Musical Monday: Shine on Harvest Moon (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:
Shine on Harvest Moon (1944) – Musical #131

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Ann Sheridan, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Irene Manning, S.Z. Sakall, Marie Wilson, Robert Shayne

Plot:
Set in the early 1900s, this fictional biographical film follows vaudeville and Broadway stars Nora Bayes (Sheridan) and Jack Norworth (Morgan). As the couple rises to the top, they are blackballed by an old show business enemy who buys all theater chains.

Trivia:
-Though Ann Sheridan could sing and performed in other musicals, she was dubbed by Lynn Martin

Photo of the real Nora Bayes and Jack Norwood

-The film focuses on the marriage and performances of Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth. However, Jack Norworth was the second out of Nora Bayes’s five husbands (the film does not focus on the other husbands). Jack Norworth was also married five times.

-Jack Norworth was still living when this film was made (he passed away in 1959). Nora Bayes died of cancer in 1928. The success of this film, helped Norworth get a role in Jean Renoir’s “The Southerner,” according to Vaudeville old & new: an encyclopedia of variety performances in America by Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman, Donald McNeilly

-Ann Sheridan made this film right after she returned from Mexico where she was getting a divorce from George Brent, according to The Women of Warner Brothers by Daniel Bubbeo.

Highlights:
-The Technicolor sequence
-Performance montage showing Bayes and Norwood’s rise to fame

Notable Songs:
-“Time Waits for No One” performed by Ann Sheridan, dubbed by Lynn Martin
-“It Looks Like a Big Night Tonight” performed by Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Ann Sheridan
-“Don’t Let Rainy Days Get You” performed by Irene Manning and Ann Sheridan
-“When It’s Apple Blossom Time in Normandie” performed by Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan
-“I Go For You” performed by Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan
-“Shine on Harvest Moon” performed by Ann Sheridan (dubbed by Lynn Martin) and Dennis Morgan

My review:
“Shine on Harvest Moon” is one of those biographical musicals that holds little truth to its subject, but at least it’s extremely entertaining.

This musical takes us back to the nostalgic days of the early-1900s when vaudeville was king. Ann Sheridan plays Nora Bayes and Dennis Morgan plays Jack Norwood, who were famous vaudeville and Broadway performers and were at one time married. Bayes was the first person to sing George M. Cohen’s “Over There” and Norwood wrote songs like “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

In the film, the couple rises to fame but then are blacklisted when their enemy, Dan Costello (Robert Shayne), buys up all the theaters and bares them from performing there. Costello is getting even with Nora for leaving his show.

While it appears this didn’t happen (from what I can find on Norwood and Bayes), it makes for a good story filled with conflict.

Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan as Nora Bayes and Jack Norwood

In the supporting cast: Jack Carson and Marie Wilson co-star as fictional characters in this biopic. Carson plays vaudeville magician The Great Georgetti and Wilson is his dizzy assistant. The two are friends with Bayes and Norwood and provide the comedic relief. Cuddles Sakall is also in the cast as delightful and funny as ever.While Robert Shayne is an antagonist, Irene Manning also plays a supporting role of another fictional vaudeville star, Blanche Mallory, who is jealous of Nora, because she liked Jack and wanted to be his vaudeville partner.

From “When It’s Apple Blossom Time in Normandy” to “Who’s Your Honey Lamb,” the nostalgic early-1900s tunes are great fun and sweet. As always, Dennis Morgan was in good voice, but I was disappointed that Ann Sheridan is dubbed (though you can hear her voice in one or two songs), because Sheridan sang well in other musicals. However, Lynn Martin’s voice matched Ann Sheridan’s very well.

Jack Norwood also wrote the title song “Shine on Harvest Moon.” The songwriting process in films is humorous to me. Sheridan and Morgan are riding along in a carriage and all of a sudden, this tune and words come to them so easily.

While this film is entertaining, the real treat is at the end when the movie goes from black and white to color for the finale number. Nora and Jack’s luck looks up and they introduce “Shine on Harvest Moon” in the Ziegfield Follies. (The real couple really did introduce this song in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1908). Ann Sheridan’s vibrant red hair looks gorgeous against her yellow dress and bonnet. After the two sing their song, Jack Carson and Marie Wilson come on and perform a reprise of “So Dumb But So Beautiful” so we have a chance to see them in color too. Jack walks through a “farm” with Ziegfield Girls dressed as various produce, from watermelons to tomatoes. The Four Step Brothers also come out and tap dance dressed as scarecrows, which I’ll admit, was a little creepy. Other than the scary scarecrows, the Technicolor segment is just beautiful.

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times didn’t give “Shine on Harvest Moon” a great review when it came out, because he remembered Bayes and Norwood and wasn’t pleased by the representation.

While this is an inaccurate biographical musical, I still enjoy it. My only complaint is that it’s not on DVD.

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

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Musical Monday: The Thrill of Brazil (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.

This week’s musical:
The Thrill of Brazil (1946) – Musical #570

Studio:
Columbia Pictures Corporation

Director:
S. Sylvan Simon

Starring:
Evelyn Keyes, Keenan Wynn, Ann Miller, Allyn Joslyn, Tito Guízar, Felix Bressart
Themselves: Veloz, Yolanda, Enric Madriguera

Plot:
Steve Farraugh (Wynn) is a musical producer in Rio de Janeiro. He is dating his dancing leading lady Linda Lorens (Miller), but he still misses and loves his ex-wife Vicki Dean (Keyes). And he misses her creative ideas for his shows. However, Vicki is prepared to marry John Habour (Joslyn). Steve does everything in his power to keep Vicki from getting married. Meanwhile Tito Guízar (himself) is also in love with Linda.

Trivia:
-Loose remake of His Girl Friday (1940). There isn’t a newspaper connection, but the plot revolves around a husband trying to get his wife back who is engaged to another man.
-Ann Miller’s last film under contract with Columbia
-In Ann Miller’s autobiography “Miller’s High Life,” she married her first husband Reese Milner during filming, who wanted Miller to end her career. After the film was completed, she broke her contract, and Columbia’s studio head Harry Cohen, sued her.
-Choreographed by Jack Cole, Eugene Loring, Nick Castle

Highlights:
-The finale number

Scene from the finale number

Notable Songs:
-“Man is Brother to a Mule” performed by Ann Miller and Tito Guízar
-“Copacabana” performed by Tito Guízar
-“Thrill of Brazil” performed by Tito Guízar
-“The Custom House” performed by Ann Miller
-“Linda Mujer”

My review:
Without running across it during research, I wouldn’t have realized “The Thrill of Brazil” was a musical remake of “Front Page” and “His Girl Friday.” That said, this isn’t one of those musical remakes that is word-for-word the original (like say High Society).

Tito Guízar and Ann Miller

While “Thrill of Brazil” is a B-musical, it’s very entertaining and has some very funny moments. The film is more a comedy with musical numbers sprinkled throughout. Ann Miller has a couple funny songs, like “Man is Brother to a Mule.”

The finale number is the musical highlight; largely shot in the dark and shadows and shows the culture of Brazil. It’s a gorgeously shot but also has one of the funniest scenes in the movie. Keenan Wynn gets stuck on stage and has to try his best to play along with the dancers while trying to find his way off stage.

During the 1940s, the Good Neighbor Policy was in full swing and “The Thrill of Brazil” is one of those films that showed a South American influence because of this cultural influence.

What is the Good Neighbor Policy? During the President F. D. Roosevelt administration, FDR said that he wanted to be a good neighbor to other nations. This policy focused on relations between the United States and South America, and the U.S. worked to promote their culture. You can see the cultural impacts in films like this one or “Down Argentine Way.”

Allyn Joslyn and Keenan Wynn

Evelyn Keyes doesn’t sing or dance, but is great in the film. Allyn Joslyn is flustered throughout the film and Felix Bressart is hilarious in his small role. I was unfamiliar with Mexican singer Tito Guízar prior to this film, but I’m glad I was introduced to him here. He has a beautiful voice.

While “Thrill of Brazil” is filled with beautiful dance numbers and humorous songs. While it isn’t the best musical and is a remake of a well-loved comedy, it’s a great deal of fun.

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

30 years of Gidget

As summer comes to a close, so does my “Gidget” series.

For three summers, I have spent a lot of time with Gidget, the surfing girl midget. Because of my love for the 1959 version and casually watching the films that followed, I decided to really delve into a film that was a catalyst for the beach film phenomenon.

Some people dismiss “Gidget” (1959) as teenage romantic fluff with cute Sandra Dee. Say what you will, but this film—and the book it was adapted from—launched the whole surfing industry. After the film was released in 1959, the Beach Boys started making records, along with the whole beach film franchise such as the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello films, to copycat films like “Surf Party” with Bobby Vinton and Jackie DeShannon.

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Musical Monday: For the First Time (1959)

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:
For the First Time (1959)– Musical #569

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Rudolph Maté

Starring:
Mario Lanza, Johanna von Koczian, Kurt Kasznar, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hans Söhnker,

Plot:
Famous tenor Tonio Costa (Lanza) is temperamental and causes problems for his manager (Kasznar). Tonio falls in love with Christa (Koczian), who is deaf. However, she won’t marry him until she is able to hear him sing.

Trivia:
-Last film of Mario Lanza. “For the First Time” was released on Aug. 14, 1959, and Lanza died of a heart attack at age 38 on Oct. 7, 1959.
-Mario Lanza’s first film since he made Seven Hills of Rome in 1957.

Highlights:
-A dachshund at the beginning begging
-The opera montage of Mario Lanza performing Othello, Pagliacci or Aida

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Musical Monday: Ladies of the Chorus (1948)

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:
Ladies of the Chorus (1948) – Musical #568

 

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Phil Karlson

Starring:
Adele Jergens, Marilyn Monroe, Rand Brooks, Nana Bryant, Eddie Garr, Bill Edwards

Plot:
May Martin (Jergens) and her daughter Peggy (Monroe) are both chorus girls at a burlesque theater. May is protective over Peggy, not wanting her to go out with “stage-door Johnnys.” When the head of the show walks out, Peggy becomes the main attraction and captures the interest of wealthy Randy Carroll (Brooks). Will his society family accept Peggy if they find out she is a burlesque queen?

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Review: The Very Thought of You (1944)

World War II films are my favorite genre. This doesn’t just include films about battle—I love looking at life on the home front, the Army Nurse Corps, and how actors were involved in the war effort in real life.

Then there are the World War II romance films, which often can involve a quick love affair that leads to marriage. A girl and a soldier meet while he’s on leave, and they marry, hardly knowing each other. They often marry so they will have someone to write home to or the girl falls in love with the uniform (we see this in Best Years of Our Lives).

One of the best in this genre is “The Very Thought of You” (1944). Directed by Delmer Daves and starring Dennis Morgan and Eleanor Parker, “The Very Thought of You” looks at whirlwind wartime marriages, and the disapproval a girl might meet from her family. War era films often show families happily welcoming soldiers into their homes and feeding them sandwiches and milk. But not in “The Very Thought of You”—we see the opposite.

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Musical Monday: The Desert Song (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.

This week’s musical:
The Desert Song (1943) – Musical #500

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Robert Florey

Starring:
Dennis Morgan, Irene Manning, Bruce Cabot, Faye Emerson, Lynne Overman, Gene Lockhart, Jack La Rue

Plot:
A group of desert bandits, lead by Paul Hudson (Morgan), work against Nazis in Morrocco who want to build a railroad for the Axis.

Dennis Morgan and Irene Manning in “Desert Song” (1943)

Trivia:
-Prior to it’s 2014 DVD release, this film was difficult to see due to a copyright issue with one of the songs in the film.
-This is one of several film versions of “Desert Song.” The first was in 1929 starring John Boles and Carlotta King, and another in 1953 starring Gordon MacRae and Kathryn Grayson. Since this was filmed during World War II, the Nazi aspect would be added.
-The remake had been planned since 1936, according to The Star-Spangled Screen: The American World War II Film by Bernard F. Dick
-New songs added to the film were “Fifi’s Song,” “Gay Parisienne,” and “Long Live the Night.”

Highlights:
-Dennis Morgan
-The Technicolor cinematography

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Actress Beauty Tips #38: Positive Moves with Angela Lansbury

This is the 38th installment of the classic actress beauty tips that I have read about and tested. 

Actress Angela Lansbury has had a long and varied career. Lansbury started in films in 1944 and on the stage in 1957, and she still works in both mediums today. She was active on television with her own show. And she even joined the exercise craze of the 1980s, releasing the video “Angela Lansbury’s Positive Moves: My Personal Plan for Fitness and Well-Being.”

But this video isn’t filled with crunches, leg lifts, arm circles and donkey kicks. I even really hesitate to call this a “workout video” or even strength training. This is more a series of stretches, movements, and advice encouraging the viewer how to stay active in small ways.

Angela Lansbury filmed the video in 1988 at age 63, while she was still making “Murder, She Wrote.” She later followed up with a book version in 1990.

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Review: “Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches” (2016)

Rod Taylor

In the 1950s, Hollywood was filled with suave and stylish stars like Cary Grant and William Holden, and the brooding method actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean.

And then there was Rod Taylor, who was in a class all his own.

Hollywood’s top director, Alfred Hitchcock, cast him in “The Birds” (1963), Walt Disney wanted him to voice a Dalmatian, and even Albert “Cubby” Broccoli approached Rod Taylor about playing James Bond. (He refused because he thought that sort of story was best for television—it would never work in films—later saying this was the stupidest remark he ever made).

A 2016 documentary, “Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches” highlights this standout actor’s life and work. Rod Taylor himself helps tell his story through an interview that was filmed in 2012.

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Musical Monday: Camelot (1967)

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:
Camelot (1967) – Musical #235

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Joshua Logan

Starring:
Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, David Hemmings, Estelle Winwood, Lionel Jeffries, Laurence Naismith,
Gary Marshal

Plot:
The story of King Arthur (Harris) and his marriage to Queen Guinevere (Redgrave). King Arthur’s philosophy is “Not might ‘makes’ right, but might ‘for’ right” so he creates the Knights of the Round Table of noble knights to help carry out a rudimentary idea of democracy and England’s unification. One of the knights is Sir Lancelot (Nero), who the Queen grows fond of, which causes problems with the other knights. Causing further problems is the arrival of Arthur’s illegitimate son Mordred (Hemmings).

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