Musical Monday: Serenade (1956)

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:
“Serenade” –Musical #510

serena3

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Anthony Mann

Starring:
Mario Lanza, Joan Fontaine, Sara Montiel, Vincent Price, Joseph Callelia, Vince Edwards, Ed Platt

Plot:
Vineyard worker Damon (Lanza) has dreams of becoming an opera star. When socialite Kendall Hale (Fontaine) gets lost and spots him in vineyard, makes Damon her project to make him famous. But like other countless athletes and artists, Kendall builds them up to toss them aside, causing destruction to each one. Damon is no exception. After a break down, Damon goes to Mexico where he tries to rebuild his life.

Trivia:

Mario Lanza dressed in costume "Othello."

Mario Lanza dressed in costume “Othello.”

-Adapted from a James M. Cain novel.
-Metropolitan Opera Singer Licia Albanese is featured in the “Othello” scene.
-Mario Lanza’s first film in three years.
-A brief part of “Othello” is performed in the film. While Lanza is only in costume for 14 minutes, the makeup took four hours, according to a March 24, 1956, “Miami News” article.
-In the film, Juana (Montiel) becomes Damon’s wife. In the Cain book, she is a prostitute and the two open a brothel together. Also in the book, Damon struggles with bisexuality.

Notable Songs:
-“Dio Ti Giocondi” performed by Mario Lanza and Licia Albanese
-“Serenade” performed by Mario Lanza
-“Ave Maria” performed by Mario Lanza

The only really exciting part of the film.

The only really exciting part of the film.

My Review:
Simply put, “Serenade” is dull.
It’s a slow moving, predictable plot. The plot is predictable and not new: the mature society lady who molds an artist just to move on to the next project. The most interesting characters were played by the secondary roles. Vincent Price was the most interesting character as he helps Lanza with his career. It’s also interesting to see character actor Joseph Calleia as an elderly music lover.
The most sympathetic character was Juana, played by Sara Montiel. She was lovely and also brought two rather exciting scenes to an otherwise boring movie.
While Mario Lanza has a beautiful voice and I enjoy opera, his songs are also boring. It is disappointing that the “Othello” scene is so brief.
“Serenade” is overly dramatic and overly long. Even Anthony Mann’s direction and beautiful music could not save this film.

 

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

Musical Monday: My Wild Irish Rose (1947)

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:
“My Wild Irish Rose” –Musical #309

picture

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Dennis Morgan, Arlene Dahl, Andrea King, Alan Hale, George Tobias, George O’Brien, Sara Allgood, Ben Blue, William Frawley

Plot:
Fictional, biographical film on Irish singer Chauncey Olcott (Morgan); chronicling his rise to fame and connections with performer Lillian Russell (King) and William Scanlan (Frawley). As he climbs the ladder to fame, Olcott meets and falls in love with Rose Donovan (Dahl), who’s father (Hale) does not want her to be involved with Olcott.

Trivia:

Dennis Morgan as Chauncey Olcott and Andrea King as Lillian Russell in "My Wild Irish Rose" (1947).

Dennis Morgan as Chauncey Olcott and Andrea King as Lillian Russell in “My Wild Irish Rose” (1947).

-Chauncey Olcott was an performer, songwriter and actor who’s career spanned from 1894 until 1920. Born in New York, Olcott’s family was of Irish decent, so most of his songs had Irish themes to them. He was born in 1858 and died in 1932. According to critic Dorothy Parker, Lillian Russell and Olcott were friends and she helped his career.
-Alexis Smith was considered for the role of Lillian Russell, which went to Andrea King. Virginia Bruce was also set for the role, according to “The Women of Warner Brothers” by Daniel Bubbeo.
-Andrea King was dubbed in her role as Lillian Russell, according to Bubbeo’s book.
-“My costumes were the most beautiful I had ever seen and my jewelry was real. I had two armed guards with me at all times,” King said in Bubbeo’s book.
-Arlene Dahl’s first credited role.
-Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.
-The film was based from a 1939 story written by Olcott’s widow, Rita, called “Song in His Heart,” according to Bubbeo’s book.
-One of Warner Brother’s top films of 1948.

Highlights:
-Any time Dennis Morgan sings in any film is a highlight.

Dennis Morgan performs in "My Wild Irish Rose" (1947).

Dennis Morgan performs in “My Wild Irish Rose” (1947).

Notable Songs:
-Hush-a-Bye, Wee Rose of Killarney performed by Dennis Morgan
-My Wild Irish Rose performed by Dennis Morgan
-When Irish Eyes Are Smiling performed by Dennis Morgan
-Let Me Dream Some More performed by Dennis Morgan and Andrea King
-Mother Machree performed by Dennis Morgan

My Review:
chaunceyAs Comet Over Hollywood has discussed countless times before, many Hollywood biographical films, particularly those of the musical nature, are embellished and provide very little actual fact.
“My Wild Irish Rose” is no exception. The real Chauncey Olcott may look more like William Frawley than Dennis Morgan.
However, it’s a fun, colorful and entertaining film filled with notable Irish songs; all performed in Dennis Morgan’s velvety voice. While Morgan sings, George O’Brien and Ben Blue bring some comedy to the film.
Other familiar and likable Warner Brothers faces appear in this lush, Technicolor film including Alan Hale, Andrea King and George Tobias.
What I like about “My Wild Irish Rose,” is that Dennis Morgan truly gets center stage without having to share screen time, songs and leading ladies with Jack Carson. This seems to be a rare musical gem in Morgan’s career where he is the only singing lead, so we hear multiple Irish classic tunes performed by Mr. Morgan.
If you are a Dennis Morgan fan, love Irish music or simply want a nice film for St. Patrick’s Day, check out “My Wild Irish Rose.”

 

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

Musical Monday: First a Girl (1935)

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.

first a girlThis week’s musical:
“First a Girl” –Musical #505

Studio:
RKO

Director:
Leigh Jason

Starring:
Jessie Matthews, Sonnie Hale, Anna Lee,

Plot:
Elizabeth (Matthews) is a delivery girl at a dress store with dreams of being a dancer. One day, she borrows a dress for an audition and doesn’t get the part. In the meanwhile, she meets down on his luck Shakespearean actor Victor (Hale) who does female impersonations. After ruining the dress, Elizabeth is too afraid to return to the dress store. Victor allows her to get in on his act. When Victor is too ill to go on stage as a female impersonator, he grooms Elizabeth to act as a female impersonator, even though she is already a woman. Elizabeth becomes a huge success but problems arise when she falls in love with a man.

Trivia:
-Late remade as “Victor/Victoria” (1982) starring James Garner, Julie Andrews and Robert Preston.
-Adapted from a 1933 German film called “Viktor and Viktoria”

Highlights:
-Jessie Matthews drinking with Griffith Jones, who believes she’s a man. However, she is not used to the strong beverages that he keeps ordering.

Jessie Matthews, Sonny Hale and Griffith Jones in "First a Girl"

Jessie Matthews, Sonny Hale and Robert Griffith in “First a Girl”

Notable Songs:
-It’s Written All Over Your Face performed by Jessie Matthews
-Everything’s In Rhythm With My Heart performed by Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale
-Half and Half performed by Jessie Matthews
-Say The Word And It’s Yours performed by Jessie Matthews

Everything’s In Rhythm With My Heart:

My Review:
When this film began I kept thinking how similar it was to the 1982 film “Victor/Victoria.” Until seeing this movie, I had no idea it was a remake.
“First a Girl” is an entertaining little British film with a subject matter that would probably not have been seen in a 1935 American film. Not only is Jessie Matthews supposed to be a cross dressing male (though the audience knows she is a female), there are some homosexual innuendos and jokes that probably would not have even been seen in a pre-code American film.
When Elizabeth begins falling for Robert (Jones), it is uncertain if he likes her character because she is a man or because she is a man that seems feminine enough to be a woman. Our main character is even a little confused by this.
When I started this film, I was not familiar with any of the main actors but all of them were entertaining. The songs in this musical are forgettable, but it’s story line that is fairly unique for a 1930s film is pleasant, fun and enjoyable. If you come across this forgetting little gem, give it a whirl.

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

Musical Monday: That Girl From Paris (1936)

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.

ADIEU PARIS BONJOUR NEW YORKThis week’s musical:
“That Girl From Paris” –Musical #504

Studio:
RKO

Director:
Leigh Jason

Starring:
Lily Pons, Gene Raymond, Jack Oakie, Herman Bing, Mischa Auer, Frank Jenks, Lucille Ball, Jimmy Dorsey

Plot:
The day of her wedding, French opera star Nicole Martin (Pons) decides she want adventure, rather than marrying the man selected to be her husband. “Nikki” decides she wants adventure and meets up with American singer, bandleader Windy McLean (Raymond) while she is hitchhiking. Windy finds Nikki annoying and sails to America, but Nikki falls in love with him and castaways on the ship. Windy then has trouble on his hands while he avoids arrest for helping hide a stowaway in New York. Windy also has trouble when his girlfriend Claire (Ball) isn’t too fond of Nikki.

Trivia:
-Later remade as “Four Jacks and a Jill” (1942) starring Anne Shirley, June Havoc and Ray Bolger.
-Version of “Street Girl” (1929) starring Betty Compson.

Lucille Ball, Gene Raymond, Jack Oakie, Mischa Auer, Lily Pons and other band members in "That Girl From Paris"

Lucille Ball, Gene Raymond, Jack Oakie, Mischa Auer, Lily Pons and other band members in “That Girl From Paris”

Highlights:
-Lucille Ball’s role.

Notable Songs:
-Love and Learn performed by Jack Oakie
-When You and I Were Young, Maggie performed by Jack Oakie

Behind the scenes photo of Lucille Ball and Lily Pons

Behind the scenes photo of Lucille Ball and Lily Pons

My Review:
“That Girl From Paris” is one of several 1930s and 1940s films that took a page from “It Happened One Night” (1934) — see also “Eve Knew Her Apples” (1945).
Lily Pons runs away from her wedding to find adventure and follows around a man (Raymond) who wants nothing to do with her. I can’t say I blame Gene Raymond, because her character is quite annoying.
The two leads in the films– Lily Pons and Gene Raymond are plain annoying.
The audience is supposed to cheer for Lily Pons to end up with Raymond and live happily ever after, but I honestly feel sorry for Lucille Ball who ends up harassed by Pons and jilted by Raymond.
I found myself enjoying the supporting characters the most. Lucille Ball, Jack Oakie (who wasn’t annoying for once), Mischa Auer and Frank Jenks were much more enjoyable and much less annoying.
“That Girl From Paris” is a run of the mill, low-budget musical filled with high jinks and forgettable songs. Pons does have a beautiful operatic voice, but her annoying character overshadowed that for me.
If you are looking for a runaway bride film just watch “It Happened One Night” instead. If you want a film with good opera music- go the Jane Powell, Deanna Durbin or Jeannette MacDonald route instead.
However, if you are a true Lucille Ball fan looking to watch all of her work, this may be worth your time since she is the only bright spot in this dull film.
I don’t often direct you to not watch a musical, but this one was just too irritating.

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

Musical Monday: Born to Sing (1942)

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.

bornThis week’s musical:
“Born to Sing” –Musical #507

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Edward Ludwig

Starring:
Virginia Weidler, Ray McDonald, Leo Gorcey, Douglas McPhail, Rags Ragland, Sheldon Leonard, Henry O’Neill, Margaret Dumont, Darla Hood, Joe Yule, Charles Lane, Richard Hall, Lester Matthews

Plot:
The day ‘Snap’ Collins (Gorcey) is released from reform school, he and his friends Steve (McDonald) and Steve (Nunn) find Frank Eastman (O’Neill) who has just tried to commit suicide. The three young men revive him just as his teenage daughter Patsy (Weidler) comes home. Eastman reveals that music he composed while he was in prison was stolen by producer Arthur Cartwright (Matthews). The teens work to put on a show so Eastman can get the credit that he deserves.

Trivia:
-Originally a vehicle for Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, according to TCM host Ben Mankeiwicz

Virginia Weidler with her father, played by Henry O'Neill, after he tried to commit suicide in "Born to Sing."

Virginia Weidler with her father, played by Henry O’Neill, after he tried to commit suicide in “Born to Sing.”

Highlights:
-Darla Hood’s film appearance.

Notable Songs:
-“Here I Am, Eight Years Old” performed by Darla Hood
-“Two A.M.” performed by Ray MacDonald and Virginia Weidler

My Review:
This film is a very similar formula of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney musical made around this time. The two Garland/Rooney films I particularly feel it mimics are “Babes on Broadway” (1941) and “Strike Up the Band” (1940).
“Born to Sing” has the same equation of down on their teens with a “Let’s put on a show!” idea to solve all of their financial problems. Somehow, their shows always look as lavish as an Florenz Ziegfeld produced musical– better sets or costumes than I have ever seen in any community theater show.
A few things that really stood out to me as a rip off of previous Rooney/Garland plots:

-The boys come across a deserted building that was once used for Nazi rallies in the United States. Naturally they convert this into a performance space.

Child piano performer Richard Hall.

Child piano performer Richard Hall.

-Richard Hall plays an overly serious child prodigy musician in both “Born to Sing” and “Babes on Broadway.” In both films, people see how little he is and doubt him until he blows them away at the pino.
-“Born to Sing” and “Strike Up the Band” both have large, comedic Conga numbers. Mickey Rooney dresses up like Carmen Miranda in “Do La Conga” and “Born to Sing” features Beverly Hudson singing “I Hate the Conga.”
The big finale was directed by Busby Berkeley, which you think would be great, but it was garbage. The last eight minutes is the Berkeley directed “A Ballad for America” performed by operatic sing Douglas McPhail, who is also in the Garland/Rooney film “Babes in Arms.” I like opera music, but McPhail is dull in every film I have seen him in. On top of his dull singing style, the song is also just plain bland. Several shots in this Berkeley filmed number were fairly reminiscent of the “Forgotten Man” number from “Gold Diggers of 1933.”

Virginia Weidler and Ray McDonald plead for help from a gangster in "Born to Sing."

Virginia Weidler and Ray McDonald plead for help from a gangster in “Born to Sing.”

The saving factor of “Born to Sing” was that my favorite child actress, Virginia Weidler, is a grown up young woman in the film. Sadly, there is not enough Weidler to keep me happy.
The other main notable factor in this film is seeing Darla Hood perform. Hood previously acted in the Our Gang/Little Rascals films. She sings a song called “Here I Am, Eight Years Old” (And my life is already over), which is rather sad and poignant coming from the perspective of a fading child actor.
While “Born to Sing” isn’t a bad movie, it is just a shame that it feels like it’s pages torn out of scripts from other Garland/Rooney films and pasted together.
If this truly was going to be another Garland/Rooney extravaganza as Mankiewicz said in his introduction, I wonder if there would have been some more thought put into the plot.

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

Musical Monday: The Seven Little Foys (1955)

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.

foy2This week’s musical:
The Seven Little Foys” –Musical #499

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Melville Shavelson

Starring:
Bob Hope, Milly Vitale, George Tobias, Angela Clarke, James Cagney, Billy Gray
Narrator: Charley Foy

Plot:
Biographical film of vaudeville performer Eddie Foy (Hope). The film mainly concentrates on Foy’s marriage, the birth of his seven children and how he was never home for his family. After Foy’s wife and mother of the seven children passes away, the children are brought into the act.

Trivia:
-James Cagney reprises his role as George M. Cohen from “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
-Son of Eddie Foy, Charley Foy, narrated the film.
-In 1964, a made for television special of the story aired presented by Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre. In 2007, there was a stage musical adaptation.

Highlights:
-James Cagney as George M. Cohen
-Bob Hope and James Cagney dancing to “Mary’s a Grand Old Name” together

Notable Songs:
-“I’m the Greatest Father Of Them All” performed by Bob Hope and the children
-“Row, Row, Row” performed by Bob Hope and the children
-“Chinatown, My Chinatown” performed by Bob Hope and the children

My Review:

The real Eddie Foy, Sr.

The real Eddie Foy, Sr.

Bob Hope’s role in “The Seven Little Foys” is one of two truly dramatic roles he did in his career, the other being “Beau James” (1957). While fun, comedic Hope is entertaining, I enjoyed seeing a more serious screen performance from him.
The real Eddie Foy, Sr. died in 1928 at the age of 71. His son, Eddie Foy, Jr. can be spotted in several 1930s comedies.
As Comet Over Hollywood has noted many times prior in other posts, biographical films, particularly those of the musical nature, sometimes have fanciful inaccurate plots.
While Foy did have seven children, the movie only shows one wife. In reality, he had four women he was either married to or romantically involved with for many years.
Eddie Foy, Sr. and the Seven Little Foys performed together from 1910 until 1913. After they stopped performing, most of the children went on to pursue their own entertainment careers.
When I first saw this movie in middle school shortly after Hope died in 2003, I didn’t like it. Being used to the wisecracking Hope, I thought he was mean and didn’t enjoy this film. Revisiting this film over 10 years later I enjoyed it a great deal more. I think Hope does a good job with a character who has a bit more meat than films such as “Road to Hong Kong” or “My Favorite Spy.”
The first half of the film sets up Foy as a bit of a heel who is never home for his family and then comes home after she dies. In the second half you see the resentment from his children as he brings them into show business.
Of the musical numbers, the only real standout was a dance duet Bob Hope did with James Cagney, who was reprising his role as George M. Cohen. That is the real standout feature of this film to me, along with seeing Hope’s more serious side.
If you are looking for the stereotypical Bob Hope film of double takes, wisecracks and breaking the fourth wall, “Seven Little Foys” may not be for you. But if you are a Hope fan, I encourage you to check this one out to see the full spectrum of his career.

Bob Hope and the Seven Little Foys in the 1955 biographical film.

Bob Hope and the Seven Little Foys in the 1955 biographical film.

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

Musical Monday: Sweetheart of the Campus (1941)

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.

Sweetheart%20of%20the%20CampusThis week’s musical:
“Sweet Heart of the Campus” –Musical #498

Studio:
Columbia Pictures Corporation

Director:
Edward Dmytryk

Starring:
Ruby Keeler, Ozzie Hilliard, Ozzie Nelson, Gordon Oliver

Plot:
Ozzie Norton (Nelson) and his band which includes dancer Betty Blake (Keeler) are about to open a nightclub near Lambeth Technological College. Before they open, college professors, the sheriff and daughter of the college’s president Harriet Hale (Hilliard) coem to shut down the band because the club is too close to the campus. The club later reopens with Ozzie and his band to help recruit students to the financially floundering school.

Trivia:
-Last film of actress and dancer Ruby Keeler. After guest starring on multiple TV shows, she did make one last movie in 1989 called “Beverly Hills Brats.”
-Husband and wife Ozzie Hilliard and Ozzie Nelson star in the film as love interests.
-The film was also released under the title “Broadway Ahead.”

Ruby Keeler and Ozzie Nelson in "Sweethearts of the Campus" (1941)

Ruby Keeler and Ozzie Nelson in “Sweethearts of the Campus” (1941)

Notable Songs:
-“Tap Happy” performed by Ruby Keeler
-“Zip Me Baby with a Gentle Zag”

My Review:
This is the epitome of a 1940s “B” musical: thin plot, jiving music and celebrities who aren’t exactly on the A list.
I think the thing that I find most interesting is the cast. Most people know Harriet Hilliard and Ozzie Nelson from their 1950s TV show “Ozzie and Harriet” starring themselves and their songs. I always find it interesting to see them in 1930s and 1940s films, playing young people rather than parents.
See Ruby Keeler in her last film was also an interesting comparison to her early Busby Berkeley directed musicals. Her tap dancing seemed much more fluid and graceful in “Sweetheart of the Campus” compared to her “hoofing” in films like “42nd Street” (1933).
After this film, Keeler left films and appeared in a few television shows.
“It (Sweethearts) was so bad, I had no regrets about leaving,” Keeler was quoted in the book “The Women of Warner Brothers” by Daniel Bubbeo.
“Sweetheart of the Campus” is simply fun and entertaining but nothing to write home about. It has music that you tap your foot to and a plot that can keep you interested enough for 67 minutes.

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

Musical Monday: Meet Me After the Show (1951)

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:
“Meet Me After the Show” –Musical #497

meet_me_after_the_show

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Richard Sale

Starring:
Betty Grable, MacDonald Carey, Eddie Albert, Rory Calhoun, Lois Andrews, Irene Ryan, Fred Clark

Plot:
Broadway star Delilah Lee (Grable) is about to start another successful run of a new show written by her husband Jeff Ames (Carey). Jeff discovered Delilah as a cheap singer in Florida and groomed her to be a top star. When Delilah finds out Gloria Carstairs (Andrews) is backing the show and also has the hots for her husband, Delilah leaves him and the show. When Jeff can’t pay the alimony, Delilah feigns amnesia-going back to her performance roots in Florida- to win him back.

Trivia:
-Produced by George Jessel

Highlights:
-Chorus sing “Me-Oh-Miami” as scenes of Miami are shown. Same song was used in the Betty Grable film, “Moon Over Miami.”
-Gwen Verdon as a specialty dancer

Notable Songs:
-Meet Me After the Show performed by Betty Grable
-Betting on a Man performed by Betty Grable

My Review:
For a film that is a musical, I preferred the plot lines over the singing and dancing.
“Meet Me After the Show” has a fairly funny plot line and the non-singing leading men – Eddie Albert and MacDonald Carey- make the film for me. While I love Betty Grable, her performance was overshadowed by the terrible songs that were in this film.
Grable, 20th Century Fox’s top star since the 1940s, has always been able to sell a song with her energy and dancing. But the material she’s given is lousy. One song consists of a lot of body builder-looking men dressed as Romans and Grable dancing around and repeatedly saying “Joe.” I wasn’t sure what Joe and Romans had to do with anything, but the song was annoying. In the number “I Feel Like Dancing” with Gwen Verdon, the two start out dressed like robbers, talk about how they feel like dancing and then suddenly they have Grable in an evening gown. I felt like I missed a major plot line in this song.
The overall film and plot line are fun and funny, but most of the songs had me wishing they would in. However, I wouldn’t overlook it just because of the silly songs. Any Betty Grable film is generally a fun one.

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

Musical Monday: “Sally” (1929)

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.

sally posterThis week’s musical:
“Sally” –Musical #308

Studio:
First National Pictures

Director:
John Francis Dillon

Starring:
Marilyn Miller, Joe E. Brown, Alexander Gray, T. Roy Barnes, Pert Kelton, Ford Sterling,

Plot:
Based on the Broadway play made famous by Marilyn Miller, Sally Green (Miller) is a waitress with dreams of becoming a dancer. A rich fellow named Blair Fellow (Gray) visits Sally at work frequently. Though they are smitten, he is also in a marriage of convenience. One day, Sally drops a tray on a customer and the same day a talent agent offers her a job dancing. One of her dancing jobs is to impersonate a royal Russian dancer at a party given by Blair’s parents. Blair knows it is Sally all along, but when his parents learn she is a fake, they ask her to leave. Sally then becomes a dancer on Broadway.

Trivia:
-The film stars actress Marilyn Miller, who made the play popular on Broadway. The play was produced by Florenz Ziegfeld and ran from 1920 until 1922.
-The full film was originally in 2-color Technicolor. Now, only the “Wild Rose” musical number remains.
-Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction by Jack Okey in 1930.
-The first of three films Marilyn Miller made.

Highlights:
-The last remaining color footage during the “Wild Rose” number

The last remaining color scene during the "Sally."

The last remaining color scene during the “Sally.”

Notable Songs:
-Look for the Silver Lining performed by Alexander Gray
-All I Want to Do Do Do Is Dance performed by Marilyn Miller
-Sally performed by the Ensemble
-If I’m Dreaming (Don’t Wake Me Too Soon) performed by Marilyn Miller and Alexander Gray

My Review:
Marilyn Miller was one of Broadway’s biggest stars of the 1910s and 1920s. However– as noted before by TCM prime time host Robert Osborne– Miller’s onstage magic does not come across on screen.
She is pretty and interesting to watch, but really just nothing special.
Though she is known for her dancing, most of Miller’s steps seem haphazard, uncoordinated with her partners and are far from graceful. Even her ballet number looks a bit amateurish.
However, all of this seems pretty characteristic of musicals made shortly after the dawn of sound in Hollywood. As noted previously in a post about “Tanned Legs” (1929), these early musicals have messy dance numbers, thrown together plots and odd, unflattering dance moves.
Honorable mention goes to Joe E. Brown, who is the most memorable part of this film.
I have no doubt that “Sally” was more enchanting of a story on the stage.

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

Musical Monday: Meet the People (1944)

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.

meet the peopleThis week’s musical:
“Meet the People” –Musical #104

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Charles Riesner

Starring:
Lucille Ball, Dick Powell, Bert Lahr, Virginia O’Brien, Rags Ragland, June Allyson, Howard Freeman
Themselves: Vaughn Monroe and his Orchestra

Plot:
William Swanson (Powell), a shipyard worker has written a musical about the war industry and want glamorous Broadway actress Julie Hampton (Ball) to star in the show. But when the show gets to the stage, William is curious to see that it glosses over the war and heighten the glamour. Pulling his play and heading back to Delaware, Julie follows William to get a glimpse at war work and convince him to reconsider.

Trivia:
-In her autobiography “Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball said she was “just another clothes horse” in this film.
-Ball wrote in her autobiography she loved working with Dick Powell and didn’t feel he ever received proper credit for his talents.
-At the time of this film, actress June Allyson was going to be dropped by MGM. Her next project was going to be “Two Girls and a Sailor” with Gloria DeHaven. Allyson was to play the secondary role as the beautiful sister and DeHaven the lead. Dick Powell advised her to ask Mayer to switch the roles, he did and it made her a star.
-It was on the set of “Meet the People” that June Allyson and Dick Powell became friends, and later married.
-Lucille Ball’s third project under contract at MGM.
-Lucille Ball’s singing was dubbed by Gloria Grafton.
-This movie was shown overseas to servicemen before it was released in the United States.
-According to MGM records the movie earned $670,000 in the US and Canada and $290,000 elsewhere resulting in a loss of $717,000.

Dick Powell, Virginia O'Brien, June Allyson and Lucille Ball in "Meet the People"

Dick Powell, Virginia O’Brien, June Allyson and Lucille Ball in “Meet the People”

Highlights:
-Singer Vaughn Monroe’s film appearance

Notable Songs:
-“Meet the People” performed by Dick Powell
-“I Like to Recognize the Tune” performed by Vaughn Monroe and June Allyson
-“Say We’re Sweethearts Again” performed by Virginia O’Brien

My Review:
Today, most of the world knows Lucille Ball as one of the greatest female comedians of all time due to her highly successful television career.
But at the beginning of her career, studios did not see that talent and were not too sure what to do with the actress. Studios like MGM groomed her to be the same as their other starlets- beautiful, coiffed and highly fashionable, and that simply didn’t fit Lucy.
In her autobiography, Lucille Ball ball dismisses this film and says she was “just another clothes horse.” However, she really enjoyed working with Dick Powell and felt he was an underrated talent and director.
While Dick Powell had a successful career in the 1930s, you can almost see that he was tired of the dry musicals. This was made the same year as “Murder, My Sweet” when Powell showed he could do more than croon.
The thing that makes “Meet the People” notable is June Allyson right before she hit it big and performer Vaughn Monroe.
Monroe is a terrific singing and very popular in the 1940s and 1950s, but isn’t spotted in films very often. Monroe was only in one other film than this, “Carnegie Hall.”
But Monroe and Allyson’s number about “I Like to Recognize the Tune” is one of the few songs you even remember after watching “Meet the People.” Allyson was on the drop list at MGM but only continued to be successful after this film from encouragement from Lucille Ball and advice from her (later husband) Dick Powell.
“Meet the People” is not one of MGM’s more memorable musical. However, it is entertaining and has some funny moments. Don’t write it off completely, but don’t expect anything amazing.

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