Musical Monday: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)

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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) – Musical #606

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: Herbert Ross

Starring:
Peter O’Toole, Petula Clark, Michael Redgrave, George Baker, Siân Phillips, Michael Bryant, Michael Culver

Plot:
In a film that begins in the 1920s and ends in the years following World War II, Arthur Chipping (O’Toole) is an unpopular teacher at an all boy’s school. He falls in love and marries a showgirl Katherine Bridges (Clark). The school and its patrons don’t think Katherine is refined enough to be connected to the school.

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TCMFF Watching 1939: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.

1939 film: Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Release date: May 15, 1939 (New York City premiere)

Cast: Robert Donat, Greer Garson, Terry Kilburn, Peter Henreid, John Mills, Judith Furse

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: Sam Wood

Plot:
Long-time and beloved teacher, Mr. Chipping (Donat) reflects on his teaching career and life, looking back on 1870 to 1933. Starting out as a stuffy young man, his wife (Garson) helps bring him out of his shell and shows him how to be a better teacher, which endears his students to him.

1939 Notes:
• Greer Garson’s first film.
• This was the only film Robert Donat acted in that was released in 1939
• Paul Henreid’s only film of 1939 and he is billed as Paul Von Hernried
• Terry Kilburn was in five films released in 1939.

Robert Donat and Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Other trivia:
• Based on a novel by James Hilton
• Myrna Loy was originally considered for the role of Mrs. Chips but, when she went to 20th Century Fox. Elizabeth Allan was also considered for the role, according to the biography A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson by Michael Troyan
• Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was interested in making a film version of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” as early as 1934, but Irving Thalberg’s production schedule put the film on the backburner. Over the years before it was made, Lionel Barrymore and Charles Laughton were considered for the role. The film idea was shelved when Thalberg died in 1936, and James Hilton was interested in Wallace Beery, according to Tryon’s book.
• Remade as a musical in 1969 with the same title starring Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark
• Premiered in New York City in May and London in June
• Robert Donat won the Academy Award for Best Actor and was not present for the awards ceremony. Director Victor Saville accepted the accolade on his behalf.
• Donat ages from 25 to 88 in the film.
• Filmed at MGM’s London studio

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
When it comes to the top films of 1939, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is one I would consider one of the top films.

Not only do I say this because it’s a lovely and sweet story, but also because of the career, it launched.

“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is the story of an elderly teacher at an English boy’s school looking back on his life and career. It begins when he’s 25 and starting off as a teacher with no experience. For many years, the teacher, Mr. Chipping played by Robert Donat, isn’t popular with his students. His punishments are rough, sometimes affecting the whole school, and his manner is aloof. Mr. Chipping’s attitude even causes him to miss out on a promotion. It’s not until he meets his wife, Katherine played by Greer Garson, that she teaches him to soften and joke with his students and act human. Though Mrs. Chipping passes away in childbirth, Mr. Chipping (called Mr. Chips now by his students) continues to be popular among his students. Even after he retires, he returns to help the school during World War I.

“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is a quiet film but is sweet and engaging. Robert Donat plays the role of the teacher well, from his haughty youth, shy middle age to sweet elderly years. And you also have to give kudos to Jack Dawn, the makeup artist who effectively aged Donat from 25 years old to 88 years old. Donat was already a star by the time this film was released, particularly after starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s “39 Steps” (1935), but this was his only film released in 1939.

Donat also won his only Academy Award for this film, beating out Clark Gable for “Gone with the Wind,” Mickey Rooney for “Babes in Arms,” Laurence Olivier for “Wuthering Heights,” and James Stewart for “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” This would be his last Academy Award nomination, his other came a year earlier for “The Citadel” (1938)

Though Donat was the Academy Award winner, his co-star is also notable. “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is the first film role for Greer Garson. Her biographer Michael Tryon wrote that Garson was reluctant to take the role, because it is brief. However, Greer Garson is a bright spot in the film and her character is pivotal in the transformation in the main character.

For her screen debut, Greer Garson was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Her warmth comes across on screen and Garson glows as she helps Donat realize that not everything in life has to be quite so formal.

The film also showcases other new talents. Paul Henreid co-stars as a fellow teacher in one of his early film roles. We also see child star Terry Kilburn in his fifth role-playing several characters. Kilburn appears at the beginning and returns playing the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of those who came before him.

I had the opportunity to see “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” on 35mm film at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. It was wonderful to revisit this film after several years on a 35mm print that came from the British Film Institute.

James Hilton’s lovely “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is such a heartwarming film and you may need a tissue or two to get through it. But it’s a wonderful movie and brightened even more by Greer Garson. It’s incredible to think this was her first film, as she fits in like she belonged on screen.

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

 

TCMFF Musical Monday: The Dolly Sisters (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:
The Dolly Sisters (1945) – Musical #333

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Irving Cummings

Starring:
Betty Grable, John Payne, June Haver, S.Z. Sakall, Reginald Gardiner, Frank Latimore, Sig Ruman, Gene Sheldon, Trudy Marshall, Elmer the Seal, Theresa Harris, J. Farrell MacDonald, Collette Lyons (uncredited), Mae Marsh (uncredited), Ricki Van Dusen (uncredited), Evon Thomas (uncredited), Donna Jo Gribble (uncredited)

Plot:
A fictional biographical musical of the life of Hungarian acting sisters Jenny (Grable) and Rosie (Haver) Dolly. The sister act rose to fame during the 1910s and 1920s and were a top Broadway and European act. Jenny marries songwriter Harry Fox (Payne), who is envious of Jenny’s success.

The real Dolly Sisters

Betty Grable and June Haver as the Dolly Sisters

Trivia:
– The real Dolly sisters were acted from 1907 to the early 1920s. The sisters retired in 1929 and their later life was tumultuous. In 1921, Jenny was in a severe car accident that left required her to have reconstructive facial surgery and multiple other surgeries (her stomach was in her lung chamber). Jenny committed suicide in 1921. Rosie died of a heart attack in 1970.
– Betty Grable originally wanted Dick Haymes for the role as Harry Fox, but Zanuck refused and suggested Perry Como, who Grable said was too short, according to the biography “Pin-Up: The Tragedy of Betty Grable” by Spero Pastos
– George Jessel’s film debut as a movie producer
– The character of Flo Daly is based on Fanny Brice
– Gale Robbins, Janet Blair, Vivian Blaine, Patricia Romero and the Dowling Twins were all considered for roles.

Highlights:
– Orry-Kelly costumes, particularly in the makeup box number

Orry-Kelly costume for lipstick

Orry-Kelly costume for mascara

Notable Songs:
-“The Vamp” performed by June Haver and Betty Grable
-“I Can’t Begin to Tell You” performed by John Payne
-“Give Me the Moonlight, Give Me the Girl” performed by John Payne and Betty Grable
-“Don’t Be Too Old Fashioned (Old Fashioned Girl)” performed by Betty Grable and June Haver
-“Powder, Lipstick and Rouge” performed by the chorus
-“I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” performed by John Payne and Betty Grable

My review:
I adore Betty Grable. I love to watch her candy-coated Technicolor films, her exuberant dancing and the way she can sell a song. I even own a CD of her songs and drive around singing to it.

But in the grand scheme of her films, like “Moon Over Miami” and “Springtime in the Rockies,” I just don’t enjoy “The Dolly Sisters.”

Let’s start with the good points: It’s very colorful and it has some wonderful costumes.

But as far as a the plot of this fictionalized biographical musical, it is not the best of 20th Century Fox’s Technicolor musical extravaganzas.

For me, one thing that taints this movie for me is the co-starring of Betty Grable and June Haver. Appearance wise, Grable and Haver look extremely similar. But their sisterly bond was strictly for the screen. Grable didn’t like or trust June Haver. Grable always remained professional toward her, but also she felt that Haver was gunning for her star status, according to the book Betty Grable: The Reluctant Movie Queen by Doug Warren.

The plot of this movie is also frustrating. Harry Fox, played by John Payne, is bitter that his wife, Jenny Dolly played by Betty Grable, is more famous than he is and wants her to quit. But you can’t just quit a sister act …

The real life Dolly Sisters also ended up having a pretty grim life. They both partied and dated some of the same men, and, as depicted in the film, Jenny Dolly was in a severe car wreck. In real life, Jenny was left destitute and depressed after this, selling her jewels to pay for gambling debts and medical bills. Jenny killed herself in 1941.

As far as the musical numbers, many of them are glittering with great costumes and familiar songs.

However, one is rather cringey. “The Darktown Strutters’ Ball” is a cringey number. After Grable and Haver perform the initial chorus, chorus girls come out in blackface in costumes that perpetuate stereotypes. This includes a performed with a gambling/money motif on her dress and another with a muff that is a watermellon. The sisters then come out in stereotypical child blackface costumes. It’s just bad.

Other costumes in the film are worth mentioning, though. Designed by Orry-Kelly, the costumes for “Powder, Lipstick and Rouge” are so fun. Each chorus girl is dressed as a different cosmetic item. Including a woman with a tall hat to signify lipstick and another with a skirt that looks like a powder puff.

While “The Dolly Sisters,” isn’t my favorite Betty Grable film, it does exhibit the sparkling appeal of 20th Century Fox.

This musical screened at TCMFF on nitrate this weekend.

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

Watching 1939: Love Affair (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film:  Love Affair (1939)

Release date:  March 16, 1939

Cast:  Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Maria Ouspenskaya, Lee Bowman, Astrid Allwyn, Maurice Moscovitch, Scotty Beckett (uncredited), Frank McGlynn Sr. (uncredited)

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Director:  Leo McCarey

Plot:
French playboy Michel Marnay (Boyer) and American singer Terry McKay (Dunne) meet on cruise ship heading from Europe to America. Michel is engaged to be married and Terry is dating her boss, Kenneth Bradley (Bowman). Michel and Terry fall in love, but when they arrive in New York, they decide to separate for six months and tie up loose ends and meet six months later on top of the Empire State Building.

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Comet Over Hollywood: Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival 2019

At 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival

I will be back this week in Hollywood for my sixth Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). The festival runs from Thursday, April 11, through Sunday, April 14.

Here’s how you can follow my adventures and updates:
· Twitter: @HollywoodComet
· Instagram: @HollywoodComet
· Facebook: Facebook.com/CometOverHollywood

For those who have never attended, this is like a film 10k. From 9 a.m. to after 12 a.m., you watch classic film after classic film with other fans who know and love Guy Kibbee as much as you do.

My tips for first-time attendees:
· I know you are excited, but it’s okay to skip a film and eat a meal. You have to keep up your strength for all that movie watching!
· Be sure to take care of yourself: hydrate and maybe take some vitamins or Emergen-C. I know that sounds crazy being so excited and also exhausted can be taxing on your system.
· Say hello to people you think you might know online. Everyone is excited to be there, so they most likely will be excited to see you too.
· Strike up a conversation while waiting in line for films. You never know, the person behind you may be as big of a Laraine Day fan as you are! This is one of the few places where you can have everyday conversations with film fans that speak your language.
· Have fun! You may not get into a film you want to see, but don’t take it too hard and ruin your trip. There are other wonderful movies to see!
· If you have time, explore the area!

For my top festival picks, I’m most looking forward to:
· The addition of the American Legion as a film viewing location
· The Dolly Sisters (1945) on Nitrate
· Seeing fellow film fans and friends and discussing classic films with them!

Do you have questions about the festival? Comment below or e-mail them to me at CometOverHollywood@gmail.com.

Musical Monday: The Opposite Sex (1956)

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 Opposite Sex (1956) – Musical #175

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
David Miller

Starring:
June Allyson, Joan Collins, Dolores Gray, Ann Sheridan, Ann Miller, Leslie Nielsen, Jeff Richards, Joan Blondell, Sam Levine, Agnes Moorehead, Charlotte Greenwood, Bill Goodwin, Alice Pearce, Carolyn Jones, Harry James, Alan Marshall, Jim Backus, Dick Shawn, Barrie Chase (uncredited), Dean Jones (uncredited)

Plot:
Kay Hilliard (Allyson) is married to Broadway producer Steve Hilliard (Nielsen). She learns from her gossip at the beauty parlor that Steve is cheating on her with one of the girls in his show, Crystal Allen (Collins). Kay’s catty friends Sylvia (Gray) and Edith (Blondell) revel in the gossip while Amanda (Sheridan) tries to help Kay and encourages her not to get a divorce. Kay, a former radio singer, divorces her husband and restarts her career.

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“The next 58 years will be a breeze”: An interview with RiverRun Master of Cinema awardees Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin

The RiverRun International Film Festival has been held since 1998. Originally held in Brevard, NC, the festival now takes place in Winston-Salem. Held this year from April 4 – 14, 2019, the festival is screening 172 films from 47 countries—71 features and 101 shorts.

Each year, a pillar in the film industry is recognized with the Master of Cinema award. This year, that award goes to husband and wife Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin, and film producer and head of Orion pictures Mike Medavoy.

Prentiss and Benjamin have been married for 58 years. Paula Prentiss is best known for her 1960s and 1970s roles including “Where the Boys Are” (1960), “The Honeymoon Machine” (1961) and “What’s New Pussycat” (1965). She co-starred with Jim Hutton in three films. Her film “Man’s Favorite Sport?” (1964) with Rock Hudson will screen at the festival. Richard Benjamin both acts and directs. His directorial debut was the Peter O’Toole film “My Favorite Year” and he also directed “The Money Pit” (1986) and “Mermaids” (1990). His acting roles include “Goodbye, Christopher Columbus” (1969) and “The Sunshine Boys” (1975), which is screening at the festival. The two acted together on the TV show “He and She” as well as “Catch-22” (1970), “Saturday the 14th” (1981), and the Broadway play “The Norman Conquests” (1975).

I had the opportunity to interview actress Paula Prentiss and actor/director Richard Benjamin via phone on Sunday, April 7:

Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin in the 1960s

Comet Over Hollywood: Tell me about how you two met.

Richard Benjamin: We met at Northwestern University. Paula had transferred from Randolph-Macon College. And Paula had transferred from Randolph-Macon. She was a year ahead of me and I came from New York, New York City, and that’s where we met. And the first second I saw her, I thought, that’s it for me, so … I don’t know how long it took her to feel the same way exactly, you can ask her, but I knew that was it.

Paula Prentiss: Well let me see. I was at a women’s college beforehand and the dating that we had was off to other universities. I was at Randolph–Macon Women’s College, I went to the University of Virginia, went to Yale one time. But I thought to myself, I have to find some guy that I really like. These individual dating trips are a little … I don’t know what I thought. But anyway, that’s one of the reasons I transferred from Randolph–Macon Women’s College.

And when I saw Dick … He was very cute. Tall and thin and stuff like that, and I thought, I didn’t know much about acting, but he was supposed to be a director so perhaps this will work. I tried out for a play, even though I was very inexperienced in acting, and he liked me. So then when we had rehearsals, we were left alone in the rehearsal room…

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