:
-The movie is about a radio singer and features real radio performer GeGe Pearson.
-Candy Candido uses goofy voices in his musical numbers. You may recognize his voice as the voice to characters in some Disney films.

Highlights:
-Jitterbugging co-eds featuring dancer Genevieve Grazis

Notable Songs:
None of the songs are famous or popular, but they are all fun and very World War II era such as:
-It’s Great to be a College Girl sung by Gale Storm
-Walkin’ the Chalk Line sung by Gale Storm and GeGe Pearson
-Swing Your Way Through College sung by Gale Storm
-You Character sung by GeGe Pearson
-But Not You sung by Gale Storm

My Review:
“Campus Rhythm” is a low budget film with a simple plot and several unfamiliar actors. However, it’s a lot of fun.
Collegiate films are some of my favorite and this ranks pretty well. It’s full of 1940s fashion and music.
This is a fresh little film and it’s 63 minutes worth watching.

 Also checkout our friend Raquel’s post on “Campus Rhythm” over at Out of the Past blog

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Musical Monday: “The Helen Morgan Story” (1957)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

Tthe-helen-morgan-story-movie-poster-1957-1020431163his week’s musical:
The Helen Morgan Story” –Musical #481

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Michael Curtiz

Starring:
Ann Blyth, Paul Newman, Richard Carlson, Ed Platt, Gene Evans, Alan King, Cara Williams, Virginia Vincent, Juanita Moore, Leonid Kinskey
As themselves: Rudy Vallee, Walter Winchell, Jimmy McHugh

Plot:
Biographical musical film on the life of singer Helen Morgan. The film starts with Morgan (Blyth) starting out her career dancing at a carnival show that is managed by Larry Maddux (Newman).
Morgan becomes famous, going from nightclub singer to Broadway star. Along the way, her alcoholism and on and off relationship with Maddux torment her.
Morgan hits rock bottom, broke and drunk. The movie ends with Morgan healthy and being honored by celebrities and Walter Winchell.

Trivia:

Ann Blyth and Paul Newman in a publicity still for "The Helen Morgan Story"

Ann Blyth and Paul Newman in a publicity still for “The Helen Morgan Story”

-Ann Blyth had a lovely singing voice but was dubbed by singer Gogi Grant.
In an interview, TCM Primetime Host Robert Osborne asked Ann Blyth why she was dubbed.
Blyth told Osborne she figured Warner Brothers wanted a different sound so chose Grant. When Blyth was researching the role, she listened to a record of the real Helen Morgan and her voice was actually more soprano and not very strong. But Grant was popular at the the time, and she figured the producers thought that would help promote the movie.
The critics felt Blyth’s voice would have worked better in the film.

 

-”The Helen Morgan Story” was Ann Blyth’s last theatrical film.
In an interview with Robert Osborne, she said the parts just weren’t there anymore. She later was offered the lead in “The Three Faces Of Eve” which Joanne Woodward won an Academy Award for.

-Peggy Lee, Susan Hayward, Jennifer Jones, Judy Garland, Patti Page and Doris Day were all considered for the lead.

-Doris Day turned down the role of Helen Morgan, because she thought the hard drinking character would hurt her career. Day had similar concerns before she portrayed Ruth Etting in “Love Me or Leave Me” (1955), according to her autobiography.

-The same year, five months before the film was released, Polly Bergen portrayed “Helen Morgan” on television on “Playhouse 90.” Bergen won an Emmy for Best Lead Performance by an Actress.

Notable Songs:
All of the songs are performed by Gogi Grant and are well known, including:
-”Can’t Help Loving that Man of Mine” from “Show Boat”
-”Bill” from “Show Boat”
-”The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else”
-”Someone to Watch Over Me”
-”Somebody Loves Me”
-”You Do Something to Me”
-”Why Was I Born?”

For comparison of Helen Morgan and Gogi Grant’s voices, both singing “Why Was I Born?” -

Helen Morgan:

Gogi Grant who dubbed Ann Blyth: 

My Review:

The real Helen Morgan

The real Helen Morgan

Fifty-seven years later, I’m upset that Ann Blyth was dubbed by Gogi Grant.
Blyth said she thought Warner was looking for a different sound, but Blyth would have sang the songs well.

Also, the real Helen Morgan’s voice matched Blyth’s voice more than the belting, Judy Garland-Like Grant’s voice.
Obviously as the story of Helen Morgan’s life is a bit fabricated.

Morgan was married three times, which wasn’t shown in the film. She also died of liver failure due to alcoholism in 1941, yet the film unsurprisingly painted a happy ending.

The Helen Morgan Story” isn’t a great movie, but it isn’t bad either. It is simply a run-of-the-mill sad, torch singer biopic that was characteristic of the 1950s. This time it was just Ann Blyth in the lead role, rather than Susan Hayward.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Musical Monday: “Call Me Madam” (1953)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

Call Me MadamThis week’s musical:
Call Me Madam” –Musical #430

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, Vera-Ellen, George Sanders, Billy De Wolfe, Helmut Dantine, Walter Slezak

Plot:
Set in 1951 during the Truman-era, socialite Sally Adams (Merman) heads to the fictional European country of Lichtenburg as a United States of America ambassador. Adams’ assistant Kenneth Gibson (O’Connor) falls in love with Princess Maria (Ellen) and Adams falls in love with General Cosmo Constantine (Sanders).
Based on the Broadway play with music by Irving Berlin.

Trivia:
-Film adaptation of the 1950 Broadway play that also starred Ethel Merman. The show opened Oct. 12, 1950, and ran for 644 performances through May 3, 1952. Merman won a Tony for her performance on stage.
-Sally Adams is based on based on Washington, D.C. hostess and Democratic Party fundraiser Perle Mesta. Mesta was selected by Harry Truman to be the American ambassador to Luxembourg. The musical is a satire of the behavior of gauche Americans abroad, according to Hollywood Musicals Year by Year by Stanley Green.
-Carol Richards dubbed Vera-Ellen’s singing voice.
-20th Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck was making “Call Me Madam” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” at the same time. Zannuck noted in his memoirs “Madam” was a better film but “Blondes” would make more. Blondes did double the gross of Madam, Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century-Fox edited by Rudy Behlmer

Highlights:

Vera-Ellen and Donald O'Connor dancing to "It's a Lovely Day Today"

Vera-Ellen and Donald O’Connor dancing to “It’s a Lovely Day Today”

-George Saunders has a lovely singing voice in “Marrying for Love.”
-Three minutes into the film, Merman almost says “I don’t know what the hell your talking about” but stops herself and repeats the line. “I don’t know what the he- I don’t know what you are talking about.”
-Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen’s dance to “It’s a Lovely Day Today” in the garden. And all of their dances together.
-Vera-Ellen’s wardrobe.

Notable Songs:
-Hostess with the Mostest sung by Ethel Merman
-It’s a Lovely Day Today sung by Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen. Ellen is dubbed by Carol Richards.
-Marrying for Love sung by George Saunders
-You’re Just In Love sung by Donald O’Connor and Ethel Merman
-Mrs. Sally Adams sung by a trio of ladies answering the phone. Their voices blend beautifully

My Review:
A little bit of Ethel Merman can go a long way, but you can’t deny this is her best film role.
The film was taken from a successful Broadway show that also starred Merman, “Call Me Madam” is colorful and has an excellent cast.
Merman originated several musical roles on stage such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Panama Hattie,” “DuBarry was a Lady” and “Gypsy.” However, when the shows went from stage to film, Merman’s role was always recast with a younger, sexier star. However, film audiences get to see Merman in a role she originated on film with “Call Me Madam.” Though to me, her singing voice can be overwhelming, you can tell Merman’s appeal on stage with the energy and humor she shows in the film role.
Also in the film, I would say Donald O’Connor steals the show. He sings and dances beautifully and has the opportunity to sing a duet with Merman. Vera-Ellen also dances beautifully, but her performance is lessened by the terrible accent she has to speak.
George Sanders is a surprise in the musical with his beautiful singing voice.
Though “Call Me Madam” isn’t my favorite musical, its energetic, funny and fun. The Irving Berlin songs are entertaining, the costumes are beautiful and the talent is excellent.

Donald O'Connor, Ethel Merman, George Sander,  Vera-Ellen in "Call Me Madam"

Donald O’Connor, Ethel Merman, George Sander, Vera-Ellen in “Call Me Madam”

 Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Musical Monday: “Paddy O’Day” (1935) *St. Patrick’s Day Edition*

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

paddy o'dayThis week’s musical:
Paddy O’Day” –Musical #480

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Lewis Seiler

Starring:
Jane Withers, Jane Darwell, Pinky Tomlin, Rita Hayworth (as Rita Casino), Russell Simpson, Vera Lewis, Louise Carter

Plot:
Paddy O’Day (Withers) is an Irish orphan who travels from Ireland to the United States to live with her mother. When she arrives, she learns that her mother is dead. With the help of some friends Paddy make along the way, she is able to stay in the United States and not return to Ireland.

Trivia:
-This is one of four films Jane Withers made in 1935. The others were “The Farmer Takes a Wife,” “Ginger” and “This is the Life.”
-Rita Hayworth’s sixth film role. Rita is credited as Rita Cansino. She changed her last name to “Hayworth” the next year.
-This is Rita Hayworth’s firs prominent film role.
-Jane Withers and Rita Hayworth became friends while making this movie. Withers gave the eulogy at Hayworth’s funeral in 1987.
-Judy Garland was considered for a performance in this film, according to Judy: A Legendary Film Career by John Fricke

Rita Hayworth and Jane Withers in "Paddy O'Day" (1935)

Rita Hayworth and Jane Withers in “Paddy O’Day” (1935)

Highlights:
-Young Rita Hayworth dancing at the very beginning of the film.

Notable Songs:
-Keep the Twinkle in Your Eye sung by Jane Withers (three times)
-Changing My Ambitions sung by Pinky Tomlin
-I Like a Balalaika sung by Jane Withers

Pinky Tomlin, Jane Withers and Rita Hayworth in "Paddy O'Day" (1935)

Pinky Tomlin, Jane Withers and Rita Hayworth in “Paddy O’Day” (1935)

My Review:
Paddy O’Day” is an adorable film and a good example of the type of films child star Jane Withers starred in at Fox. While Shirley Temple made the big budget, glittering A films at Fox, Withers was in the B movies at Fox.
However, she was very popular because she seemed like a regular kid and was more relatable, said TCM Primetime host Robert Osborne.
The only issue in this film is that Withers has a cringe worthy Irish accent. But she’s so adorable that you can look past it. I also wish Jane Darwell had a larger role.
It’s also fun to see 16-year-old Rita Hayworth dancing in the movie, looking young, fresh and not yet glamorized.
One interesting note: Jane Withers didn’t have a major crying scene. This is unusual for a 1930s child star. Most child stars boasted their crying talents.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day with this Irish themed, fun film!

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Musical Monday: “Muscle Beach Party” (1964)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

muscle-beach-party-movie-poster-1964-1020144107This week’s musical:
Muscle Beach Party” –Musical #298

Studio:
American International Pictures

Director:
William Asher

Starring:
Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, John Ashley, Don Rickles, Jody McCrea (son of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee), Dick Dale, Donna Loren, Candy Johnson, Morey Amsterdam, Stevie Wonder, Buddy Hackett, Peter Lorre, Luciana Paluzzi, Peter Lupus

Plot:
Frankie (Avalon) and Dee Dee (Funicello) head to the beach for Easter vacation with their friends to surf, dance and have fun. Once they get to the beach they meet Jack Fanny (Rickles) and his group of muscle bound body builders. When Contessa Julie (Paluzzi) can’t woo Flex (Lupus), she tries to steal Frankie from Dee Dee.
Cheesy gags, music and dancing are sprinkled throughout the plot line.

Trivia:
-Stevie Wonder was 13 when he appeared in this film and was billed as “Little Stevie Wonder.”
-”Muscle Beach Party” cost $300,000 to make and grossed $12 million, according to The Encyclopedia of Surfing by Matt Warshaw
-The second beach movie directed by William Asher, following “Beach Party” (1964). This film was followed by “Bikini Beach” (1964), “Beach Blanket Bingo” (1965) and “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini ” (1965), all directed by Asher.
-The only beach movie that doesn’t feature Eric Von Zipper and his gang.
-Don Rickles film debut.
-Larry Scott, the body builder who played Rock, was an actual bodybuilder and was the first Mr. Olympia.

Muscle men in "Muscle Beach Party" (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen capped by Jessica P)

Muscle men in “Muscle Beach Party” (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen capped by Jessica P)

-Peter Lorre died two days after this film was released.
-In all of the beach movies, Annette Funicello wore more conservative bathing suits. That was out of her respect to Walt Disney who asked her to keep up a clean image, Funicello said in an interview.
-Donna Loren was signed to a multi-picture deal. The heads of American International were impressed with her duet with Dick Dale, Drive-In Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties by Tom Lisanti.
-During one scene, Peter Lorre and Frankie Avalon say the other looks familiar. This is a joke referencing their previous film they made together, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (1961).
-Most of the beach films only took two weeks to make, according to Beyond the Stars 2: Plot Conventions in American Popular Film edited by Paul Loukides, Linda K. Fuller

Frankie and Annette "surfing" in "Muscle Beach Party" (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen capped by Jessica P.)

Frankie and Annette “surfing” in “Muscle Beach Party” (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen capped by Jessica P.)

Highlights:
-Cartoon opening credits
-Surfing footage, especially when we are supposed to believe the stars are surfing.
-Candy Johnson’s 1960s dancing in her tasseled outfits
-Guitarist Dick Dale performing
-Cheesy humor like a cartoon cupid playing a harp beside Luciana Paluzzi as she’s looking at the bodybuilders.

Credits with Candy Johnson dancing and Stevie Wonder dancing:

Notable Songs:
-Muscle Bustle performed by Donna Loren and Dick Dale
-Happy Street performed by Stevie Wonder
-A Boy Needs a Girl sung by Annette Funicello (I noted this because it’s Annette’s only solo. It’s not her best song ever and ends abruptly, but worth noting). Reprised later by Frankie Avalon
-Muscle Beach Party sung by Dick Dale and the Del Tones
-Runnin’ Wild sung by Frankie Avalon

Jody McCrea (Joel McCrea's son), Dick Dale, John Ashley, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in "Muscle Beach Party"

Jody McCrea (Joel McCrea’s son), Dick Dale, John Ashley, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in “Muscle Beach Party”

My Review:
I’m always surprised how Frankie and Annette end up together at the end of each film when she has to win him back from another girl.
So obviously none of the beach films have a serious, ground breaking plot and “Muscle Beach Party” isn’t excluded. All the silly plots also all occasionally blend together.
However, they are a great deal of fun. The outfits are great, the music is awesome and the dancing sequences on the beach are my favorite (especially if it involves Candy Johnson and Donna Loren). It’s a great snapshot of culture in the early 1960s. And Annette is one of my favorites so I can’t hate any of her films.
Compared to several of the films, I would say “Muscle Beach Party,” “Beach Party” and “Beach Blanket Bingo” are my three favorites.
So if you are looking for brainless, RIDICULOUS, hair-brained fun, check out this film…or any other beach movie.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com