Musical Monday: Belle of the Yukon (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.

This week’s musical:
Belle of the Yukon” (1944)– Musical #471


RKO Pictures

William A. Seiter

Randolph Scott, Gypsy Rose Lee, Dinah Shore, Charles Winneger, William Marshall, Bob Burns, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Florence Bates

Set during the Canadian Gold Rush, John Calhoun (Scott) is a saloon owner but has a past as a con artist. His old girlfriend Belle De Valle (Lee) comes into town to perform at his saloon and hopes that Calhoun plans to stay honest. The saloon manager Pop Candless (Winneger) has a pretty daughter, Lettie (Shore), who is in love with piano player Steve Attenbury (Marshall). But Pop is concerned about Steve’s past.

-Gypsy Rose Lee was pregnant during the filming of this movie with Otto Preminger’s child, Erik Lee Preminger (Kirkland–who she was going through a divorce with at the time), according to Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee By Noralee Frankel. Erik said in the book that Lee had an affair with Preminger for the sole purpose of conceiving a child (him). When she was three months pregnant, she made excuses why she couldn’t take publicity stills and kept her pregnancy quiet so she wouldn’t have bad publicity that would ruin her film career, according to Frankel’s book.
-Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song for “Sleigh Ride in July” by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke.
-Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture by Arthur Lange.

Dinah Shore in "Belle of the Yukon"

Dinah Shore in “Belle of the Yukon”

-Gypsy Rose Lee in the film.

Notable Songs:
-“Like Someone in Love” performed by Dinah Shore
-“Sleigh Ride in July” performed by Dinah Shore

My review:
This movie is plain nonsense but a ton of fun.
What’s most appealing to me about “Belle of the Yukon” (1944) is the cast. Have you ever found a more random but delightful group of actors thrown together? Dinah Shore, Gypsy Rose Lee and Randolph Scott couldn’t be more different but they make it work. And you even get to watch the three in Technicolor.
Scott is comfortable in the film, because by this time, he was primarily in westerns. Dinah Shore sings a few ballads and looks cute in the period gowns and her long wig.
But obviously the real sensation is seeing the famed burlesque queen on screen, Gypsy Rose Lee. This is one of 13 film credits she made between 1937 and 1969.
And then there is Charles Winninger, who you never can go wrong with as the bumbling but sweet father.
The plot is goofy, the songs are just okay but you must catch “Belle of the Yukon” for a slice of simple, happy entertainment.

Gypsy Rose Lee and Randolph Scott in "Belle of the Yukon"

Gypsy Rose Lee and Randolph Scott in “Belle of the Yukon”

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Classics in the Carolinas: Visiting Randolph Scott

    During the month of September, Comet Over Hollywood is doing a mini-series of “Classics in the Carolinas.” I’ll be spotlighting classic movie related topics in South Carolina (my home state) and North Carolina (where I currently live and work).

Handsome Randolph Scott

From playing a Confederate soldier alongside Errol Flynn in “Virginia City” (1940) to Shirley Temple’s kindly neighbor in “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms” (1938), Randolph Scott acted with the top actors in Hollywood.

But before he romanced Irene Dunne in “Roberta” or was roommates with Cary Grant in their “Bachelor Hall,” Scott grew up in the south.

Though born in Orange County, V.A., in 1898, Scott lived most of his life in Charlotte, N.C. where his father, George Scott, worked as a public accountant and owned the firm Scott, Charnley and Co. The Scott family was prestigious prior to Randolph’s Hollywood fame. His father, a graduate of Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., was the Chairman of the Finance Committee in Charlotte and over saw the city’s first published financial statement in the early 1900s.

George Scott also helped modernize Charlotte’s accounting systems for the city’s administration and water department. He also was recognized by the state for drafting of North Carolina’s first certified public accountant law, and he was appointed by the governor to the state board of accountancy.

Randolph Scott left Charlotte in 1917 when he went to fight in World War I. After returning home, he went to Georgia Tech, with dreams of being an All-American football player until he suffered from a back injury. He then became a Tar Heel when he transferred to the University of North Carolina and studied textile engineering and manufacturing.

Scott’s grave in Charlotte, N.C. His wife Patricia is buried here with him.

It was in 1927 that Scott left his home of Charlotte, N.C. and traveled to Hollywood with a letter of introduction from his father to Howard Hughes. He was able to meet Hughes and score a screen test with Cecil B. DeMille.

Randolph Scott acted in musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and starred in comedies, but he found his niche in westerns.

“They have been the mainstay of the industry ever since its beginning. And they have been good to me. Westerns are a type of picture which everybody can see and enjoy,” Scott said. “Westerns always make money. And they always increase a star’s fan following.”

Though he acted with the top Hollywood stars of the 1930s and 1940s, he is underrated and not as well known today as his best friends Fred Astaire and Cary Grant.

His last role was an aging gun slinger in Sam Peckinpah’s “Ride the High Country” (1962), after which he didn’t return to films, living the remainder of his life in Beverly Hills.

“All the old movies are turning up on television, and frankly, making pictures doesn’t interest me too much any more,” he said in 1962.

Scott passed away in 1987 and was buried in childhood home of Charlotte, N.C. His grave is four blocks from his childhood home.

Since I live close to Charlotte, I visited his grave on Sept. 1, 2012, in Elmwood Cemetery. His wife Patricia of 44 years was buried with him.

Paying my respects to Mr. Scott and his wife.

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