Musical Monday: “Centennial Summer” (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.

Centennial_Summer_FilmPosterThis week’s musical:
“Centennial Summer” (1946)–Musical #505

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Otto Preminger

Starring:
Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Cornel Wilde, Walter Brennan, Constance Bennett, Dorothy Gish

Plot:
Set in Philadelphia during the United State’s centennial celebration in 1876, the plot focuses on the Rogers family. Their Aunt Zenia (Bennett) comes to visit from Paris, France for the celebration and brings her French nephew Philippe (Wilde). The oldest Rogers sisters Edith (Darnell)-the flirty older sister who gets all the boys- and Julia (Craine)-the more quiet sister who has never had a romance- immediately both are enchanted by the Frenchman. The two both work for his affections.

Trivia
-Composer Jerome Kern’s last musical score for either stage or film, according to “Hollywood Musicals Year by Year” by Stanley Green
-The film was Fox’s response to MGM’s hit “Meet Me In St. Louis” (1944). Both films focus on turn of the century nostalgia.
-Based on a book by Albert E. Idell
-Very few of the actors do their own singing. Crain was dubbed by Louanne Hogan (who also dubbed Crain in “State Fair“) and Darnell was dubbed by Kay St. Germain Wells (who also dubbed Darnell in “Hangover Square“).

Edith (Darnell) and Julia (Craine) compete for the attentions of Phillippe (Wilde). Comet Over Hollywood/ Screencap by Jessica P.

Edith (Darnell) and Julia (Craine) compete for the attentions of Phillippe (Wilde). Comet Over Hollywood/ Screencap by Jessica P.

Highlights:
-The vibrant, Technicolor sets and costumes make this film.
-The movie includes items that were introduced during this time period such as a magic lantern show.
-Cornel Wilde carrying two dachshunds as he gets off the train….only because I’m a dachshund owner.
-I love the large cast ranging from silent film star Dorothy Gish, pre-code queen Constance Bennett to fresh faced Jeanne Craine.

Notable Songs:
For Jerome Kern’s last work before his 1945 death, none of the songs in this film were memorable.
Many of them seemed misplaced. For example: Philppe (Wilde) and Jesse (Brennan) were about to have a serious conversation in a saloon about Julia (Craine) when African-American singer Avon Long enters the saloon and starts singing “Cinderella Sue.” Though the song was probably one of the more entertaining tunes in the film, it cut right into the middle of a scene. Why would they do that?

Philippe and Jesse look ridiculous dressed in French costumes (after a masquerade) in a saloon. Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica P.

Philippe and Jesse look ridiculous dressed in French costumes (after a masquerade) in a saloon. Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica P.

My Review:
This is actually one movie I wish was not a musical. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the cast and the story line and thoroughly enjoyed watching it. But right as the plot was moving right along, it would come to a grinding halt with a misplaced, forgettable song.
It’s very obvious that this was 20th Century Fox trying their hand at a turn-of-the-century family stories since Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had so much success with “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944).
However, “Centennial” is more frustrating than heartwarming.
All of the actors did a wonderful job, particularly Jeanne Crain who has always been a favorite of mine. However, Cornel Wilde’s French accent sounded more like a Charles Boyer impression.
“Centennial Summer” is a film I have searched for and wanted to see for years. Thank you to our friends over at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings for letting me know it is currently up on Youtube and contributing to an enjoyable afternoon.

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