Musical Monday: Blonde from Brooklyn (1945)

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:
Blonde from Brooklyn (1945) – Musical #575

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Del Lord

Starring:
Bob Haymes (billed as Robert Stanton), Lynn Merrick, Thurston Hall, Mary Treen, Gwen Verdon (uncredited), Matt Willis (uncredited), Hugh Beaumont (uncredited)

Plot:
Dixon Harper (Haymes/Stanton) is a soldier returning from World War II. The military lets him know about his G.I. rights, Dixon’s goal is to get back on the stage to perform like he did before the war. Dixon’s routine is to act southern, though he is not southern. He meets jukebox operator and struggling singer, Susan Parker (Merrick). The two team up for a southern act and work with an old southern colonel to be convincing as southerners and Susan masquerades as a southern belle.

Trivia:
-Lead actor Bob Haymes was billed as Robert Stanton in this film. He is the younger brother of Dick Haymes.

Notable Songs:
-“Baby, Save Him for Me” performed by Lynn Merrick
-“Comin’ Around the Corner” performed by Lynn Merrick and Bob Haymes
-“It’s Just a Prayer Away” performed by Bob Haymes
-“Lost, a Wonderful Girl” performed by Bob Haymes

Bob Haymes in “Blonde from Brooklyn”

Mary Treen and Lynn Merrick in Blonde from Brooklyn

My review:
“Blonde from Brooklyn” is one of those entertaining 1940s B-musicals that offers more in the way of music than plot.

Bob Haymes, younger brother of Dick Haymes, is a soldier returning home from World War II and wanting to get his old act off the ground. He meets a jukebox operator (see also Swing Hostess for similar 1940s technology) Lynn Merrick, who he convinces to join him in his act. The act focuses on being southern, though neither one is. They meet a southern colonel, played by Thurston Hall, who helps them create a convincing persona.

Merrick and Haymes both have wonderful singing voices and sing catchy and toe-tapping tunes throughout the film. I wasn’t very familiar with either actor, but found them equally pleasant. Bob Haymes doesn’t look like his older brother Dick, but he has a similar deep, soothing voice.

The only irritating thing about the film is that Bob Haymes, who originally hailed from White Plains, NY, talks with a supposed drawl and throws out some “honey-childs” and “you alls.” He eventually stops once everyone figures out his character isn’t from the south (thank goodness). But as someone who actually lives in the south, that sort of thing really grates on your nerves. Interestingly enough, Haymes retired and passed away in Hilton Head, SC.

Lynn Merrick was lovely and had some lovely costumes.

The best part of “Blonde from Brooklyn” is that it runs only 65 minutes, which is the perfect length for this kind of film. It tells the story adequately with songs sprinkled throughout. The plot isn’t very interesting but the songs are entertaining. If you’re a lover of 1940s tunes, give this one a look (and listen).

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Musical Monday: Two Girls and a Sailor (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:
Two Girls and A Sailor (1944) – Musical #120

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Thorpe

Starring:
June Allyson, Gloria DeHaven, Van Johnson, Tom Drake, Jimmy Durante, Henry Stephenson, Henry O’Neill, Donald Meek, Frank Jenks, Frank Sully, Karin Booth (uncredited), Ava Gardiner (uncredited), Natalie Draper (uncredited), Gigi Perreau (uncredited), Arthur Walsh (uncredited)

Themselves: Carlos Ramírez, Ben Blue, José Iturbi, Amparo Iturbi, Harry James, Helen Forrest, Xavier Cugat, Lina Romay, Gracie Allen, Lena Horne, Virginia O’Brien, Lyn Wilde, Lee Wilde, Albert Coates

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Musical Monday: Swing Hostess (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:
Swing Hostess (1944)– Musical #574

Studio:
Producers Releasing Corporation

Director:
Sam Newfield

Starring:
Martha Tilton, Iris Adrian, Charles Collins, Cliff Nazarro, Harry Holman, Emmett Lynn, Betty Brodel

Plot:
Jive singer Judy Alvin (Tilton) is having a hard time finding a job. She gets a job as a telephone operator for jukeboxes (people pick up a phone and give their song request). Judy cuts a record and it gets confused with acquaintance (and terrible singer) Phoebe Forbes (Brodel) who rides to success on Judy’s voice.

Trivia:
-One of the few films where Martha Tilton acts and isn’t just a specialty singer
-Actress Betty Brodel who is in the film is Joan Leslie’s sister

Highlights:
-Seeing Martha Tilton in a film

Notable Songs:
-“Got An Invitation” performed by Martha Tilton
-“Say It With Love” performed by Martha Tilton
-“Let’s Capture That Moment” performed by Martha Tilton

My review:
As a lover of big band music, Martha Tilton is one of my favorite girl singers of the 1940s. “Swing Hostess” is a small-time B-film but it’s also one of the few opportunities you can see her acting in a film, other than popping in as a specialty singer.

The storyline for “Swing Hostess” isn’t remarkable or new, but it’s fun and cute. It’s also set in my favorite time period: World War II era 1940s. So it’s filled with big band music. While the war isn’t mentioned very much, one of the main characters is drafted into the Army and Martha Tilton sings that he “Got An Invitation” (to be drafted).

Charles Collins talks to a jukebox hostess

Also the most intriguing part is the jukebox technology. Before watching this film, I didn’t realize that patrons were able to pick up a phone and talk to a hostess on the other end who would put a record on. That is Martha Tilton’s job in this film.

Martha Tilton isn’t an amazing actress, but what she doesn’t have in acting, she makes up for in voice. Also Iris Adrian is there for comedic value.

If you love 1940s films and big band music, check out this film. Bonus points: It’s only 76 minutes!

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Hollywood Halloween: DIY Film Themed Costumes

If you’re like me (or any other classic film fan), the character or actor you want to dress as isn’t at Party City. There are only ill-fitting $80 Marilyn Monroe costumes from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” No one sells a “Gigi” costume so you can be Leslie Caron or a frumpy, loud costume to be Barbara Stanwyck in “Stella Dallas.” So that’s why we make our own.

Starting in my last year of college, I decided I wanted to dress as my favorite stars so I started making my own costumes for Halloween. Of course, I make these costumes fully knowing that the only people who will understand them are my Twitter followers and readers of Comet Over Hollywood. Here are my Halloween costumes since 2010:

 

Carmen Miranda Halloween costume in 2010

Carmen Miranda: Halloween 2010
As a huge musical fan, Carmen Miranda is always a bright spot. This was a fairly easy costume of gathering together various vibrant pieces to simulate the Carmen Miranda feel, rather than mimic a specific costume from one of her films. The only purchased clothing was the vest and skirt, which were vintage from eBay. While known as “the Lady with the Tutti Frutti Hat,” not all of Miranda’s hats involved fruit — some included umbrellas, butterflies or were simple, bright turbans. However, I decided to go with the fruit design since it was most identifiable. The hat was made of a baseball cap with the bill cut off and fruit from the five and 10 cent store glued and sewed on. No one knew who I was and only called me Chiquita Banana, who was inspired by Miranda.

 

Cyd Charisse in “Band Wagon” (1953)

Cyd Charisse in the Girl Hunt Ballet number in “Band Wagon” (1953): Halloween 2011
Cyd Charisse’s red costume in the “Girl Hunt Ballet” is probably one of her most recognizable looks (though of course, no one knew who I was). My sisters and I took dance for many years and my older sister’s 1998 tap costume looks similar to Cyd Charisse’s bodice. All it was lacking was a skirt. I took the costume, tacked on a similar sequined fabric, added some gloves and was ready to dance with Fred Astaire. The only thing I regret is now is not getting a black wig.

 

Louise Brooks in “Now We’re in the Air”

Louise Brooks in “Now We’re in the Air” (1927): Halloween 2013
I’ll confess, this costume was inspired by the fact that I found a short, black wig on sale at Wal-Mart the day after Halloween in 2012. So for a full year, I knew I was going to be Louise Brooks in some capacity. Her publicity photo for “Now We’re in the Air” (1927) is one of her most famous so I decided to mimic this. This was a relatively simple costume to make, but finding the exact items I wanted was the only challenge. Locating a plain black tutu was difficult, so I used an old dance costume. “Now We’re in the Air” is a previously lost film that was found in 2017.

 

Sigourney Weaver in “Ghostbusters”

Sigourney Weaver as “There is no Dana, only Zuul” from Ghostbusters (1984): Halloween 2014
After revisiting “Ghostbusters” (1984), I was struck by how beautiful possessed Sigourney Weaver’s costume was. I thought it would be a piece of cake and that I would only need to find a similar orange dress and make some alterations, right? Wrong. Unable to find what I needed, I made my own dress. I bought a 1980s dress pattern off eBay of a similar style. I then bought bright orange slick fabric, see-thru shimmery fabric as a sash and a bit of gold fabric to go along the slit of the dress. Since I can’t sew a dress pattern and don’t have a sewing machine, my friend Katie was wonderful helped me (or did the bulk of the work) by helping me cut and sew the pattern. I used the see-thru fabric as sash tied around the waist. As for hair, I have extremely straight hair that doesn’t curl well. So the easiest solution to mimic Sigourney Weaver’s hair was to wear a very curly brown wig.

 

Full costume for “The Red Shoes”

Makeup detail for “The Red Shoes”

Moira Shearer as Victoria Page in “The Red Shoes” (1948): Halloween 2015
This is my second favorite costumes for several reasons: I loved doing the enhanced ballet eye makeup, it was comfortable, and this was probably the easiest costume I have ever done. I was inspired to recreate this look from the Powell and Pressburger film after seeing several people I know attending screenings. Creating this costume mainly involved locating and ordering the various pieces. The most complicated part was finding an appropriate red wig (I found a long wig and cut it). Above is a photo of the costume and a close-up of the makeup. The red makeup around the eyes is lip liner. Of course, no one knew who I was in this costume, but I didn’t get any weird looks. They just assumed I was a ballet dancer. I was happy and comfortable throughout the evening out.

 

Hedy Lamarr in the “You Stepped Out of a Dream” number in “Ziegfeld Girl” (1941): Halloween 2016
This is my favorite Halloween costume (thus far) as far as outcome and looks go. It wasn’t perfect and an exact match to Adrian’s costume creation, but I was pretty darned pleased. That said, it was also the most difficult and time-intensive costume I have made to date, and I’m tired just thinking about it. This is a recreation of the gown Hedy Lamarr wore as Tony Martin sings “You Stepped Out of a Dream” in the MGM film, “Ziegfeld Girl.” It’s the big reveal of the new Ziegfeld Girls (Judy Garland, Lamarr, and Lana Turner), who all premiere for the first time. Costumes in Florenz Ziegfeld shows were outlandish and Hedy’s wasn’t even the most difficult of the bunch exhibited in this number. I started buying and creating this costume at least a month out before Halloween. It involved cutting out hundreds of fabric and paper star, lots of gluing and some engineering help from my dad for the elaborate star headdress. Again, no one in person knew who I was and I kept stepping on long dress (I left the headdress in the car once it got too crowded), but people were impressed even if they didn’t know who I was.

 

Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer. (Photo illustration by Brandon Brown)

Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer (1955–1959): Halloween 2017
Still tired from the “Ziegfeld Girl” costume, I almost skipped Halloween this year. But inspired by my Annette Funicello Fridays on social media, I tried to throw together a simple Mouseketeer costume. This involved only buying a blue skirt and some iron-on letters — I already had Mickey Mouse ears from a 2007 trip to Disney World. While I adore Annette, my straight light hair wouldn’t have worked well. And a short, curly wig would have just looked terrible. So I dubbed myself Mouseketeer Jessica and was ready for roll call! (I guess I could have been Darlene or Karen).

Color detail of Mouseketeer costume

What are some of our classic film costumes? Share below! Happy Halloween

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Musical Monday: Sweethearts (1938)

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:
“Sweethearts” (1938)– Musical #292

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Reginald Gardiner, Florence Rice, Mischa Auer, Herman Bing, George Barbier, Fay Holden, Allyn Joslyn, Lucille Watson, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, Terry Kilburn, Olin Howland, Douglas McPhail, Betty Jaynes, Irving Bacon (uncredited)

Plot:
Husband and wife Broadway stars Gwen Marlowe and Ernest Lane (MacDonald and Eddy) have been happily married for six years and are in their sixth year of performing Victor Herbert’s operetta “Sweethearts.” They are exhausted due to constant singing obligations and decide to go to Hollywood. Their Broadway producer (Morgan) and his staff hatch a plan to drive the couple apart and keep them from going to Hollywood.

Trivia:
-This is MGM’s first full-length feature in three-strip Technicolor and the first color film for either Nelson Eddy or Jeanette MacDonald
-Filming began on June 17, 1938, in black-and-white. After two days, however, the production was interrupted, all the black-and-white footage was scrapped and filming began again in Technicolor, according to the American Film Institute (AFI)
-Pianist José Iturbi was to make his acting debut in Sweethearts (1938), but he didn’t end up in the completed film. Iturbi was not in any films until 1944, according to AFI
-The “Sweethearts” number uses the set from the “Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody” number from The Great Ziegfeld (1936).
-Fifth pairing of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald
-Costumes by Adrian

Highlights:
-Gorgeous Technicolor
-Broadway lights montage at the beginning
-Jeannette MacDonald’s dachshund
-Jeannette MacDonald’s vibrant hair and costumes
-Shopping montage

Notable Songs:
-“Sweethearts” performed by Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald
-“Wooden Shoes” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Ray Bolger
-“On Parade” performed by Nelson Eddy
-“Pretty as a Picture” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy

Awards:
Nominated for:
-Douglas Shearer for Best Sound, Recording
-Herbert Stothart for Best Music, Scoring
Won:
-Honorary award for the color cinematography of the M-G-M production Sweethearts to Oliver T. Marsh and Allen M. Davey

My review:
“Sweethearts” is unlike any other Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy musical. This musical feels fuller and elaborate. It features larger musicals numbers to simulate a Broadway show, rather than just operatic duets. The costumes are bright and elaborate, and Jeanette does a bit of dancing in some of the Broadway numbers.

Adrian costumes in beautiful Technicolor

On top of all of this, it is in beautiful Technicolor. The cinematographers and costume designer Adrian fully took advantage of this. Jeanette MacDonald’s red hair is fiery bright and Adrian’s costumes are in every color of the rainbow: from a baby pink tulle costume, a chiffon mustard yellow gown, and a sequined blue evening gown.

The cast is also filled with magnificent characters actors: Frank Morgan, Florence Rice,
Ray Bolger, Reginald Gardiner, Mischa Auer, Herman Bing, Fay Holden, Lucille Watson, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, and Terry Kilburn. George Barbier plays Benjamin Silver, the head of the studio trying to sign Eddy and MacDonald’s characters. Judging by the logo of the fictional studio and how Barbier was dressed, I wonder if MGM had in mind that they were trying to make him look like their own Louis B. Mayer.

We also see young singers Betty Jaynes and Douglas McPhail who were married the same year “Sweethearts” was released. Jaynes and McPhail co-starred in “Babes in Arms” (1939) the next year with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. The two play understudies to Eddy and MacDonald, which is interesting because McPhail was signed to be “the next Nelson Eddy.”

Jeanette MacDonald, Frank Morgan and Nelson Eddy in “Sweethearts”

The only issue with having so many wonderful supporting actors is that some of them felt wasted with little screen time. For example, we only really see Ray Bolger dance at the beginning and then he is never seen again. Reginald Gardiner isn’t in the film very much either.

Along with being insanely beautiful and chockfull of stars, this is a funny musical. Hollywood and the entertainment industry makes fun of itself. In one scene in Benjamin Silver’s office late in the evening, studio workers rush in exclaiming about all the issues they have had during filming that day. “She fainted after the 24th take!” said Irving Bacon’s character. Later, while Reginald Gardiner is convincing Eddy and MacDonald to Hollywood, he talks about how they have all their evening to themselves and you only have to take one take and then you are done with the scene forever. This scene is humorous because you know it’s all so untrue.

While Rose Marie and Maytime are my top two favorite Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald films, “Sweethearts” probably falls at number three. It’s so beautiful to look at and also fun. Even if you don’t love opera music, I feel like this movie is more than just Eddy and MacDonald singing to each other. It’s beautiful and filled with gorgeous costumes and humor.

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Musical Monday: Show Girl in Hollywood (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.

This week’s musical:
Show Girl in Hollywood (1930) – Musical #573

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Mervyn LeRoy

Starring:
Alice White, John Miljan, Jack Mulhall, Blanche Sweet, Ford Sterling, Virginia Sale, Herman Bing

Plot:
Dixie Dugan (White) is in a failed Broadway show, “Rainbow Girl.” She meets director John Buelow (Miljan) who gives the illusion that he is high powered in Hollywood and convinces her to leave New York to pursue a Hollywood career. Unsurprisingly when Dixie gets to Hollywood, she is now welcomed with open arms. Dixie befriends a “has been” actress Donna Harris (Sweet), who tries to warn her and show her the ropes. Dixie’s boyfriend (Mulhall) who wrote the failed Broadway show is invited to Hollywood to make “Rainbow Girl” into a film. Dixie is cast, but stardom goes to her head.

Trivia:
-The finale reel was filmed in Technicolor but this print no longer survives.
-Belle Mann dubbed Alice White
-Based on Joseph Patrick McEvoy’s 1929 novel, Hollywood Girl
-This film follows Show Girl (1928) where Alice White plays Dixie Dugan. It is followed by “Dixie Dugan” (1943) where Lois Andrews plays the role of Miss Dugan.
-A French version was made (Le masque d’Hollywood (1930)) starring Suzy Vernon, Geymond Vital, Rolla Norman

Highlights:
-Showing how films are made and giving a behind the scenes feel
-Cameo appearances by Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Noah Beery, Noah Beery, Jr.; Walter Pidgeon, and Loretta Young

Notable Songs:
-“There’s a Tear for Every Smile in Hollywood” performed by Blanche Sweet
-“I’ve Got My Eye on You” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Hang On to a Rainbow” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann

My review:
A few weeks ago, I reviewed Alice White’s first talkie, “Broadway Babies,” which I thought was only mediocre. “Show Girl in Hollywood” is perhaps slightly better but still rather bland and clumsy.

I also still don’t feel endeared to Alice White. She’s cute and spunky but she just isn’t a great actor. Probably the best performance in the film comes from Blanche Sweet, who I wasn’t familiar with prior, but her film career began in 1909. Sweet’s character tells Alice White that Hollywood no longer wants you after age 30 and not to take success for granted. Unfortunately, life seems to imitate art here, as Sweet only made one more film in 1930. Sweet retired in 1935 when she got married and would not make another film or TV appearance until 1958, the same year her husband passed away.

Blanche Sweet in “Show Girl in Hollywood”

“Miss Sweet plays her part so well that she puts Miss White in the shade,” wrote New York Times film critic Mordaunt Hall in his May 5, 1930, review.

Rather than the actors and main characters, the setting is the most interesting aspect of this film is the “behind the scenes” feel of Hollywood. It’s one of those Hollywood films about Hollywood, which are usually fun. We see film being edited, the light crew, the cameras rolling, giving the audience a feeling that they are being let into how Hollywood works. Dixie even ignores the red filming light, walks onto a sound stage, to see a gangster film being shot. Two men are struggling and it looks like one is about to go out a window, then Dixie walks up and appears in the window the man is about to fall out, ruining the shot. This showed audiences how films were made.

We end with a Graumann’s premiere with cameos from actors like Loretta Young and Al Jolson with actress and wife Ruby Keeler all giving glowing remarks about the fictional film, “Rainbow Girl. These cameos are the most exciting part of the film. I hadn’t read ahead about the film so the cameos were a surprise and a treat.

During the premiere, we see the film’s big finale and the camera pans back as if we are watching it on the screen with the rest of the audience. If only the film had ended with that, showing that Dixie Dugan was triumphant, having her own film be the actual film’s ending. But no, Alice White and Jack Mulhall go up on stage (introduced by Walter Pidgeon) to sheepishly tell the audience that it will be a little until the make another film, because they are getting married. It’s painful to watch and I just thought “no one in the audience cares and neither do I.”

If you enjoy (what the kids today call) a “meta” film, take a look at this one. The behind-the-scenes film is interesting, but the actual story and lead actors are not.

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Musical Monday: Gold Diggers of 1935 (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.

This week’s musical:
Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) – Musical #149

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Busby Berkeley

Starring:
Dick Powell, Gloria Stuart, Adolphe Menjou, Alice Brady, Hugh Herbert, Glenda Farrell, Grant Mitchell, Wini Shaw, Frank McHugh, Joseph Cawthorn, Dorothy Dare, Virginia Grey (uncredited), Dennis O’Keefe (uncredited)

Plot:
The luxury hotel, The Wentworth, opens to wealthy patrons. Rich Mrs. Prentiss (Brady) is controlling of her daughter Ann Prentiss (Stuart) and is pushing her to marry T. Mosley Thorpe (Herbert). Mrs. Prentiss relents to letting Ann have a fun and free summer as long as she marries Mosley at the end of the summer. Mrs. Prentiss strikes a deal with hotel desk clerk Dick Curtis (Powell) if he agrees to escort Ann through the summer.

Dick Powell and Gloria Stuart

Trivia:
-Chorus dancer Jack Grieves died at age 26 on the set of “Gold Diggers of 1935” while Berkeley was directing “Lullaby of Broadway.” The cause of Grieves’ death was written as “acute indigestion,” according to Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

-Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell were originally set to star in this film. But after Flirtation Walk, Keeler and Powell asked to not star together for a little while because they were being type-cast. Gloria Stuart replaced Ruby Keeler for the film, according to The Women of Warner Brothers by Daniel Bubbeo

-Busby Berkely’s first film directing the entire film (both the dance numbers and narrative)

-Busby Berkeley used 56 pianos (that didn’t have to play music) in the “Words Are in My Heart” number, according to Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

-In the “Lullaby of Broadway” number, Wini Shaw’s head turns and she starts smoking a cigarette. This was supposed to model Man Ray’s 1920 photograph “Woman Smoking a Cigarette,” according to Spivak’s book.

-The fourth “Gold Diggers” film in the series that began in 1929 and ended in 1938.

-Music by Harry Warren and Al Dubin

-Costumes by Orry-Kelly

Highlights:
-Film begins with people at the hotel dancing
-The Lullaby of Broadway number

Notable Songs:
-“The Words Are in My Heart” performed by Dick Powell and ensemble
-“The Lullaby of Broadway” performed by Wini Shaw and Dick Powell, ensemble
-“I’m Going Shopping with You” performed by Dick Powell and Gloria Stuart

My review:
“Gold Diggers of 1935” is a funny and entertaining musical filled to the gills with 1930s Warner Brothers stars. The storyline is similar to other Warner Brothers musicals starring Dick Powell in this time frame. Powell is the clean-cut young man and falls in love with a wealthy young girl (Gloria Stuart) that he’s supposed to be chaperoning. Alice Brady plays the girl’s wacky, penny-pinching mother trying to get her to marry Hugh Herbert. And Adolphe Monjou is a Russian dance director. In this film, the gold diggers aren’t showgirls as they are in the previous films. The gold diggers are the hotel workers who don’t receive a salary and only work for tips.

Adolphe Menjou, Joseph Cawthorn, Alice Brady, Grant Mitchell and Glenda Farrell in Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

While the storyline has several humorous moments (especially Adolphe Monjou directing chorus girls with a meat cleaver), the truly memorable segment of this movie is the 9-minute long “Lullaby of Broadway” number.

It begins in darkness with only Wini Shaw’s face as she sings “Lullaby of Broadway.” From there, the number tells a story of a “Broadway Baby” and her boyfriend who enjoy the nightlife of New York (all filled with Busby Berkeley’s imaginative shots and designs). The couple’s story ends rather grimly.

While “The Words Are In My Heart” features ladies at rotating pianos, “Lullaby of Broadway” is the Berkeley highlight in this film. It’s funny, I can think of this number and know the choreography, visuals, costumes and story by heart…but I often can’t remember which Berkeley film it’s frome. That’s how memorable it is…and it also speaks to how the film is entertaining, but not easy to distinguish from other films starring Dick Powell with direction by Berkeley. (I actually thought this number was in another film because I didn’t remember Gloria Stuart’s story being remarkable).

Pianos for the The Words Are In My Heart number

There are only three actual songs performed in the film, which is surprising especially for a Dick Powell film. But this is undeniably a musical, especially because it opens with groundskeepers and staff of the hotel dancing as they prepare for the opening.

I do have one beef with this film: Glenda Farrell was completely wasted. Farrell plays Hugh Herbert’s chiseling stenographer but has very little screentime. At one point, it had been so long since we had seen her that I forgot she was in the film!

Something else odd about this film: a dancer Jack Grieves collapsed on the set on Jan. 10, 1935, while filming the “Lullaby of Broadway” number. I wasn’t able to find much on Grieves, except for Jan. 11, 1935, news clippings that said Grieves collapsed and died from “acute indigestion” and was survived by wife Feleta Crawford and had an 11-month-old baby.

If you are a fan of Busby Berkeley musicals, don’t miss this one. Especially since it includes some of his best directed numbers.

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Musical Monday: Broadway Babies (1929)

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:
Broadway Babies (1929) – Musical #572

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Mervyn LeRoy

Starring:
Alice White, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers, Charles Delaney, Tom Dugan, Bodil Rosing, Jocelyn Lee, Fred Kohler

Plot:
Chorus girl Dee (White) is in love with stage manager Billy (Delaney), and they are engaged to be married. Dee’s friends Florine (Byron) and Navarre (Eilers) like Billy, but don’t approve of Dee being tied down. Dee moves from the chorus to star of the show when Blossom (Lee) is constantly late for rehearsal. Blossom makes a play for Billy, telling him that she can “get him places” and Dee gets jealous. When bootlegger Perc Gessant (Kohler) steps in and gets Dee a job at a nightclub, Dee and Billy split up, but are still in love.

Trivia:
-Alice White’s first talking film
-Alice White was dubbed by Belle Mann
-The talking film was released on June 30, 1929, and a silent version was released July 28, 1929. The silent version is currently lost.
-Based on the short story “Broadway Musketeers” by Jay Gelzer in Good Housekeeping (Oct 1928).

Alice White, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers

Notable Songs:
-“Wishing and Waiting for Love” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Jig, Jig, Jigaloo” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Broadway Baby Dolls” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann

My review:
As Hollywood worked to adjust to the dawn of sound, musicals are one aspect that struggled to figure out what worked.

As we have discussed in previous posts, musical numbers were busy, storylines were incoherent and the songs didn’t fit smoothly into the plot.

“Broadway Babies” is a bit better and more watchable than some early musicals (like Tanned Legs), but that may because it’s more of a drama/musical than a straight musical.

This was actress Alice White’s first talking film. White is cute, petite and wears a blond bob, looking like the quintessential flapper. She isn’t the best actress in this film, but that also could be because it was her first talkie (I have only seen White in a handful of other movies so I don’t have much to compare her against). However, the other leads, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers and Charles Delaney, don’t act well either or deliver their lines in a meaningful way, so it could be because everyone was adjusting to a new medium.

Interestingly enough, this film was also shot as a silent film and released in theaters later. I thought that was curious, especially that they released the silent AFTER the talkie. It’s like giving dessert before dinner! The film uses some silent film methods, with title cards explaining what’s about to happen in each scene.

There are some cute dance numbers, but I thought “Gee Alice isn’t much of a singer,” so I was surprised to see White was dubbed by Belle Mann.

While several of the early musicals aren’t very good, I think they are worth seeing. Busby Berkeley is known for “saving” the musical genre in the 1930s, so it’s interesting to see just how far they came from the dawn of sound to only a few years later in 1933.

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Musical Monday: The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968)

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:
The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968)– Musical #571

Studio:
Walt Disney Productions

Director:
Michael O’Herlihy

Starring:
Walter Brennan, Buddy Ebsen, Janet Blair, Lesley Ann Warren, Kurt Russell, Jon Walmsley, Pamelyn Ferdin, John Davidson, Wally Cox, John Davidson, Richard Deacon, Bobby Rhia, Goldie Hawn, Butch Patrick (uncredited)

Plot:
Set in 1888, the musical Bower family auditions to play at the Democratic convention for Grover Cleveland in the election of Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison. The Bower family moves from Missouri to the Dakota Territory, which is largely Republican. The family gets involved in a local political battle as grandpa (Brennan) is a Democrat and the rest of the town is mostly Republican.

Trivia:
-The film is a true story based on a book written by Laura Bower Van Nuys, who was the youngest of the Bower family.

-Filmed in 1966, this was supposed to be a two-part, hour-long TV special called “The Family Band.” Walt Disney thought the project was flat and asked the Sherman brothers to help write songs.

Goldie Hawn in an uncredited role as a dancer with John Davidson

-Goldie Hawn’s film debut. She was credited as “giggly girl.”

-Music written by brother songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The Sherman brothers wrote a total of 11 songs for the production while eight were used in the final product.

-750 children were interviewed for roles in the film, according to a June 15, 1968, article in the El Paso Herald.

Highlights:
-Walter Brennan singing

Notable Songs:
-“Let’s Put It Over with Grover” performed by the whole Bower family
-“The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band” performed by the Bower Family
-“The Happiest Girl Alive” performed by Lesley Ann Warren
-“Dakota” performed by John Davidson
-“‘Bout Time” performed by John Davidson and Lesley Ann Warren

My review:
The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968) isn’t a well-known Disney film. I actually had never heard of it until I picked up one of those inexpensive three movie sets, because it included “The Happiest Millionaire,” the only Greer Garson movie I have yet to see.

And while IMDB does not list this movie as a musical, there is no doubt that it is one. The film opens with the family singing and I don’t think anyone stops singing for the first 20 minutes of the movie. It really isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that the first half of this film has more lyrics than lines.

The film starts out with the family practicing and auditioning to perform at the 1888 Democratic convention for Grover Cleveland with a song that Grandpa (Walter Brennan) wrote about Grover Cleveland. So that’s what the movie is going to be about, right? The family’s adventures of traveling to the convention, performing and becoming a big sensation?

Wrong. The family doesn’t perform at the convention because they decide to move to the Dakota territory. And then we follow their adventures there where the mostly Republican territory takes issue with Democrat Grandpa’s political ideas. And the family band plays every so often.

Now, this movie was based on the real Bowers family and an autobiography the youngest daughter of the family wrote, so I guess this is close to what happened with the family. But real life doesn’t always make sense when it comes to a film script. By the last half of the film I was scratching my head thinking, “So is this ploy just about people disagreeing about politics? I thought this would be more about a family band!”

At one hour and 50 minutes, I think this storyline could have been 20 to 30 minutes shorter. Had it simply been about a family band performing, one hour and 40 minutes may have been permissible, but I’m not really sure why this is so long or what filled the time.

What’s really interesting about “Family Band” is it’s cast. Knowing nothing about the film, I had no idea about the unique blend of actors and was surprised by some of the cast members. I really only knew Lesley Ann Warren, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (in an uncredited role) were in the film. First, I was shocked to see Janet Blair, who seemingly had not aged since My Sister Eileen (1942) and looked beautiful as ever. Also, if you’re a Waltons” fan, Jon Wamsley (who plays Jason Walton on the show) is in the film as one of the younger siblings.

Oh and did I mention that Walter Brennan sings? I did love that. I was also happy to see Buddy Ebsen dancing in the film. Ebsen danced in a few 1930s and 1940s MGM musicals but it seems to be a rare site in his later films. Lesley Ann Warren does some great dancing in the film and Goldie Hawn appears as a dancer, stealing Warren’s boyfriend.

While there are multiple songs, the Sherman brothers did a great job with some toe-tapping tunes that will get stuck in your head (especially since they are performed so many times throughout the film).

I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like the film…it was delightful. It just wasn’t what I expected and I had several questions once it ended. If you’re a Disney fan and haven’t seen this one, you should round out your Disney viewing and give it a watch.

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Lizabeth Scott Sings!

Lizabeth Scott, “The Threat”

She usually played a mysterious blond that was up to no good. Actress Lizabeth Scott, known for her husky voice and sleek, straight blond hair was often a woman with a secret in 1940s and 1950s film noirs.

Publicity departments of the golden era of Hollywood often saddled their actors with nicknames: from the It Girl (Clara Bow), the Oomph Girl (Ann Sheridan) to the Lavender Blonde (Kim Novak).

Scott was nicknamed “The Threat,” as she was threatening to “The Body (Marie MacDonald), “The Voice” (Frank Sinatra), and “The Look” (Lauren Bacall).

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