Musical Monday: Meet the People (1944)

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.

meet the peopleThis week’s musical:
Meet the People” –Musical #104


Charles Riesner

Lucille Ball, Dick Powell, Bert Lahr, Virginia O’Brien, Rags Ragland, June Allyson, Howard Freeman
Themselves: Vaughn Monroe and his Orchestra

William Swanson (Powell), a shipyard worker has written a musical about the war industry and want glamorous Broadway actress Julie Hampton (Ball) to star in the show. But when the show gets to the stage, William is curious to see that it glosses over the war and heighten the glamour. Pulling his play and heading back to Delaware, Julie follows William to get a glimpse at war work and convince him to reconsider.

-In her autobiography “Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball said she was “just another clothes horse” in this film.
-Ball wrote in her autobiography she loved working with Dick Powell and didn’t feel he ever received proper credit for his talents.
-At the time of this film, actress June Allyson was going to be dropped by MGM. Her next project was going to be “Two Girls and a Sailor” with Gloria DeHaven. Allyson was to play the secondary role as the beautiful sister and DeHaven the lead. Dick Powell advised her to ask Mayer to switch the roles, he did and it made her a star.
-It was on the set of “Meet the People” that June Allyson and Dick Powell became friends, and later married.
-Lucille Ball’s third project under contract at MGM.
-Lucille Ball’s singing was dubbed by Gloria Grafton.
-This movie was shown overseas to servicemen before it was released in the United States.
-According to MGM records the movie earned $670,000 in the US and Canada and $290,000 elsewhere resulting in a loss of $717,000.

Dick Powell, Virginia O'Brien, June Allyson and Lucille Ball in "Meet the People"

Dick Powell, Virginia O’Brien, June Allyson and Lucille Ball in “Meet the People”

-Singer Vaughn Monroe’s film appearance

Notable Songs:
-“Meet the People” performed by Dick Powell
-“I Like to Recognize the Tune” performed by Vaughn Monroe and June Allyson
-“Say We’re Sweethearts Again” performed by Virginia O’Brien

My Review:
Today, most of the world knows Lucille Ball as one of the greatest female comedians of all time due to her highly successful television career.
But at the beginning of her career, studios did not see that talent and were not too sure what to do with the actress. Studios like MGM groomed her to be the same as their other starlets- beautiful, coiffed and highly fashionable, and that simply didn’t fit Lucy.
In her autobiography, Lucille Ball ball dismisses this film and says she was “just another clothes horse.” However, she really enjoyed working with Dick Powell and felt he was an underrated talent and director.
While Dick Powell had a successful career in the 1930s, you can almost see that he was tired of the dry musicals. This was made the same year as “Murder, My Sweet” when Powell showed he could do more than croon.
The thing that makes “Meet the People” notable is June Allyson right before she hit it big and performer Vaughn Monroe.
Monroe is a terrific singing and very popular in the 1940s and 1950s, but isn’t spotted in films very often. Monroe was only in one other film than this, “Carnegie Hall.”
But Monroe and Allyson’s number about “I Like to Recognize the Tune” is one of the few songs you even remember after watching “Meet the People.” Allyson was on the drop list at MGM but only continued to be successful after this film from encouragement from Lucille Ball and advice from her (later husband) Dick Powell.
“Meet the People” is not one of MGM’s more memorable musical. However, it is entertaining and has some funny moments. Don’t write it off completely, but don’t expect anything amazing.

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