Musical Monday: The Harvey Girls (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.

harvey girlsThis week’s musical:
“The Harvey Girls” –Musical #43

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Judy Garlands, John Hodiak, Angela Lansbury, Ray Bolger, Cyd Charisse, Virgina O’Brien, Preston Foster, Marjorie Main, Kenny Baker, Selena Royale, Chill Wills, Ruth Brady

Plot:
Set in the 1890s, the film is a fictional story about the real life Harvey Girls who worked at Fred Harvey’s Harvey House restaurants that aided westward expansion and civilization. The restaurants offered civilization and clean service to trains who stopped in the area.
Susan Bradley (Garland) travels on the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe railroad from Ohio to Arizona to get married to a man she only knows via letters. Also on the train are “Harvey Girls.” The Harvey Girls are from all over the country and are traveling to work as waitresses in the newly opened Harvey House Restaurant.
When the train arrives, Susan’s husband-to-be is not exactly what she expected. She calls off the marriage and she ends up working as a Harvey Girl.
However, the owners and girls who work at the local saloon don’t take kindly to their business being taken by the new Harvey House and set out to drive them out.

Trivia:
-“The Harvey Girls” originally was going to be a straight western movie starring Clark Gable. MGM worked on the script for many years until it was sent to the Arthur Freed Musical Unit. Judy Garland and Gable were originally going to be cast as the stars, but they didn’t think the audience would accept the pairing. The age difference between the two stars would have made the story difficult especially when Garland sang “Dear Mr. Gable” as a young girl according to George Sidney during the director commentary., according to George Sidney during the director commentary.

-Based on a historical story on the Fred Harvey restaurants called the Harvey House.

-George Sidney interviewed girls from all over the country to get girls from each state. One of the Harvey Girls was New York model, Ethel Brady.

Judy Garland during "The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" number

Judy Garland during “The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” number

-The number “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” was done in one take with Judy Garland. The number was shown to Garland and after seeing it once she said “I’m ready,” Sidney said in the commentary. It was “one of the longest musical numbers in a motion picture all done in two shots,” Sidney said.

-Judy Garland and John Hodiak were going to sing a duet called “My Intuition” written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer. The song’s purpose was to “advance their relationship” in the film. The song was right after their first meeting in the valley when John kisses Judy. The song was cut after the first preview because it was thought to slow down the film, according to notes on the DVD.

-“March of the Doagies” and the “March of the Doagies Reprkise” are two others songs that were cut from the screenplay, along with four other musical numbers, according to the DVD notes. The number took place during the Harvey Girls party. They leave the party and Judy leads the party, skipping down the town, carrying torches and into the prairie as she sings. The “March of the Doagies” number was huge and took many evenings to film on the MGM backlot. The footage of the number was not seen until it showed up in 1994 in “That’s Entertainment III,” according to DVD notes.

-Actress Virginia O’Brien isn’t in the film after her “In the Wild, Wild West” number, because she was pregnant. She “had her own little Harvey Girl,” Sidney said.

19-year-old Angela Lansbury and John Hodiak in "The Harvey Girls"

19-year-old Angela Lansbury and John Hodiak in “The Harvey Girls”

-John Hodiak had the measles and shooting was held up, Sidney said.

-President Franklin Roosevelt died during the filming of “The Harvey Girls” and shooting was called off for a few days, according to George Sidney.

-Grandson of Fred Harvey, who started the Harvey House Restaurant, Byron Harvey Jr. played an uncredited role as a train conductor.

-Cyd Charisse’s second film. Her first movie was “The Ziegfeld Follies.”

-Angela Lansbury was only 19 when she was in this film. Ann Sothern was originally supposed to play this role, according to director George Sidney in the commentary.

-Another song called “Hayride” with Ray Bolger was cut, but only the vocals remain.

-Angela Lansbury was dubbed by Virginia Rees

-Cyd Charisse was dubbed by Marion Doengnes

-Shot some of the scenes in Monument Valley where many John Wayne films were made.
-The first film for costume designer Helen Rose.

Actress Virginia O'Brien, who had to drop out of filming after the "Wild Wild West" number.

Actress Virginia O’Brien, who had to drop out of filming after the “Wild Wild West” number.

Awards: 
-Won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score for “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer.
-Nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture written by Lennie Hayton.

Highlights:
-The 8 minute “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” number
-In an effort to close the Harvey House, men from the saloon steal every steak from the restaurant. Outraged, Judy Garland goes to the saloon with two guns telling them to “stick ‘em up.” She is successful in getting the steaks back, but the whole scene is hilarious.

Judy Garland going into the saloon with guns to steal back the steaks in "The Harvey Girls."

Judy Garland going into the saloon with guns to steal back the steaks in “The Harvey Girls.”

Notable Songs:
-Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe performed by Judy Garland and most of the cast
-The Wild, Wild West performed by Virginia O’Brien

My Review:
“The Harvey Girls” is such a fun movie.
The cast is stellar, costumes are gorgeous and the Technicolor backdrop of the Old West looks like a postcard.
My only real issue with the film is “The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” is Judy Garland’s strongest song and Ray Bolger only gets a chance to show off his dancing in one number- but he only sings a bit at the beginning.
Many of the songs that did showcase Bolger or Garland ended up being cut.
It’s a shame that the “My Intuition” song was cut, because it gave Judy Garland a higher quality song than the others to sing. I also love hearing John Hodiak’s singing voice which isn’t trained but is pleasant. “March of the Doagies” isn’t a very good song, but it also showcased Judy’s voice very well.
However, it’s easy to look back now and say “I wish that song was still in the movie,” but I’m sure it was the best decision in 1946.
Of the songs in this movie, “The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,” is the stand out number by far. It’s eight minutes long, but it is engaging and interesting the whole time. We get the perspective of the people in the town who are excited about the train arriving, the conductor, the Harvey Girls and where they came from, and then Judy Garland who is traveling for the first time.

The three female leads: Cyd Charisse, Judy Garland and Virginia O'Brien after singing "It's a Great Big World"

The three female leads: Cyd Charisse, Judy Garland and Virginia O’Brien after singing “It’s a Great Big World”

There are also so many large names in this movie that it is hard for the secondary leads to get enough screen time. But somehow it works out. Virginia O’Brien and Cyd Charisse are in two songs, and Charisse has a dance number. Kenny Baker (aka the poor man’s Dick Powell) also has a song, and Ray Bolger has his tap dancing number.
One of the real highlights for me is Marjorie Main. She’s consistently funny in most of her comedic roles and continues to be hilarious in the “Harvey Girls.”
Another huge bright spot in this film is John Hodiak as the leading man. He’s one of my top Hollywood heartthrobs.
I do think it’s interesting that this originally was going to be a non-musical film. I’m sure it would have been entertaining, but we wouldn’t have had the colorful and lovely piece we have today.

The Harvey Girls

The Harvey Girls

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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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Old Hollywood Halloween: jump on the ‘Bandwagon’

The difficult thing about being a classic film lover at Halloween is no one knows who you are supposed to be.

Some of you might remember my Carmen Miranda costume from last Halloween. Several of my friends thought I was Chiquita Banana and I tried to correct them-Carmen Miranda was spoofed so many times by Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck that surely they would know.

This year I decided to be Cyd Charisse in the “Girl Hunt” number from “The Band Wagon” (1953). I knew most people might now know who I was so I said “someone from an old musical” and elaborate if they liked classic film.

I guess this is a rather odd choice for a Halloween costume, but I had an old red sequined dance costume that would be prefect. All I had to do was go to Hobby Lobby, buy some similar colored material and sew it on. For not having a full length mirror as a reference, I was pretty pleased.  I can’t wait to see the photos of any other classic film costumes!!

Halloween 2011: Cyd Charisse from the "Girl Hunt" number in "Band Wagon"

Happy Halloween!!

P.S) I apologize for my blogging absence, still no internet in my apartment so using my work computer and free Wi-Fi at McDonalds. I miss reading everybody’s blogs!

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Classic movies in Music Videos: Alright by Janet Jackson

You thought that I forgot September’s installment of music videos that feature either classic movie stars, movies or reference classic movies-well you would be correct.  But I have it squeezed in just before the month ends!

This Janet Jackson’s 1990 song “Alright” is getting featured. This video doesn’t have just one star-but FOUR! It features Cyd Charisse (2:52), dancing brothers Fayard and Harold Nicholas (4:58), and Cab Calloway(4:27 and 6:48).  The video is supposed to be in a sort of 1930s style (complete with Janet in a zoot suit) and it follows Jackson going to the premier of Calloway’s film.

As you may recall, Cyd Charisse-star of Band Wagon and Brigadoon- was also in the Blue Mercedes video “I Want to Be Your Property” around this time. Charisse was 69 at this time and still looks amazing.  She recently died in 2008.

The Nicholas brothers can be spotted dancing and doing painful to watch acrobatic splits in films like “Down Argentine Way” and “Stormy Weather.” I often think “Man didn’t that hurt” while I’m watching a film where they jump off a balcony and land in a split. According to Fayard Nicholas it did, “We can’t do those routines any more; we don’t want to, and I’ll tell you why — it hurts!”  Fayard died in 2006 and Harold died in 2000. At the time of this video the brothers were 76 and 69 years old (respectively).

This video was one of Cab Calloway’s last appearances. He died in 1994 and was 83 years old here. Though not as well known for his acting career, I think most of us are familiar with his great song “Minnie the Moocher” and his cameo appearance in “The Blues Brothers.”

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Actors in Music Videos: “I Want to Be Your Property” by Blue Mercedes

I’m starting yet another new feature on “Comet” about actors and actresses, or anything classic film related, in music videos.

The video featured today is the U.S. version of the video “I Want to Be Your Property” by Blue Mercedes in 1988 from their album Rich and Famous.

It’s a really corny video with lots of cheesy 1980s special effects, but its fun to see Cyd. I tried to find if there was any story behind her doing the video but couldn’t find anything.

Please keep in mind when you watch this video that Cyd was 66 years old! She still looks just as beautiful as ever and her legs and figure are fabulous. What a wonderful woman.

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Star Collector

anita
Anita Page in the 1920’s. At one point she had more fan mail than Greta Garbo.

Not only am I old-fashioned in my movie tastes, but I am also pretty passe as a movie fan.

I write fan mail.

You may be thinking, “Who does that anymore?” A surprising amount do continue to write to stars like Debbie Reynolds, Tony Curtis and Elizabeth Taylor. No one writes the stars of today, though, like Angelina Jolie, Orlando Bloom or Jennifer Aniston. Why is this? Because they won’t answer…that is if you can even find an address to write to.

I get my fan mail addresses from an autograph database called StarTiger.com. On the website you can search virtually any movie star, singer or sports player. Each star has their own profile page. On this page there is a list of addresses that you can contact them.

Users comments on the address and rate them with success ratings on if they received an autograph, how fast it was returned or they note if they got an answer at all. There are messages boards for each address where autograph hunters tell what they sent (such as a self-addressed, stamped envelope with two 4×6 photos) and what they got back (such as they signed one picture and left the other unsigned).

I discovered Star Tiger in 8th grade in 2003 for keyboarding class where we were practicing our letter writing skills by writing to famous people. At the time the website was known as Star Archives and was free (users now have to pay a monthly fee). While the rest of my class chose famous rappers like 50 cent and actresses like Sandra Bullock, 14-year-old Jessica Pickens of course chose Doris Day.

This was the first of many fan letters I ever wrote. I wrote to Doris about how much I loved her movies, how she brightened my day and that I used her as a role model to try to keep a sunny disposition. A few weeks after sending off the letter, I was the only student in the class to receive an autographed picture and a nice letter from Ms. Day inviting me to donate money towards her animal foundation.

After this I made lists of stars I wanted to write. Since then I have sent off fan letters twice; sophomore year of high school sophomore year of college.

Unfortunately, there are mournful times when I have to cross a name off a list when a star dies. Some instances have been with June Allyson in July 2006, Cyd Charisse in June 2008 and Kathryn Grayson in February 2010.

Writing fan letters to 70, 80 and 90-year-old movie stars might seem greedy. I will admit that part of it is selfish. I want autographs and to be part of that classic film culture and era, but that isn’t all of it. I want classic stars to know that they are still thought about. That their films are still watched, that they are still loved and a young lady in Greenville, S.C. really looks up to them.

I am showing that I appreciate the stars with my fan mail. The classic actors also show that they appreciate me by responding with autographs. Classic film actors REALIZE that they way they became movie stars is through their fans watching their movies and reading about them in the fan magazines.

Joan Crawford might have a bad reputation from that book of lies “Mommy Dearest” by Christine Crawford. However, Crawford knew she was famous because of her fans and answered each piece of fan mail personally, according to Divas the Site.

Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford signing autographs. Photo taken by Clarence Sinclair Bull in 1933

I’ve also read accounts of people who have seen stars like Van Johnson or Walter Pidgeon who happily stop and sign autographs.
Van
Van Johnson with fans.

Fans used to confuse Lana Turner and Betty Grable, and when either was approached and mistaken for the other, they would sign autographs with the other’s name rather than getting angry and yelling at the fans.

Grable lana
Betty Grable and Lana Turner sometimes were confused because of their platinum locks.

It’s hard for movie viewers of today to hear things like this while the movie stars of today are not as accomodating. In fact they are the opposite. They run from autograph seekers, scream if you call them the wrong name and do not answer fan mail.

Today’s celebrities need to realize that they would be nothing without their fans.

Autographs in order that they were recieved:

1. Doris Day (My first autograph in 8th grade)

doris2

2. Deanna Durbin

3. Esther Williams

4. June Allyson (signed notecard. I was going to send a letter with a picture but she died before I got the chance)

5. Vera Miles, along with a nice note

Vera Picture Vera Letter

6. Annette Funicello (One of my favorites. She signed it herself, which was a great surprise and treat because since she has MS I had heard her husband signed them)

Annette

7. Joan Fontaine

8. Lauren Bacall

9. Ann Blyth

10. Jane Powell

11. Joan Leslie (so sweet and added cardboard to back her picture)

12. Elizabeth Taylor

13. Paul Newman (shortly before his death)

Paul

14. Shirley Temple- sent 2 pictures; one young and one teenaged signed both.
Shirley young Shirley old

15. Van Johnson- again shortly before his death

16. Debbie Reynolds

17. Julie Andrews- pre-signed. I have read she is the worst person for autographs

18. Maureen O’Hara- A real treat and a hard person to contact. Autograph came from Ireland!

Maureen

19. Audrey Totter

20. Doris Day- I wrote her again.

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