Musical Monday: All-American Co-Ed (1941)

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.

All American CoedThis week’s musical:
All-American Co-Ed (1941) – Musical #553

Studio:
Hal Roach Studios

Director:
LeRoy Prinz

Starring:
Frances Langford, Johnny Downs, Marjorie Woodworth, Noah Berry Jr., Esther Dale, Harry Langdon, Kent Rogers, Alan Hale Jr., Lillian Randolph, Margaret Roach (uncredited), Marie Windsor (uncredited), Dudley Dickerson, Claire James (uncredited)
Themselves: The Tanner Sisters- Mickey Tanner, Betty Tanner, Martha Tanner

Plot:
All-girls horticulture college Mar Bryn is failing to attract new students. They hold a contest to bring in beautiful female students. In an effort for publicity, Mar Bryn’s student newspaper makes fun of the Zeta fraternity at Quincton College. Out of revenge, the boys nominate one of their frat brothers to dress up like a girl and enroll.

Trivia:
-Frances Langford started going as a blond with this film, according to Hollywood Songsters: Garland to O’Connor by James Robert Parish, Michael R. Pitts
-Film debut of Alan Hale, Jr and Marie Windsor
-Distributed as a double feature with Sundown (1941), which starred Gene Tierney and Bruce Cabot

Awards and Nominations:
-Nominated for Best Music, Original Song for the song “Out of the Silence.” The film “Lady Be Good” won for “The Last Time I Saw Paris”
-Nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture written by Edward Ward. Frank Churchill and Wallace Oliver won for “Dumbo.”

Highlights:
-Kent Rogers doing pretty terrible impersonations of stars like Gary Cooper, Edgar Bergan and Charlie MacArthur, James Cagney

Notable Songs:
-“I’m a Chap with a Chip on My Shoulder” performed by Johnny Downs and Frances Langford
-“Out of the Silence” performed by Frances Langford
-“The Poor Farmers Daughter” performed by Frances Langford and the Tanner Sisters

My review:
“All-American Co-Ed” is a very light, fluffy B-musical but it’s also rather tdd.

In the vein of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” or 1959’s “Some Like it Hot,” the film features a man dressed as a woman to double cross someone and ends up following with the leading lady.

Johnny Downs dressed as a girl with Harry Langdon

Johnny Downs dressed as a girl with Harry Langdon (Screen cap by Comet Over Hollywood)

Bob Sheppared (Johnny Downs) dresses as Bobbie DeWolfe to attend agricultural all-girls school, Mar Bryn, to make a the girl’s school look foolish. This is in response to a nasty editorial the girls wrote about all-male Quincton College. Predictably, Bob falls in love with pretty Virginia (Francis Langford) who is niece of the headmistress. Of course, Virginia mistake that Bob is playing around with Bobbie. Virginia is overjoyed when she realizes Bobbie is a man, rather than being confused or asking him why he’s dressed like a girl.

I’m still unclear at how dressing like a girl will negatively affect Mar Bryn and it seems like a pretty drastic stunt to pull for a prank. I guess Bob wasn’t enrolled in any classes that he was missing while he was at Mar Bryn?

However, the gag doesn’t go on too terribly long because the movie is a brisk 49 minutes long.

Frances Langford with Esther Dale (Screen cap by Comet Over Hollywood)

Frances Langford with Esther Dale (Screen cap by Comet Over Hollywood)

While “All-American Co-Ed” isn’t some musical work of art, but it moves quickly and has some great swing numbers. One actress, Majorie Woodworth thankfully only sings one song, because she’s terrible. Frances Langford doesn’t sing enough for my liking and there are a couple numbers performed by sister singing trio, The Tanner Sisters.

I am surprised that the music in this light musical comedy was nominated for an Academy Award. It was up against a total of nine films for “Best Song” which included “Chattanooga Choo Choo” from “Sun Valley Serenade,” Johnny Mercer’s “Blues in the Night” from the film of the same title, and “Baby Mine” from “Dumbo.” It was also up against 10 films for Best Scoring for a Musical Picture. The music was pleasant but probably not award-winning.

Overall, it’s a fun, brief musical that is just the right length.

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