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:
It’s a Date (1940)– Musical #116
William A. Seiter
Deanna Durbin, Kay Francis, Walter Pidgeon, Eugene Pallette, Henry Stephenson, S.Z. Sakall, Charles Lane, John Arledge (uncredited)
Georgia Drake (Francis) is a famous stage star and her teenage daughter Pamela (Durbin) wants to follow in her footsteps. Along with wanting the same part in an exciting new play, mother and daughter both fall in love with the same man- John Arlendge (Pidgeon).
-Remade as “Nancy Goes to Rio” (1950) starring Jane Powell, Ann Sothern and Barry Sullivan.
-S.Z. Sakall’s first American film
-Deanna Durbin’s songs
-Kay Francis appearing in the film
-Walter Pidgeon in white dinner coats
“It’s a Date” is a movie date you want to keep.
Deanna Durbin, Kay Francis and Walter Pidgeon as the leads with a Eugene Pallette, Henry Stephenson and S.Z. Sakall as the supporting cast. Could you ask for a better group of actors?
I saw this movie for the first time in high school and don’t remember being in love with the film. However, I wasn’t as immersed in my Kay Francis film love and not yet in love with Walter Pidgeon, which makes a difference. Now, when I rewatched it, it was such a thrill to see Francis later in her career flanked by Walter Pidgeon as her leading man.
Kay Francis was one of Warner Brothers’ top stars in the early 1930s before Bette Davis came on the scene. According to TCM historian Robert Osborne, to make Francis break her contract, they put her put her in terrible films and filled scripts with words full of “R’s”— a letter she had difficulties with due to a speech impediment. However, Francis didn’t back down and continued acting. With that said, her later film roles weren’t anything to write home about her Francis’s film career ended in 1946. Though “It’s a Date” is towards end of Francis’s career, she is radiant in this film and it’s a wonderful part for her.
The plot is a little goofy: a teenage daughter falls in love with a man more than twice her age. For a little while, the audience is made to believe that he loves her too. But don’t worry, this film has a non-creepy ending.
There are several laugh out loud moments — some coming from S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall in his first American film. The Hungarian actor left Europe due to Hitler and the growing power of the Third Reich and bestowed his comedic talents on United States audiences.
Deanna Durbin plays a teenager with a wish to be an actress like her mother and grandmother. Her character is a little overly dramatic, as teenagers can be, but it’s humorous at the same time. She delivers many beautiful songs throughout the film and you can see tears in her eyes as she sings “Ave Maria.”
For someone not familiar with Deanna Durbin, this is a good film to start with if you are interested in diving in. It’s a wonderful blend of music, comedy that’s filled with handsome Walter Pidgeon in white evening coats and Kay Francis in lavish evening gowns.
Give this one a watch.