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:
“Look for the Silver Lining” — Musical #133
June Haver, Gordon MacRae, Ray Bolger, Charles Ruggles, Rosemary DeCamp, Lee Wilde, Lyn Wilde, S.Z. Sakall, Will Rogers Jr. (uncredited), Dick Simmons
Biographical film of musical star Marilyn Miller, played by June Haver. The film follows Miller’s rise to fame as a singer and dancer, starting with her family vaudeville act until she is the top star on Broadway. The film begins when Miller joins her family’s act, “The Five Columbians,” with her mother, father and two sisters. Miller meets famous vaudeville dancer Jack Donahue (Bolger) who helps her break into show business and is responsible for her first show on Broadway. During her big break, Haver meets actor Frank Carter (MacRae) and the two eventually marry.
-Marilyn Miller, played by Haver, was a famous Broadway musical star in the 1910s and 1920s. She was in a handful of Hollywood films, but she was more successful on the stage. The real Frank Carter, played by MacRae, married Miller in 1919 and he died in 1920 in a car accident, like the film says. Miller then married actress Mary Pickford’s brother, Jack Pickford, in 1922 and they divorced in 1927. She then married dancer Chester Lee O’Brien in 1934 until her death in 1936. Miller died from complications of a nasal surgery at the age of 37.
-In 1942, Louella Parsons announced Joan Leslie was playing the role of Marilyn Miller. Parsons hinted Rita Hayworth and Ann Miller may have been in the running for the film, according to a July 27, 1942 column in the St. Petersburg Times. Apparently plans for this film fell through or were delayed, because in 1947, Louella Parsons then announced June Haver would play the role of Miller in a St. Petersburg Times column. This time, Parsons says Vera-Ellen was “heartbroken” she didn’t receive the role of Miller, because she was a “leading candidate.”
-Last film of Lee Wilde. Her twin sister Lyn continued acting in films until 1953.
-Gordon MacRae’s second film.
-Will Roger Jr. plays his father Will Rogers.
-“Look for the Silver Lining” sung by June Haver
-“Who?” sung by Ray Bolger
-“Time on My Hands” sung by Gordon MacRae
Visually “Look for the Silver Lining” is fun and colorful, but the actual plot is rather bland.
For a biographical film, you learn very little about Marilyn Miller other than the fact that she existed, was a very famous performer and one of her husbands died. However, I guess real life is a bit too long to stuff into an hour and 41 minute film.
Like most biographical films made during this time, the details are fairly sanitized. Only one out of three of Miller’s real husbands are discussed in the film- which is Frank Carter, the vaudeville actor who died in the car accident. At the end of the film, Miller’s character marries a character named Henry Doran, played by Dick Simmons. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be Jack Pickford, who was Miller’s next husband, or maybe a combination of her last two husbands: Pickford and Chester Lee O’Brien.
In real life, Miller also was an alcoholic and had issues with sinus infections. She died of complications after surgery that was dealing with her sinus problems.
In the film, it was implied that Miller’s health was declining but it was vague. She pirouettes as she practices for a show, then grabs her head in pain. She tells her friend Jack Donahue that her doctor says she has to “stop eating lobster, champagne, staying out late and dancing.”
Though Miller died in 1936, the film ends with her dancing in a colorful music number and singing the title song “Look for the Silver Lining.” But this ending is fairly typical for a musical biographical film where the lead’s life my end rather tragically. These brightly colored musicals don’t want to end on a low note, killing off the main star.
For example: “The Helen Morgan Story” (1957) about Helen Morgan (starring Ann Blyth) who died in 1941, ends with a banquet held in honor of the recovering alcoholic singer.
“The Incendiary Blonde” (1945) starring Betty Hutton as Texas Guinan, who died in 1933, ends with Hutton slowly walking out of a hospital, worried about her lover.
The stand out stars in this film for me are Ray Bolger and Gordon MacRae. June Haver’s dancing was lovely, but she wasn’t that memorable. I will say that this is one film where the leading lady actually looks fairly similar to the woman she is playing. But I was legitimately sad when MacRae’s character was killed off. I wanted to see more of him and hear more of his singing. Charles Ruggles was fun comic relief and Rosemary DeCamp is always the perfect mother.
I’m not trying to be harsh with “Look for the Silver Lining,” but there are other fabricated musical biographies that are more entertaining than this one. See: Yankee Doodle Dandy, Annie Get Your Gun, Love Me or Leave Me or Hans Christian Anderson.