Musical Mondays: “Second Chorus” (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, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.

second chorusThis week’s musical: 
Second Chorus” (1940) – Musical #169

Starring:
Paulette Goddard, Fred Astaire, Artie Shaw, Burgess Meredith, Charles Butterworth

Director:
H.C. Potter

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Plot:
Danny O’Neill (Astaire) and Hank Taylor (Meredith) are seventh year college students who flunk on purpose to continue playing the trumpet in their college jazz band.
They meet Ellen Miller (Goddard) who becomes their manager for the band. And when band leader Artie Shaw (as himself) hires Ellen, Danny and Hank scheme and double cross each other to get into Shaw’s band.

Trivia:
-Astaire and Meredith are both supposed to be college students. Though they were supposed to be in college for seven years, they were both much too old to be students. Astaire was 41 and Meredith was 33.
-Meredith and Goddard were married at one time, but no during this film. The two actors didn’t get married until 1944.
-Billy Butterfield dubbed Meredith’s trumpet playing and Bobby Hackett dubbed Astaire’s. If you play a musical instrument or were ever in band, it’s pretty obvious that neither is playing. They are pretty terrible at faking it.

Artie Shaw and his band performing in "Second Chorus."

Artie Shaw and his band performing in “Second Chorus.”

Notable Songs:
-No song really stands out, though you do get to hear Artie Shaw and his band perform several time. This is another example of having the opportunity to hear a popular band leader of that time period.

Highlights:
-Goddard and Astaire dance together in the song “Dig It.”


-A good comedic moment for Goddard is when she talks to varying groups of people to sell the Astaire and Meredith’s bands. She talks to proper old women, thugs and teenagers-acting like she is one of them with each.

-Astaire works in a Russian restaurant and plays in the restaurant band, dressed as a Cossack. He does the Cossack dance while (pretending) to play the trumpet.

Astaire, dressed as a Cossack, does the Cossack dance while playing the trumpet. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screencap by Jessica Pickens)

Astaire, dressed as a Cossack, does the Cossack dance while playing the trumpet. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screencap by Jessica Pickens)

-The finale includes Astaire directing a band while tap dancing and eventually while tap dancing and playing the trumpet. Far-fetched but fairly entertaining.

Astaire leaps while directing Artie Shaws band and tap dancing in the finale of "Second Chorus." (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica Pickens)

Astaire leaps while directing Artie Shaws band and tap dancing in the finale of “Second Chorus.” (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica Pickens)

 

My Review:
This is a fairly enjoyable film but one of Fred Astaire’s more forgettable movies. However, I would rank it better than the Astaire and Joan Fontaine musical, “A Damsel In Distress.”
Also, for a Fred Astaire musical, he had far fewer musical numbers than usual and the film seemed more like a vehicle to highlight Artie Shaw and his band.
The thing that bugged me the most were how badly Meredith and Astaire faked playing the trumpet. Bad form, puffing of cheeks, one hand playing. I guess that comes from being in the band for several years.
Also, though Astaire and Meredith are good actors, I would say Paulette Goddard acted circles around them both and was the best part of the movie.

Astaire, Goddard and Meredith in "Second Chorus"

Astaire, Goddard and Meredith in “Second Chorus”

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

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Turner Classic Film Festival: MacMurray, Harlow, Hitchcock, Bow and Wayne

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Friday (April 26) is the first full day of the Turner Classic Film Festival and it has been amazing.
Above is a photo of Kate MacMurray, daughter of Fred MacMurray and June Haver introducing “Suddenly It’s Spring” (1947).
The next photo is the ceiling of the Egyptian Theater where I saw “Notorious” (1946) and “It” (1927).
Today’s films that I saw:
-Libeled Lady (1936) starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy. I’ve seen it several times and can say its a favorite comedy of mine.
TCM’s Scott McGee introduced the film and said, “Screwball comedy is a lost art” which I would agree with.
Libeled Lady was advertised the first “all-star cast” since Dinner at Eight, McGee said.
It’s really amazing to sit in a theater where people applaud when Harlow comes on screen and die with laughter during Powell’s trout fishing scene.
-Suddenly It’s Spring (1947) starring Paulette Goddard and Fred MacMurray.
I LOVED this one. A really fun comedy about a couple who decides to get a divorce in 1941 but both serve during WW2. When they return, Goddard, who’s career as a WAC is giving marriage advice, isn’t so sure about the divorce but MacMurray already has a new bride picked out.
MacMurray’s daughter Kate spoke before the movie and told wonderful stories such as:
-John Wayne set up her parents June Haver and Fred MacMurray at a costume party. MacMurray’s previous wife had passed away as did Haver’s boyfriend.
“Mother was dressed as a saloon girl, maybe that’s what did it,” MacMurray said.
-MacMurray, a saxophonist and also once a singer for a jazz band, played the saxophone for the My Three Sons TV show theme song.
-After making The Apartment-where he plays a cad-the MacMurray family was at DisneyLand. A woman approached him and hit him with her purse because she had taken her family to see the movie. “That wasn’t a Disney movie,” she told him. MacMurray felt uncomfortable playing his roles in Billy Wilder films “The Apartment” and “Double Indemnity” since they weren’t his customary nice guy, comedic roles.
-Carole Lombard got him a raise at Paramount
-Haver met MacMurray before the costume party while making a film. Haver said he was so sweet and would bring his lunch, usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

-Notorious (1946) starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Rose McGowan spoke before the film and said it was a favorite of her’s. Hitchcock’s creative shots looked excellent on the big screen, but I must confess I dozed off. Not because I was bored but the 3 hour time change and lack of food (there’s literally no time to eat) made me tired.

-It (1927) starring Clara Bow. This was the first time I had seen a silent film with a live orchestra accompanying and it was AMAZING. Biographer David Stenn who wrote “Clara Bow: Running Wild” spoke before the film and called her a “great natural talent of movies.”
It is a really fun silent film, which coined Bow as the “It” girl. But as a dachshund owner, my favorite line is “I feel so low I could walk underneath a dachshund on stilts.”

-Hondo (1954): starring John Wayne and Geraldine Page. This was the first 3D movie I’ve EVER seen. It was amazing. I’ve always said She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was my favorite Wayne film but seeing Hondo for a second time may have changed my mind. The film is a perfect example of Wayne’s ruggedness and western appeal as he fights off the Apaches. In short, John Wayne is my ideal man.

That’s all for tonight! I opted to skip out on the midnight showing of Plan 9 from Outer Space to gear up for tomorrow’s films.
For updates during the day: check me out on Twitter @HollywoodComet or @StarJPickens. If you don’t have a twitter account, you should still be able to find me even by googling my name and Twitter.
Apologies in advanced for any typos. I’m using WordPress on my phone which is slightly cumbersome.

Favorite Films: So Proudly We Hail (1943)

 

Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake

Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake.

The three very different Paramount Pictures actresses are brought together to star in one of my favorite 1940s films, “So Proudly We Hail” (1943).

The film follows a group of U.S. Army nurses- Claudette Colbert (as Lt. Janet Davidson) and Paulette Goddard (as Lt. Joan O’Doul)- who leave for Hawaii for their tour of duty. Shortly after they leave, Pearl Harbor is attacked and the United States is brought into World War II. The military ship picks up nurses and wounded from Pearl Harbor, one a troubled nurse Lt. Olivia D’Arcy, played by Veronica Lake. The nurses are then sent to the Philippines, first assisting soldiers in Bataan and then evacuating to Corregidor.

From a dramatization of Doolittle’s Raid in “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” to “Mrs. Miniver” showing life on the British home front and the Battle of Dunkirk, Hollywood made several films that depicted what was going on overseas during World War II.

While I enjoy most 1940s era World War II films, I love “So Proudly We Hail” because of its focus on military nurses.

Lt. Summers (George Reeves) and Lt. Davidson (Claudette Colbert)

Lt. Summers (George Reeves) and Lt. Davidson (Claudette Colbert)

Colbert is the real star of the film; the rock of the group of nurses, leading them to aid injured soldiers. Goddard and Lake flank her as secondary female leads: Goddard the flirty, glamor girl and Lake the troubled, quiet nurse.

Their differences in real life as actresses as well as the differences in their characters illustrate the wide range of people who were brought in to serve together during war time.

“The events in this movie were still very much on the minds of Americans when this film came out,” said Turner Classic Movies prime time host Robert Osborne in the DVD introduction. “Events in the movie had happened for real recently and news reports were still coming out.”

Movies like this are made to make viewers feel proud and patriotic of their country, but what I like about “So Proudly We Haill” is that I feel it’s fairly realistic.

Nurses with 104 degree temperatures from malaria are still caring for men while others are craving tomatoes and milk, items that can’t be found on the military front.

“What is a heroine,” One nurse asks, tired of all the attention on their voyage home.

“I don’t know. Anyone who is still alive,” another says.

Joan (Paulette Goddard) and Kansas (Sonny Tufts)

Joan (Paulette Goddard) and Kansas (Sonny Tufts)

While Claudette Colbert is consistently good in all of her films, “So Proudly We Hail” gave Veronica Lake and Paulette Goddard the chance to show off their acting chops.

One scene that sticks out is when Goddard and Colbert find out why Lake acts cold towards the other nurses:

She opens up to Colbert about why she is angry and is there to “kill Japs”:

“Today is Christmas, isn’t it? The time for cheer and good fellowship and for peace. Well, today’s my wedding day. He and I were to be married today in St. Louis. And why weren’t we? Because he’s dead. He died that first morning. They killed him. I saw him. He was running across the field to his plane and they killed him. Sixty bullets – sixty! By the time I got to him he was dead. His face was gone – I couldn’t see him anymore. Just blood – blood all over.”

For Goddard, the scene that sticks out is when she tearfully says goodbye to soldiers in a military hospital before being shipped back to the United States.

When the film starts, Goddard is flirty, saying she has two fiancés, because she can’t say no to an engagement. But throughout the film, as she sees the horrors of war, she wants to help in every way she can, attending to soldiers and never sleeping. At the end she gives the wounded soldiers small gifts of hers and her old love letters for some laughs.

Other scenes that stick out to me:

• When Pearl Harbor is attacked, the nurses and military personnel are on a boat several miles out watch the bombing. There are screams of horror and disbelief, though they watch the attacks.

• Lt. O’Doul (Goddard) wearing a lacy black nightgown throughout the film. The night gown first enters as a dress for the Christmas party. Later she wears it every night to keep her moral up.

• The son of Nurse Capt. “Ma” McGregor has his legs amputated and soon after dies. Her son never knew his father, because he died in battle, and now Ma’s grandson won’t know his father either.

“My son like his father died for what he knew what is right. And if we don’t make it right, then they will all rise up and destroy us,” she says.

•The scene when the nurses are left behind during an evacuation. The nurses are the last to ship out during evacuation as the Japanese move closer. Lt. O’Doul forgets her nightgown, holding their truck up and the male drivers are shot. As Lt. Davidson (Colbert) searches for the truck keys to drive them out the nurses panic.

Veronica Lake "surrendering" to Japanese.

Veronica Lake “surrendering” to Japanese.

“I was in Nanking. I saw what they did. They fight over the women like dogs,” said Lt. Peterson (Ann Doran) panicking.

-During this scene is when Lt. D’Arcy dies. She takes a grenade, pulls out the pin, puts it in her uniform and walks towards the Japanese pretending to surrender. She dies to protect her peers and to “kill Japs” which is what she originally said she wanted to do. The scene is horrifying and shocking for a 1940s film.

• When the Japanese bomb the military hospital, sweet nurse Lt. Rosemary Larson, (Barbara Britton) is killed when the roof of the hospital collapses.

• When Lt. Davidson and Lt. Summers (George Reeves) get married and are given gifts of bread and peanut butter. Another sign of how much items we take for granted were valued.

The movie also has two romances: A playful and joking one between Paulette Goddard and a marine played by Sonny Tufts, and a more serious, passionate one with Claudette Colbert and a soldier played by George Reeves. However, I don’t feel the relationship takes away from the true purpose of the film.

As mentioned before, the three actresses were very different, and it has been rumored that they didn’t get along.

“All three were popular actresses and not accustomed to sharing close-ups,” Osborne said.

In Veronica Lake’s autobiography, she said she got along with her co-stars while it was Colbert and Goddard who locked horn. However, actor George Reeves disagreed.

“George Reeves said Veronica was the difficult one,” Osborne said. “Claudette was the moral builder for the whole cast, and if there was a problem it was because all three were so different. Reeves said it takes three to make a quarrel and Colbert wasn’t into that. She was too busy doing her work.”

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Classic Christmas Addiction

Part of why I love Christmas is getting to watch my favorite classic holiday films such as “Christmas in Connecticut”, “White Christmas” and “Remember the Night.”

But I also love looking at Christmas related photos with classic actors and actresses.

Every day since December 1, I’ve been posting a Christmas related photo on Comet Over Hollywood’s Facebook Page, and searching for the day’s photo can be an addicting task.

Even long after I find the photo of the day, I keep browsing-marveling at the ridiculousness of vintage Christmas photos.

I’ve found these classic photos can be divided into categories. Here are some examples:

Glamour: These photos show actors looking beautiful and wealthy at their homes during Christmas.

gina

Gina Lollabrigida looking glamorous in her Christmas tree

Copy of Carole Lombard

Carole Lombard

glam paulette goddard

Paulette Goddard

glam jean harlow1

Jean Harlow

glam Anite Page

Anita Page in 1932

glam christmas jennifer jones

Jennifer Jones

Adorable and cute: These involve child actors or actresses looking sweet and angelic. 

cute jackie cooper

Jackie Cooper

Bacall And Bogart

The Bogart: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and their son Stephen.

cute leslie

Joan Leslie

cute keatons

Buster Keaton and Natalie Talmadge with Junior and Bob

cute our gang

The children of Our Gang

cuteNatalie Wood

Little Natalie Wood

cute Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple in 1935

cute Priscilla Lane

Priscilla Lane

rita hayworth

Rita Hayworth

Ridiculous or funny: Photos that try way to hard to make a photo Christmasy or make it a sexy Christmas photo.

Dorothy Jordan and Gwenn Lee, I don't even understand what's happening.

Dorothy Jordan and Gwenn Lee, I don’t even understand what’s happening.

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford flirting with Santa in 1932

Janet Leigh

Janet Leigh with a Christmas tree hat

Esther Williams

Esther Williams in unreasonable winter clothing

funny Maureen Osullivan

Maureen O’Sullivan…..dressed as a choir boy.

funny Margaret Obrien

Margaret O’Brien…wrapped as a package?

funny Clifton Webb

Clifton Webb as the most unlikely Santa Claus

Visit Comet for more holiday fun this month!

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Beauty Tip #13 **Anniversary Edition**: Lux Soap

Lovely Laraine Day in a Lux Soap ad

A year ago today, I posted my first classic movie tip. It was Lana Turner’s use of Boraxo soap to scrub her skin. I still use it now and find it really effective.

This is the 13th beauty tip and is a special tip for Comet’s beauty tips anniversary.

I sometimes listen to Lux Radio Broadcasts via podcast.  The Lux Radio Broadcasts were weekly broadcasts sponsored by Lux Soap where actors and actresses performed films on the radio. Sometimes the actors who starred in the movies perform them but other times they have to find replacements. For example, Shirley Temple and Herbert Marshall reprised their roles in “Kathleen” but Frances Gifford took over as the Laraine Day role.

Performing film scripts on air was a way the film industries were able to incorporate radio so that it wouldn’t be a threat to films, according to the Movies and Moguls documentary.

Lux Soap commercials would run in the broadcast. During the 1930s and war years, the commercials would talk about housewives using it to cut grease on dishes, keep the snap in their stockings or how it helped keep their complexion clear.

Paulette Goddard looking beautiful with the help of Lux

In the 1950s the commercials get increasingly corny. For example: “I was watching Jeanne Crain on the set of ‘Letter to Three Wives’ and she had to do the country club scene over and over again. At the end of the scene, she was exhausted but she said the one thing that did hold up were her stockings that had been washed in Lux Soap.”

Since the commercials made Lux sound like a miracle soap, I decided to do some investigation.

Most actresses were part of the Lux ad campaign and claimed that it made their skin soft and clear.

I went on Ebay to find my own Lux soap to see how it worked for me.  Lux is no longer found in stores, but is still sold abroad.

I bought a few bars of new Lux (Mild soap with honey) and several old bars of soap. The seller said the soap was from pre-1974 but wasn’t sure of the exact date.

I used both soaps after being particularly dirty after jogging and going to the swimming pool. The new soap smelled nice and was soft but really wasn’t anything spectacular.

The old soap still produced a nice thick, creamy lather and left my skin feeling soft. It did smell very strongly and I had a faint smell on my skin for the rest of the day.

The white packages are the pre-1974 soap and the peach colored is new.

 To review: I didn’t notice my skin looking as beautiful as a movie star, but I certainly felt clean and smooth afterwards. Maybe after using it a little longer I will have the skin of Dorothy Lamour or Cyd Charisse!

Also, Comet’s own anniverary post will be coming soon. It was actually in mid-May and I completely forgot!

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