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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Musical Monday: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

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

meet meThis week’s musical:
Meet Me In St. Louis” –Musical #10

Studio:
MGM

Director:
Vincente Minnelli

Starring:
Judy Garland, Mary Astor, Leon Ames, Margaret O’Brien, Lucille Bremer, Marjorie Main, Tom Drake, June Lockhart, Harry Davenport, Chill Wills, Joan Carroll.

Plot:
Meet Me In St. Louis” revolves around the Smith family who lives in St. Louis and follows them from Summer of 1903 until the 1904 World’s Fair. The film is broken up into story segments such as Summer, Fall of 1903 with Halloween, Winter of 1903 with Christmas and Summer of 1904 when they go to the World’s Fair.
Esther (Garland) falls in love the boy next door, John Truitt (Drake) and her sister Rose (Bremer) is a flirt who likes older men. The two younger sisters Tootie (O’Brien) and Agnes (Carroll) cause mischief. The conflict comes when their father (Ames) needs to move the family to New York.

Trivia:
-Van Johnson was originally supposed to play John Truitt rather than Tom Drake.
-The daughter of a lighting man was originally cast as Tootie. When O’Brien was cast instead, the lighting man intentionally attempted to drop a light on O’Brien.
-Arthur Freed dubbed Leon Ames’s singing voice.
-Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli met on this film. They were married from 1945 to 1951.
-Garland was 21 when she was in this movie and was disappointed to play another teenager. She wanted to move on to other adult roles.
-“Meet Me in St. Louis” was made into a Broadway show in 1989, according to “Hollywood Musicals Year by Year” by Stanley Green.
-Director Vincente Minnelli’s first film hit, according to The American Musical and the Performance of Personal Identity by Raymond Knapp

Judy Garland as Esther singing "The Trolley Song"

Judy Garland as Esther singing “The Trolley Song”

-The film is based off a series of autobiographical stories by Sally Benson published in “The New Yorker,” according to Knapp’s book
-A personal favorite film of producer Arthur Freed.
-The highest grossing film at the time for MGM since “Gone with the Wind” (1939).
-The film was remade twice for television. Once in 1959 starring Jane Powell, Jeanne Crain, Patty Duke, Walter Pidgeon and Myrna Loy. The second time was in 1966 starring Shelley Fabares and Celeste Holm.

Highlights:
-The terrific cast. Though the leads are amazing, I would argue that the secondary leads of Marjorie Main and Harry Davenport steal the show.
-Lon’s going away party with “Skip to My Lou” and Tootie and Esther singing “The Cake Walk” is one of my favorite parts.
-I love the holiday portions of the film such as:
-Halloween: Tootie and Agnes trick-or-treating in their spooky costumes-Agnes as a drunken ghost and Tootie as a horrible ghost. The two are dared to throw flour on neighbors and shout “I HATE YOU.” I’m always shocked that these kids parents don’t care they are starting a huge bonfire in the middle of the neighborhood.

Margaret O'Brien as Tootie being the "most horrible"

Margaret O’Brien as Tootie being the “most horrible”

-Christmas: Esther (Garland) and Rose (Bremer) go to a dance and try to sabotage Lucille Ballard’s (Lockhart) dance card by giving her dopey boys to dance with. The scene where Esther dances with all of the silly boys is hilarious.
-More Christmas: Tootie (O’Brien) is a snowman murderer. Tootie is upset the family is moving so she destroys the snowmen.
-And then there is Warren Sheffield (Robert Sully)

Notable Songs:
-The Trolly Song sung by Judy Garland. The most famous song in the film. It’s such fun and Garland did the scene in one take.
-“Skip to My Lou”/”Under the Bamboo Tree” sung by Judy Garland and Lucille Bremer during the party scene. It’s so fun and I wish my party was like this.

-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung by Judy Garland is also another famous song from the film. It makes me mother cry every time. And I have recently inherited sappily crying during the scene.
-“The Boy Next Door” sung by Judy Garland

My Review:
This is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s one of those movies that I have been watching since I was a baby and it never gets old. The humor, the gorgeous Technicolor and the wonderful songs. The story flows well and the songs fit in effortlessly.
I can’t think about this movie without smiling.

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“The Wizard of Oz” in 3D: Was it necessary?

My parents introduced “The Wizard of Oz” to me when I was a baby.

My sisters and I all have dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween or a book character day at least once.
We also have Dorothy Barbies, dolls and my mom owns “The Wizard of Oz” collectors decorative plates.

Needless to say, the Pickens family are fans of the film.

I grew up with “The Wizard of Oz” just as my parents did when it was shown yearly on television.

wizard of oz2

“The Wizard of Oz” was what taught me about the state of Kansas and what a cyclone was.
Like most movies, the information and lessons it taught me molded my young mind.

When I heard the 1939 film starring Judy Garland as Dorothy was going to be released in 3D and IMAX, I had mixed emotions.
1. I wanted to see the film on the big screen, because I never had before.
2. I don’t like 3D and avoid it at all costs. Why did they feel the conversion was necessary?

Though I wasn’t pleased with the thought of 3D or paying $17 for a movie ticket, I couldn’t pass up watching a classic film in a movie theater- something that doesn’t happen much in my area.

Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Judy Garland as Dorothy and Jack Haley as the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz"

Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Judy Garland as Dorothy and Jack Haley as the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz”

Tuesday evening I made the 50 minute drive to Charlotte, NC to see the “Wizard of Oz.”

The Technicolor was lush, I laughed at the supporting characters, cried at the end of the movie and I enjoyed myself. It had been years since I watched “The Wizard of Oz” from start to finish. I forgot how funny the jokes are and how visually beautiful it is.

Having the opportunity to see a classic film on the big screen is a special experience. Even if you have seen the movie before, you pick up on jokes and subtle movements and expressions better than you can on your television. You are also forced to pay attention to the film, because it is just you and the screen.

But the big question is, was the 3D necessary or distracting?

The 3D wasn’t obtrusive or dramatic. Many scenes looked similar to if you were watching a 2D version of the film. The times it stood out the most were when the Wicked Witch (played by Margaret Hamilton) pointed at the camera or when Glenda the Good Witch (played by Billie Burke) gestured with her silver wand.

The Lollipop Guild

The Lollipop Guild

The 3D mostly was used for depth. Dorothy sat a little further out from her surroundings as she sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the Lollipop Guild stood out as well. These scenes weren’t bothersome, but there just wasn’t much purpose to it.

The only other 3D film I have watched in a theater the John Wayne film “Hondo” (1953) at the Turner Classic Film Festival. While the 3D wasn’t used excessively in “Hondo,” it’s use was more dramatic. Native Americans rode on horses towards the screen and arrows looked like they were coming at you.
There was nothing that dramatic in “The Wizard of Oz,” not even a flying monkey looking like it was going to share your seat.

There were a few times I felt 3D made things a bit blurry (or maybe it’s my bad eye sight) like when the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Dorothy (Garland), the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) and the Tin Man (Jack Haley) ran through the poppy field. Another area I felt was a bit blurry was when Dorothy opened the door to Oz-taking the film for sepia tone to Technicolor.

In general, I’m not a fan of colorization of black and white films such as “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946) or “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” (1938). I feel that modifying a film from 2D to 3D falls under the same distasteful category as colorization. All of these tactics are to bring in younger audiences. But why change art? If a younger audience doesn’t like the “Mona Lisa” would we paint a smile on her?

“3D falls into the category of digital ‘remixing,’ colorizing and other changes,” said my broadcast journalism professor, Haney Howell. “The director shot the movie from his perspective, not that of some geek who thinks he can make it better.”

Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Man but was allergic to the makeup. His big break came in the from of the 1960s TV show, "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Man but was allergic to the makeup. His big break came in the from of the 1960s TV show, “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

From 1938 to 1939, the script of “The Wizard of Oz” had several rewrites and stars were recast in the film. Shirley Temple was originally considered for the role of Dorothy. Buddy Ebsen was going to be the Tin Man but was allergic to the silver face paint, and Jack Haley was cast instead. Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, received third degree burns on her hands and face during her firey exit with the Munchkins.

A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the director’s vision of “The Wizard of Oz.” Modifying the film from 2D to 3D is going against artistic wishes.

When it was announced “Wizard of Oz” was going to be in 3D, it was said, “If 3D was around in 1939, this is how it would have been shot.” Which is a ridiculous response.

Filmmakers have had 3D capabilities of some sort since the 1920s and 1930s. MGM even made a short film in 1935 called “Audioscopiks” testings 3-D. Then 3D film fell briefly into the mainstream from 1952 to 1954. Hollywood was using 3D to pull movie goers away from their television screens and back into theaters.
So saying “If 3D was around” is a fairly ignorant response.

But to answer the $64 question of “Was 3D necessary?”: No, probably not. But so far, since “The Wizard of Oz” was released last Friday, it has made roughly $3 million. It has served the purpose the money making purpose it was supposed to.

Regardless, I really enjoyed seeing “The Wizard of Oz” for the first time on the big screenscreen.

But as Dorothy says, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

The popularity of “The Wizard of Oz” has remained for over 75 years, so why look any further to improve on it when it isn’t needed.

sepia dorothy

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The years Margaret O’Brien ruined Christmas

Though some people find 1940s child actress Margaret O’Brien cute and spunky, I think she is a nuisance. Particularly at Christmas time.

1940s child actress, Margaret O'Brien

1940s child actress, Margaret O’Brien

From attacking snowmen to nearly killing her pregnant mother, O’Brien can really put a damper on the Christmas season.

Her brattiness particularly shines through in two Christmas films “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944) and “Tenth Avenue Angel” (1948):

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944):

“Meet Me in St. Louis,” a personal favorite, is simply the story of a family, set in the early 1900s when the World’s Fair is coming to St. Louis. The family has four daughters: Rose (Lucille Bremer), Esther (Judy Garland), Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien)

Though Garland is the true star of this film, O’Brien steals several scenes by simply being a brat.

I’m fairly convinced that Tootie manipulates her family by being an obnoxious brat and turning on the waterworks in order to get what she wants.

O'Brien as Tootie telling lies to Mary Astor, playing her mother-saying that John Truitt tried to kill her on Halloween.

O’Brien as Tootie telling lies to Mary Astor, playing her mother-saying that John Truitt tried to kill her on Halloween.

At the start of the film, Tootie tells the iceman (Chill Wills) that her doll has “four fatal disease” and how she will bury  her and have a funeral for a perfectly good doll (maybe this is just a ploy to get new toys?).

At Halloween she really is a little hellion. She throws flour in the face of an unsuspecting neighbor and shouts “I hate you!”-part of a turn-of-the-century Halloween tradition that we never should bring back.

Still on Halloween, she nearly turns her sister Esther (Judy Garland) against her boyfriend John Truitt (Tom Drake).

Tootie and Agnes stuff a dress and put it on the trolley tracks. John Truitt drags Agnes and Tootie out of the way so they don’t get hurt or caught by police. As a result, Tootie splits her lip and loses a tooth.

She is carried into the house sobbing and saying, “John Truitt tried to kill me!” prompting Esther to go next door and beat him up.  Her family comforts Tootie by letting her wear one of Esther’s nightgowns and giving her a gigantic piece of cake (has anyone else noticed cake in classic films is HUGE?). Even after her mother (Mary Astor) discovers Tootie was lying, they let her keep the cake and nightgown, because she was a “good girl when the doctor was there.”

But the real clincher is the Christmas scene.

O'Brien attacking snowmen early Christmas morning (screencapped by me)

O’Brien attacking snowmen early Christmas morning (screencapped by me)

Understandably, Tootie is upset about leaving their home in St. Louis to move to New York.  Esther comforts her younger sister by singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Does this calm the child down? No! Inexplicably, she runs outside in the snow after midnight, starts attacking snowmen they worked so hard to build earlier that day.

Because of Tootie’s crazed snowman moment, father (Leon Ames) changes his life plans to make his family happy, again Tootie getting her way.

Tenth Avenue Angel (1948):

In “Tenth Avenue Angel,” O’Brien plays Flavia; a little girl who lives with her pregnant mother Helen (Phyllis Thaxter) and Aunt Susan (Angela Lansbury).

Steve and Flavia wait to see if a cow will kneel for baby Jesus on Christmas morning. (screencapped by me)

Steve and Flavia wait to see if a cow will kneel for baby Jesus on Christmas morning. (screencapped by me)

Flavia was told that Susan’s boyfriend Steve (George Murphy) has been on a trip around the world but really he has been in jail.

Other harmless white lies and old wives tales are told to Flavia such as mice turn into money, cats all have nine lives and wishes on stars come true. When Flavia finds out none of these are true- including that Steve really didn’t travel around the world- she is sent over the edge.

“If it isn’t the truth then it’s a lie, isn’t it,” she says to her pregnant, bed-ridden mother. “I don’t know who to believe or what to believe. Everybody lies to me.”

In a Margaret O’Brien moment of hysterics complete with sobbing, she runs out of the apartment with mother running behind her, who falls down the stairs and becomes ill…basically because of Flavia.

However, regardless of her bratty moment, Flavia finds a miracle in order to save her mother.

And the cow kneels. This scene is utterly ridiculous. (screencapped by me)

And the cow kneels. This scene is utterly ridiculous. (screencapped by me)

The movie ends ridiculously with Flavia and Steve waiting at the stroke of midnight on Christmas morning to see if a cow will kneel to honor the newborn king-another old wives tale her mother told her.

If the cow kneels, it will be a miracle to make her mother better and will restore Flavia’s faith in her family. Lo and behold, the cow kneels and everyone lives happily ever after.

To review:

Maybe I’m being unnecessarily harsh because I’m simply not a fan of Margaret O’Brien. I’m not sure if O’Brien is the brat or if it’s the characters, but regardless I can’t take the sobbing and would be really angry if a hysterical little girl knocked down my snowman.

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Classic films in Music Videos: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Kenny G

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

Going with the Christmas season, is the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” played by Kenny G in 1997.

Though I’m not a Kenny G fan, I have to admit this is a very heartwarming video.

It stars classic film star Burgess Meredith, who’s career ranged from “Idiot’s Delight” (1939) to his role of the Penguin in the 1960s Batman TV show.

Meredith appears to be a projectionist at a movie theater who is sad, lonely and missing his family at Christmas.

He reminisces on past Christmases by watching clips of classic holiday films such as “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944), “Miracle on 34th Street (1947), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946), “Little Women” (1949), “A Christmas Carol” (1938) and “Bells of St. Mary’s” (1945).

Meredith was 90 when this video was filmed. He died that same year of melanoma and Alzheimer’s disease, making this video a little more heartbreaking than it already is.

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Caroling, Caroling- favorite classic Christmas songs

Maureen O'Sullivan (dressed as a choir boy) sings her favorite Christmas songs.

I’m the kind of person who starts listening to Christmas music right after Thanksgiving. But I’m very selective-I only really enjoy the classic singers. I’ll turn up the radio to Bing Crosby, Dean Martin or even Andy Williams, but once Mariah Carey, Amy Grant or LeeAnn Rhymes come on, the channel is changed.

Here are a few of my favorite Christmas songs sung by some classic stars and singers.

1. Caroling, Caroling by Nat King Cole- My family has many Christmas CD’s including The Ventures Christmas. One of my favorites of our CD’s is called “Christmas Time” with Nat, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. This song, along with the others brings back a lot of nice memories.

 

2. There Is No Place Like Home for the Holidays by Perry Como- You can’t got wrong with any Perry Como song, but his version of this song gives you a warm, homey feeling.  We also own a Perry Como Christmas CD, along with other Perry albums. His voice is very soothing, just makes me wish it was a blanket so I could go to sleep in it.

 

3.  The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole- This song also came off the “Christmas Time” album. There are many versions of this song, but Mr. Cole’s version is my favorite. I particularly enjoy this video because we get to see him singing it. He looks very pleasant.

 

4. A Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives- Who doesn’t smile when they hear this song? I’ve always loved Burl Ives since I saw him in movies like “Summer Magic.” He is just big and jolly and I imagine him smiling and laughing during this song.  This song is at the end of the 1965 “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” cartoon, which is something my family watches every year.  All of these things combined make me blast this song whenever it comes on the radio and sing along.

 

5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Gene Autry- Okay, I’m a Roy Rogers fan, but I enjoy all of Gene Autry’s Christmas songs including Rudolph, Here Come’s Santa Claus and Up on the Roof Top. He has a nice homey sound when he sings it, like he’d come over and sing in your living room. I particularly like Gene Autry singing Rudolph, because he is the one who popularized the song in the 1930s.

 

6. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland- As far as I’m concerned, Judy Garland is the only one who can sing this song. She sings this in “Meet Me in Saint Louis” and my mom cries every time. And then the bittersweet moment is killed when Margaret O’Brien goes berserk and attacks the snowmen when Judy stops singing. Regardless, it’s a very nice song and moment in the movie.

 

7.  Jingle Bells by Frank Sinatra- This might seem very silly but this is my favorite Frank Sinatra song (I’m not a huge Sinatra fan). This song is also on our “Christmas Time” CD. I’m not sure what drew me to this song, but I’m pretty sure it was the spelling. Ever since hearing “Gal from Kalamazoo” by Glenn Miller, I’ve loved songs that spell (including Fergie). I guess I enjoy it, because it takes a song everyone knows and makes it a little more fun.

 

8. White Christmas by Bing Crosby- What favorite Christmas song list is complete without Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas”? Whether it be the version from “Holiday Inn” (1942) or “White Christmas” (1954), I enjoy it either way. I heard Taylor Swift sing a version of this song and it just wasn’t the same and horrible. No one can croon like Bing.

 

9. Ave Maria by Perry Como- I’m not Catholic, but I’ve always enjoyed Perry Como singing Ave Maria. It’s very nice and rather emotional. From what I understand, he sang it on TV every year.

 

Non-Classics Honorable Mention: Though my most favorite songs are above, here are a few newer Christmas songs I also enjoy-

10. Snoopy vs. The Red Baron Christmas by the Royal Guardsmen- I’ve always enjoyed all the Snoopy songs, and this one is fun and cute. Unfortunately they don’t play it on the radio much.

 

11. Cowboy Christmas Ball by The Killers- For the past six years The Killers have put out a Christmas single to help raise money for AIDS. As some of you know, they are my favorite band and this is the single they put out this year.  It’s actually a music set to the tune of an old cowboy poem. It’s a lot of fun and the video is shot to look like a 1960s Spaghetti Western.

 

What songs do you listen to get in the Christmas spirit?

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You can’t get a role with a gun: the story behind “Annie Get Your Gun”

I had always read that “Annie Get Your Gun” was a horrible experience for Betty Hutton.

Actors and stage workers were cold towards her, she wasn’t invited to the movie premiere and MGM wasn’t the warm home she found at Paramount.

For years, I read this treatment was attributed to the fact that Betty Hutton quickly stepped in to the role when Judy Garland was unable to make the film. MGM workers resented that someone was kicking their Judy out of a highly coveted musical biography about the sharp shooter Annie Oakley.

Howard Keel, Betty Hutton, Louis Calhern and Keenan Wynn singing “No Business Like Show Business.”

About a month ago, I read and reviewed Betty Hutton’s autobiography “Backstage, You Can Have.” I found that the story about “Annie Get Your Gun” wasn’t as cut and dry as “Judy was kicked out, they were mean to Betty.”  Betty Hutton might have also helped a little in digging her grave.

When the Irving Berlin musical first hit Broadway stages in 1946, Betty knew she wanted to play the part.

 “In May (of 1946), the same month we were finishing up work on “The Perils Of Pauline,” a new musical opened…The show was called “Annie Get Your Gun” and it starred Ethel Merman in the title role. I went to New York to see it, and fell deeply in love with the role of Annie Oakley. This was a part I just had to play in the hotly anticipated movie version” (Hutton 209).

 Betty begged Paramount to buy film rights. Paramount was giving her weak films like “Dream Girl” and she felt that Annie Oakley would have helped bolster her career. However, Arthur Freed at MGM paid Irving Berlin $650,000 for the play and planned on MGM’s top star Judy Garland to play the role.

Judy Garland dressed for the “I’m an Indian Too” number.

“I was heartbroken,” Hutton said. Besides Hutton, Ginger Rogers also campaigned for the role and was told Annie Oakley doesn’t wear silk stockings and high heels.

 However, when MGM began filming “Annie Get Your Gun” it was full of disasters:

•New star Howard Keel fell of his horse and broke his ankle.

•Frank Morgan, playing Colonel Buffalo Bill, had a heart attack and died and was replaced by Louis Calhern

•Busby Berkley started out being the director and was fired and replaced by Charles Walters who was then replaced by George Sidney

•Judy Garland didn’t want to do the movie at all.

 Garland felt that she wasn’t right for the role. The video below shows Judy Garland in a few shots they filmed with her as Annie. She looks unsure and not very well. Judy started not showing up to the set, her contract was suspended.

 Garland was not unhappy that Betty Hutton took her place; in fact she later told Betty Hutton that she did a good job and was pleased that Hutton got the part.

 “Years, later while we (Judy and Betty) were both working in Las Vegas, Judy and I became very good friends. She told me then she had never wanted the picture and it wasn’t right for her. She admitted the part was right for me, and after all was said and done, she was happy I got it” (Hutton 229).

 The problem was how Hutton handled getting the part. She let everyone know how much she had wanted it.

Hutton told the Associated Press, “I’m so excited I can’t sleep. For four years I’ve been trying to do Annie. I haven’t been happy with the pictures I’ve had since Buddy DeSylva left Paramount and I pleaded them to buy it. I really bawled them out when they let MGM get it.”

 Not only did this comment not make Hutton very endearing to MGM players, but also didn’t help her floundering relationship with Paramount. Hutton was already at odds with Paramount as she let fame go to her head. In her autobiography Hutton said she wasn’t as uncaring as the comment made her sound, she was just excited (228).

 After reading Betty Hutton’s autobiography, comments like these are what helped end her career. Hutton said herself that she couldn’t shut up and always put her foot in her mouth with the press. This was certainly one of those times.

 It was difficult for Hutton to come into an unfamiliar studio. She had found a family at Paramount and described MGM as much more formal-cast members addressed her as Miss Hutton rather than Betty.  While Betty may have found this off-puting, I believe this was simply out of respect for her.

Betty Hutton is hilarious in her version of “I’m an Indian Too”

Though MGM was unfamiliar, it didn’t stop Betty from trying to work under her terms.

 Betty admits that it was “probably too much Hutton, too fast.”  She wanted to be applauded when she did something good like she was at Paramount and insisted on having air conditioning on the set (231 Hutton).  I personally, think these are mighty large demands to make for a studio that isn’t your own. I would have been peeved too if I was part of the cast.

 Betty was a force of nature and gave her all in performances. Louis Calhern, who played Colonel Buffalo Bill, told Keel, “She’s upstaging the hell out of you.” Keel brushed it off saying he was new and that the camera would come around to him once in a while, according to Howard Keel’s book “Only Make Believe: My Life in Show Business (119). At one point, Betty got upset because she said Keel was upstaging her and they redid the scene 35 times until it was how she liked it.

 Regardless though, Howard Keel said he thought Betty Hutton was sweet and they got along okay. He admitted however, that the rest of the cast wasn’t happy with her.

 However, Hutton apparently thought differently and was also sort of bratty in her recount of the situation:

 “Here he was in his very first film role. Was this greenhorn attempting to call the shots? ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ is Annie’s story, not that of Howard Keel’s character, Frank Butler. If the story had been reversed, I would have gladly handed Howard the burdensome responsibility of carrying the film as I had. Keel Proved to be my primary adversary during the shooting of the film. There was much bad blood between us” (Hutton 232).

 It’s funny that Hutton’s most memorable role was one of her unhappiest experiences as a film star. Though, as much as I love her, I think some of the unhappiness was caused by Betty.

 After “Annie Get Your Gun,” Hutton made three more feature films and a handful of television appearances. Her difficult behavior and use of pills ended her career.

 It’s almost ironic how Hutton’s career ended for one of the main reasons Judy Garland was fired from the film: pills. Unfortunately, while Judy was still revered and loved at the time of her death in 1968, Hutton was largely forgotten by the early 1960s.

Sources:

“Backstage, You Can Have: My Own Story” by Betty Hutton

“Only Make Believe: My Life in Show Business” by Howard Keel

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Jack Carson is the Easter bunny this year…

Since Easter is tomorrow, I wanted to do a post today and tomorrow. Today’s will be contemporary Easter in films complete with dying eggs, Easter bunnies and large bonnets. Tomorrow’s post will focus on the religious and Biblical aspect of the holiday.

Judy Garland and Fred Astaire posing for the photographers in “Easter Parade”

Easter Parade (1948): Who saw that coming?  This is probably the only feature film that isn’t set in Biblical times that prominately features Easter throughout the movie.  Though the movie really isn’t about Easter and its importance, it begins and ends with the holiday and the prominance of being featured in the newspaper while walking in the “Easter parade” in one’s Sunday best.  The actual film is about show business and how back stabbing dance partners can be when you are trying to hit it big with the Ziegfeld Follies.
This is a great favorite at my house. It has a wonderful cast, several funny scenes and one of the best musical soundtracks you can find. Below is a clip from the beginning of the movie featuring the songs “Happy Easter” and “Drum Crazy.” Unfortunately, Youtube didn’t have the famous “Easter Parade” scene at the end.

My Dream Is Yours  (1949): You may think: What? Isn’t this a Lee Bowman-Jack Carson-Doris Day remake of “Twenty Million Sweethearts”? Why yes, yes it is, but there is a VERY humorous scene where Doris Day’s son, Freddie has a dream the night before Easter. Doris and her soon to be boyfriend Jack Carson are dressed up like Easter bunnies and singing and dancing with Bugs Bunny. I really like this movie, Doris looks beautiful and the plot is a bit more serious than “Twenty Million Sweethearts.”  However,  singing like Easter rabbits is a bit silly. Before the dream, Freddie and Doris also dye Easter eggs, and that’s about all there is to the Easter references.

Other than those two films, there aren’t many films that focus a significant amount of time on Easter in contemporary time. I searched Easter as a keyword on IMDB, other films that feature the holiday are:
What Price Hollywood (1932): In this “A Star Is Born” take off, I think Constance Bennett’s husband either tries to commit suicide or dies on Easter, but I don’t remember clearly.
Holiday Inn (1942): This should come as no surprise. Bing sings Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade” song in the film that features every other holiday under the sun.
Peyton Place (1957): I think Allison goes to pick up Selena for Easter service, and Selena’s step-father was trying to make a move on her.

It’s disheartening that Easter is in so few films. I know Lent isn’t as exciting a holiday season as Advent, but Easter is a much more important holiday than Christmas. We will explore this more tomorrow in the Biblical representation of Easter in films.

Stay tuned for tomorrow!

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Boola boola and rah rah rah: College in the movies

A typical day at Winthrop…not. (From “Good News

After a fast Christmas break, I have moved back into my Winthrop University dorm for the last time.  In honor of my last semester as a college “co-ed”  here is a blog with different representations of college in classic film and judge at how realistic the films portray college.

*I’d like to point out that all of these are classic films, so don’t be disappointed that I didn’t review “National Lampoon’s Animal House” or “Accepted.”

 

Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston in “The Freshman”

•The Freshman (1925)-

Harold Lloyd is very excited about going to college after seeing a movie about a popular campus. Lloyd’s only purpose at college is to be the big man on campus. He achieves this by doing a silly dance before he shakes people’s hands and fumbling around the football field. However, he just makes a fool of himself. To review: I’m not a huge fan of Harold Lloyd actually (I am loyal to Buster Keaton), but this is actually one of my favorite silent movies. It’s heartbreaking to see how people make fun of him but also hilarious at the same time. I really don’t know what college life was like in the 1920s, but in my college experiences there is not one BIG popular person. I will say, I am on a fairly small campus of 6,500 people so there are notable figures but no one person who I would say is the most popular.

Pigskin Parade (1936)- Winston and Bessie Winters (Jack Haley and Patsy Kelly) are college coaches trying to have a winning season. Things are going rough until hillbilly Amos (Stuart Erwin) and his sister Sairy (Judy Garland)-also a redneck- come to campus.  Amos can throw a winning football pass after throwing melons on the farm. To review: Its been a long time since I’ve seen this movie but I remember it being pretty excruciating. Between Judy’s country accent and the Yacht Boys singing, it was pretty obnoxious.

 

Rosemary and Priscilla Lane publicity shot for “Variety Show”

•Varsity Show (1937)-

Priscilla and Rosemary Lane (as Betty and Barbara) and friends are trying to put on a show on Winfield Campus, but the faculty doesn’t like swing music. They pull in former student and Broadway star Chuck Day (Dick Powell), to help with the show, but his last performances have laid eggs. To review: I love Priscilla Lane and Dick Powell, and its fun to see them in a movie together. However, this is another stereotypical song and dance college musical. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in college put on as big of a show as they do in this movie.

Vivacious Lady (1938)-Francey (Ginger Rogers) marries college chemistry professor Peter (James Stewart). The marriage is a secret from his family because he is already engaged and his father (Charles Coburn)  is the college president. Stewart and Rogers go to extreme measures to stay together, including Rogers becoming a student at the college. To review: This is one of my favorite movies. Rogers and Stewart have wonderful chemistry and there are several funny moments. I did think most of the college students in Stewart’s class looked a lot older than college students though.

Bathing Beauty (1944)- Caroline (Esther Williams) goes back to her old job as a teacher at a girls’ college after a misunderstanding with her boyfriend Steve (Red Skelton). Steve tries to win Caroline back by finding a loophole in the rules and enrolling in the school. Comedic moments ensue with Red in a tutu and Harry James jazzing up music class. To review: I love this movie. Esther is beautiful in Technicolor. Xavier Cugat and Lina Romay spice it up with Latin rhythm along with other musical talents like Ethel Smith and Harry James. I know that James and Cugat don’t come and jazz up “I’ll Take the High Road” in music class in college, but it certainly does make college look fun. I also love the ever pert and fun Jean Porter in this movie. She really seems like the quintessential college/high school young lady of the 1940s to me.

Susan Peters is a co-ed with “Young Ideas”

Young Ideas(1943)- Romance author Josephine Evans(Mary Astor) marries college professor Mike (Herbert Marshall) and cancels her book tour.  Astor’s children, Susan (Susan Peters) and Jeff (Elliot Reed), oppose of the marriage, especially since it may mean their mother’s book career is over. Susan and Jeff enroll in college and do whatever they can to break up the marriage. To review: This is a classic, fun MGM movie from the 1940s. I love Herbert Marshall and he was really funny in this movie. Susan Peters and Elliot Reed were pretty bratty but Richard Carleson gave a nice balance to it. This movie seemed the most of what college might have been like-though I do wonder if freshman really wore little beanies.

•Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble (1944)- Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney) goes to college and is surrounded by beautiful girls-his dream. Two twin blondes trick him and he falls for the icy Kay Wilson (Bonita Granville). Hardy competes with professor Dr. Standish (Herbert Marshall) for Kay’s attention. To review: I don’t like the Andy Hardy movies as much when he goes to college. However, the way college was represented seemed to be pretty realistic.

Peter Lawford and June Allyson in “Good News”

Good News (1947)- In the 1920s, co-ed librarian June Allyson isn’t exactly what you would call a vamp. Allyson falls for popular, football star Peter Lawford but he is interested in modern woman, Patricia Marshall.  Several songs are fit in during the pursuit of love, including a great number involving “The Varsity Drag.” To review: Once again, I wonder if in the 1920s, schools were so small to have one person who is the most popular? The movie is fun and colorful, but it seems more a vehicle for Joan McCracken and Patricia Marshall-neither who did much else in movies. I wish June Allyson was in the movie more, because she was the whole reason I watched it.

Apartment For Peggy (1948)- Peggy (Jeanne Crain) and Jason (William Holden) are married, and Jason is going to college as a chemistry major using the G.I. Bill.  Professor Henry Barnes (Edmund Gwenn), a professor at the college, has decided he has lived long enough and wants to commit suicide. The couple lives in a trailer, but needs more room because Peggy is expecting. The professor agrees to let the couple rent out his attic as an apartment and his views on life begin to change. To review: This is a really fun and cute movie. It is very light hearted but let me warn you for some sad parts. I think the college aspect is pretty realistic when put in perspective of post-war men using G.I. Bill to go to college and their wives and their struggles.

Mr. Belvedere Goes to College(1949)- Clifton Webb as Mr. Belvedere decides to enroll in college since his highest level of education is from the fifth grade.  Though he is older than all the students, Belvedere is considered a freshman and has to deal with ritual hazing. During all of this he makes friends with Tom Drake and beautiful Shirley Temple who has a secret. To review: The movie is very funny, and Clifton Webb gives a droll perfomance as always. Other than the hazing, I thought this seemed pretty similar to a real college. It was pretty large and it didn’t seem like there was that one person in charge.

The Varisty Drag from Good News:

Other college films:
College (1927)- Starring Buster Keaton
College Swing (1938)- Starring Bob Hope, Gracie Allen and Martha Raye
Dancing Co-Ed (1939)-Starring Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford,  and Artie Shaw
These Glamour Girls (1939)- Starring Lana Turner, Lew Ayres and Anita Louise
Second Chorus (1940)- Starring Fred Astaire, Paulette Goddard, Burgess Meredith and Artie Shaw
The Feminine Touch (1941)- Starring Rosalind Russell and Ray Milland
The Male Animal (1942)- Starring Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland and Joan Leslie
The Falcon and The Co-Ed (1943)- Starring Tom Conway
Mother Is A Freshman (1949)- Starring Van Johnson and Loretta Young
HIGH TIME (1960)- Starring Bing Crosby, Tuesday Weld and Richard Beymer
Joy in the Morning (1965)- Starring Richard Chamberlin and Yvette Mimeux

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Island of misfit Christmas movies

 

Stanyck, Bondi, MacMurray, Patterson and Holloway in “Remember the Night”: My favorite Christmas movie

Tis the season for Christmas posts. For these last five days before Christmas, I’m going to try to post several posts. Probably not every day, but at least throughout the week.

This post deals with two things my family and I love combined together: Christmas and movies.

For at least the past 22 years, it’s a Christmas family tradition for us to watch “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964), “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965) and “A Garfield Christmas” (1987) on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Of course we also watch classic holiday films such as “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947), “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947), “White Christmas” (1954), “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945) and “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946); just to name a few.

But instead of doing a worn out review of all of these wonderful classic films, I want to highlight some holiday films that are sometimes forgotten by the general public:

 

Rogers and Niven celebrating the New Year in “Bachelor Mother”

Bachelor Mother (1939):

I always forget this is a Christmas movie and I bet you do too. Polly Parish (Ginger Rogers) is working as a sales girl in a department store during the Christmas holidays. One day she finds a baby on the steps outside an orphange and picks it up before it rolls down the stairs. No one believes that it isn’t her’s and she is forced to take it home.  The store owner, J.B. Merlin (Charles Cobern) and his son David (David Niven) make sure that Polly doesn’t get rid of her baby, all during the Christmas season. To review: I love movies with babies and this is a very funny movie. My favorite part is when Rogers and Niven go out to celebrate the New Year.

Beyond Christmas (original title: Beyond Tomorrow) (1940): Last year, I had my mother tape this movie and we randomly watched it in the middle of the summer. This is one of my favorite Christmas movies. The movie stars Harry Carry, C. Aubrey Smith and Charles Winninger as three old bachelors who live together. Every Christmas they drink their Tom and Jerry’s and do nothing more.  But this year, the men decided to invite strangers off the street for Christmas dinner. The strangers (Jean Parker and Richard Carlson) eventually fall in love. The three old men die shortly after Christmas in a plane accident, but their ghosts help bring the couple together and work through rough times.  To review: It’s a really heartwarming, cute film. The whole thing might not take place during Christmas, but it reflects the spirit of Christmas.

 It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947): I only just saw this movie last Christmas and think it is really charming. McKeever the hobo (Victor Moore) lives in wealthy folks mansions when he knows they are away in another home. He invites recently evicted Jim Bullock (Don DeFore) and Bullock’s homeless army buddies to stay in millionaire Jim O’Connors (Charles Ruggles) mansion for the Christmas season. O’Connor and his daughter and ex-wife (Gail Storm and Ann Harding) come back to their mansion after family problems and live amongst the homeless folks, never telling them their real identity. To review: Its a really cute movie and also rather funny. Charles Ruggles and Ann Harding are perfect in it, and Victor Moore always plays the best absent-minded characters.

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938): Mickey Rooney usually drives me bananas, but I really enjoy the Andy Hardy movies and this is my favorite.  Christmas doesn’t come without crisis for the Hardy family.  Mom Hardy has to go take care of sick grandma and Andy is swamped with girls:
– Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford) is going away for the holidays leaving Andy without a date for the Christmas dance
– Andy Hardy agrees to take Beezy’s girl, Cynthia Potter, (Lana Turner) to a dance to discourage other dates
-Betsy Jenkins (Judy Garland) comes back to Carvel a grown up woman.
All the women causes a lot of confusion and crazy Mickey Rooney moments.  The Hardy’s are worried mom won’t be able to come home for Christmas, but in the end it all works out. Andy gets his date to the dance, Betsy sings and mom makes it home on Christmas Eve. To Review: It’s a really cute movie, and a chance to see Judy Garland treated like a young woman rather than a child. It’s also fun to see three of Andy’s love interests all in one movie.

Remember the Night (1940): A couple of years ago, Turner Classic Movies premiered this Preston Sturges film. With the release of the DVD last year, it’s gaining popularity, but still isn’t up to par with other Christmas classics. Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) steals an expensive diamond bracelet and is on trial only a few days before Christmas. Prosecuting lawyer John Sargent (Fred MacMurray) postpones the trial until after Christmas, since it is hard to get a jury to convict someone as guilty before Christmas. John hates to see Lee spend Christmas in jail so offers to for her to stay with his mother (Beulah Bondi), aunt (Elizabeth Patterson) and farm hand (Sterling Holloway) in Indiana.  To review: This is my favorite Christmas movie. The two old women together bickering is adorable, Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck have fantastic chemistry and Sterling Holloway offers a lot of comic relief.

Hattie McDaniel putting the presents under the tree that General Hilton sent to her in “Since You Went Away”

Since You Went Away(1944): 

This is a World War II movie that takes place on the American home front. The film follows a year with the Hilton family: Ann (Claudette Colbert), Jane (Jennifer Jones) and Brig (Shirley Temple) as they struggle with their father away at war, rationing and taking in boarders. The whole movie isn’t a Christmas movie, only at the very end. The family has a Christmas party with friends and a few soldiers. They play games and try to forget that their father isn’t there to join in the fun and some loved ones were killed in the war. But in the end, they get the best Christmas present they could ever ask for. To review: This is sort of like “Meet Me in St. Louis”: The whole thing isn’t a Christmas movie, but can be considered a Christmas movie. It’s one of my all time favorite films. I think that it really shows the true Christmas spirit and what is imporant at Christmas: family.

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