Musical Monday: The Sky’s the Limit (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 Sky’s The Limit (1943) – Musical #210

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Edward H. Griffith

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Joan Leslie, Robert Benchley, Robert Ryan, Elizabeth Patterson, Marjorie Gateson, Fred Aldrich, Robert Andersen, Richard Davies, Norma Drury, Dorothy Kelly, Neil Hamilton (uncredited), Peter Lawford (uncredited) Eric Blore (uncredited), Amelita Ward (uncredited)
Himself: Freddie Slack and his Orchestra, Ella Mae Morse

Plot:
Fred Atwell (Astaire) is one of the Flying Tiger pilots during World War II and has been named a hero for all of his successful missions. During his leave back home, he is taken on a personal appearance tour. Tired of the strict schedule, he gets off the train at a stop and decides he’s going to have fun. He meets photographer Joan Manion (Leslie), who he falls for but she believes it just a drifter.

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Watching 1939: Torchy Runs for Mayor (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:  Torchy Runs for Mayor (1939)

Release date:  May 13, 1939

Cast:  Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Tom Kennedy, John Miljan, Frank Shannon, Charles Richman, Joe Downing, John Miljan, Irving Bacon, John Ridgely (uncredited)

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Director:  Ray McCarey

Plot:
Reporter Torchy Blane (Farrell) is writing stories about the corruption of Mayor Saunders (Richman) and how he takes money from crime bosses. To make Torchy stop, the mayor threatens to pull his advertising from her newspaper, which forces Torchy’s editors to stop publishing her stories. Torchy asks papers all over town to publish her stories and is rejected until one small paper accepts. After publishing the article, the editor of the paper is killed, and Torchy’s police officer boyfriend Steve (MacLane) investigates, and Torchy meddles. To get back at Torchy for butting into his case, Steve writes Torchy’s name in as a mayor candidate – which she embraces.

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Musical Monday: Young at Heart (1954)

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:
Young at Heart (1954) – Musical #26

Studio:
Warner Bros.

Director:
Gordon Douglas

Starring:
Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Gig Young, Ethel Barrymore, Dorothy Malone, Elisabeth Fraser, Alan Hale Jr., Lonny Chapman

Plot:
The musical family the Tuttles are led by the widower father, Gregory (Keith), his three daughters Laurie (Day), Fran (Malone) and Amy (Fraser), as well as his unmarried sister Aunt Jessie (Barrymore). Their lives start to change as the daughters begin falling in love and getting married. Fran convinces herself that she is in love with and will marry Bob Neary (Hale Jr). Then young composer Alex (Young) comes to board with the Tuttles. Another guest turns the family upside down as well, the moody songwriter Barney Sloan (Sinatra). All of the sisters love Alex, but it’s Laurie that he wants to marry, but will she marry Alex if it hurts her sisters?

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Watching 1939: Invisible Stripes (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: Invisible Stripes

Release date: Dec. 30, 1939

Cast:  George Raft, Jane Bryan, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart, Flora Robson, Paul Kelly, Lee Patrick, Henry O’Neill, Frankie Thomas, Moroni Olsen, Margot Stevenson, Marc Lawrence, Leo Gorcey, Bruce Bennett (uncredited), Frank Faylen (uncredited), William Hopper (uncredited), John Ridgely (uncredited)

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Director:  Lloyd Bacon

Plot:
After he’s paroled from Sing Sing, Cliff Taylor (Raft) finds life is hard as an ex-con. His girl leaves him, and he can’t find work. Even after he finds work, employers get nervous around an ex-con and fire him or police accuse him for crimes. His younger brother Tim (Holden) is disheartened by what he sees with his brother and becomes hard. Because of his hardships, Cliff falls back into crime, which causes problems for the rest of his family.

1939 Notes:
• George Raft was in four films released in 1939
• William Holden’s second credited role released in 1939. He was in three films total
• 1939 gave Margot Stevenson her first full-length films. She was in two films released that year: this one and “Smashing the Money Ring”

Other trivia: 
• Originally supposed to star James Cagney and John Garfield
• Flora Robson plays George Raft’s mother, though she was six years younger than Raft
• One of the last films released in 1939
• The only film that George Raft was directed by Warner Bros. director Llyod Bacon, according to George Raft: The Films by Everett Aaker

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
“Invisible Stripes” is an interesting crime film. It isn’t just “well here is a gangster committing crimes” or the upstanding citizen being brought into a life of crime.

It’s about an ex-con, played by George Raft, sincerely wanting to “go straight” and live a truthful, honest life and make money honestly, but society won’t let him. Employers don’t want to hire him because of his criminal background, or they are suspicious of him after he’s hired. If he is hired, other employees pick fights.

But society also doesn’t want him to commit crimes, which is the only way he can make money. The message is very much “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

The film gives a sympathetic look at what people deal with after they are released from a stretch in jail. George Raft plays this character well, and the plot unsurprisingly turns him back towards a life of crime.

But while George Raft is the star of “Invisible Stripes,” William Holden was the standout star of 1939. This is the year that Holden’s career really began and it started out with a bang. Holden was coming off the success of “Golden Boy” (1939), which quickly made him a star. Warner Bros. borrowed Holden from Paramount to play the role of the eager younger brother becomes bitter as he watches the treatment of his brother.

What no mention of Humphrey Bogart? Bogart is in this film, but has a fairly small role and not as much screentime as Raft or newcomer Holden. At this point in his career, Bogart still wasn’t the star that he later became but 1939 slowly boosted him until he found fame.

“Invisible Stripes” isn’t the most memorable film of 1939, or the most memorable Warner Bros. gangster movie, but it’s interesting to see Holden early in his career and Raft and Bogart together.

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Musical Monday: You’ll Find Out (1940)

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:
You’ll Find Out” (1940)– Musical #376

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Helen Parrish, Dennis O’Keefe, Alma Kruger
As themselves: Kay Kyser, Ginny Simms, Harry Babbit, Ish Kabbible

Plot:
Kay Kyser (himself) and his band are hired to perform at the 21st birthday party of heiress Janice (Parrish). The party is held at her estate that she hasn’t visited in years. When the band and guests arrive, they notice strange happenings, like Judge Spencer Mainwaring (Karloff) who handles the estate of Janice’s aunt Margo (Kruger). Aunt Margo also looked to Prince Saliano (Lugosi) for spiritual guidance, who Janice does not trust, and Karl (Lorre) who says he also has psychic powers. Janice believes her life is in danger and Kay and his band manager (O’Keefe) get to the bottom of it.

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Watching 1939: The Cat and the Canary (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:  The Cat and the Canary

Release date:  Nov. 10, 1939

Cast:  Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, John Beal, Douglass Montgomery, Gale Sondergaard, Elizabeth Patterson, Nydia Westman, George Zucco

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Director:  Elliott Nugent

Plot:
Set in the Louisiana bayou, relatives of the late Cyrus Norman gather at his remote mansion. The millionaire left instructions for his will to be read ten years after his death and for everything in his home to remain the same until then. His housekeeper Miss Lu (Sondergaard) stayed on alone and welcomes the guests (Hope, Goddard, Beal, Montgomery, Patterson, Westman, Zucco) into the home, warning them of spirits. Norman’s lawyer, Crosby (Zucco) reads the will – announcing that Joyce Norman (Goddard) is the heir. Cyrus Norman believed insanity ran in the family, so a second person was named as a backup if Joyce dies or is insane. The guests must stay in the creepy mansion overnight and it seems Joyce’s life is at risk, or is she just imagining it?

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BeautyScope: Arlene Dahl’s beauty tips for Scorpios

Arlene Dahl in the 1950s

Known for her striking beauty and shock of bright red hair, actress Arlene Dahl often played elegant or feminine women in films.

Starting in films in the late-1940s, she rose to fame when she signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Dahl acted in everything from musicals, film noir and adventure films. Dahl was also publicized for her six marriages, including to Lex Barker and Fernando Lamas, and she is the mother of actor Lorenzo Lamas.

But behind the glamour and publicity was also a businesswoman. In addition to acting, Dahl went into the beauty businesses and founded Arlene Dahl Enterprises in 1954 and developed a lingerie and cosmetic line. Dahl also worked as a beauty consultant.

In addition to all this, she wrote. Dahl started a beauty advice column in 1950 and turned to publishing full-length beauty books in the 1960s, which include “Beyond Beauty,” “Arlene Dahl’s Key to Femininity” and the “Beauty Scope” series.

The “Beauty Scope” series combined Dahl’s love of astrology with beauty and gave advice about how women could achieve their full beauty potential through their zodiac sign.

Dahl was dedicated to making decisions based on astrology and consulted with Carroll Righter, according to her introduction to “Beauty Scope.”

“He (Righter) became a great friend … Frequently, I consulted him on major career decisions, especially when I was offered roles in two good motion pictures at the same time, or when I was undecided whether or not to combine writing with my acting commitments,” she wrote.

Before the books, “Beauty Scope” started in 1963 as a syndicated column. The books were published in 1969.

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Musical Monday: George White’s Scandals (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.

Jack Haley, Joan Davis, Gene Krupa in “George White Scandals”

This week’s musical:
George White Scandals (1945) – Musical #348

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Felix E. Feist

Starring:
Joan Davis, Jack Haley, Phillip Terry, Martha Holliday, Margaret Hamilton, Glenn Tryon, Jane Greer (billed as Bettejane Greer), Audrey Young, Rose Murphy, Fritz Feld, Beverly Wills, Tommy Noonan (uncredited), Dorothy Sebastian (uncredited)
Themselves: Gene Krupa, Ethel Smith

Plot:
The George White Scandals are being cast and rehearsals are beginning … and romances are budding. Joan Mason (Davis) was in the Scandals as a child star is now performing in them as an adult. She recently got engaged to her co-star Jack Evans (Haley), but his sister Clarabelle (Hamilton) hates Joan. Tom McGrath (Terry), who is leading the show, has no time for chorus girls, but Jill Martin (Holliday) works to set herself apart from the others to get noticed. Jill is secretly the daughter of a former Scandals star, who married nobility, and she doesn’t want the rest of the cast to find out.

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Watching 1939: The Man They Could Not Hang

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:  The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)

Release date:  Aug. 17, 1939

Cast:  Boris Karloff, Lorna Gray, Robert Wilcox, Roger Pryor, Don Beddoe, Ann Doran, James Craig, Joe De Stefani, Byron Foulger, Charles Trowbridge, Dick Curtis, John Tyrrell, Stanley Brown (uncredited)

Studio:  Columbia Pictures Corporation

Director:  Nick Grinde

Plot:
Dr. Henryk Savaard (Karloff) is an esteemed scientist is working on an experiment to bring a dead man back to life by stimulating the heart and keeping blood pumping. When a medical student (Brown) volunteers, his hysterical girlfriend (Doran) calls the police that Dr. Savaard is committing murder. Since the police arrive mid-experiment, the student dies, and Dr. Savaard is arrested. In his trial, Savaard is found guilty and sentenced to death, but his assistant requests the body, carries out the experiment and Savaard lives to seek revenge on the court that found him guilty.

1939 Notes:
• Boris Karloff was in six films released in 1939.
• Lorna Gray was in 18 feature-length and short films released in 1939.
• Roger Pryor was only in two films in 1939.

Other trivia: 
Based on real-life figure Dr. Robert Cornish, who tried to revive patients from heart attack, drowning and electrocution by getting blood flowing. He experimented on dogs that he brought back to life, according to the book Boris Karloff: A Bio-bibliography by Beverley Bare Buehrer.
• The film was banned in Great Britain, according to “Censored Screams: The British Ban on Hollywood Horror in the Thirties” by Tom Johnson
• Re-released in 1947

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
This week’s Watching 1939 film is interesting not so much because of the year 1939, but because of its look at medicine and science and how much has changed since that time.

Boris Karloff plays a respected scientist who wants to bring people back to life. He kills a student volunteer with gases that won’t harm the tissue and then works to revive him by getting the heart pumping and blood flowing through the veins.

Police are called and barge in, interrupting the experiment so that the young man stays dead. They call the scientist crazy and that any sort of experiment would never work.

During the trial, Roger Pryor’s character says: “He wants to butcher our young athletes so their hearts can be used to prolong the life of some doddering old man. Dr. Sakaard’s fine ideal would never be permitted in any civilized county.”

*Raises hand* Give it 40 years, Pryor, organ donation will be commonplace, but it isn’t “butchering.”

Most of the ideas Karloff’s character has that officials think are crazy are now safely and commonly practiced today: Resuscitating someone when their heart stops beating, open heart surgery, organ donation to help others. It almost makes it frustrating to watch his character be convicted because even though he is the crazy one, Karloff’s character is actually right!

Also, it’s interesting because while this is a B horror film, it also has a slightly deeper meaning. Part of the message is how science can provide good, but people either discredit it or corrupt its good.

“The Man They Could Not Hang” is entertaining and exciting, but interesting on a deeper level for it predicted what is to come in medicine.

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Classics in the Carolinas: Jean Arthur in Winston-Salem

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

Actress Jean Arthur in the 1930s

With a distinct, squeaky voice and playing determined character, actress Jean Arthur was a top leading lady of the 1930s and 1940s.

Starting her film career in 1923, she played minor roles or unremarkable characters. It wasn’t until 69 films and shorts later and signing contract with Columbia that she made her break in “The Whole Town’s Talking” (1935), co-starring Edward G. Robinson in a dual role. After this film, Arthur co-starred with Hollywood’s top leading men including John Barrymore, William Powell and Herbert Marshall. There was no doubt Arthur was a star when Frank Capra cast her in two of his films, “Mr. Deeds Goes To Town” (1936) and “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” (1939).

With 95 credits to her name, Arthur retired from acting after the film “Shane” (1953). Arthur only made two other TV or film appearance: on an episode of “Gunsmoke” in 1965 and a short-lived “The Jean Arthur Show” in 1966 which only lasted 12 episodes. She also was a guest on Merv Griffin’s talk show in 1973.

After retiring from films, Jean Arthur went the route of teaching. First, she taught at Vassar in New York and then became an acting instructor in North Carolina.

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