Musical Monday: Do You Love Me? (1946)

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.

do-you-love-me-movie-poster-1946-1020705247This week’s musical:
“Do You Love Me” –Musical #511

Studio:
Twentieth Century Fox

Director:
Gregory Ratoff

Starring:
Maureen O’Hara, Dick Hyams, Harry James, Reginard Gardiner, Richard Gaines, Lex Barker (uncredited)
Cameo: Betty Grable appears uncredited as James’ fan in a taxi cab.

Plot:
Conservative Katherine Hilliard (O’Hara) is dean of a stuffy music school, following in her father’s footsteps, and is allergic to popular music. She is engaged to her similarly stuffy colleague Ralph (Gaines). Katherine takes a trip to New York to plan with her composer colleague Herbert Benham (Gardiner) about the upcoming spring music festival. On her way to New York, Katherine meets trumpet player Barry Clayton (James) who insults her by saying she is too stuffy to appreciate popular music. After relaying this to Herbert, he encourages her to loosen up and have fun. Katherine takes her advice, catching the attention of Barry and crooner Jimmy Hale (Haymes).

Dick Haymes, Maureen O'Hara, Harry James in "Do You Love Me."

Dick Haymes, Maureen O’Hara, Harry James in “Do You Love Me.”

Trivia:
-Maureen O’Hara called this “The worst picture I ever made,” in her autobiography “Tis Herself.”
-Produced by George Jessel
-Betty Grable, who was married to Harry James at the time, makes a cameo as a fan of his.

Highlights:
-Fashion show shopping montage of outfits.
-Betty Grable’s cameo at the end of the film.

Notable Songs:
-“St. Louis Blues” performed by Harry James and his band
-“Do You Love Me” performed by Dick Haymes
-“Moonlight Propoganda” performed by Dick Haymes

My Review:
Though I know Maureen O’Hara said this was the worst film of her career, but I had a great time watching this film.
The plot isn’t substantial and fairly predictable. It is the usual but fun 1930s or 1940s plot of a conservative teacher coming from a stuffy college and eventually letting her hair down and having fun. It may not be O’Hara’s best performance, but it is fun and has some great music if you like big band.
For me the two biggest highlights:
1. Seeing O’Hara and her glorious film wardrobe in Technicolor. I’m a sucker for film fashion and movie makerovers and I enjoyed seeing her transformation from teacher to glamour girl. This film also features a highlight for any lover of vintage clothing: a scene where the main actress goes shopping at an upscale store and multiple gowns are modeled for her.
2. Hearing bandleader and trumpeter Harry James perform. It’s a highlight to see big band leaders of the time in classic films. It gives you a good feel of what was popular and music at that time, and you also get to see these performers talking and in person rather than just hearing them on a recording.
The biggest highlight was a cameo by Betty Grable at the end as a fan of Harry James. Betty Grable was one of Fox’s top stars and she and James were married at the time. It was a witty and adorable comedic moment. The brief scene is similar to any joke in a contemporary film or TV show that tied in a pop culture or current event reference.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention Reginald Gardiner’s role in this as O’Hara’s colleague and friend. Gardiner is the one who encourages O’Hara’s character to literally let down her hair and have fun for once. Whether he is playing a snob, a cad or the humorous best friend, Gardiner’s characters are always a delight.
“Do You Love Me?” was down right fun with some geniune laugh out loud moments. If you have the opportunity to see this film and are looking for a colorful way to brighten your day, I encourage you to do so.

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Classic films in music videos: “Last Cup of Sorrow” by Faith No More

This is April’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s film references in music videos.

The band Faith No More, categorized as alternative metal and experimental rock, pays homage to the Alfred Hitchcock directed film, “Vertigo” (1958) in their music video “Last Cup of Sorrow.”

The band, formed in 1981 and who is coming out with a new studio album this year, released in 1997 “Last Cup of Sorrow” on their sixth album called “Album of the Year.”

FNM_-_Last_Cup_BlueThe video doesn’t just reference “Vertigo” like many music videos do, but actually plays out various scenes from the movies but in a silly, satirical manner. The single’s album art also copies the film poster’s artwork.

In the video, lead singer Mike Patton is dressed as James Stewart’s character, Scottie Ferguson, while actress Jennifer Jason Leigh is dressed as Kim Novak’s character, Madeleine. Some of the camera angles and zooms also try to mimic the cinematography by Robert Burks under Hitchcock’s direction.

Here are a few scenes from “Vertigo” with Kim Novak and James Stewart that are directly referenced in the video:

Vertigo-1958

vertigo6

veritgo 2

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Travels with My Parents: TCMFF Through New Eyes

I returned to Hollywood by way of North Carolina last week for my third Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). I was excited to visit with my fellow film lovers and bloggers, hear classic film stars discuss their careers, and watch films on the big screen- the way they should be seen.

But this year had a new layer of excitement: My parents were joining me for their first ever TCMFF. After going to the festival on my own for two years, my travel buddies were the people who originally introduced me to classic film when I was a baby.

After we left Hollywood, I realized our only photo together was documenting their first In-N-Out Burger experience. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

After we left Hollywood, I realized our only photo together was documenting their first In-N-Out Burger experience. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

This wasn’t Mom and Dad’s first time in Hollywood. My family took a trip to Los Angeles in 2006, so they were familiar with the craziness of Hollywood Boulevard complete with people dressed in disheveled Spongebob costumes or impersonating Prince’s singing.

Since my first year at TCMFF, I knew they needed to come. After two years of care giving for my grandmother and her estate, my parents took a much needed vacation to what like to call “The Disney World of Classic Film.”

We pretty much stuck together the whole festival, because we shared similar interests in the films that we watched. These are their post festival reactions:

Julie Andrews was wisked quickly down the red carpet before "Sound of Music." (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Julie Andrews was wisked quickly down the red carpet before “Sound of Music.” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Mom (Lisa):
I really had a good time. I enjoyed seeing a lot of the movies and meeting all of the bloggers of websites that I have been reading for so long. My favorite was the Disney film “So Dear to My Heart,” because it was such a sweet, simple story and I really enjoyed it. It would be nice if Disney would put it out on DVD. My other favorite was “Why Be Good?” with Colleen Moore. It’s almost 90 years old and it raised a lot of the same concerns that you see now, which I thought was interesting. I also really liked “Reign of Terror.” We were one of the last people in the theater and by pure accident we were on the front row, five feet away from where Norman Lloyd was going to be interviewed. Errol Flynn’s family sat beside us during “The Sea Hawk,” which was also really cool. I loved hearing Jane Withers speak during the Hollywood Homes Movies at the Roosevelt because she was a hoot. I also loved seeing Sophia Loren. We were two rows away and she looked fantastic. The overall festival was a great experience. It was very well done and everybody there was very friendly and helpful. There wasn’t anything that I didn’t enjoy, except I wish I could have seen even more films. We will definitely have to go back another year to see Robert Osborne. I hope he’s feeling better so he can be there. I would love to hear his interviews.

Actress Sophia Loren being interviewed by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz before "Marriage Italian Style" (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Actress Sophia Loren being interviewed by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz before “Marriage Italian Style” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Dad (Bill):
The two movies I enjoyed the most were “Why Be Good?” and “Don’t Bet on Women.” I liked the earlier movies, because it was interesting to see that many of the ideas between then and now are relatively the same. Cinematically, my favorite was “Psycho.” It was really worked well on the big screen. It’s one of my favorite films, and I have never seen it on the big screen. The way it was presented was very impactful. I enjoyed all of the interviews we saw. Norman Lloyd was interesting because he is 100 years old and has amazing commentary with all of his stories. He has worked with so many different people! I enjoyed seeing Sophia Loren, because she is truly an icon. I have heard about her since I was a kid and it was amazing seeing her in person. The whole film festival was very organized. My only disappointment was there were several movies that I wanted to see all scheduled at the same time and I couldn’t see them all.

Myself:
I always love meeting and visiting with readers, film fans and fellow blogger friends. My favorite film of the whole trip was “Reign of Terror,” a new-to-me film. It was my top pick of the festival and I was thrilled that I was able to see it; I was actually the last person who got into the theater before they filled up. The cinematography by John Alton under the direction of Anthony Mann was breathtaking and innovative. I enjoy Robert Cummings as an actor and loved having the opportunity to see him in darker role. “Reign of Terror” is unique, because it is a mix of film noir set during the French Revolution with some humor mixed in; not something you come across very often. Character actor Arnold Moss was probably my favorite character in the film as the delicious snake-in-the-grass Fouché. He had all the best lines.

Robert Cummings and Arnold Moss in "Reign of Terror."

Robert Cummings and Arnold Moss in “Reign of Terror.”

Another notable feature about TCMFF is you have the opportunity to see several films that either haven’t been seen in many years, because they were lost or in a restoration process, or it’s a screening of the restoration’s debut. It’s always a special experience to watch a silent film with a live accompaniment, but it was extra special to be there for Carl Davis’s premiere of the new score for “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” Live accompaniments may not be anything new for some people but that is something you seldom (or never) experience in many areas of the southeast.

Along with my parents joining, this year was a little different, because I had a few new experiences. We got into Los Angeles a little earlier and had the opportunity to do a little sight seeing. It was also my first year in the bleachers watching the red carpet events. It was fun cheering for Julie Andrews, Shirley Jones, and even the passholders, as they entered Gruaman’s Chinese Theater. I also took some time to see the handprint ceremony with Christopher Plummer, who seemed like a gentleman. It was a hilarious coincidence that I ended up sitting beside Errol Flynn’s grandson, Sean, in “The Sea Hawk.”

The 2015 TCMFF may be my favorite year so far, because nine of the 14 films I saw were new-to-me. The only downside was that TCM host Robert Osborne was unable to attend. Along with all of his other fans, I send warm wishes for a speedy recovery.

Shirley Jones on the red carpet at TCMFF. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Shirley Jones on the red carpet at TCMFF. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Films:
Queen Christina (1933)
Sea Hawk (1940)
Reign of Terror (1949)
Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Why Be Good? (1929)
So Dear to My Heart (1948)
Air Mail (1932)
The Loved One (1965)
Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)
Don’t Bet On Women (1931)
Psycho (1960)
Marriage Italian Style (1964)

Christopher Plummer exits Grauman's Chinese before his handprint ceremony. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Christopher Plummer exits Grauman’s Chinese before his handprint ceremony. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Special Guests:
Robert Morse- red carpet and “The Loved One”
Shirley Jones- red carpet
Marty Ingles- red carpet
Diane Baker- red carpet
Norman Lloyd- red carpet and “Reign of Terror”
Film editor, Anne V. Coates- red carpet
Julie Andrews- red carpet
Christopher Plummer- red carpet and his handprint ceremony
William Shatner – Plummer’s handprint ceremony
Shirley MacLaine – Plummer’s handprint ceremony
Alex Trebek – Plummer’s handprint ceremony
Errol Flynn’s daughter, Rory Flynn- “The Sea Hawk”
Errol Flynn’s grandson, Sean Flynn (Sean and Rory sat next to me in The Sea Hawk)
Peter Fonda- “Young Mr. Lincoln”
Film Historian, Leonard Maltin
Composer Carl Davis – “Steamboat Bill Jr.
George Lazenby- “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”
Director Tom Schiller- “Nothing Lasts Forever”
Zach Galligan- “Nothing Lasts Forever”
Director Edgar Wright- “Psycho”
Sophia Loren – “Marriage Italian Style”

 

Norman Lloyd on the red carpet at TCMFF. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Norman Lloyd on the red carpet at TCMFF. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

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Musical Monday: Night and Day (1946)

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:
“Night and Day” –Musical #101

night-and-day-1946 

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Michael Curtiz

Starring:
Cary Grant, Alexi Smith, Jane Wyman, Donald Woods, Ginny Sims, Selena Royle, Eve Arden, Dorothy Malone, Henry Stephenson, Alan Hale, Sig Ruman, Carlos Ramírez
As themselves: Mary Martin, Monty Woolley

Plot:
Fictional biographical film of songwriter Cole Porter.

Cole Porter and his wife Linda Lee

Cole Porter and his wife Linda Lee

Trivia:
-Cole Porter is a celebrated songwriter who was active from post-World War I teens through the 1950s. He was born in 1891 and died in 1964.
-Warner Brothers chose “Night and Day” to mark the studio’s 20th anniversary of sound films, according to an Oct. 4, 1946, article in the Montreal Gazette.
-“Script writers had a hard time finding crisis in his life to sustain a storyline,” according to a mention of the film in his Oct. 16, 1964, Associated Press obituary in the Gettysburg Times.
-Footage shown of Roy Rogers singing “Don’t Fence Me In” is from the Warner Brothers film “Hollywood Canteen” (1944)
-Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Highlights:
-Eve Arden as a French performer, simply because it’s ridiculous.
-Mary Martin cameo

Notable Songs:
-“Night and Day”
-“I’m in Love Again” performed by Jane Wyman
-“Let’s Do It” performed by Jane Wyman
-“You Do Something to Me” performed by Jane Wyman
-“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” performed by Ginny Simms
-“Don’t Fence Me In” footage of Roy Rogers
-“Begin the Beguine” performed by Carlos Ramirez

Cary Grant as Cole Porter  and Alexis Smith as Linda Lee in "Night and Day"

Cary Grant as Cole Porter and Alexis Smith as Linda Lee in “Night and Day”

My Review:
There were about 10 years between my first and second viewings of this film. I didn’t find it any better.

Starring Cary Grant and filmed in gorgeous Technicolor, you know you are about to hear some fantastic music going into this film. It’s basically Cole Porter’s Greatest Hits.

But the celebrated songs by Porter can’t save this film. The ridiculous story line of the highlighly fictionalized biography is just a dud. The fact that the biography is fictionalized isn’t surprising. Musical Monday has highlighted the “fictionalized musical biography” many, many times before now.

The San Francisco News said in a review, “This is no more the story of Cole Porter’s life than a two-cent stamp is of Washington.” LIFE magazine said “Film About Cole Porter’s Life is an Example of What’s Wrong with Hollywood Musicals,” saying the numbers were tasteless, the dialogue forcefully recreated from real conversations and a timeworn plot. I can’t say that I disagree. But a made up life story is more forgivable if it is at least entertaining and enjoyable. “Night and Day” is just fairly painful.

Even Cole Porter said, “If I could survive that, I can survive anything,” after the premiere of the film.

Some of the scripts of these biographical films, such as this one, are reviewed by the topic person-Porter did not die until 1964- and the 2011 William McBrien Porter biography discusses Porter reading over the script. With any of these biographical films, I’m not sure how much say the subject matter or their family members have in the script. Maybe it is simply that they don’t want the film to be accurate and their private lives on display.

However, there are almost too many inaccuracies to list in a brief review.

In the film, Alexis Smith plays Porter’s wife Linda Lee Porter, Porter’s wife from 1919 until her death in 1954. It is rare for the romantic lead in a biographical film, to be based off of a real person. Many times, the romantic lead is made up or a mix of multiple people. An example of this is Evelyn Keye’s character in “The Al Jolson Story.” It is obvious that she is supposed to be Ruby Keeler, but her character is named something different. Probably because Keeler was still alive and didn’t want to be associated with the film.

Though Porter and Linda were married, the culture of 1946 and the Hays Production Code prevented the prevented the film from giving the true nature of their relationship and marriage. Porter and Linda’s marriage was more of a marriage of convenience. Porter was gay and his marriage to Linda gave a heterosexual appearance during a time when homosexuality was not as accepted. The marriage gave Linda prominence in society.

Monty Woolley, Jane Wyman and Mary Martin’s brief role are probably the only highlights of the film. Woolley and Martin play themselves, as they were connected with Porter in real life.

It’s not the highly inaccurate plot that makes “Night and Day” bad. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is also fiction but is an entertaining film. It’s really just that the fictionalized premise is terrible and often downright ridiculous.

The only thing thing “Night and Day” has going for it is the music. In that case, buy some of Cole Porter’s songs instead.

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

 

Musical Monday: The Mikado (1939)

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:
“The Mikado” –Musical #495

kenny

Studio:
Pinewood Studios

Director:
Victor Schertzinger

Starring:
Kenny Baker, Jean Colin, Sydney Granville, John Barclay

Plot:
Set in Japan, Nanki-Poo (Baker), a prince disguised as a wandering minstrel, falls in love with Yum Yum (Colin).However, she is engaged to the Lord High Execution. Nanki-Poo is set to be executed because he is in love with an engaged girl.

Trivia:
-Written by composers Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert, “The Mikado” originally opened in London in March 1885 at the Savoy Theater and ran 672 performances.
-Aside from Kenny Baker, many of the players in the film were from the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, a professional company that opened in the 1870s and closed in 1982. The company staged Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
-Rereleaed in theaters in 1949.
-Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color by William V. Skall. The film lost to “Gone with the Wind.”
-Nominated for the Mussolini Cup for Best Foreign Film at the Venice Film Festival.

Kenny Baker and Jean Colins in "The Mikado"

Kenny Baker and Jean Colins in “The Mikado”

Notable Songs:
-“Gentleman of Japan”

My Review:
I watched this movie back in September and I have had to sit on it that long, figuring out what to say.
Simply put: “The Mikado” was boring, stupid, odd and all the songs sounded the same.
I have always heard of “The Mikado,” but I never knew what it was about. The whole hour and a half film is debating if they should kill Nanki-Poo (Baker) for loving an engaged girl.
The execution is discussed in a jovial manner. I understand dark comedies and usually enjoy them, but this was plain annoying.
While taking into consideration that this musical was written in the late 1800s, the supposed Japanese names are ridiculous. I mean…Yum Yum? This is a musical that is still performed, which honestly surprises me for the blatant disregard for Japanese culture and mockery of it.
I was ready for this movie to end from the moment I started it. I only continued watching it because I wanted to see if it would get better, and it didn’t.

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Comet Walking Around Hollywood: Turner Classic Film Festival 2015

tcmff2Comet Over Hollywood is covering the Turner Classic Film Festival for my third year this week. The festival runs from Thursday, March 26, through Sunday, March 30.

I arrived in Los Angeles, CA, by way of North Carolina on Tuesday for the sixth annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.

Once again, I will be covering various events, film screenings and interviews throughout the festival.

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

What am I most excited about this year?
-New-to-me Lizabeth Scott film “Too Late for Tears” (1949)
-New-to-me Robert Cummings film “Reign of Terror” (1949) with actor Norman Lloyd in attendance.
-“Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939) on 35mm with son of Henry Fonda, actor Peter Fonda discussing the film
-New-to-me “Don’t Bet on Women” (1931), starring Jeannette MacDonald in her only non-singing role.
-James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) with George Lazenby in attendance.
-New-to-me hilariously terrible looking “Boom” (1968) starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
-New-to-me rare Walt Disney film “So Dear to My Heart” (1948)
-“The Loved One” (1965) on the big screen with Robert Morse in attendance.

How can you follow me? 
Twitter: @HollywoodComet
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cometoverhollywood
Instagram: @HollywoodComet
Or here! CometOverHollywood.com

Though Robert Osborne can not attend the festival this year, he will be in our hearts and thoughts. #GetWellBob I'm pictured here with Mr. Osborne in 2013.

Though Robert Osborne can not attend the festival this year, he will be in our hearts and thoughts. #GetWellBob
I’m pictured here with Mr. Osborne in 2013.

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.

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

 

Hollywood Veterans in Arlington National Cemetery: Audie Murphy

Last weekend, filmmaker Brandon Brown and I set out to find six celebrities buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The venture took four hours and more than five miles of walking. To put that into perspective, we were hunting for six graves out of more than 400,000 people buried in the 26 square mile cemetery with roughly an 8 mile trail running through it. This week, I am highlighting these people who either served in the military or were married to military personnel. 

Audie Murphy with the Medal of Honor.

Audie Murphy with the Medal of Honor.

After World War II, many men returned home from being a hero overseas to not having a difficult time finding work in the United States. Some, who didn’t know what else to do, turned to acting.

For example, after 10 years in the Navy, Ernest Borgnine’s mother suggested he become an actor because he was always “making a damn fool of his self in front of people anyways.”

Audie Murphy, the United States’s most-decorated soldier during World War II, was no exception. Unfortunately, his film career was not as stellar as Borgnine, Tony Curtis or James Arness who performed after fighting overseas.

It was another Hollywood actor and a World War I veteran, James Cagney, who saw Murphy on the cover of the July 16, 1945, LIFE magazine. Cagney was impressed by Murphy’s good looks and invited him to Hollywood, according to the Arlington National Cemetery’s biography on Murphy.

Audie Murphy on the cover of LIFE magazine.

Audie Murphy on the cover of LIFE magazine.

But the road to war hero and film stardom started when he sought to leave the life he had in Texas. Born to poor sharecroppers, his father left the family of 10, his mother died when Murphy was 16 and his brothers and sisters were being sent to orphanages or relatives. At age 17 in 1942, Murphy lied about his age to join the Marines, but they said he was too short and he was unable to join he paratroopers, according to Arlington National Cemetery.

Murphy first saw combat in 1943 while he was with the 15th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa, preparing to invade Sicily. His unit then trained for the southern France invasion, Operation Anvil-Dragoon, where his division had 4,500 casualties, according to Arlington National Cemetery.

The unit was in combat for a total of 543 days, about 150–Murphy served 390 of that– more than any other and Murphy was one of the few to survive. The unit had 1,100 officers and 21,000 enlisted men. Of that, 175 officers and 3,300 enlisted men were killed, said Hank Auld in an Oct.2, 1955, article, former commander of the 15th Regiment.

The act of heroism Murphy, now a lieutenant, is most known for occurred on Jan 26, 1945, near Holtzwihr in France. The Allies were up against six German Panzer tanks and 250 soldiers. Murphy got on an abandoned tank and fired on the advancing Germans; firing for approximately an hour. He was injured in the leg but continued on and killed 50 soldiers. It is said Murphy killed more than 200 Nazis during World War II. This was one of three injuries Murphy sustained, he had two in his legs and one in his hip.

“I expected to see the whole damn tank destroyer blow up under him any minute,” veteran Pfc. Anthony Abramski was quoted in a New York Times article. “For an hour he held off the enemy force single-handed, fighting against impossible odds. It was the greatest display of gut and courage I have ever seen.”

Murphy awarded for valor in 1945. Original caption: 1945-Europe: ANOTHER MEDAL FOR MOST DECORATED AMERICAN SOLDIER. General Alexander Patch of the U.S. 7th Army decorates Lt. Audie Murphy of Farmersville, Texas with the Medal of Honor.. Lt. Murphy is the most decorated American soldier, holder of every decoration for bravery save the legion of merit. He rose from the rank of private to become a company commander in 30 months of combat duty with the veteran third division.

Murphy awarded for valor in 1945.
Original caption: 1945-Europe: ANOTHER MEDAL FOR MOST DECORATED AMERICAN SOLDIER. General Alexander Patch of the U.S. 7th Army decorates Lt. Audie Murphy of Farmersville, Texas with the Medal of Honor.. Lt. Murphy is the most decorated American soldier, holder of every decoration for bravery save the legion of merit. He rose from the rank of private to become a company commander in 30 months of combat duty with the veteran third division.

Murphy was recognized with the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military honor, for this act. Along with the Medal of Honor, he was the highest decorated soldier during World War II with 28 medals, including recognition from France and Belgium. Other honors include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star and several Purple Hearts. In 2013, Murphy posthumously received the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, after his sister Nadine Murphy Lokey campaigned for him to be recognized.

Despite his heroism, Murphy was very shy. He didn’t smoke and he didn’t drink, according to the June 2,1971, article “Reporter recalls conversation with Audie Murphy,” written by Associated Press reporter William Barnard, recalling when he met Murphy in 1945.

“They talk about bravery. Well, I’ll tell you what bravery really is,” Murphy told Barnard in 1945. “Bravery is just determination to do a job that you know has to be done. If you throw in discomforts and lack of sleep and anger, it is easier to be brave. Just wanting to be back in a country like this can make a man brave. I have seen many a doughfoot do many a brave thing because he wanted to get the war over with in a hurry. Many a guy who wanted to come home worse than anything else in the world will stay over here forever. They are the fellows I want the honors to go to, not me.”

When he returned home to Texas, officials chartered a plane to fly him to Dallas and a parade was held in his honor in Farmersville. However, Murphy changed all of the plans to ride with Barnard to see his family.

Murphy wanted to go to West Point but his injuries prevented him from passing the physical, according to a Jan. 1, 1967, Los Angeles Times article, “Excitement’s Gone for Murphy.”

Audie Murphy in "To Hell and Back" (1955), the dramatization of Murphy's memoirs.

Audie Murphy in “To Hell and Back” (1955), the dramatization of Murphy’s memoirs.

In 1945, Murphy at 20 years old and went to Hollywood by Cagney’s suggestion. He also stayed in the military after the war by joining the Texas Army National Guard.

“It beats picking cotton, but that’s about all,” Murphy said about acting in 1967.

Cagney was organizing his own production company. Murphy was nervous and distraught when Cagney met him, and Cagney invited him to stay at his home and rest in Coldwater Canyon in Beverly Hills, according to “Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950” by Kevin Starr.

His war experiences plagued Murphy with nightmares, an upset stomach, headaches and he could only sleep with a pistol under his pillow. He eventually turned to sleeping pills to avoid the nightmares, according to Starr’s book.

Murphy later become one of the first veterans to discuss post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a 2013 Los Angeles Times article. The PTSD was the cause of his divorce from actress Wanda Hendrix, who he was married to from 1949 to 1950.

To help his acting, Murphy studied to lose his Texas accent, took dancing lessons and learned how to fence at the Actors Lab to prepare for acting. However, Cagney’s production company failed by 1947, and Murphy was staying at the health club on La Cienega Boulevard with other veterans, according to Starr’s book.

World War II veteran, actor Audie Murphy's grave in Arlington National Cemetery. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

World War II veteran, actor Audie Murphy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Murphy’s first film was a small role in the western “Beyond Glory” (1948). Most of his film were westerns and many are sadly forgettable. His most famous film roles are “The Red Badge of Courage” (1951) and “To Hell and Back” (1955), where Murphy played himself in the film adapted from his 1949 memoirs.

After making 40 films from 1948 to 1969, Murphy left Hollywood. Murphy never felt he was much of an actor.

“I’ve made 40 pictures. I made the same western every time, but just with different horses,” Murphy is quoted in the Jan. 1, 1967, Los Angeles times article.

Murphy was just 47 and a father of two sons when he died in 1971. His plane crashed while flying in Virginia. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. His grave is one of the most visited, along with President John F. Kennedy’s, according to the Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1967 Murphy was asked how people survive a war.

“I don’t think they ever do,” he said.

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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.

 

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Hollywood Veterans in Arlington National Cemetery: Lee Marvin

Last weekend, filmmaker Brandon Brown and I set out to find six celebrities buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The venture took four hours and more than five miles of walking. To put that into perspective, we were hunting for six graves out of more than 400,000 people buried in the 26 square mile cemetery with roughly an 8 mile trail running through it. This week, I am highlighting these people who either served in the military or were married to military personnel. 

Note: Johnny Carson once said Marvin fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima with Bob Keeshan, who played Capt. Kangaroo. This is incorrect. Marvin was in the Battle of Saipan and Keeshan did not see combat.

Portrait of Lee Marvin

Actor Lee Marvin in the 1960s.

Actor Lee Marvin, known for his premature silver hair, frequently played gruff and tough characters throughout his acting career that began in 1950 and ended in 1986. Off screen, he was known for crazy, reckless shenanigans but was a “team player” and worked to get the best from his co-stars on set. This could be due to his military background.

Like many post-war stars including Tony Curtis, Clint Eastwood and Ernest Borgnine, Marvin served in World War II.

“The war really had an effect on me,” Marvin said many years after the war, quoted in the book “Lee Marvin: Point Blank” by Dwayne Epstein.

In August 1942, Marvin, 18, enlisted in the Marines in New York. He trained at Parris Island in South Carolina and a base at New River, NC. His father, Lamont Marvin, who decorated in World War I, taught his sons how to handle a gun. Lamont, 51, also enlisted with his son. Lee’s father helped set up anti-aircraft gun emplacements in England, according to “Stars in the Corps: Movie Actors in the United States Marines” by James E. Wise and Anne Collier Rehill.

Lee Marvin during World War II (Photo submitted to LIFE magazine, 1968)

Lee Marvin during World War II (Photo submitted to LIFE magazine, 1968)

Marvin went to Quartermaster School in North Carolina and was promoted to corporal, then was ordered to Service Company, Marine Barracks at Camp Elliot in Sand Dieo, CA. But he was demoted to private after Marvin, known for being a troublemaker, caused some issues. Also due to his behavior, Marvin was on mess duty for a month, according to the Wise and Rehill book.

But in January 1944, Marvin was done with his mess duties and was shipped to the Marshall Islands. He was with D Company, 4th Tank Battallion (Scout-Snipers), Headquarters Battalion, 4th Marine Division, according to the Wise and Rehill book. Marvin was part of the 22d Marines, which would survey the area before the attack, specifically Kwajalein. Once the United States Marines had taken Eniwetok and Kwajalein, Marvin was sent to Hawaii for training and then he was sent to Saipan in June 1944, according to the Wise and Rehill book.

After witnessing various horrific acts during the war, Marvin was quoted in Epstein’s book saying, “This insanity, this raving inhumanity- it was then I suddenly knew: This is what war does to a man, what war means.”

In the invasion of Saipan, Marvin was one of six out of 247 men in his unit who wasn’t killed, according to a Sept. 27, 1968, LIFE magazine article.

“We went in on Yellow Beach Two. The first day…we clawed forward and hit the basic scrub of the beach…They (the Japanese) had us nicely pinpointed on a checker-board. They didn’t miss,” Marvin is quoted in the Wise and Rehill book. “The artillery got very bad, and all the bombing was coming down very heavy…We lost quite a few that night.”

Marvin was wounded in June 1944 at age 21 in Saipan’s “Death Valley.” He was blown off his stretcher and was on the beach during a counter attack, watching his fellow Marines die.

“I was on Saipan and got hit,” Marvin wrote a letter to his father “Pop” on July 3, 1944, quoted in Epstein’s book. “Not too bad but bad enough to hamper me if I stayed. I was hit in my left buttocks just below the belt line. You may think it’s funny to get hit in the can like that but at the time I was very lucky that is all I got. I was pinned down and could not move an inch and then a sniper started on me. His first shot hit my foot and his second just about three inches in front of my nose. It was a matter of time, as I knew I would get hit sooner or later. If I got up and ran, I would not be writing this letter so I just kept down.”

Marvin during World War II (Photo courtesy of LIFE, 1968)

Marvin during World War II (Photo courtesy of LIFE, 1968)

He was treated for 13 months in naval hospitals for a severed sciatic nerve and was awarded the Purple Heart in a hospital on Guadalcanal. He was nearly permanently paralyzed by his injury, according to Wise and Rehill’s book.

Marvin wanted to get back into combat but his injury kept him in the hospital preventing that. Not being able to return made him feel angry, frustrated and guilty, according Epstein’s book.

“It (the war) ruined him,” Marvin’s father is quoted in Epstein’s book. “He came home from that half dead, totally broken. He was never the same.”

Marvin was unable to reenlist due to his disability status that came with his injury.

Lee Marvin's grave at Arlington National Cemetery, located just below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Lee Marvin’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, located just below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Marvin worked odd jobs until he got into acting in New York. He was in off-Broadway plays from 1948 to 1950 until he started in television and films in 1950.

In 1968, Marvin returned to the Pacific for “Hell in the Pacific,” co-starring Toshirô Mifune, about an American pilot during World War II who is on a deserted uninhabited Pacific island with a Japanese Naval captain. During the war, Mifune was a Japanese officer.

“They (the islands) were all beautiful then, when you went in. That was a strange thing about it,” Marvin is quoted in LIFE magazine. “I remember what it looked like when we came in past the reef. The place had been bombed and shelled for weeks and the floor of the ocean was covered with brass casings that hadn’t deteriorated yet. Then the smell hit you- death and fire. You’d give a panic look to your buddy. ‘How did we get here?’”

Marvin wondered if returning to the island would return “old gung-ho feelings,” but he said he felt nothing; maybe if it had been three years after the war but not 23.

Marvin died in 1987 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Marvin rests in section 7A, just below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This area is for distinguished veterans, which include World War II fighter pilot, Col. Pappy Boyington, boxer Joe Lewis and ABC reporter Frank Reynolds.

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Hollywood Military Wives in Arlington National Cemetery

Last weekend, filmmaker Brandon Brown and I set out to find six celebrities buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The venture took four hours and more than five miles of walking. To put that into perspective, we were hunting for six graves out of more than 400,000 people buried in the 26 square mile cemetery with roughly an 8 mile trail running through it. This week, I am highlighting these people who either served in the military or were married to military personnel. 

Spouses and minor children of veterans are able to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. A few actresses are buried with their military husbands including Priscilla Lane, Constance Bennett and Phyllis Kirk.

Eligibility includes a widow or widower of an eligible member, including the widow(er) of a member of the Armed Forces who was lost or buried at sea or was determined missing in action. A surviving spouse who has re-married and whose remarriage is void, terminated by death, or dissolved by annulment or divorce by a court with basic authority to render such decrees regains eligibility for burial in Arlington National Cemetery unless it is determined that the decree of annulment or divorce was secured through fraud or collusion, according to Arlington National Cemetery’s guidelines.

Widows or widowers of service members who are interred in Arlington National Cemetery as part of a group burial may be interred in the same cemetery but not in the same grave.

Priscilla Lane and Joseph A. Howard

Actress Priscilla Lane in the late-1930s.

Actress Priscilla Lane in the late-1930s.

Actress Priscilla Lane, famous for her roles in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” the “Four Daughters” trilogy and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Saboteur,” met Army Air Force Lt. Joseph A. Howard in 1942. They were married in May 1942, and Lane took a suspension from Warner Brothers so she could travel with Howard from base to base until he was shipped overseas to fight in World War II.

“At Warner’s it is said she requested the time off. But nothing has been said about her permanent retirement,” gossip columnist Louella Parsons wrote in an Oct. 2, 1942 column.

Lane turned down several movie offers and said marriage was a 24 hour job.

“Priscilla has had plenty of offers to return to the movies but so far has passed them up. “Marriage is a 24 hour job,” she says,” quoted in an Oct. 24, 1943, column by Inga Arvad.

Priscilla Lane, her husband Joseph Howard and their children in 1958.

Priscilla Lane, her husband Joseph Howard and their children in 1958.

Lane did not return to films until 1947 for the Eddie Bracken film “Fun on a Weekend” (1947).

“War veterans aren’t the only ones returning to movie sets,” said a June 13,1946, article by Bob Thomas. “At least one war wife is coming back too—Priscilla Lane. Three and a half years ago, Priscilla…disappeared from the Hollywood scene after making ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.’”

Lane was quoted in the article saying she found other things were more important after the war started.

After the war, the Howards moved to Van Nuys, CA, in 1946 where Joseph worked as a contractor, according to “The Women of Warner Brothers” by Daniel Bubbeo.

They later moved to lake front property in Massachusetts. Rumors got out that Lane was retiring from show business, which she denied.

“I love show business, but my first duty is to a wonderful husband and my two lovely children,” she said.

Howard and Lane had four children together: Joseph (1945), Hannah (1950), Judith (1953) and James (1955).

She still did some commercials and had a morning show in Boston called “The Priscilla Lane Show” where she interviewed guests and screened old films.

Also in her retirement, she was active with her garden, volunteered in hospitals, was a Girl Scout troop leader and directed school plays. Her son Joe said she was similar to her characters on screen; high spirited and always in the mood for a joke, according to Bubbeo’s book.

Joseph Howard died in 1976 and Priscilla Lane died in 1995. Both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Joseph Howard died in 1976 and Priscilla Lane died in 1995. Both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

The Howards moved to New Hampshire in 1972 to the Howard family farm in Deer, NH. On May 8, 1976, Howard passed away at the age of 61 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

“I’m still trying to pull myself together,” Lane said about her husband’s death a year later in a 1977 interview in the Boston Herald American.

Lane was diagnosed in 1994 with lung cancer and refused radiation or chemotherapy, according to Bubbeo’s book. She passed away in 1995 and was buried with her husband in Arlington.

Constance Bennett and Brig. Gen. John Theron Coulter

 To get to Bennett and Coulter’s grave we hiked up a steep hill…realizing there was a road once we got to the top. This was the most difficult to find of all the graves we visited.

Actress Constance Bennett at the height of her career in the 1930s.

Actress Constance Bennett at the height of her career in the 1930s.

Actress Constance Bennett, sister of Joan Bennett and most famous in the 1930s, met John Theron Coulter in 1941 when he was an Army Air Corp colonel. Originally from Mississippi, Coulter’s love of flying took him to Officer’s Candidate School and he was then stationed in Riverside, CA. When World War II broke out, his commanding officer asked if he wanted to stay in the United States or go overseas. His wife Martha was in the hospital recovering from a wreck so he stayed in the United States with her, according to “The Bennetts: An Acting Family” by Brian Kellow.

In the United States, Coulter served as the technical advisor on military pictures at Warner Brothers Studios; teaching combat tips to actors such as Gary Cooper and Cary Grant, according to Kellow’s book.

Bennett and Coulter met at a Warner Brothers party that he was at with his wife Martha. He soon divorced Martha for Bennett. However, in April 1941, Constance married actor Gilbert Roland, but once Roland was drafted after Pearl Harbor, her relationship with Coulter continued. The two married in 1946, two days after her divorce with Roland was finalized. This was Bennett’s fifth marriage.

Constance Bennett and John Theron Coulter on their 1946 wedding day.

Constance Bennett and John Theron Coulter on their 1946 wedding day.

In 1948, Coulter, now a general, joined the Berlin Airlift Task Force in December 1948, as group commander of the 60th Troop Carrier Group. He became Wing Commander of the 60th Troop Carrier Wing and commander of the Royal Air Force Station, at Fassberg, Germany. When the wing and base were deactivated after the airlift, Coulter was named assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, Headquarters, USAFE.

Morale was low on the Fassberg, Germany base and Bennett helped cheer people with her high spirits and kept the RAF wives entertained. She also attracted her Hollywood friends to come and entertain, according to “The Berlin Airlift” by Ann and John Tusa. Bennett would also work with the other wives distrusting coffee and cakes at Fassberg, according to “The Candy Bombers” by Wolfgang J. Huschke. Bennett also often greeted the pilots and ate with mechanics in the mess hall, according to “Daring Young Men” by Richard Reeves.

While stationed in Germany, Bennett also produced the play “John Loves Mary” for occupying forces starring father and daughter actors, Gene and June Lockhart.

Constance Bennett and John Coulter's grave at Arlington National Cemetery (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Constance Bennett and John Coulter’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

The Coulters moved to Washington, DC in 1952, where Bennett also produced plays in the area and occasionally had singing engagement. The couple lived on Northwest Thirtieth Street in Georgetown, according to a June 1953 Associated Press article.

In 1958, Coulter was named the commander of the 85th Air Division and the couple moved to Richard-Gebaur Air Force Base in Missouri, he was commander of the 20th Air Division. They also moved to Colorado, Paris and New Jersey.

Bennett died in 1965 of a cerebral brain hemorrhage. She was buried in Arlington National Cemetery due to her husband’s military involvement. After Bennett’s death, he married actress Virginia Pine in 1972. Coulter died in  1995 and is buried with Bennett in Arlington.

Phyllis Kirk and Warren Bush

Though I did not visit Kirk’s grave, I still wanted to note she was buried in Arlington.

Actress Phyllis Kirk in the early-1950s.

Actress Phyllis Kirk in the early-1950s.

Phyllis Kirk starred in 1950s films such as “Two Weeks with Love” and “House of Wax.” Towards the end of her Hollywood career, Kirk married CBS news producers Warren Bush in 1966. Bush was in the Army Air Force during World War II. Bush passed away in 1991 at age 65. Kirk died in 2006 and both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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