Musical Monday: Week-End in Havana (1941)

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

Week-end_in_havanaThis week’s musical:
Week-End in Havana” (1941)–Musical #479

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Alice Faye, John Payne, Cesar Romero, Carmen Miranda, Cobina Wright, Leonid Kinskey, George Barbier

Plot:
Macy’s shop girl Nan Spencer (Faye) saves up her money to go on her first cruise to Havana. The only problem is, the ship hits a sandbar in Florida and the ship company has to reimburse everyone and offer them another trip. When ship employee Jay Williams (Payne)-who is also engaged to the boss’s daughter- is sent to reimburse the passengers and have them sign waivers, Nan isn’t satisfied with a check. She saved for years for this trip and also knows what the captain was doing when the ship crashed, which could threaten a lawsuit for the company.
Jay’s company sends Nan on an all expenses paid trip to Havana so she will sign the company’s waiver. Jay has to go along-postponing his wedding- to make sure Nan has a good time. Along the way she falls for Monte Blanca (Romero), who is the boyfriend/manager of Rosita Rivas (Miranda). Monte thinks Nan is wealthy and thinks he is using her to pay off his gambling debts.

Trivia:
-This is one of many films made in the 1940s with a “good neighbor” feel to it. Several films visited Latin American countries such as Cuba, Argentina or Brazil to showcase these countries and strengthen United States relations with Latin American government.
-Carmen Miranda’s second film.
-This was the second of three films Miranda and Faye made together. The other two films were “That Night in Rio” (1941) and “The Gang is All Here” (1943).

John Payne, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero in "Week-End in Havana."

John Payne, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero in “Week-End in Havana.”

Highlights:
-Every colorful Carmen Miranda performance
-Alice Faye and Cesar Romero dancing to “Romance and Rhumba.” It gives the audience an opportunity to see Romero’s smooth dance moves.

Notable Songs:
-Tropical Magic sung by Alice Faye and John Payne
-Rebola a Bola sung by Carmen Miranda
-The Ñango sung by Carmen Miranda complete with a lavish dance number
-Romance and Rhumba sung by Alice Faye and Cesar Romero

Review:
Alice Faye once said her singing voice was deeper than the plots of the films she made.
This may be the case with “Week-End in Havana,” but this film is a lot of fun. The colorful costumes and scenery are gorgeous in Technicolor, Carmen Miranda and Alice Faye are equipped with catchy songs and the two leading men are nice to look at.
The four leads seem to have fairly equal screen time- each delivering witty lines and offering scenes filled with charm.
Week-End in Havana” is a lighthearted 1940s “good neighbor” film, that is full of color and fun.

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Musical Mondays: Rose of Washington Square (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, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Rose of Washington Square” (1939)- Musical #462

roseStarring:
Alice Faye, Tyrone Power, Al Jolson, William Frawley, Joyce Compton

Director: 
Gregory Ratoff

Studio:
Twentieth Century Fox

Plot:
Set in the 1920s, Rose (Faye) and Ted (Jolson) dream of becoming singing stars. While Ted’s career takes off, Rose works her way up while singing in speakeasies. Then Rose meets and falls in love with gambling, con-artist Bart (Power). Bart has trouble with the law but somehow keeps his troubles away from her. When Rose is discovered by Ziegfeld and makes it big on Broadway, she and Bart marry but he disappears because of trouble with the law.

Trivia:
The plot of this film strongly resembled Fanny Brice’s relationship with Jules W. Arndt Stein. Faye even sings Brice’s signature song “My Man.”

Alice Faye as Rose falls in love with gambler Tyrone Power who plays Bart.

Alice Faye as Rose falls in love with gambler Tyrone Power who plays Bart.

Brice sued 20th Century Fox for $750,000 and the studio settled with Brice for an undisclosed amount, according to the Biography documentary on Alice Faye.

The publicity made “Rose of Washington Square the biggest musical hit of 1939.

Notable songs:
-Al Jolson sings his signature songs “My Mammy,” “Toot, Toot, Tootsie” and “California, Here I Come”

-Alice Faye sings Fanny Brice’s signature ballad “My Man”

Highlights:
-Louis Prima has an appearance playing the trumpet as Alice Faye sings. Not only is it always great to have a Prima appearance in a film, but Faye later married Phil Harris who performed with Prima in Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”

-When Alice Faye sings “Rose of Washington Square” specialty dancers Igor and Tanya perform a dizzying dance. Also dancers sing and dance as they smoke a cigarette, toss the cigarette and another appears in their hand.

"Rose of Washington Square" cigarette dancing

“Rose of Washington Square” cigarette dancing

My review:
Alice Faye once said, “My voice was deeper than the plot” of many of her movies and this applies to “Rose of Washington Square.”

I love Alice Faye and will watch her in anything, but my favorite part was getting to see her perform with Louis Prima. Though Jolson was in black face, it was interesting to see him perform several of the songs that made him famous.

The movie was released during Hollywood’s best year, has a stellar cast and well-known songs, but it lacks something. Aside from the Brice vs. 20th Century Fox publicity, it is a run of the mill singer-trying-to-make-it-big musical.

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

The Butterscotch Voice: Remembering Tony Martin

The heavens gained several stars this year as classic film stars passed away in 2012.

Since Comet Over Hollywood did not give several of them the full attention they deserved, the first few days of 2013 will be dedicated to some of the notable celebrities who left us.

Tony Martin with wife of 60 years, Cyd Charisse, and children Tony Jr. and Nicky in 1956.

Tony Martin with wife of 60 years, Cyd Charisse, and children Tony Jr. and Nicky in 1956.

Hedy Lamarr, Esther Williams, Rita Hayworth.

He romanced and was married to the most beautiful women in the movies.

1940s and 1950s crooner Tony Martin had a smooth voice that could be compared to melted butter, or what his friend Gabriel Guerrero described as “butterscotch,” in a USA Today article.

“You Stepped Out of a Dream” from Ziegfeld Girl:

“I think I sound like a fella who’s always making a plea through his music,” Martin said. “Sort of a plea of sincerity.”

Martin’s career began on the “Lucky Strike Radio Hour” during the 1930s and moved on the Gracie Allen and George Burns Show.

Tony Martin with ex-wife, Alice Faye in 1939 at the premiere of "Hollywood Cavalcade."

Tony Martin with ex-wife, Alice Faye in 1939 at the premiere of “Hollywood Cavalcade.”

He began his film career at RKO in the late 1930s but was more successful when he moved to MGM, performing in movies like “Ziegfeld Girl” (1941), “Easy to Love” (1953) and “Hit the Deck” (1955).

But his most successful endeavor was his marriage to dancer and actress, Cyd Charisse in 1948.

Martin was first married to actress and singer, Alice Faye. Faye and Martin met while filming “Sing, Baby, Sing” in 1937, according to a New York Times Article.

They married in 1937 and were divorced by 1941. Faye was 20th Century Fox’s top star and her fame interfered with their marriage.

“To many people around town, I was Mr. Alice Faye,” Martin said.

But his marriage to Cyd Charisse lasted for 60 years until her death in 2008. The couple met while Charisse’s fame was still growing at MGM. Charisse and Martin had one child together, Tony Jr., along with her son Nicky from a previous marriage.

Tony Martin in 1955.

Tony Martin in 1955.

“She stepped out of a dream,” Martin said about Cyd.

The two never starred in any films together, aside from a brief cameo Charisse makes at the end of “Easy to Love,” but the couple performed in singing and dancing tours in their later years, according to a USA Today article.

“To him, walking out on to a nightclub floor is as simple and natural as going to the kitchen for a glass of water,” Charisse said in “The Two of Us,” the joint autobiography she wrote with Martin in 1976.

Martin passed away on July 27, 2012, at the age of 98. But even well into his 90’s, he was still performing and his voice was just as rich.

“His voice is more or less intact,” a New York Times critic wrote after a 2008 performance. “Time has certainly taken its toll. He no longer belts. But the essential Tony Martin sound was still discernible.”

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