Musical Monday: Go Into Your Dance (1935)

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.

danceThis week’s musical:
Go Into Your Dance (1935) – Musical #559

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Archie Mayo, Michael Curtiz (uncredited)

Starring:
Ruby Keeler, Al Jolson, Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Patsy Kelly, Helen Morgan, Akim Tamiroff, Joyce Compton, Ward Bond (uncredited), Theresa Harris (uncredited),
Themselves: Al Dubin, Harry Warren

Plot:
Famous Broadway performer Al Howard (Jolson) has been blackballed on Broadway after walking out on a successful show. His sister Molly (Farrell) enlists the help of dancer Dorothy Wayne (Keeler) to convince Al to create a duo. After creating an act, a gangster (MacLane) backs a show that will star Howard.

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Musical Monday: Wintertime (1943)

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.

winterposterThis week’s musical:
Wintertime” (1943) – Musical #560

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
John Brahm

Starring:
Sonja Henie, Cornel Wile, Cesar Romero, Jack Oakie, Carole Landis, S.Z. Cuddles Sakall, Helene Reynolds
Himself: Woody Herman

Plot:
Business partners Skip Hutton (Oakie) and Freddy Austin (Wilde) own a struggling Canadian hotel and are on the brink of foreclosure. When a Norwegian millionaire Hjalmar Ostgaard ( Sakall) and his niece Nora (Henie) stay at the hotel, Uncle Hjalmar is conned into buying the hotel. Nora falls in love with Freddy, but she’s mad that he has to spend most of his time with pretty reporter Marion Daley (Reynolds) so that the hotel can get publicity. Nora also starts performing as an ice skater to earn more money. While Nora is chasing Freddy, singers for Woody Herman’s band Flossie and Brad (Landis, Romero) are having love problems of their own.

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Musical Monday: I Love Melvin (1953)

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.

melving7This week’s musical:
I Love Melvin” (1953)– Musical #167

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Don Weis

Starring:
Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Una Merkel, Allyn Joslyn, Richard Anderson, Jim Backus, Noreen Corcoran, Les Tremayne, Barbara Ruick, Steve Forrest (uncredited), Robert Fuller (uncredited as acrobatic cheerleader), Ned Glass (uncredited)
Themselves: Robert Taylor

Plot:
Judy Schneider (Reynolds) is a struggling actress with dreams of becoming a Hollywood star. In the mean time, she’s playing a football in a musical number in a Broadway show. Melvin Hoover (O’Connor) is a Look magazine photographer’s assistant. The two bump into each other in Central Park ,and Melvin exaggerates the importance of his job to impress Judy and her family, who want her to marry Harry Flack (Anderson). Melvin’s exaggerations go too far when he promises to put Judy on the cover of Look magazine. All the while, Judy is daydreaming about her fame.

Trivia:
-The “Lady Loves” number was originally supposed to be performed with Debbie Reynolds in a farm setting, according to “That’s Entertainment III” (1994). It was re-shot with Debbie Reynolds dressed as a sophisticated lady.
-Howard Keel was originally supposed to be the star cameo in Reynolds’ dream, rather than Robert Taylor.

Highlights:
-Robert Taylor’s cameo
-The Football Ballet
-Noreen Corcoran’s song and dance with Donald O’Connor
-Dancers in Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly masks and costumes

Notable Songs:
-A Lady Loves performed by Debbie Reynolds
-Saturday Afternoon Before the Game performed by a chorus
-Where Did You Learn To Dance performed by Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor
-We Have Never Met, As Yet performed by Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor
-Life Has Its Funny Little Ups and Downs performed by Noreen Corcoran and Donald O’Connor

My review:
“I Love Melvin” (1953) is an adorable and joyous little movie. It isn’t a big, serious award-winning extravaganza like “Singin’ in the Rain” or “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” but it’s a simple story that’s plain fun.

In his April 10, 1953, review, New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther doesn’t call the film bad or good, but “chromium-plated spun-sugar” and that it lacks substance. Crowther isn’t incorrect. “I Love Melvin” is pure escapism and there’s nothing wrong with that.

And while this isn’t a serious film, the cast is excellent. Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds are on-screen together two years after “Singin’ in the Rain” (1951). The two dance and perform with energy and professionalism. They are wonderful to watch and Reynolds and O’Connor have wonderful chemistry.

The outstanding supporting cast is rounded out by Una Merkel, Allyn Joslyn, Richard Anderson, Jim Backus, and Noreen Corcoran. For fans of the TV show “Emergency!,” actor Robert Fuller dances in the football ballet.

Mr. Crowther also wrote, “The music, while undistinguished, is sufficient to get them around and the decor is in the most splendid and expensive Metro style.”

Debbie Reynolds dressed as a football, showing how much she is struggling in her dancing and acting career.

Debbie Reynolds dressed as a football, showing how much she is struggling in her dancing and acting career.

Many of the songs are forgettable but fun. The only real memorable song is “A Lady Loves,” which sometimes gets stuck in my head. The other performances include Noreen Corcoran and Donald O’Connor skating together and Debbie Reynolds is tossed around like a football among dancing football players. The football ballet may be one of the most creative and odd dance numbers I have ever watched. While goofy and bizarre, the football number is meant to be weird to show that Judy is far from fame.

A note to North Carolina football fans: the uniforms, colors and initials of the purple and gold team are similar to East Carolina University in North Carolina. I haven’t been able to find any facts to see if this was intentional.

Along with the football ballet, there are other hilariously goofy scenes as Judy daydreams such as Robert Taylor as her love interest and dancers dressed in Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire costumes.

Debbie Reynolds dreaming that she's in a film with Robert Taylor

Debbie Reynolds dreaming that she’s in a film with Robert Taylor

Debbie Reynolds in a daydream with dancers dressed as Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire

Debbie Reynolds in a daydream with dancers dressed as Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire

While this movie is fun, it is a little sad to watch now. Both child star Noreen Corcoran and actress Debbie Reynolds passed away in 2016. Both are delightful in this movie. This may be one of my favorite Debbie Reynolds films (at least in my top 5).

If you are feeling down, give “I Love Melvin” a watch. The plot is silly and it’s not a serious film, but what does that matter? It’s pure joy.

Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds in "I Love Melvin"

Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds in “I Love Melvin”

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Musical Monday: Lord Byron of Broadway (1930)

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.

lord-byron2This week’s musical:
Lord Byron of Broadway (1930)– Musical #558

Studio:
Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Director:
Harry Beaumont, William Nigh

Starring:
Charles Kaley, Marion Shilling, Cliff Edwards, Gwen Lee, Ethelind Terry, Rubin, Jack Benny (uncredited voice on radio), Ann Dvorak (uncredited), Mary Doran (uncredited)

Plot:
Roy (Kaley) is a jerk of a songwriter who uses his old romances and love letters as inspiration for his songs. He even attempts to capitalize off his friend’s death through a song.

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A Christmas Tradition: Lionel Barrymore as Ebenezer Scrooge

barrymoreMultiple actors have played Ebenezer Scrooge in numerous adaptations of Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol.” But one actor performed the role every year, creating a 20 year tradition.

From 1934 to 1953, Lionel Barrymore came into homes over the radio as the miserly Scrooge who is visited by three ghosts as a warning to change his cruel ways.

Barrymore only missed two performances in the 20 year span: in 1936 when his wife Irene Fenwick died on Dec. 24, 1936; and in 1938.

John Barrymore took over for his brother in 1936 broadcast and Orson Welles performed the role in 1938.

Lionel Barrymore’s radio performance in “A Christmas Carol” is credited as making the Charles Dickens story popular in the United States, according to the book “The Man Who Invented Christmas” by Deckle Edge.

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Comet Over Hollywood Holiday Special

Almost every Christmas for the past five years, I try to film a special Christmas video for the readers and supporters of Comet Over Hollywood.

Last year’s video was a little violent, so this year we opted for something briefer and food oriented.

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

connecticut

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Christmas with James Bond

mjarestOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) is a standout film within the James Bond franchise. It was the first James Bond film to not star Sean Connery and the only Bond film to star model-turned-actor George Lazenby. It also happens to be the only James Bond film set during Christmas time.

Released in the United States on Dec. 19, 1969, the film follows Agent 007 (Lazenby) as he travels undercover as a genealogist to a clinical allergy institute in the Swiss Alps. The institute is a front for SPECTRE, the crime syndicate operated by Bond’s arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas). Bond’s goal is to uncover what research Blofeld is really conducting and why it involves 12 beautiful women from all over the world. Outside of this excursion, Bond also falls in love with Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo, played by Diana Rigg.

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Musical Monday: Stowaway (1936)

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.

stowaway2This week’s musical:
Stowaway – Musical #544

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
William A. Seiter

Starring:
Shirley Temple, Robert Young, Alice Faye, Eugene Pallette, Arthur Treacher, Willie Fung, Philip Ahn, Allan Lane

Plot:
Barbara (Temple), nicknamed Ching-Ching, is an orphan in China after her missionary parents were killed and now lives with other missionaries. When there’s danger in town, Ching-Ching’s friend, Sun Lo (Philip Ahn) puts her on a boat for Shanghai so she will be safe. Ching-Ching gets lost in Shanghai and is befriended by American Tommy Randall (Young). Ching-Ching accidentally ends up on a boat for the United States. On the ship, Tommy and Susan Parker (Faye) care for Barbara/Ching-Ching, but neither can adopt her because they aren’t married. The two get married to give Barbara a home.

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Stars at Twilight: “Christmas Eve” (1986)

At age 4 in 1917, she made her first film appearance as an uncredited fairy in “The Primrose Ring.” Actress Loretta Young performed in 94 films from 1917 to 1989 and was the star of the successful television show, “The Loretta Young Show.” Young acted almost all her life, performing in her last role, the TV movie “Lady In A Corner” (1989), at age 76.

But we are focusing on Young’s second to last role: the TV movie “Christmas Eve” (1986).

Loretta Young and Trevor Howard in "Christmas Eve" (1986)

Loretta Young and Trevor Howard in “Christmas Eve” (1986)

Young plays wealthy Amanda Kingsley who dedicates her time to helping the homeless, taking in stray cats, reading to children and directing choirs. Her butler Maitland (Trevor Howard) is her begrudging, but loving, sidekick and friend who accompanies her on these all-night outings of helping the needy.

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Musical Monday: General Electric Theater presents “A Child is Born” (1955)

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.

Album cover for the 1955 version of "A Child is Born"

Album cover for the 1955 version of “A Child is Born”

This week’s musical:
General Electric Theater presents “A Child is Born” (1955) – Musical #557

Studio:
CBS Television Network

Director:
Don Medford

Starring:
Nadine Conner, Robert Middleton, Harve Presnell, Marian Seldes, Nyra Monsour, Ross Elliott, Roger Wagner Chorale
Themselves as Hosts: Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Patti Reagan

Plot:
An operatic retelling of the Nativity story. The story is in the point of view of the Innkeeper (Middleton) and his wife (Connor). The wife is restless, still mourning the death of her baby, and feels something new is coming to the world. Roman soldiers take every room in the inn so when Joseph (Elliott) comes to the door, the Innkeeper and his wife allow them to stay in the stable when they see that Mary is pregnant.

The Innkeeper (Middleton) and his wife (Conner)

The Innkeeper (Middleton) and his wife (Conner)

Trivia:
-“A Child is Born” was Broadcast live for the first time on the General Electric Theater on Dec. 25, 1955. The show was Broadcast live again the following year on Dec. 23, 1956. The 1955 version starred Victor Jory and Theodore Uppman, as Dismas the thief. In the 1956 version, Victor Jory is not in the play and Harve Presnell plays Dismas the thief.

-The score was composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann. This was Bernard Herrmann’s last project of 1955.

-The adaptation of the Nativity story was written by Stephen Vincent Benet and originally was performed on the radio program “Cavalcade of America.” The 1942 performance starred husband-and-wife actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

-This short opera aired on the General Electric Theater, which showcased a story, play or musical every week. The show ran from 1953 to 1962.

Harve Presnell as a thief

Harve Presnell as a thief

Highlight:
-Bernard Herrmann’s score

Notable songs:
-Shot like an opera so not really one song.

My review:
“A Child is Born” is a very solemn television operetta, which consists of more singing than dialogue.

This Nativity story is tells of the Innkeeper and his wife. That being said, we do not see the Virgin Mary or baby Jesus. We only see Joseph knocking on the door of the inn and the audience watches the shepherds and wise men come to visit the child through a window of the inn.

Shepherds and wise men visiting the Christ child.

Shepherds and wise men visiting the Christ child.

I sought this 30 minute opera out not only because it is a musical related to Christmas, but because the music was composed and conducted for the “General Electric Theater” TV episode by Academy Award winning composer Bernard Herrmann. The music in this play is beautiful and solemn. For me, Herrmann’s score is the best part of “A Child is Born.”

Metropolitan Opera singer Nadine Conner carries 85 percent of the singing throughout the film. Conner has a lovely voice, but admittedly, it’s a little tiring to hear the same person’s singing voice continuously throughout the piece without any other singers. The Innkeeper, played by Robert Middleton, does not sing, nor do the two servant girls, played by Marian Seldes and Nyra Monsour.

Harve Presnell, in only his second film or TV appearance, comes in at the last 10 minutes of the film along with the Roger Wagoner Chorale. Presnell and the Chorale sing beautifully, but I wish their songs had come in earlier to break some monotony. Presnell plays a thief, who is moved not to steal when he sees the Christ Child.

Critics and audiences weren’t complimentary of this operetta when it was Broadcast live in 1955. One complaint was that the set never changes and shows only one room of the inn. Audiences also felt that the play wasn’t inspiring as it should have been. Critics also said Herrmann’s music was “not distinguished,” according to Bruce Kimmel’s liner notes for the “Child is Born” album.

I’m inclined to agree that I certainly didn’t feel moved by this story of the Nativity, like I thought I would have. I mainly felt tired after the 30 minutes. Part of this had to do with Nadine Conner’s constant singing. Another reason was the two servant girls over acting and shouting.

However, I disagree that Herrmann’s music was “not distinguished.” His score was the highlight the brief TV show, and if I felt moved, it was because of his music.

It’s curious to me that if “A Child was Born” was unpopular in 1955, why it was Broadcast again in 1956.

It proved to be confusing while searching for 1955 version vs. the 1956 version. The only version I could find online was the 1956 version, though many people seem to think there isn’t a difference. However, Victor Jory was in the original cast, and is even billed on the front of the record, and he is not in the version I watched.

If you are interested in watching the 1956 version of “A Child is Born,” you can find it here.

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