Book Review: “My Way of Life” by Joan Crawford

A disclaimer before I begin my review of “My Way of Life” by Joan Crawford: this is a book review. I’m not here to discuss Christina Crawford and whether or not her “Mommie Dearest” accusations are true. I’m also not discussing the “Feud” TV show. Furthermore, I do like Joan Crawford and have watched almost all of her films, minus a handful of her silents (I would say my favorites are A Woman’s Face, Possessed (1947), Mildred Pierce and Love on the Run). Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll continue.

Actress Joan Crawford by photographed George Hurrell, 1935. The blouse was designed by Adrian.

Starting in Hollywood in 1925, Joan Crawford endured a career that spanned 47 years. When her career began at age 19, she was every bit the flapper—the personification of youth. Even author F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Joan Crawford is doubtless the best example of the flapper, the girl you see in smart night clubs.”

As her career continued into the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and on, Joan Crawford assumed the sophisticated lady persona that was popular of the time. Well-dressed, well-mannered and well-bred, this was an image that Crawford maintained for the rest of her life. And this is what “My Way of Life” focuses on.

My Way of Life” is really a Hollywood self-help book. The book begins with Joan telling her readers what she is doing today, in 1971 when the book was published. Joan lives alone in an apartment in Manhattan, always busy at her desk. She tells us a bit about her background, the school she dropped out of (Stephen College in Missouri), her early days in Hollywood, and a bit about each of her husbands (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.; Franchot Tone; Phillip Terry and Alfred Steele).

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Musical Monday: Eve Knew Her Apples (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:
Eve Knew Her Apples (1945)– Musical #282

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Will Jason

Starring:
Ann Miller, William Wright, Robert Williams, Charles D. Brown, Ray Walker

Plot:
Radio star Eve Porter (Miller) wants a three-week vacation during the radio show’s summer hiatus — away from work and her fiancé (Williams). However, her managers have other plans in mind, including personal appearances and Hollywood films. Eve runs away, hiding in the car trunk of reporter Ward Williams (Wright), who mistakes her for an escaped murderer.

Ann Miller as Eve hiding out from her manager

Trivia:
-Musical remake of “It Happened One Night” (1934) starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. It was later remade again as a musical called “You Can’t Run Away From It” (1956) starring Jack Lemmon and June Allyson.

Notable Songs:
-“An Hour Never Passes” performed by Ann Miller
-“I’ll Remember April” performed by Ann Miller
-“I’ve Waited a Lifetime” performed by Ann Miller
-“Someone to Love” performed by Ann Miller

My review:
The musical remake is an interesting film phenomenon. A perfectly outstanding film — whether it’s a comedy, drama or western — is taken and set to singing and dancing. In this case, the hilarious and seemingly perfect comedy, “It Happened One Night.”

But while most musical remakes flop, “Eve Knew Her Apples” is still fairly fun. I think it’s because this film is so watered down from the original that “Eve Knew Her Apples” becomes its own B-movie rather than a remake.

The plot idea is similar but some of the main scenes from “It Happened One Night” are omitted, also making “Eve Knew Her Apples” its own film. Scenes not in the remake include the “Walls of Jericho” scene, hitchhiking or doughnut dunking scenes.

Ann Miller and William Wright in Eve Knew Her Apples

This musical is different compared to the “musical theater musical” idea that is stuck in most people’s heads today. Ann Miller is a radio performer in the film and she sings a few romantic songs, but the songs aren’t related to the plot or move the plot along. The general definition of musicals (especially in the theater to film age) is that the performer sings when they have no more words to express their feelings. However, in the 1930s and 1940s, the actors generally sang of the sake of singing.

Ann Miller sings four or five songs throughout the film but does not show off her famous tap dancing skills at all.

The leading man William Wright is adequate but nothing to write home about. In the 1940s (particularly during the war years), an actor named John Carroll was the poor-man’s Clark Gable while Gable was overseas fighting in World War II. Wright isn’t even a poor-man’s Gable, he’s a poor-man’s John Carroll!

This story was later remade again in 1956 as a musical with June Allyson and Jack Lemmon. And that one is terrible, but we will go into that in another post.

Regardless of the fact that “Eve Knew Her Apples” is a story we already know, it’s still a fun little film. At 65 minutes long, it’s brisk paced, has some interesting songs and genuinely a good time.

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Musical Monday: The French Line (1953)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
The French Line (1953) – Musical #154

Studio:
RKO Pictures

Director:
Lloyd Bacon

Starring:
Jane Russell, Gilbert Roland, Arthur Hunnicutt, Craig Stevens, Mary McCarty, Rita Corday, Theresa Harris (uncredited), Kim Novak (uncredited), Joi Lansing (uncredited), Charles Smith (uncredited), Sandy Descher (uncredited)

Plot:
Oil heiress Mary Carson (Russell) is jilted by her fiancé Phil (Stevens). Fed up with men being intimidated by her millions, Mary takes a cruise on the French Line posing as a model and her friend poses as her. She wants to see if a man will love her for her personality (and not money) or if they will go for the girl who they believe is rich.

Trivia:
-Filmed in 3D with advertisements like “Filmed in 3 dimensions — and what dimensions” or “She’ll knock both your eyes out”

The main costume that upset the censors, designed by Howard Greer, and worn during the “Lookin’ for Trouble” number

-The censors were upset with the song and dance number “Lookin’ for Trouble” due to a skimpy one pieced costume. The front middle section was nude colored, making it resemble a bikini. Film censor Joseph Breen viewed the film and said the film had to be drastically altered as it “exceeded the Production Code limits of breast exposure,” according to The Dame in the Kimono: Hollywood, Censorship, and the Production Code by Leonard J. Leff, Jerold L. Simmons

-Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter of St. Louis wrote an emergency letter to be read in Catholic churches in St. Louis two days before the premiere. Ritter also wrote a letter to be read at New York mass saying that anyone who saw “The French Line” would fall “under penalty of mortal sin,” according to Leff and Simmons’ book.

-The film premiered in December 1953 in Missouri but did not premiere in New York until May 1954.

-Film censor Joseph Breen retired in 1954, and “The French Line” was one of the last movies he worked to censor, along with “The Moon is Blue.”

-Produced by Howard Hughes

-Remake of The Richest Girl in the World (1934)

-First uncredited role by Kim Novak

Kim Novak (left) in her first film role. She is only in one shot during the “Poor Andre” number

Notable Songs:
-“Wait Till You See Paris” performed by Gilbert Roland
-“What is This I Feel?” performed by Jane Russell
-“Well I’ll Be Switched” performed by Jane Russell
-“Lookin’ for Trouble” performed by Jane Russell

My review:
In 1953, going to see Jane Russell in 3D in “The French Line” was seen as a sin by some church and moral groups. While many films condemned from the 1930s through the 1950s by the Production Code seem tame by today, this one is no different.

The storyline and costumes are really no different than other 1950s films of the time. Jane Russell wears several one-pieces, sequined costumes that are no different than what Janet Leigh, Cyd Charisse or Mitzi Gaynor would wear.

Jane Russell in a tub shot at the beginning of the film. Censors said The French Line had too much breast exposure throughout the film.

But the difference is who was filling these costumes. Jane Russell had something these other actresses didn’t — a 34D chest. RKO producer Howard Hughes did all he could to capitalize off of this fact, including shooting the “French Line” in 3D. Aside from one piece costumes, Russell sings a song with Theresa Harris while she is undressing, gets in a tub, and redresses. She’s hidden behind mirrors, towels and bubbles. While the audience didn’t see anything and this isn’t a new type of scene, it was obvious that Hughes was trying his hardest to titillate the audience.

The straw that broke the camels back is the number “Lookin’ for Trouble” where Russell wears a one-piece black costume that has a full back and three areas cut out in the stomach area.
(As an aside: during my research, I read many sources who said Jane was scantily clad” and wore a “glorified bikini.” I wouldn’t call this costume a bikini.)

A sign advising Catholic Patrons in Union City, New Jersey, not to see The French Line as it was “Totally Condemned” by the Catholic Legion of Decency.

Because of this, censor Joseph Breen (who was about to retire) said certain aspects of the film had to be edited, and Catholic Decency League banned the film. A letter was also read at Catholic masses saying that if anyone saw it, saying they would fall under penalty for mortal sin. Due to censors, the film was also banned in New York for five months. The film premiered in December 1953 in Missouri but did not premiere in New York until May 1954.

The film did well in theaters, but the critics didn’t like it. Bosley Crowther wrote in his May 15, 1954:

“There’s no use pretending about this picture. It’s a cheap, exhibitionistic thing in which even the elaboration of the feminine figure eventually becomes grotesque. It looks as though someone had the notion that a very low and rather tight bodice, continued through numerous costume changes, is worth more than anybody’s script.”

And while the film’s star is oversexualized, that isn’t how Jane Russell enjoyed her life. She was happily married to her high school sweetheart, Bob Waterfield, and a devout Christian. She later said she hated the songs and costumes.

Away from the controversy, “The French Line” is a pleasant little film. The same story was seen on screen in 1934 with The Richest Girl in the World starring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray and Miriam Hopkins. It’s the age ole tale of a rich girl unable to find love because either fortune hunters want her money or men are intimidated by her wealth. So she goes incognito with a friend posing as her to see if someone will fall in love for who she is or go for the friend they believe is rich.

Gilbert Roland and Jane Russell

Jane Russell’s leading man is Gilbert Roland who is pleasant. Roland performs some songs, which sounds like his voice but I can’t find a confirmed source that says if he was dubbed or not. One website suggested he was dubbed by Bob Monet, but even they were not certain. If he did sing, he did well.

But other than Gilbert Roland and Russell’s ranch hand Arthur Hunnicutt, there aren’t many other names you will readily recognize in the supporting cast. Actress Mary McCarty plays Russell’s fashion designing friend and Joyce Mackenzie plays Jane Russell’s friend who poses as her. They’re performances are adequate but not amazing.

One noteworthy actor to look for in this film is Kim Novak who appears on camera twice as a model during the “Poor Andre” number.

As far as songs go, nothing really stands out as memorable. I couldn’t even tell you how the condemned “Lookin’ For Trouble” tune goes if I was asked to hum it. The lyrics discuss popping all the corn in Nebraska and melting all the ice in Alaska. It wasn’t scandalous to me, just rather stupid.

The censorship aspect is an interesting look at history but you forget about it while watching the movie. It’s really pretty silly that Jane Russell’s performance was said to determine the eternal fate and souls of the viewers.

It’s obvious throughout “The French Line” how hard Hughes worked to sexualize Russell’s costumes and dances, but overall it’s an innocent little story which is fun to watch. I really enjoyed this film when I saw it for the first time in high school and enjoyed it just as much revisiting.

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Review: Gidget TV series (1965-1966)

Until a few weeks ago, I never had watched an episode of the TV version of “Gidget” (1965-66) starring Sally Field. But as I kicked off my third summer of surfing through the “Gidget” franchise, I bought the series and took the plunge—and then I binge watched all 32 episodes for two weeks until I finished.

As I have mentioned before, my favorite Gidget in the films is Sandra Dee, who originated the role. At second place was Karen Valentine, who played Gidget in a TV film “Gidget Grows Up” (1969). However, I have to admit that Sally Field may nudge Valentine from that spot.

Frances “Gidget” Lawrence’s life story undergoes several adjustments throughout the duration of the Gidget series (1959-1986). In 1959, we start off with a shy, smart, innocent only child of two parents. Once she finds love in Hawaii (1961) and Rome (1963), Gidget gets less naïve and more precocious.

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Musical Monday: Stars and Stripes Forever (1952)

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:
Stars & Stripes Forever (1952)– Musical #466

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Henry Koster

Starring:
Clifton Webb, Robert Wagner, Debra Paget, Ruth Hussey, Finlay Currie, Roy Roberts, George Chakiris (uncredited)
Narrator: Max Showalter

Plot:
Biographical film on composer and conductor John Philip Sousa (Webb), known primarily for American military and patriotic marches.

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Musical Monday: Three Little Girls in Blue (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:
Three Little Girls In Blue (1946) – Musical #535

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
H. Bruce Humberstone

Starring:
June Haver, George Montgomery, Vivian Blaine, Vera-Ellen, Celeste Holm, Frank Latimore, Charles Smith, Coleen Gray (uncredited), Gary Gray (uncredited), Ruby Dandridge (uncredited)

Plot:
Set in 1902, Pam (Haver), Liz (Blaine) and Myra (Ellen) are three sisters hoping to come into a large inheritance. When their windfall is less than expected, they decide to head to Atlantic City, NJ, to find rich husbands. Pam dresses as an elegant lady while Liz is her secretary and Myra the maid.

Trivia:
-A remake of Three Blind Mice (1938) and Moon Over Miami (1941)
-Celeste Holm’s first film
-Victor Mature was originally slated for George Montgomery’s role
-Several cast members’ singing voices were dubbed including: Carol Stewart for Vera-Ellen; Ben Gage for George Montgomery; Bob Scott for Frank Latimore and Del Porter for Charles Smith

Vivian Blaine, Vera-Ellen and June Haver playing sisters in “Three Little Girls in Blue”

Notable Songs:
-“You Make Me Feel So Young” performed by Vera-Ellen and Charles Smith, dubbed by Carol Stewart and Del Porter
-“Somewhere in the Night” performed by Vivian Blaine

My review:
“Three Little Girls in Blue” was a movie that I always wanted to see judging by the female cast, colorful sounding title and 20th Century Fox musicals are generally delightful. And while it’s colorful, I was rather disappointed.

Knowing it was a remake of “Moon Over Miami” (1941), I had high expectations because I love the version with Betty Grable and Carole Landis so much. “Three Little Girls in Blue” is cute, but it falls flat. I can’t put my finger on why, but I found it a little annoying. It may be the music. This movie may only be 10 minutes longer than “Moon Over Miami” but it feels like it lasts an eternity.

Some of the songs are okay, but they also like to reprise the same songs two or three songs. We hear “On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City” twice in a span less than 10 minutes. Then Vera-Ellen performs “I Like Mike” at least three times. This is the most annoying song in the film because it’s awfully simplistic and has lyrics that rhyme a little bit too much.

“I Like Mike” is even featured in a long dream sequence with Vera-Ellen and Charles Smith and it’s pretty terrible. And while Charles Smith is sweet, I couldn’t help but wonder why they couldn’t get her a more dynamic leading man.

Celeste Holm’s role may be the highlight of the film, but she sings a song and it’s like she’s trying to be Ado Annie again (Holm originated the role on Broadway in 1943). I also always love to see Vivian Blaine in this film. She is a lovely and underrated actress.

Somehow this film lacks the formula that adds up to make a fantastic musical. Like someone calculated the equation wrong. It’s a happy and colorful little movie, but I felt it could be better.

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Musical Monday: Speedway (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:
“Speedway” (1968)– Musical #566

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Norman Taurog

Starring:
Elvis Presley, Nancy Sinatra, Bill Bixby, William Schallert, Gale Gordon, Ross Hagen, Victoria Paige Meyerink, Carl Ballantine, Charlotte Stewart, Burt Mustin (uncredited)
Themselves: Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough, Tiny Lund

Plot:
Steve (Presley) is a successful racecar driver and his best friend Kenny (Bixby) is his manager. Steve frequently tries to help people out of financial jams, from helping a single dad and his family with groceries and a car to helping a young couple get married. But as it turns out, Steve doesn’t have as much money as he through due to gambling and mismanagement by Kenny. IRS worker Susan Jacks (Sinatra) is there to collect the money.

Trivia:
-Race scenes filmed at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. Elvis races in the Charlotte 100 at the beginning of the film.
-Race car drivers Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough, Tiny Lund are featured in the film.
-The film premiered in Charlotte, NC in June 1968
-The lead roles were originally offered to Sonny and Cher, according to NotStarring.com
-Nancy Sinatra’s role was offered to Petula Clark, according to NotStarring.com
-Nancy Sinatra’s last film

Elvis Presley plays a race car driver driving on the Charlotte Motor Speedway in “Speedway”

Highlights:
-Uncredited role of Burt Mustin as a janitor, who sings a little after Elvis sings

Notable Songs:
-“Speedway” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet, Baby” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Let Yourself Go” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Your Groovy Self” performed by Nancy Sinatra

My review:
After more than 10 years in films, “Speedway” nears the end of Elvis Presley’s film career. The formula is similar to other frothy, colorful Elvis musical comedies, but at the same time, it seems a little phoned in.

Elvis Presley and William Schallert in Speedway

The whole point of the film is Elvis’s IRS issues, and that doesn’t come into play until nearly 40 minutes to an hour in the film. For the first 30 minutes, I actually found myself thinking “So what is this about.” While race car driving is Elvis’s career, it isn’t really even the central theme of the film like it is in “Spinout” (1966). Elvis starts race car driving, then we meet Nancy Sinatra, then we meet homeless William Schallert with his four baby daughters and there are cute scenes with Elvis and the children, and then finally we learn of Elvis’s IRS issues.

I love actor Bill Bixby, but his character isn’t terribly lovable in this film. While he as a lot of screen time, I did feel his comedic talents were a bit wasted.

As someone living in North Carolina, my favorite part of this film is that the race scenes are set at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the NASCAR racetrack in Concord, NC. While I never have been to a race on this track, I’ve been to car shows and a 5K at the track.

Despite my criticisms, Speedway is a pleasant film to watch. It’s colorful and I was entertained throughout.

Nancy Sinatra and Elvis Presley in “Speedway”

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Musical Monday: Sunny Side Up (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:
Sunny Side Up (1929) – Musical #396

Studio:
Fox Film Corporation

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Marjorie White, Sharon Lynn, El Brendel, Frank Richardson, Jackie Cooper (uncredited)

Plot:
Wealthy Jack Cromwell (Farrell) is fed up with his flirting fiance, Jane (Lynn). One night he drives to New York City and meets working girl Molly (Gaynor), who recognizes him from the society pages. Jack decides to take Molly back to Long Island to make Jane jealous. Jack sets up Molly in an apartment and she poses as a society woman. Molly is in love with Jack, but rumors start that Molly is Jack’s “kept woman.”

Trivia:
-Story and songs written by Buddy G. DeSylva
-The original film had a color sequence, which is now lost
-Fourth film pairing of Janey Gaynor and Charles Farrell, as well as their first sound film together and their first musical together.
-Child actor Jackie Cooper appears in an uncredited role

Highlights:
-Gag with a woman talking about birth control to a woman with at least six children
-A brief appearance by Jackie Cooper

Notable Songs:
-“You’ve Got Me Pickin’ Petals Off a Daisy” performed by Marjorie White and Frank Richardson
-“I’m a Dreamer Aren’t We All” performed by Janet Gaynor
-“Keep Your Sunnyside Up” performed by Janet Gaynor

My review:
As we have noted in previous posts, some musicals of the early struggled with blending music and plot. But “Sunny Side Up” (1929) manages to do a fairly good job of making the music and story make sense. This could be because the songs and story were both written by Buddy DeSylva.

“Sunny Side Up” was the fourth pairing of screen couple Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. It was also their first sound film, as well as their first musical. The story is sweet and cute, and it’s a unique opportunity to hear Farrell and Gaynor sing. While their singing voices aren’t amazing, they are passable.

There are some cute songs and we get the opportunity to see Jackie Cooper in an early, uncredited role. But our leads are better than the supporting cast. El Brendel is in the film, and he’s often quite tiresome. Gaynor’s pal, played by Marjorie White, is cute but when put with her on-screen boyfriend Frank Richardson singing fast talking jazz, it’s rather irritating.

It is unfortunate that the color sequence is missing. I also wish that the sound was better on the print I watched, which could be a result of restoration challenges. For musical lovers, it’s interesting to see how the genre grew and this is a good example.

Cast of “Sunny Side Up”

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Musical Monday: Go, Johnny, Go! (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:
Go, Johnny, Go! (1959) – Musical #564

Studio:
Hal Roach Studios

Director:
Paul Landres

Starring:
Jimmy Clanton, Sandy Stewart
Themselves: Chuck Berry, Alan Freed, Ritchie Valens, Jackie Wilson, Jo Ann Campbell, The Cadillacs, The Flamingos, Harvey Fuqua, Eddie Cochran, Jimmy Cavalio and the House Rockers

Plot:
Talent scout and producer Alan Freed (himself) is hunting for a new singing star that he will name Johnny Melody. Johnny (Clanton) is an orphan with hopes of becoming a rock star. When he reconnects with fellow former orphan Julie (Stewart), she encourages him to cut a record and send it to Alan Freed. The plot is dispersed with performances of rock-n-roll performances from singers popular in 1959.

Trivia:
-Was filmed in five days
-This is the only film appearance of Ritchie Valens, who died this same year
-Final film of Alan Freed, who also starred in films like “Rock Around the Clock” and “Don’t Knock Rock”

Highlights:
-Seeing Chuck Berry perform and doing his famous duck walk

Chuck Berry in “Go, Johnny, Go”

Notable Songs:
-“Don’t Be Afraid To Love” performed by Harvey
-“Playmates” performed by Sandy Stewart
-“Memphis Tennessee” performed by Chuck Berry
-“Jay Walker” performed The Cadillacs
-“You Better Know It” performed Jackie Wilson
-“Little Queenie” performed by Chuck Berry
-“Ship on a Stormy Sea” performed by Jimmy Clanton

My review:
In the early-1950s, rock n’ roll was a new music form and rapidly gaining popularity. And teenage films were made throughout the 1950s and early 1960s to capitalize off of this.

Similar to films like “Rock Around the Clock,” “Rock Rock Rock!” or “Don’t Knock Rock,” there is a thin plot that is threaded together with 17 musical performances from popular acts of 1959. That’s 17 numbers in only a 75 minute span.

The film is a retrospective story, starting with Jimmy Clanton as Johnny Melody singing for screaming teenagers. In the wings are Alan Freed and Chuck Berry (as themselves) talking about how wonderful he is and remembering his struggles. Alan Freed begins to tell Johnny’s story of an orphan that wanted to be a singer. We see how Johnny was kicked out of a church choir for singing rock n’ roll during a break and then fired as a theater usher for dancing to the music rather than escorting. Rock n’ roll seems to be his downfall until it becomes his saving grace: allowing him to make money and find fame.

“Go, Johnny, Go” has more plot than some of the other teen rock films, but the acting is thin.

While these musicals may seem like fluff now, the were important for shaping the image of rock n’ roll to teenage movie fans, according to American Film Cycles by Amanda Ann Klein. They also serve as an interesting time capsule to see who the top performers were during that time.

Jimmy Clanton and Sandy Stewart in “Go, Johnny, Go”

In the few films he acted in, music producer Alan Freed often served as the adult who liked rock n’ roll, understood teenagers and could help ease their parent’s concern about this new type of music.

I wasn’t familiar with Jimmy Clanton or his music prior to this film. While the two lead performers are bland, the true highlight of this film is getting to see the late Chuck Berry in a film. His “Memphis Tennessee” performance makes the film. I also really loved the performances by Jackie Wilson and Harvey Fuqua -after Chuck Berry, they were my favorites. Sadly, Ritchie Valens who appears in this film died the same year.

While this isn’t the best movie, it is a must see for music lovers.

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Musical Monday: Balalaika (1939)

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:
Balalaika (1939) – Musical #227

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Reinhold Schünzel

Starring:
Nelson Eddy, Ilona Massey, Charles Ruggles, Frank Morgan, Lionel Atwill, C. Aubrey Smith, Joyce Compton, Phillip Terry, George Tobias

Plot:
Beginning in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1914, Lydia Pavlovna Marakova (Massey) is a singer in a cafe and the daughter of a political activist. She meets and falls in love with Prince Peter Karagin (Eddy), who poses as a commoner. World War I begins the same day it’s revealed that Lydia’s family had a plot to kill the prince and his father (Smith). The war seperated Lydia and Peter.

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