Musical Monday: The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (1950)

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.


The_Daughter_of_Rosie_O'Grady_FilmPosterThis week’s musical:

“The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady” – Musical #387

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
June Haver, Gordon MacRae, S.Z Sakall, Gene Nelson, Debbie Reynolds, Marcia Mae Jones, Jane Darwell, James Barton, Sean McClory, Virginia Lee

Plot:
Set right at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, overly protective father Dennis O’Grady (Barton) doesn’t want his three daughters (Haver, Reynolds, Jones) to be in show business. The vaudeville lifestyle is what caused his wife, Rosie O’Grady, to pass away. He also is wary of his daughters dating, though one is secretly married.
But Patricia (Haver)-the daughter of Rosie O’Grady- disobeys and walks through the theater district and meets Tony Pastor (Gordon). Tony takes a fancy to Patricia, and she starts a career in vaudeville and a romance with Tony.

Trivia:
-Debbie Reynold’s first speaking film. Previously she was in “June Bride” (1948) but did not have any lines.
-Gordon MacRae’s character plays Tony Pastor, who in real life was vaudeville performer and he owned a theater. He was known as the “Father of Vaudeville.” Though MacRae’s character shares a name with Pastor, there doesn’t seem to be any other similarity.

The O'Grady daughters: June Haver, Marcia Mae Jones, Debbie Reynolds

The O’Grady daughters: June Haver, Marcia Mae Jones, Debbie Reynolds

Highlights:
-Gene Nelson dancing. Nelson is one of the most underrated tap dancers of the Golden Era.
-Christmas is included in the movie. Christmas scenes always make me happy.
-Debbie Reynolds first time speaking on screen.

 

 

 

Notable Songs:
-“My Own True Love and I” sung by June Haver and James Barton
-“Winter” sung by June Haver
-“Daughter of Rosie O’Grady” sung by Gordon MacRae

june haverMy Review:
“Daughter of Rosie O’Grady” is visually beautiful in Technicolor and chock full of Warner contract players.
However, it does not seem to be in any way connected with the 1943 20th Century Fox film “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” starring Betty Grable. No, it doesn’t appear that June Haver is supposed to be Grable’s daughter.
While the film is pleasant, something falls short.
I think it’s possibly because I feel like some of the talents are wasted.
Gene Nelson, who plays dancer Doug Martin in the film, is probably one of the most underrated dancers of the Golden Era. But that superlative isn’t obvious in this movie.
He has one solo dance and a few partner dances with Miss Haver, and while his footwork is fancy, it wasn’t enough to show off his true talent.
Golden voiced Gordon MacRae also doesn’t sing enough songs in this film.
When June Haver started in Hollywood, she was dubbed the “Pocket Betty Grable” and pitted as a rival to the star with the Million Dollar Legs. But when I see Haver in films, something is lacking that is in every Grable film for me.
She is pleasant, pretty, dances well and I like her well enough, but I can’t put my finger on what is missing.
I think the most notable thing about this film is 18-year-old Debbie Reynolds in her first speaking film role. She already had the energy and wit she was later known for.
I also love seeing former child actress Marcia Mae Jones as a lovely adult. You may know her as the snobby rich girl in “The Little Princess” (1939) who Shirley Temple dumps ashes on.
Actor James Barton was also a former vaudeville star. At the end he performs a comedic ice skating routine-but not wearing skates. One has to wonder if that was an old routine from his days on stage.
“Daughter of Rosie O’Grady” is pleasant. I wouldn’t say avoid it, but I also wouldn’t say to go out of your way to watch it.

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Who are your neighbors?: 60 years of peeping through the “Rear Window”

Do you know your neighbors?
The family with the dog that barks all night, the child who rides through your yard on his bike or the woman who sends flowers when a relative dies?
Stuck in his wheelchair with a broken leg, James Stewart’s character in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” (1954) got acquainted with his neighbors through a telephoto lens.
In a New York flat, the injured photographer passes the hours watching other apartment dwellers who live around a courtyard.

courtyard
While spying through his zoom lens, L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies ( James Stewart) may have stumbled across a murder.  Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), who lives across the courtyard, had an invalid wife who suddenly no longer exists and Jeff wants to know why.
While James Stewart in his wheelchair and Grace Kelly in her Edith Head gowns take center stage-flanked by Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr- those being peeped upon are equally important in this “Is this woman dead?” story.
But who were these people? As “Rear Window” celebrates its 60th birthday, premiering on the big screen Aug. 1, 1954, let’s take a look at who “Miss Torso,” “Miss Lonelyheart” and the amorous newlyweds are.

The Neighbors:

Judith Evelyn plays Miss Lonelyheart. She prepares to go on a date.

Judith Evelyn plays Miss Lonelyheart. She prepares to go on a date.

-Miss Lonelyheart: Miss Lonelyheart is the middle aged woman in the courtyard who longs for love but has yet to find it. Jeff watches her pantomime that she is on a date and then cry that she doesn’t have a lover. When she finally has a date, the man aggressively tries to make love to her and she pushes him from the house and sobs.
Miss Lonelyheart is played by Judith Evelyn who also performed in the films “The Egyptian” (1954), “Giant” (1956) and “The Tingler” (1958). Evelyn had a career on Broadway in the plays “Craig’s Wife” as Mrs. Craig in the 1947 revival and “The Shrike” as Ann Downs in 1952. Evelyn won the Drama League’s Distinguished Performance Award in 1942.
Evelyn was married to Canadian radio performer Andrew Allan. Allan, Evelyn and her father were aboard the Athenia in 1939 and were traveling through the Irish Sea, the body of water that separates Ireland and Great Britain. The ship was torpedoed by a German submarine on Sept. 3, 1939, three days after the Germans invaded Poland. This was the first British passenger liner sunk by Germans. Six out of 85 passengers survived, including Allan and Evelyn, but her father died.

Ross Bagdasarian plays the "Songwriter," pictured here with Alfred Hitchcock in his signature cameo.

Ross Bagdasarian plays the “Songwriter,” pictured here with Alfred Hitchcock in his signature cameo.

-The Songwriter: The Songwriter has the lavish apartment with large windows. His piano music serenades the apartment courtyard for much of the film as he composes. It’s in the Songwriter’s apartment where director Alfred Hitchcock makes his cameo. The Songwriter’s composing stops Miss Lonelyheart from committing suicide…and distracts Lisa (Grace Kelly) from doing some investigative work.
The songwriter is played by Ross Bagdasarian, who actually was a composer. Bagdasarian is also known as “David Seville,” father and creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks. He wrote the “Chipmunk Song” (Christmas Don’t Be Late) in 1958, which he won a Grammy Award. Bagdasarian was also the voice of David Seville in the 1960s “Alvin and the Chipmunk” cartoon.
Along with the Chipmunks, Bagdasarian wrote songs including “Come On-A to My House” made famous by Rosemary Clooney and “Alfi and Harry,” which was the theme of the Hitchcock film “The Trouble With Harry” (1955).

Georgine Darcy plays the dancer "Miss Torso"

Georgine Darcy plays the dancer “Miss Torso”

-Miss Torso: Miss Torso is the sexy ballet dancer who lives directly across the way from Jeff. She dances her way through her morning routine, entertains men and is happy to see her military boyfriend at the end of the film.
The pretty blond dancer is played by Georgine Darcy, who studied with the New York City Ballet. Her mother, however, encouraged her to be a stripper to make a “fast buck,” according to her 2004 obituary.
When cast as Miss Torso, she didn’t know who director Alfred Hitchcock was. She was paid $350 for the role, and Hitchcock encouraged her to get an agent and study acting, but she didn’t. She was only in a handful of films and television appearances from 1954 to 1971. She was married to actor and singer Byron Palmer from 1974 until her death in 2004.

Sara Berner lowers their dog down into the courtyard. Frank Handy sits inside the apartment.

Sara Berner lowers their dog down into the courtyard. Frank Handy sits inside the apartment.

-The Couple on the Fire Escape: On hot summer evenings, this couple sleeps on a mattress on their fire escape. Each night, the wife lowers their small dog down into the courtyard in a basket and then lifts the dog back up in the basket. The dog serves as a turning point in the film.
The husband is played by Frank Cady, best known for his role as Sam Drucker on the TV shows “Petticoat Junction,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres.”
Though best known for his television roles, Cady was also in several films including “Ace in the Hole” (1951) and “The Bad Seed” (1956).
The wife is played by Sara Berner, who was a voice actor in several Warner Brothers animated shorts from 1933 to 1946. Berner was the voice of Jerry the Mouse in “The Worry Song” when Tom danced with Gene Kelly in “Anchors Away” (1945).

Rand Harper and Havis Davenport play the newlyweds.

Rand Harper and Havis Davenport play the newlyweds.

-The Newlyweds: One of the first neighbors in the courtyard we are introduced to are the newlyweds. They are moving into their new apartment as the film starts. The landlord shows the couple the apartment, and the two keep trying to steal kisses as the landlord shows them from room to room. When he finally leaves, the husband carries his new bride through their threshold. The shade is drawn to their apartment for a great deal of the film, implying that they are….getting acquainted.
The husband is played by Rand Harper who played several bit parts in “Sabrina” (1954), “The FBI Story” (1959) and the TV show “Sea Hunt.”
The wife is played by Havis Davenport who played bit roles in film and TV such as “A Star is Born” (1954). She retired from acting in 1957.

Jesslyn Fax plays the sculpting neighbor.

Jesslyn Fax plays the sculpting neighbor.

-Sculpting Woman: The sculpting neighbor uses a hearing aid, appears to maybe be a bit of a busy body and is sculpting odd shapes in the courtyard. At the beginning she tries to say good morning to mysterious Thorwald (Burr) and he practically sneers at her.
The sculpting woman is played by Jesslyn Fax. This was not her only Alfred Hitchock project. Fax appeared in a bit role in “North by Northwest,” three “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episodes and two “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” episodes.
Fax appeared in several films and television shows including “Music Man” (1962), “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955), “An Affair to Remember” (1957), “The Best of Everything” (1959) and an episode of “I Love Lucy.”

 Added bonus: When James Stewart talks to his editor on the telephone, the voice is actor Gig Young.

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Classic films in music videos: “Head On (Hold On to Your Heart)” by Man Man

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

The band Man-Man, categorized as “experimental rock,” uses several themes influenced by the 1950s in their music videos.

In their video “Piranhas Club,” a little boy starts a 1950s-like “biker gang” with his friends. The music video “Rabbit Habits” is shot in black and white and a girl turns into a werewolf. She befriends another of her kind in town and the two go on a date.

But in their video “Head On,” the band uses multiple film clips from 1950s and 1960s horror, crime and noir films that correspond with the lyrics in a humorous way.

Classic actors such as Marie Windsor, Victor Jory, Steve McQueen, Dennis Hopper and Barbara Stanwyck can all be seen in the music video.

Some of the films highlights include: 
-The Amazing Mr. X (1948)  starring Turhan Bey, Lynn Bari, Richard Carlson, Cathy O’Donnell- beginning to :10, 3:52 to 3:55
-Teenage Devil Dolls (1955), also known as “One Way Ticket to Hell”- :28 through :33
-Night Tide (1961) starring Dennis Hopper- :44 through :55, 1:40 to 1:54, 2:41 to 3:00, 3:34 to 3:36
-Carnival of Souls (1962)- :56 through 1:02, 2:35 to 2:40
-Dementia 13 (1963)-  1:04 through 1:11, 2:01 to 2:06, 3:27 to 3:33, 3:37 to 3:40
-Cat Women of the Moon (1953) starring Marie Windsor, Victor Jory, Sonny Tufts, Douglas Fowerly- 1:11 to 1:14, 1:55 to 2:00, 2:11 to 2:17
-The  Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959) starring Steve McQueen- 1:20 to 1:29, 2:18 to 2:34, very last shot
-War of the Planets (1966)- 1:33, 3:12 to 3:28
-The File on Thelma Jordan (1950) starring Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey, Paul Kelly- 3:56 to 4:15

Mary is chased by zombies in "Carnival of Souls" (1962)

Mary is chased by zombies in “Carnival of Souls” (1962)

This video cracks me up with the way some of the clips and lyrics are paired. For example, “There’s a hole your head” and someone is decapitated. I also chuckled when the organ solo corresponded with the girl from “Carnival of Souls” playing the church organ.

I tried to include the time markings for the scenes I was most certain. If you spot any other movies, comment below!

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Musical Monday: Stingaree (1934)

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.

StingareeThis week’s musical:

“Stingaree” –Musical #489

Studio:

RKO Radio Pictures

Director:

William A. Wellman

Starring:

Irene Dunne, Richard Dix, Mary Boland, Conway Tearle, Andy Devine, Henry Stephenson, Una O’Connor, Reginald Owen

Plot:

Set in Australia in 1874, housemaid Hilda (Dunne) dreams of having a singing career. The mistress of of the household Mrs. Clarkson (Boland) also fancies herself as a singer, though she is terrible. Composer Sir Julian Kent (Tearle) is coming from England to Australia and Hilda wants to perform for him. Mrs. Clarkson also thinks singing for Sir Julian will be her break into opera. Outlaw Stingaree (Dix) also comes into town at the same time as Sir Julian and poses as Julian. After meeting and falling for Hilda, Stingaree is determined to help her become an opera star.

Trivia:

-Turner Classic Movies premiered this film on their channel for the first time in 2007. “Stingaree” was part of a “Lost and Found” preservation series of RKO films produced by Marion C. Cooper. Other films in the series included with other films such as “Rafter Romance” (1933), “Double Harness” (1933), “One Man’s Journey” (1933), “A Man to Remember” (1938) and “Living on Love” (1937). In 1946, Cooper obtained ownership of the films and were shown on a limited re-release in 1955 and 1956 in New York City, according to Turner Classic Movies.

-RKO original considered Jeanette MacDonald in the film, on loan out from MGM.

-Based on a 1905 novel by Ernest William Hornug.

-For the opera scenes, the standing set from Lon Chaney’s “Phantom of the Opera” (1925) was used.

stingaree2

Notable Songs:
-“I Wish I Were a Fisherman” sung by Mary Boland (because it’s hilariously bad)

-“Once Your Mine” sung by Irene Dunne

-“Tonight is Mine” sung by Irene Dunne

Highlights:
Today’s highlights include a few scenes I enjoyed-

*Mary Boland is singing at a party and Stingaree enters with a gun to hold up the party and allow Irene Dunne to sing.

Sir Julian: My good man, being shot right now would be a favor.
Mary Boland: I will not sing for outlaws!
Richard Dix: Compassion for the outlaw!

*Mary Boland:…Why, the very foundation of empire is woman’s virginity.
Sir Julian: Chastity, madame, chastity. No empire would get very far with virginity.

*One of my favorite scenes, Boland sings at 2:25:

My Review

I first saw “Stingaree” back in 2007 when TCM aired it along with the other Marion C. Cooper films. For whatever reason, I didn’t write it down as a musical in my musical list- which explains why this is my 488 musical.

When I revisited this film recently, I realized that it was categorized as a musical-and while it was not a flashy musical in the style of “Broadway Melody of 1936″-the film is much like “San Francisco” (1936). The bulk of the film is the romantic, melodramatic story sprinkled with quality operatic numbers.

The story of “Stingaree” may be far-fetched, but I love this movie and think it’s a lot of fun. I guess you could say Stingaree the outlaw is like Robin Hood of Australia. Rather than stealing from the rich to give to the poor, he steals the rich people’s maid to make her an operatic star. It also has a few hilarious lines in it (see: Highlights).

Irene Dunne is mostly known today for her comedic roles, but she had a beautiful singing voice in a few musicals during the 1930s. Though I love MacDonald, I’m happy Dunne was the star of this film. She brought the sweetness that was needed to Hilda. This was her second teaming with Richard Dix after “Cimarron” (1931). Frankly, Dix drove me crazy in “Cimarron,” but he’s charming and very appealing as Stingaree.

Mary Boland plays her usual character as the fretting, dizzy and selfish woman. Her terrible opera singing is pretty hilarious. And as always, Henry Stephenson makes you want to give him a hug.

I would honestly put “Stingaree” on your ‘must see’ list. For folks who don’t like musicals, the songs are not overwhelming. It’s a fun romp that is forgotten and under-appreciated.

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The Queen of Technicolor, in person: Maureen O’Hara

Irish actress Maureen O'Hara, pictured here in the 1950s.

Irish actress Maureen O’Hara, pictured here in the 1950s.

Hundreds of people stood waiting, excitedly chattering.

A line wrapped up and down an alley at least four times and stretched out to Hollywood Boulevard.

When the doors to El Capitan Theater opened, people walked briskly, some even running, to get a good seat in the theater.

I waited in line for 2 hours and was the twentieth person in line.

The excitement was for a 93-year-old woman.

But not any woman, Irish screen legend Maureen O’Hara.

At this past April’s Turner Classic Movie (TCM) Film Festival in Los Angeles, O’Hara made a special appearance before a screening of “How Green Was My Valley” (1941).

TCM is now honoring the Irish actress as July’s Star of the Month.

Red-headed O’Hara started her film career in 1938, starred in several films directed by John Ford and was John Wayne’s most frequent leading lady.

Her red hair and green eyes dubbed O’Hara with the nickname “Queen of Technicolor.” Her film roles varied from serious dramas, swashbuckling pirate films to westerns.

In “How Green Was My Valley” (1941), the story of a Welsh mining family, O’Hara played Angharad. O’Hara’s character falls in love with the new minister, played by Walter Pidgeon.

Before the screening of O’Hara’s first John Ford film at TCMFF 2014, she was brought out onstage to discuss her life and career.

The line to see Maureen O'Hara outside the El Capitan theater in Los Angeles.

The line to see Maureen O’Hara outside the El Capitan theater in Los Angeles.

The audience exploded with applause and O’Hara was given a lengthy standing ovation. Several people around me were wiping tears from their eyes.

 

She modestly motioned from her wheel chair for everyone to sit down.

“I see a tear there,” said TCM primetime host Robert Osborne to O’Hara on stage.

Osborne interviewed O’Hara before the film, but kept it to 10 minutes so he would not tire her out. She was interviewed the next day in the Roosevelt Hotel lobby. The lobby of the historic hotel is transformed into “Club TCM” during the festival.

“Don’t laugh and applaud and think it means nothing,” she told the audience.

Osborne first asked about her relationship with director John Ford.

“I thought I was here to talk about me,” she said with quick wit.

Her mind was sharp and her voice sounded the same, just older. However, it was obvious O’Hara was weak in her old age. The classic actress turns 94 in August.

“I’m still here, I’m at quite an old age now,” O’Hara said. “It’s terrible thing, not to be sure of your age.”

O’Hara discussed God and religion and hoping she was able to live way beyond the years God gave us on Earth.

Maureen O'Hara interviewed by Robert Osborne at the El Capitan during the TCMFF 2014.

Maureen O’Hara interviewed by Robert Osborne at the El Capitan during the TCMFF 2014.

“So many of us (classic actors) have passed and are in heaven, and so many of us are looking towards heaven,” O’Hara said.

She said God is listening all the time and listening to see if he can catch you doing something you aren’t supposed to be doing.

During the interview a woman coughed or sneezed in the crowed and she asked her to stand. The embarrassed woman stood up and O’Hara simply wanted to bless her.

Though O’Hara is elderly, as film fans, we sometimes don’t think about the age of our favorite stars or silver screen heroes. We know them as they are in their films and forget just how old or frail they may be. It was a privilege to see O’Hara and some of the other classic stars in person at TCMFF. But also it was almost a little sad. It’s another reminder that the classic film lover’s reality actually fantasy.

And O’Hara reminded us of this when she told the audience that even though she was an actress, we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking she is magical.

“Don’t be fooled in to thinking I do magical things,” she said.

Though O’Hara says she doesn’t do magical things, the ethereal feeling she gives her fans when she appears on screen is nothing less than enchanted.

Robert Osborne and Maureen O'Hara (Photo courtest of Getty)

Robert Osborne and Maureen O’Hara (Photo courtest of Getty)

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Musical Monday: Down Argentine Way (1940)

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.

Poster - Down Argentine Way_01This week’s musical:
Down Argentine Way” — Musical #273

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Irving Cummings

Starring:
Betty Grable, Don Ameche, Charlotte Greenwood, J. Carroll Naish, Carmen Miranda (as herself), Henry Stephenson, Leonid Kinskey, Fayard and Harold Nicholas (as themselves)

Plot:
Ricardo Quintana (Ameche) travels from his home in Argentina to New York to sell his prized race horse. His father (Stephenson) tells him not to sell his horse to any relative of Binnie Crawford (Greenwood), who’s brother cheated him and the two have been in a feud ever since. In New York, Ricardo meets Glenda Crawford (Grable) and falls for her. She also wants to buy his horse, unaware of the feud. When he learns who she is, he takes back his agreement to let her buy the horse. Glenda angrily follows Ricardo to Argentina.

Trivia:
-Remake of the 1938 film, “Kentucky” starring Loretta Young, Richard Greene and Walter Brennan. “Kentucky” is set in the American south and also deals with horse racing. Young and Greene’s families are feuding, because of an incident that occurred during the Civil War.

-Originally supposed to star Alice Faye, who had to drop out. Caesar Romero was supposed to play Leonid Kinskey’s role. The film ended up being a break through film for Betty Grable, who had been in films since the early 1930s, according to Hollywood Musicals Year by Year.

-First screen appearance of Carmen Miranda. Her scenes were shot in New York at the Movetone studio in Manhattan and edited into the Hollywood film, so her only film appearances are two songs and no dialogue with the characters. Miranda was performing on Broadway in “The Streets of Paris.” She made an impression on audiences and was signed to 20th Century Fox, according to Memo from Darryl F. Zannuck.

-Film gossip columnist Louella Parsons compared Don Ameche to Rudolph Valentino in this movie. She said he “has a good singing voice, but he has never been the least exciting until this movie,” she said in a Oct. 6, 1940, column.

-Don Ameche’s role was originally offered to Desi Arnaz, according to Life on the Hyphen: The Cuban-American Way by Gustavo Pérez Firmat

-Director Irving Cummings originally wanted to cut the Nicholas Brother’s three minute tap dance scene, according to Brotherhood in Rythm: The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers by Constance Valis Hill.

Highlights:
-The Nicholas Brother’s tap dance performance.

-Carmen Miranda’s first screen appearance.

Notable Songs:
-“Down Argentine Way” sung by Betty Grable
-“Two Dreams Met” sung by Betty Grable and Don Ameche
-“Mamãe Yo Quero” sung by Carmen Miranda
-“South American Way” sung by Carmen Miranda

Betty Grable and Don Ameche in "Down Argentine Way"

Betty Grable and Don Ameche in “Down Argentine Way”

My Review:
“Down Argentine Way” may be looked upon as another colorful, fluffy Technicolor musical. But it’s an important step in two of the star’s careers and in Hollywood’s involvement with American foreign relations.
Catapulting star careers
Betty Grable, known for her “Million Dollar Legs,” started in films in bit roles in 1929. From 1929 through the late 1930s, she appeared as chorus girls-even in Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films. “Down Argentine Way” was her first major Technicolor film, showcasing her beauty and musical talents. After this film, she became one of 20th Century Fox’s top stars.
Carmen Miranda arrived in New York via Brazil in May 1939 and started in Broadway in June 1939. “Down Argentine Way” was released in October 1940, only a little over a year from the time she arrived in the United States. Her brief appearance in the film, launched an American career, primarily from 1940 to 1945, and dubbing her the Brazilian Bombshell.
Foreign policy
Now it’s time for a brief history lesson thanks to my South American History and Policy class at Winthrop University. (I even semi led a Carmen Miranda discussion in the class):
During the President F. D. Roosevelt administration in 1933, FDR said (in a nutshell) that he wanted to be a good neighbor to other nations. The Secretary of State said no country had the right to intervene in internal or external affairs of another country. The United States had troops in South America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Due to the Good Neighbor Policy, the United States withdrew Marines who were occupying Haiti and Nicaragua.
To promote these neighborly relations, the United States worked to promote Latin America in culture. You can see the cultural impacts in films like “Down Argentine Way,” “That Night in Rio” or “Week-End in Havana.” Fashion was affected with espadrille shoes, fiesta blouses and peasant blouses. Music had a South American influence with bandleaders such as Xavier Cugat.
What does this have to do with movies? “Down Argentine Way” was one of the first Hollywood films that promoted the Good Neighbor Policy- showcasing the beautiful countries (via soundstage) and how wonderful and romantic the culture is.
“Down Argentine Way” isn’t the best film of Betty Grable, Carmen Miranda or Don Ameche. But it’s fun and beautifully colorful. The story is simple but it is important in the careers of a few Hollywood favorites.

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Musical Monday: “Thousands Cheer” (1943)

t’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.

thousands cheer posterThis week’s musical:
“Thousands Cheer” — Musical #188

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly, Mary Astor, John Boles, Ben Blue, Odette Myrtil (uncredited), Henry O’Neill (uncredited), Frances Rafferty (uncredited), Mary Elliot (uncredited)

As themselves: Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, June Allyson, Gloria DeHaven, Red Skelton, Eleanor Powell, Ann Sothern, Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Jose Iturbi, Frank Morgan, Lena Horne, Marsha Hunt, Marilyn Maxwell, Donna Reed, Margaret O’Brien, Kay Kyser, Georgia Carroll, Bob Crosby, Cyd Charisse, Sara Haden

Band leaders: Kay Kyser and his band, Bob Crosby and his orchestra.

Plot:
Opera singing Kathryn Jones (Grayson) leaves her mother (Astor) to live on base with her military father (Boles), who is a colonel. Kathryn is also hoping to convince her divorced parents to reconcile. While on base, Kathryn hopes to build morale on the military base before the men are shipped off to fight in World War II. She meets former acrobat Pvt. Eddie Marsh (Kelly), who is not cooperative and isn’t pleased with being in Army. He hopes to transfer to the Army Air Corp, until the two end up falling in love.
The plot is a backdrop to a lavish military show Kathryn helps organize filled with comedic skits and music put on by MGM’s top contract players.

Trivia:

-Eleanor Powell’s first color film. Powell’s contract was not renewed with MGM after this film, according to “A to Z of American Women of Performing Arts” by Liz Sonnebon.

-Fifth role for Cyd Charisse and it is uncredited. After several small roles, Charisse was signed to MGM in 1946, according to Sonnebon’s book.

-Fourth film role for Gene Kelly.

Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in a publicity photo for "Thousands Cheer"

Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in a publicity photo for “Thousands Cheer”

-First film for concert pianist Jose Iturbi. Iturbi is one of many classically trained musicians that MGM studio head L.B. Mayer signed on to give the studio class.

-Ranks number 29 in MGM’s top grossing musicals. “Thousands Cheer” made $3,500,000 in the box office, according to “The Rough Guide to Musicals” by David Parkinson.

Highlights:

-Jose Iturbi. I enjoy seeing him in any film, whether he is acting or playing the piano.

-Gene Kelly tap dancing with the broom.

-Eleanor Powell in Technicolor. She again was filmed in color in her last film “Duchess of Idaho” (1950).

Notable Songs:
-“I Dug a Ditch” sung by several men

-“Daybreak” sung by Kathryn Grayon with Jose Iturbi on the piano

-“Three Letters in the Mail Box” sung by Kathryn Grayson

-“In a Little Spanish Town” sung by June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven

-“Should I” sung by Georgia Carroll with Kay Kyser’s band

-“Honeysuckle Rose” sung by Lena Horne

-“The Joint is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall” sung by Judy Garland with Jose Iturbi on the piano

My Review:
As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are several war time films just like “Thousands Cheer” – a thin plot with a ton of musical performances by big name stars.

However, “Thousands Cheer” stands out against “Star Spangled Rhythm,” “Thank Your Lucky Stars” or “This is the Army.” Maybe it’s because of the caliber of the MGM stars that makes it more enjoyable. Or maybe it’s the Technicolor.

But truthfully, I think it’s the way the film and the showcase of stars is structured. The first half of the film is a straight musical with a plot sprinkled with songs. The last hour to 45 minutes is roughly seven musical performances and skits designed as a show to entertain troops. The performances are shown like an actual show with Mickey Rooney as the emcee between each performance.

“Thousands Cheer” holds a rare quality against other talent showcasing films-the musical performances don’t grow tiresome. I was entertained the whole time, unlike films such as “This is the Army,” where my finger was itching for the fast-forward button.

Kay Kyser's singer and wife Georgia Carroll singing "Should I" in "Thousands Cheer"

Kay Kyser’s singer and wife Georgia Carroll singing “Should I” in “Thousands Cheer”

All of the performances and songs are quality entertainment. Frank Morgan and Red Skelton’s skits are humorous and all of the music is fantastic. The two songs that I think bring down the house are Judy Garland’s “The Joint is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall” (which should be no surprise) and Kay Kyser’s band with his wife Georgia Carroll as the singer. Carroll’s glowing closeup almost makes the movie for me.

This film is still early in Gene Kelly’s film career- this was his fourth film- but you can already see his star potential in his performance and the few dance numbers he was given. Kelly and Grayson also have good chemistry, and apparently MGM agreed, pairing them two years later in “Anchors Aweigh” (1945).

If you enjoy star spangled World War II films made for morale boosting and bursting with songs, this is for you.

Fun promotional pamphlet of caricatures of the "Thousands Cheer" songs.

Fun promotional pamphlet of caricatures of the “Thousands Cheer” songs.

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Musical Monday: Look for the Silver Lining (1949)

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:
“Look for the Silver Lining” — Musical #133

look-for-the-silver-lining-movie-poster-1949-1020437158

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
June Haver, Gordon MacRae, Ray Bolger, Charles Ruggles, Rosemary DeCamp, Lee Wilde, Lyn Wilde, S.Z. Sakall, Will Rogers Jr. (uncredited), Dick Simmons

Plot:
Biographical film of musical star Marilyn Miller, played by June Haver. The film follows Miller’s rise to fame as a singer and dancer, starting with her family vaudeville act until she is the top star on Broadway. The film begins when Miller joins her family’s act, “The Five Columbians,” with her mother, father and two sisters. Miller meets famous vaudeville dancer Jack Donahue (Bolger) who helps her break into show business and is responsible for her first show on Broadway. During her big break, Haver meets actor Frank Carter (MacRae) and the two eventually marry.

Trivia:

Marilyn Miller in 1929

The real Marilyn Miller in 1929

-Marilyn Miller, played by Haver, was a famous Broadway musical star in the 1910s and 1920s. She was in a handful of Hollywood films, but she was more successful on the stage. The real Frank Carter, played by MacRae, married Miller in 1919 and he died in 1920 in a car accident, like the film says. Miller then married actress Mary Pickford’s brother, Jack Pickford, in 1922 and they divorced in 1927. She then married dancer Chester Lee O’Brien in 1934 until her death in 1936. Miller died from complications of a nasal surgery at the age of 37.

-In 1942, Louella Parsons announced Joan Leslie was playing the role of Marilyn Miller. Parsons hinted Rita Hayworth and Ann Miller may have been in the running for the film, according to a July 27, 1942 column in the St. Petersburg Times. Apparently plans for this film fell through or were delayed, because in 1947, Louella Parsons then announced June Haver would play the role of Miller in a St. Petersburg Times column. This time, Parsons says Vera-Ellen was “heartbroken” she didn’t receive the role of Miller, because she was a “leading candidate.”

-Last film of Lee Wilde. Her twin sister Lyn continued acting in films until 1953.

-Gordon MacRae’s second film.

-Will Roger Jr. plays his father Will Rogers.

Notable Songs:

-“Look for the Silver Lining” sung by June Haver

-“Who?” sung by Ray Bolger

-“Time on My Hands” sung by Gordon MacRae

My Review:
Visually “Look for the Silver Lining” is fun and colorful, but the actual plot is rather bland.

For a biographical film, you learn very little about Marilyn Miller other than the fact that she existed, was a very famous performer and one of her husbands died. However, I guess real life is a bit too long to stuff into an hour and 41 minute film.

Like most biographical films made during this time, the details are fairly sanitized. Only one out of three of Miller’s real husbands are discussed in the film- which is Frank Carter, the vaudeville actor who died in the car accident. At the end of the film, Miller’s character marries a character named Henry Doran, played by Dick Simmons. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be Jack Pickford, who was Miller’s next husband, or maybe a combination of her last two husbands: Pickford and Chester Lee O’Brien.

In real life, Miller also was an alcoholic and had issues with sinus infections. She died of complications after surgery that was dealing with her sinus problems.

In the film, it was implied that Miller’s health was declining but it was vague. She pirouettes as she practices for a show, then grabs her head in pain. She tells her friend Jack Donahue that her doctor says she has to “stop eating lobster, champagne, staying out late and dancing.”

Gordon MacRae as Frank Carter and June Haver as Marilyn Miller in "Look for the Silver Lining"

Gordon MacRae as Frank Carter and June Haver as Marilyn Miller in “Look for the Silver Lining”

Though Miller died in 1936, the film ends with her dancing in a colorful music number and singing the title song “Look for the Silver Lining.” But this ending is fairly typical for a musical biographical film where the lead’s life my end rather tragically. These brightly colored musicals don’t want to end on a low note, killing off the main star.

For example: “The Helen Morgan Story” (1957) about Helen Morgan (starring Ann Blyth) who died in 1941, ends with a banquet held in honor of the recovering alcoholic singer.

“The Incendiary Blonde” (1945) starring Betty Hutton as Texas Guinan, who died in 1933, ends with Hutton slowly walking out of a hospital, worried about her lover.

The stand out stars in this film for me are Ray Bolger and Gordon MacRae. June Haver’s dancing was lovely, but she wasn’t that memorable. I will say that this is one film where the leading lady actually looks fairly similar to the woman she is playing. But I was legitimately sad when MacRae’s character was killed off. I wanted to see more of him and hear more of his singing. Charles Ruggles was fun comic relief and Rosemary DeCamp is always the perfect mother.

I’m not trying to be harsh with “Look for the Silver Lining,” but there are other fabricated musical biographies that are more entertaining than this one. See: Yankee Doodle Dandy, Annie Get Your Gun, Love Me or Leave Me or Hans Christian Anderson.

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Musical Monday: “Follow the Boys” (1963)

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.

Follow the boysThis week’s musical:
Follow The Boys” –Musical #303

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Thorpe

Starring:
Connie Francis, Paula Prentiss, Dany Robin, Janis Paige, Russ Tamblyn, Richard Long, Roger Perry, Ron Randell

Plot:
-Four women- Bonnie (Francis), Toni (Prentiss), Michele (Robin) and Liz (Paige)- travel to the Rivera to meet their Navy boyfriends and husbands when they go on shore leave.
-Bonnie came from North Dakota to surprise her husband, who thinks she is still at home.
-Wealthy Toni comes to see her playboy fiance Lt. Peter Langley. But Michele is also there to see Peter as a bill collector.
-Liz is tired of being a “seagull”-Naval wives that follow their husbands to each port- and wants her Lt. Commander husband to settle down.
As the girls are waiting at a French port, they learn the ship is landing in Italy instead. The four women team up to travel to meet the men.

Trivia:
-Connie Francis’s second film after “Where The Boys Are.” The film is supposed to be an unofficial sequel, according to “Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969″ by Thomas Lisanti
-Filming locations include: Cannes, France; Nice, France; Santa Margherita Ligure, Genoa, Liguria, Italy
-Filmed in Panavision and Metrocolor

Russ Tamblyn and Paula Prentiss, Richard Long, and Dany Robin, Roger Perry and Connie Francis, Ron Randell and Janis Paige

Russ Tamblyn and Paula Prentiss, Richard Long, and Dany Robin, Roger Perry and Connie Francis, Ron Randell and Janis Paige


Highlights:

-The French Rivera and Italy in gorgeous, vibrant color.

Notable Songs:
-“Italian Lullaby” sung by Connie Francis
-“Follow the Boys” sung by Connie Francis
-“Intrigue” sung Connie Francis

My Review:
Though this is categorized as a musical, it’s more a romantic comedy where Connie Francis sings at the drop of the hat: Connie picks up a baby and sings a lullaby, Connie goes to an Italian party and is asked to sing, Connie turns on the radio and sings.
This is pretty common in frothy 1950s and 1960s films. Young singing stars such as Frankie Avalon, James Darren or Connie Francis are cast in films and have a four or five songs to spotlight their singing talents.
In many of her films, Francis has man trouble. In “Where the Boys Are,” she has trouble nabbing a guy. This time in “Follow the Boys,” she is married but he can’t get leave to see her.
I love seeing Janis Paige, Paula Prentiss and Russ Tamblyn in pretty much every film, and the scenery in the film is beautiful.
However, even with a star-studded cast, “Follow the Boys” is really merely okay.
The plot is tedious and I don’t care for the French actress Dany Robin.

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Musical Monday: The Fleet’s In (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.

HUTTON 1 FLEET'S INThis week’s musical:
“The Fleet’s In” –Musical #488

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Victor Schertzinger

Starring:
Dorothy Lamour, William Holden, Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, Leif Erickson, Betty Jane Rhodes, Jimmy Dorsey (as himself)

Plot:
Sailor Casey Kirby (Holden) is dubbed a playboy when there is a picture of him in the newspaper kissing movie star Diana Golden (Rhodes). As his buddies build him up as a “sea wolf,” they bet Casey can’t woo ice queen nightclub performer “The Countess” (Lamour), who is well-known for turning down sailors. However, Casey isn’t aware that sailors are betting money him kissing the Countess in public. During all of this, the Countess’s roommate Bessie Dale (Hutton) is after Casey’s friend Barney (Bracken).

Trivia:
-Betty Hutton‘s first feature film. Hutton came straight from Broadway, where she was in the play “Panama Hattie” with Ethel Merman.
-Music written by Johnny Mercer.
-Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra perform in the film. Dorsey is the brother of other big band leader, Tommy Dorsey. Jimmy played the saxophone and Tommy played the trombone.
-Hutton and Lamour became long time friends while making this movie, Hutton wrote in her autobiography, “Backstage, You Can Have.” “
“I will always love her for the friendship she immediately showed to me in those early days,” she wrote.

Bessie (Hutton) holds back the Countess (Lamour) when she finds out there is a bet if Casey (Holden) kisses her. Barney (Bracken) hides.

Bessie (Hutton) holds back the Countess (Lamour) when she finds out there is a bet if Casey (Holden) kisses her. Barney (Bracken) hides.

Notable Songs:
-“Tangerine” performed by Jimmy Dorsey’s band and sung by Bob Eblery and Helen O’Connell
-“When You Hear the Time Signal” sung by Dorothy Lamour
-“If You Build a Better Mousetrap” sung by Betty Hutton, performed by Jimmy Dorsey’s band
-“Not Mine” sung by Betty Hutton and Dorothy Lamour
-“I Remember You” sung by Dorothy Lamour
-“Arthur Murray Taught Me To Dancing a Hurry” sung by Betty Grable

Highlights:
-Jimmy Dorsey’s band using telephones as part of their song for “When You Hear the Time Signal”
-Betty Hutton singing and quickly dancing several dances during the song “Arthur Murray Taught Me To Dancing in a Hurray.” Lyrics are as follow with video below:

“Turkey trot
Or gavotte?
Don’t know which,
Don’t know what.
Jitterbug?
Bunny hug?
Long as you
Cut a rug!
Walk the dog,
Do the frog,
Lindy hop
Till you drop!
Ball the jack
Back to back,
Cheek to cheek
Till you’re weak.”

My Review:
This is an enormously enjoyable and funny movie.
The plot is very thin and is mainly padded with excellent music by Johnny Mercer, but it’s a wonderful piece of World War II-era escapism.
Dorothy Lamour is gorgeous and funny in her role as “The Countess.”
William Holden is still early in his career. He does well in the comedy, but you can tell he has more potential- which he proved later in his career.
For me, the real treat is Betty Hutton. I know I may be a minority in this. I have found several folks in the film community who find her exasperating or irritating. But I LOVE her energy- displayed perfectly in the “Arthur Murray” number.
There is also another funny lady in this film, who I wasn’t familiar with until I saw this film, named Cass Daley. Her singing has a similar sound to Hutton’s and she mainly makes jokes off her physical appearance. What I found interesting is that Cass Elliot of the Mama’s and the Papa’s apparently named herself for Daley.
With an entertaining cast and catchy 1940s tunes, this is a must see.

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